Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Happy International Day of Transgender Visibility

Today, March 31, marks the first International Day of Transgender Visibility. The day was designed to celebrate the transgender community or, as Trangriot explains, "The International Transgender Day of Visibility seeks to make transpeople less of a mystery to cis folks, point out that transpeople are all around you in your daily lives and have played roles in shaping our culture and history."

As someone who is learning more and more everyday about the transgender community (and who still feels woefully undereducated on a number of transgender issues), I have to say this idea makes all kinds of sense to me. It's obvious the general population, at least in America, hardly knows anything real about the transgender population. Raising awareness needs to happen, yesterday!

More reading:
Also, this week is the 8th Annual National LGBT Health Awareness Week, with the theme of "Closing the Gap." LGBThealth.net, which has links to all kinds of information, says: "The LGBT community has, on average, worse health outcomes and less access to the care we need than the straight community. We cannot afford to ignore the gap anymore. We need to educate ourselves and our health care providers about our unique health needs as well as our health risks." I can only imagine how big this gap is. I'm a heterosexual woman, and I sometimes run into doctors who doesn't seem to understand, or trust, women.

More reading:

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

If ever you need a reminder of why feminism is important and relevant

Then this week is, seemingly, for you. (Trigger warning: rape culture, victim blaming, you name it.)

I've already gone over the backwards-moving direction of the Arizona state Senate, and the load of "date rape doesn't exist" manure pushed into the world by American University student Alex Knepper. But boy oh boy is that only the tip of the iceberg.

I mentioned in this week's Sunday reading that Jamie Leigh Jones (who was drugged, gang raped and held hostage while working in Iraq for KBR/Halliburton) is able to go forward with her case against KBR/Halliburton, because KBR dropped an appeal that would've prevented her case from reaching court. KBR also did this (via The Nation):
In a document posted on the company's website, KBR, after first stating "it would be inappropriate to comment on the specifics of the case," goes on to do just that: A firefighter accused of raping Jones says it was "consensual sex," KBR states. And get this: "several witnesses present at the social gathering outside the barracks observed her having several drinks and flirting" with the firefighter.
Let the massive corporate- and government-backed victim blaming begin!

Jezebel has posted a link to Jones' original filing, which says:
Tragically, on the evening on July 28, 2007, during her off-duty hours, Jamie was drugged (by what was believed to be Rohypnol) and brutally raped by, on information and belief, several Halliburton/KBR firefighters, including defendant, Charles Boartz, while she was in her room in the barracks. When she awoke the next morning still affected by the drug, she found her body naked and severely bruised, with lacerations to her vagina and anus, blood running down her leg, her breast implants were ruptured, and her pectoral muscles torn - which would later require reconstructive surgery. Upon walking to the rest room, she passed out again. When she returned to the living area, she found Charles Boartz lying in her bottom bed. She asked him what had happened, and he confessed to having unprotected sex with her. Jamie reported the rape to the [sic] Pete Arroyo, one of the operations personnal, who then took her to a KBR medical personnel.
Yeah. Hey KBR, I don't think you can fake things like ruptured breast implants. I hope we all join in support of Jones during this trial, because she is obviously going to face major victim-blaming and other awful rape culture attitudes and comments.

Then there's this. "'RapeLay' video game goes viral amid outrage" (via CNN), Yeah. I'll tell you right now, I hardly have the mental energy to even contemplate why the fuck this game exists. But it does. We live in a world where not only does a video game exist that allows you, the perpetrator, to grope, assault, rape, gang rape, impregnate and force abortion on a woman or group of women, but in a world where the game goes viral. I often ask, rhetorically, "what is wrong with people?" when I hear about something hurtful or harmful or stupid. But this? This is beyond. Utterly sick and disgusting and as far as I know, the ONLY reason it exists is for players to virtually rape women. That's not just "part of" the game. That IS the game. Because sexual assault and rape is a game to some people. And it makes me want to fucking vomit.

Right. So there's the Jones victim-blaming and the rape "game." There's also the case of the 15-year-old year old girl in Massachusetts who committed suicide after being constantly harassed and bullied by other teens. She was bullied to death. And she isn't the first teen to commit suicide to escape bullying, and sadly she probably won't be the last. Somehow, a number of teens (nine were ultimately arrested and charged with crimes relating to her suicide) thought it perfectly okay to "[call her] "Irish slut" and "whore" on Twitter, Craigslist, Facebook and Formspring. Her books were routinely knocked out of her hands, items were flung at her, her face was scribbled out of photographs on the school walls, and threatening text messages were sent to her cell phone." The she killed herself. And then? "Her tormentors posted vicious comments on the dead girl's Facebook memorial page." You know, I get that group think happens and that being a teen is hard and fitting in is important and that being popular is just the end-all-be-all for some kids. What I want to know is, are schools implementing any kind of anti-bullying programs? Offering safe spaces for students who are constantly harassed? Even responding, at all, to complaints of bullying? The story of this girl's suicide indicates that many adults knew what was going on, and ignored it. What the fuck.This isn't a localized issue. This is all across the country.

Then there are stories like these:
Odds are, I'm missing a good 10 or 15 stories that should also be mentioned in this post. And guess what people?? It's only Tuesday.

Maybe one bright spot I've come across so far is this quote, by Sec. of State Hillary Clinton, on her visit to Canada at a meeting of G8 foreign ministers today:
“You cannot have maternal health without reproductive health and reproductive health includes contraception and family planning and access to legal, safe abortions."
^More of this please, and soon.

Monday, March 29, 2010

What to do with the American University rape apologist

(Trigger warning: major rape apology forthcoming)

Honestly, when someone says this:
Let’s get this straight: any woman who heads to an EI party as an anonymous onlooker, drinks five cups of the jungle juice, and walks back to a boy’s room with him is indicating that she wants sex, OK? To cry “date rape” after you sober up the next morning and regret the incident is the equivalent of pulling a gun to someone’s head and then later claiming that you didn’t ever actually intend to pull the trigger.
I have no idea how to respond. But I will tell you what the first thought was that popped into my head: "I wonder how many women he has raped?"

Clearly, this person (Alex Knepper, a sophomore at American University), has NO IDEA what rape is. None. I mean, ZERO. Not in theory, not in law, not in reality. First of all, rape and sex are two entirely different acts, which should never ever be confused, and the terms of which should never be used interchangeably. Second, in his frat-party scenario, if that girl is drunk, it's possible that in the eyes of the law she cannot consent to sex. Third, a girl "crying 'date rape,'" even if she was not raped, is not even a little bit like putting a bullet through someone's head. Now, actually raping someone, that might be a little like putting a bullet through someone's head. Fourth, it is ENTIRELY possible to be raped at a frat party, in boy's bedroom, even if you have dared to have a couple drinks before you went to his room.

For fun, here's a couple non-sex (or, according to Alex, "non-rape") reasons why I might go back to a boy's room with him after having a couple drinks:
1. I'm ready to crash. As in pass out. After all, I am DRUNK!
2. To eat something.
3. To drink more!
4. To hang out.
5. To use his phone (I probably drunkenly lost mine)/have a quiet place to use my/his phone (especially if at a frat party).
6. To borrow a sweater/jacket/hoodie for my walk home.
7. To (eventually) throw up, because I'm not feeling well, since I'm drunk.
8. To accompany him while he gets something he needs before walking me home/going to get some food/go out to wherever.
9. To get away from that really annoying person who won't leave me alone.
10. To be somewhere safe so I DON'T GET RAPED.

But according to Alex, the mere act of going to a boy's room after a few drinks implies consent for sex. Forget things like how intoxicated the girl is (Hey Alex! If the girl is literally passed out and you have sex with her, THAT IS RAPE), whether or not she wants to have sex, etc. Going to a boy's room = sex, no matter what. So girls, DO NOT EVER go to boy's rooms unless you want to have sex, because Alex said that if you do, you can't be raped.

I don't know why I'm fucking bothering with this guy. He obviously Knows Everything And Can't Ever Be Wrong. Except he Is Wrong, and it's not in my nature to let people be This Wrong without attempting to correct them, especially when it comes to rape, rape culture and rape apology.

I'll leave it to you, readers, to read the rest of his bullshit, if you so choose. (You might learn things like "feminists don't understand history, psychology, biology or sexuality"!) I fear I've already wasted too much time on him. But I will say this one last thing, to him and all men:

If you're not sure if a woman (or man, if applicable) has consented to sex, don't have sex. See how that works? "Hmm, she doesn't seem into it and she's pretty drunk ... should I have sex with her anyway?" NO. If consent isn't clear, ASK. Make sure. It takes two seconds! "Do you want to do this?" "Is this OK?" "Do you want me to stop?" Those are just a few examples of ways you can double check that you aren't date raping someone. This is especially important when alcohol is involved. If you don't want to become a rapist, don't rape. No matter what Alex says, it really is that simple.

Oh, and Alex? I hope that every girl you ever date and that every employer you ever try to work for Googles your name and finds this article you wrote. Especially the girls. Because, guess what? They probably don't want to be raped. And they should know before getting involved with you that you not only know nothing about rape, but think it's not even possible in some circumstances ... like if a girl has a few drinks and comes back to your room. (Ladies, you can see Alex here. Scroll down.)

Update/Note: See comments below, as a couple of commenters have made me aware that Alex is gay, confirmed by him in this article. I was, obviously, not aware of his sexual identity when I wrote the above. But. He is still Utterly and Completely Wrong. And quite possibly Completely Talking Out of His Ass, because at this point I don't even know what his life experiences are/have been that has formed his date-rape-isn't-possible opinion. Also. I see that I'm getting a lot of traffic to this post from American University, which is to be expected, I suppose. To students on campus: I'm sorry you have to share space with this guy. For what it's worth, I don't think this reflects on your university. It does, in my opinion, reflect on the Eagle. Alex's column, if taken at face value, with emotion removed, doesn't even make any sense. He jumps from topic to topic, with no coherent transitions, all to (apparently) try to say ... I don't even know what. Because it's nonsensical. And given how factually flawed the column is, one is left to wonder if any editors there know anything about 1. rape and 2. journalism. Here's a clue, Eagle editors, from someone who's been in the newspaper biz for 15 or so years now: Just because someone writes something does not mean you have to publish it. At all. If you're worried, that isn't censorship. See, you, the editors, are allowed to set journalistic standards for your paper, and to follow them. Now, if you want to say "write whatever you want and we'll publish it," that's fine. But don't expect your readers to fall for it as "journalism," because it's not. Unless you, the editors, just think the entire student body is that stupid? (Which they aren't, judging from the reactions I've read.) Also, sticking an "editorial" label on it doesn't remove you, the editors, from any responsibility for the column. You still chose to publish it. That is your decision, and yours alone. You, the editors, are the ones that decided "yeah, it's OK to publish something in our paper that says completely and unequivocally false things about rape." Also. Date rape and what it is or isn't is not an opinion. There are things, like, you know, laws, that specify what is and isn't rape. FYI.

More information:
  • You can see some letter to the editor regarding this column here, uncluding one written by Sarah Brown, Director of Women’s Initiative at AU.
  • Also, if you want to let Alex and/or the Eagle (newspaper) know how you feel about his column, you can send e-mails to edpage (at) theeagleonline (dot) com. And here is the contact page for American University itself, should you find a use for that information.

Arizona, get ready to see a rise in teen pregnancies and STD rates!

I, for one, cannot image a faster way to increase teen pregnancy and teen STD rates than to do the following: require parental notification for sex education classes, for birth control and for treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. Can you?

Yet, that's just what the state Senate in Arizona has agreed needs to happen.

Last Monday, the state Senate voted to approve the "Parents' Bill of Rights," SB 1309. It now moves to the House. Let's just look at what the actual bill says:

On sex education:
Provision 10: Requires the policy developed and adopted by school district governing boards to promote the involvement of parents and guardians to include:
b) procedures to prohibit a school district from providing sex education instruction to a pupil unless the pupil’s parent provides written permission for the child to participate in the curricula

Provision 11: Requires the policy to also include procedures by which parents may learn about parental rights and responsibilities under Arizona law, including a summary and a brief description of each of the following:
f) the right to opt out of instruction on AIDS

On STDs:
Provision 20: Eliminates the ability of a minor to obtain treatment for a venereal disease without a parent’s consent.

On birth control (or any prescribed medication):
Provision 14: Prohibits, except as permitted by statute or federal law, a health professional who is authorized by law to write medical prescriptions from writing a prescription order for a person under the age of 18 unless any of the following applies:
a) the health professional has secured the written consent of at least one of the minor’s parents, foster parents or legal custodians, unless a parent does not have the right to consent due to a court order;
b) the health professional has secured verbal consent in person or through telemedicine from at least one of the minor’s parents, foster parents or legal custodians, unless a parent does not have the right to consent due to a court order;
c) the minor is emancipated; or
d) the health professional is acting pursuant to a court order.

So there you go. Your parent(s)/guardian(s) has to give you, the teenager, permission to take sex ed (where you might learn about topics such as birth control and STDs and AIDS), to get birth control pills, and to get treatment for a sexually transmitted disease.

Way to go, Arizona state Senate. You may soon learn something the rest of us already know: You can't force kids to tell their parents they're having sex. You just can't. You may also learn that kids are going to have sex no matter what you do to stop them. No, not every single kid. But some. No. Matter. What.

So, Arizona, all you've done is made it easier for teens to prevent pregnancy and spread STDs. Congratulations! Your state already comes in at No. 3 (out of 50!) with the highest teen pregnancy rate, just behind New Mexico and Nevada. (Guttmacher, PDF) I bet with this legislation, you can become No. 1!

Now, you might be asking yourself, what about situations like incest? Well, I'll let two state Senators explain that for you:
Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Tucson, said the measure would require a teen who is the victim of incest to get consent for treatment of a sexually transmitted disease from the parent who assaulted her in the first place.

But Sen. David Braswell, R-Phoenix, said the state should not be setting policy based on a small percentage of "bad'' parents. "The majority of parents are loving, understanding, caring advocates on behalf of their children,'' he said.
See how easy that is? You can totally ignore the fact that bad things happen, and just create legislation for "good" people! I mean, isn't that really the basis of this legislation? Cause if you have "good" kids, none of this matters anyway, so you don't even have to worry about it! "Good" kids don't do things like want to learn about sex, let alone have sex, so they don't need to take birth control or get treated for an STD anyway.

I have no idea if this will make it through the state House, but fingers crossed it doesn't.

(FYI, the bill includes many other things, including mental health screenings. You might want to read the whole bill to get the full picture.)

(And P.S. The Arizona state Senate also passed a bill Monday "to strengthen reporting requirements on abortions." You know, just for statistical purposes.)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Suggested Sunday reading (3/28/10)

Just a couple quick reminders: If you have any suggestions for this column, whether they be your own blog posts, news stories, etc., feel free to send them in. You can e-mail me at rosiered23 (at) sparecandy (dot) com. I'm also on Twitter and Tumblr. On to Sunday reading:

You may recall the case of Jamie Leigh Jones, a woman who was working as a contractor for KBR/Halliburton in Iraq when she was drugged, kidnapped and raped by seven co-workers and held hostage in a shipping container. She tried to take the case to court, but it turned out that her contract prevented that; it said all such cases had to be settled via arbitration. Her case has gone back and forth in the court system: a court said her case could go to trial, but KBR appealed. However, Sen. Al Franken was able to get legislation through Congress that said the U.S. government could not enter into contracts with companies who have such policies (no thanks to the THIRTY Republicans in the Senate who voted against the bill). And because of that, KBR has dropped its appeal and Jones' case will be going to court, finally. KBR said "KBR did not want to risk being in violation of the amendment, so the company withdrew its petition." As I've said many times on this blog, thank you Sen. Franken for looking out for women's interests. And thank you to Jones, for continually pursuing her day in court, which is the least she deserves after what she went through, and for standing up to such a huge government contractor.

In other rape and rape-culture related news:

  • Yes Means Yes: "Affirmative consent as legal standard?" This is a long piece, and completely worth your time. The basic idea is to turn more from "no means no" to "yes means yes." Seriously great material here, and even though sometimes it comes down to semantics, it's important stuff.
  • The Sexist: "Why Rape Isn’t One Big Misunderstanding." As they say, THIS. This all day long.
  • The Curvature: "Trial for Officer Accused of Rape Invokes Victim-Blaming Myths." Ugh.
  • Shakesville: "Today in Rape Culture." This is from March 5, but I just came across it a couple days ago. And oh my goodness. Just read it.
  • RH Reality Check: "Rape Culture No More: What the Medical Community can do to Eliminate Violence Against Women."
  • Care2: "Facebook Groups Continue to Poke Fun at Rape." FFS.
  • Pandagon: "Seriously, why are they so obsessed with rape metaphors?."
  • Feminally: "The Privilege of Not Being Raped." So, so true.

In other news:
  • The State Journal Register (Ill.): "Companies allowing babies to join moms at work." I have mixed feelings about this. It's great for moms who have offices, but what if you're working out of a cubicle? There aren't many offices at my job, maybe 10 total. Women have four of them, I think. The rest of the women in my office could never bring a baby to work all day, because there's no room in the cubicles. Seems to me this would need to apply to all women or none, and I'm just not sure how feasible that is. But if it can be made to work, I'm all for it.
  • Change.org: "America's Inexcusably High Maternal Death Rate." I'm glad to see stories about the maternal death rate here. It's been written about a lot recently (I've written about it here). This needs to be in the public eye.
  • NPR: "NPR Changes Abortion Language."
  • AP: "Abortion ban proposal to be on Colorado ballot." Yes, this is a "personhood" initiative.
  • Salon: "Tiger Woods' adultery: The scientific defense." One of my biggest pet peeves is when people claim, "scientifically" or otherwise, that men have to cheat because they are men. I don't buy it for one single second.
  • Washington Post: "Pelosi, Clinton celebrate Women's History Month, even as they make history, too." Congrats to both this week!
  • Tiger Beatdown: "13 Ways of Looking at Liz Lemon." Lots of really good stuff in here.
  • Talking Points Memo: "An open letter to conservatives."

A couple stories of note regarding the health care reform bill:
  • RH Reality Check: "The Health Care Bill and Women's Health: Wins, Losses, and Challenges."
  • Women's Media Center: "Gloria Steinem Responds to President Obama Signing Health Care Reform."
  • Race Wire: "What Health Care Reform Means For Abortion."
  • The Miami Herald: "Individual health insurance mandate started as a Republican idea."
  • Salon: "Mitt Romney's healthcare hypocrisy and the GOP base."

Saturday, March 27, 2010

GOP virtually sets Nancy Pelosi on fire

This is on the actual GOP Web site: A fundraising drive to fire Nancy Pelosi (which they aim to do by gaining a majority in the House, which would make John Boehner the speaker of the House — can you just imagine that for a second). So fine, whatever, they want to be in power. No surprise there.

But the image at the site is Nancy Pelosi burning. Get it? Cause she’s being FIREd from her job? And therefore it’s appropriate to show her burning? (At the stake, perhaps?)


For shame. Who knows, maybe they were inspired by Glenn Beck pretending to poison Pelosi.

So far, the GOP has raised more than $1.5 million dollars from this “set Pelosi on fire” campaign.

And then there’s this: “RNC rejects joint ‘civility’ statement.” The DNC sent the statement, which rejects all recent violence, vandalism, violent rhetoric, etc., to the RNC. And here’s how the RNC responds (hint: like a fucking child, but worse):
Republicans see the statement as an attempt to force them to either reject the statement — allowing Democrats to say the RNC finds the incidents acceptable — or to sign on to something that the DNC would later wield against them.

The proposed statement was faxed and hand-delivered to the RNC at midmorning Friday. POLITICO learned Friday afternoon that the RNC would not sign the DNC statement.

RNC Communications Director Doug Heye told POLITICO that Steele chose not to agree to the statement because “we don’t need to do anything on their schedule or on their timetable.”
Read the whole thing here.

I don’t know that I’ll ever stop being amazed at the outrage over trying to improve the health care/insurance industry. Republicans: The Democrats didn’t steal all your toys or refuse to share the swing set with you. GROW. UP.

Note: Reposted from my Tumblr.

Friday, March 26, 2010

In History: Gaura Devi

This is the 18th post in a weekly feature here at Spare Candy, called "In History." Some posts might be little more than a photo, others full on features. If you have any suggestions for a person or event that should be featured, or would like to submit a guest post or cross post, e-mail me at rosiered23 (at) sparecandy (dot) com.

On March 26, 1974, Gaura Devi (pictured) led a group of 27 women of Laata village, Henwalghati, Garhwal, Himalayas, to form circles around trees to stop them being felled, thus sparking the Chipko Movement in India. For years, people in the Himalayas had been fighting to protect their land and its resources, and this action was the start of years of women significantly contributing to the effort. The story is really an incredible one*:
On March 26, 1974, the day the lumberers were to axe the trees, the men of the Reni village, and DGSS (Dasholi Society for Village Self-Rule) workers, were in Chamoli, diverted by state government and contractors to a fictional compensation payment site, while back home labourers arrived in a truckload to start the logging operation. Finally on seeing them, a girl rushed to inform Gaura Devi, the head of the village Mahila Mangal Dal, at Reni village. Gaura Devi led 27 women of Reni village, reached the site and confronted the loggers. When all talking failed, and instead loggers started shouting and abusing the women, threatening them with guns, the women resorted to hugging the trees to stop the them from being axed. This went on into late hours, and the women kept a whole night vigil guarding their trees from the cutters, until a few of them relented and left the village. The next day, when with the men and leaders back, the news of the movement spread to the neighbouring Laata and others villages and more people joined in. Eventually after a four-day stand off, the contractors left. (via)
Surviving Members of the Original Reni Squad at the Chipko 30th Anniversary 2004.

The Chipko movement is so interesting on its own, but in this day and age of climate change and how that affects women, it's also extremely relevant. I can't recommend reading up on this enough, and in fact, if anyone has any book or article recommendations to share with me, I'd love to hear them.

*Note: There are many variations of the story about Gaura Devi's actions on March 26. Actually, the date itself varies from story to story, but it's generally given as happening around March 26. In some reports, the women do not actually hug the trees, just threaten to do so. In other reports, they stand guard over the loggers, preventing them from cutting down trees that way. However it happened, it's still pretty incredible.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Remember when they said we don't have to worry about airport body scanners?

You know, remember just yesterday, when a committee of British lawmakers said "The privacy fears raised by the deployment of full body scanners at airports are overblown." They also said " the technology was no more of a threat to passengers' rights than pat-downs or bag searches." (Don't you love how a pat-down is no worse than someone seeing every single part of your body? And really, it's definitely not worse than someone looking through your bag.)

Ah, yesterday. The good ol' days. The day before an an airport security guard at London Heathrow told a woman coworker, who walked through a scanner, that he "loved those gigantic tits." Apparently a "first instance harassment warning has been issued" to the man.

Now sure, she wasn't a passenger getting ready to go on a flight, so I have no doubt we people who just want to fly somewhere still have "nothing to worry about." Because we don't have to work with people who think it's OK to comment on a woman's body as she goes through a scanner. We just have to trust them not to say things like that to us -- all along wondering what they're thinking that they aren't saying to us, and, ya know, maybe wondering if they're busy looking at people's bodies instead of looking for things like explosives.

People have raised all kinds of concerns about body scanners and privacy, and rightfully so. From implants to prosthetic body parts to transgender issues to disability issues to women whose religious beliefs require they cover their bodies (which would be seen in a body scanner), there are many privacy problems with the scanners. Stupidly, I had never considered one of the problems would be sexual harassment of a coworker.

And now I'm left with this: if a terrorist has explosives inside a breast implant, which is inside their breast, as has been reported, then what? According to the story, a "typical" body scanner wouldn't catch that. I think it might be time to admit that we can never make air travel 100 percent safe, no matter what we do. We can make it safer, yes. But pretty soon we're going to have to figure out how much privacy we're willing to give up, and when the "safer" has plateaued to "as safe as it can be."

Has anyone been through a body scanner? What was your experience?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

SFS: The real intentions behind Sen. Tom Coburn's amendment(s)

I am completely, thoroughly and entirely sickened and repulsed by how Republicans -- in this case, elected officials -- are behaving now that the House has passed the health care bill. If I had to describe it with my most honest thoughts, I'd call it some "sick fucking shit." (SFS) for short.

You know, it's bad enough that we've seen citizens carrying signs threatening gun violence, and citizens shouting "nigger" and "faggot" at Democrats in Congress, and citizens spitting on Democrats in Congress, and citizens throwing bricks and rocks through windows and doors of Democrats' offices. But now? Now we get elected Republicans acting like the absolute biggest sore losers ever on the face of this planet, except worse than that, because they weren't successful in stopping the health care reform from being passed. And they are going to deal with it by employing some SFS.

Some brief background: The House passed the bill, but made a couple changes to it. The Senate still has to vote on that version of the bill. Before that vote happens, amendments to the bill can be introduced, same as usual with any other legislation. But the Democrats in the Senate don't want any changes to be made to the bill, because if changes are made, the bill would have to go back to the House and be voted on again -- giving, in theory, House Democrats time to change their vote. So, the Democrats in the Senate want the bill to be passed exactly as it is, and will no doubt do just that (probably using reconciliation).

This is where the SFS comes into play. Republicans have apparently come up with a twisted game: let's introduce as many amendments as we can, because the Democrats will have to vote against them, and then WE get to say "HEY! So-and-so voted AGAINST blah blah blah! See how HORRIBLE of a person So-and-so is?"

Take, for example, Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma (pictured). He has introduced nine amendments. One of them is called "No Erectile Dysfunction Drugs To Sex Offenders (Amendment 3556)." The amendment would, among other things, prohibit convicted rapists and child molesters and those convicted of sexual assault from receiving Viagra or any other erectile dysfunction medication. Now, I imagine most people would agree with that -- there is some sense being shown and it's an easy concept to understand and rally around. HOWEVER. Because Democrats don't want to change the bill, they would be forced to vote against this amendment. And then, come election time, every Republican can run attack ads against the Democrats who vote against this amendment. "Your Senator wants to give Viagra to child molesters and rapists! Can you believe that?! Me either, so you better vote for me, the person who does not want to give Viagra to child molesters and rapists."

See how that's some serious SFS?

Oh, and that's not all. The same amendment (PDF) also prohibits "drugs prescribed with the intent of inducing an abortion." Now, if I were to take that language to mean exactly what it says, that would be referring to RU-486, a prescribed medication that does induce abortion. I would not take that to mean emergency contraceptives such as the morning-after pill (Plan B), because that is neither prescribed, nor does it induce abortion. As we know, abortion is already not covered by the health care bill, which would include (I assume) RU-486, since that's a method of abortion. But if a Democrat votes against this amendment, not only do they WANT to give Viagra to child molesters, they also WANT people to have an abortion via RU-486. SFS indeed.

Coburn also introduced the Abortion Conscience Amendment (PDF). "This amendment would ensure health care providers are not forced to participate in abortions or discriminated against because they choose not to perform abortions." Hey, guess what? That's already part of the health care bill, and it was included again in the executive order Obama signed. It's completely unnecessary, but it serves the purpose of getting Democrats to vote against it, thus allowing Republicans to say "So-and-so wants to make every single doctor perform abortions! Especially the Catholic ones!"

Coburn isn't the only one playing this game. Sen. Chuck Grassley introduced this amendment: 
To make sure the President, Cabinet Members, all White House Senior staff and Congressional Committee and Leadership Staff are purchasing health insurance through the health insurance exchanges established by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
And then when it's voted down, Republicans will be saying "This can't be a good program, Democrats don't even want the president to use it! It's not good enough for him! He's so uppity anyway." And there are many, many more amendments that have been introduced, and I'm sure more are to come.

Folks, this is truly some SFS.

Remember, Republicans banked everything on this health care bill failing. They decided not to cooperate at all. They had all kinds of chances over the past year to get involved and help shape the legislation, and they did not. And now that it has passed -- now that a bill that is designed to help Americans get better and less expensive and more accessible health care, or in some cases, health care period, has passed -- all the Republicans can do is think about ways they'll be able to attack their Democratic opponents in the future. Can they possibly be any more petty? Any more evil? Any more childish? Any more inhumane? This is people's lives we're talking about with this bill. Why don't Republicans care about that? I know they claim to care, but they couldn't be more clear with their actions: the only thing they care about is trying to get back in power. That is where their priorities are, and they will resort to the most SFS to get it.

I hope everyone remembers this come election time.

More reading:
Bob Cesca: "The Boner Trap"
New York Times: "Coburn's Unusual Amendments"
CBS: "GOP Amendment: No Viagra for Sex Offenders"

Rape culture shows up in court (again)

When it comes to rape and sexual assault cases (and domestic violence, for that matter), victim blaming in a courtroom is nothing new. I think we're all pretty much aware of the typical tactics: why were you dressed that way, how much had you been drinking, why did you get in his car, why were you out alone, but you aren't that hurt physically, did you enjoy it, and on and on.

A judge in Ohio may have just taken the cake for victim blaming in a court. Cuyahoga Juvenile Court Judge Alison Floyd has ordered four teenage girls, who are victims of sexual assault, to take polygraph tests. These are four separate cases, and the defendants had already been found guilty. I cannot come up with one reason a judge would order sexual assault victims to take a polygraph test after the defendants have been found guilty by that very judge.

Do judges often order or request polygraph tests in any cases? And can you imagine if your car were stolen and then a judge asked you to take a polygraph test about it? Rape, sexual assault and domestic violence victims are the only crime victims blamed for what happened to them, and it has to stop. If you leave your car unlocked with the windows down and keys in the ignition and it gets stolen, maybe someone in the courtroom would comment on that. But stolen is stolen, and if the person/people who stole the car is found and put on trial, the only thing up for debate is did they steal the car. Not what you, the car owner, did to make them steal the car, or indicate they could steal the car. Because, you see, stealing is wrong, and society is in agreement on that. The jury, so to speak, is still out on the wrongness of rape and sexual assault. How else would it be possible for a judge to ask for sexual assault victims to take a polygraph test?

The story, reported by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, says the judge also asked the defendants to take polygraph tests, before she issued the sentencing. It's not clear when she asked the victims to take the test, but let's assume it was at the same time she asked the defendants. Would that mean she would take the polygraph results into account when sentencing the defendants, the very defendants she already found guilty? None of this makes any sense to me, so if someone has a thought or legal opinion on this, please do share it with the class.

So far none of the victims have taken the test. I hope they don't. I'm in full agreement with the mother of one of the victims, who said, "I believe even more damage was done by the judge letting the perpetrator know she was ordering the victim to take the polygraph. He apparently took this to mean the judge did not believe her and he used this to tell their peers that the judge did not believe her and was ordering her take a lie detector test. It felt like the blame was back on her and she was being victimized, by not only him [again], but by the system as well."

The judge and the judge's office has, so far, not responded to any press requests. I hope she does, because I'm really interested in hearing what she has to say to explain her actions.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Text of Obama's executive order about abortion coverage

In case you've been looking for it (like I have), here it is (note, it has not been signed yet, as far as I know):

Executive Order
- - - - - - -
ensuring enforcement and implementation of abortion restrictions in the patient protection and affordable care act

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” (approved March ­­__, 2010), I hereby order as follows:

Section 1. Policy.
Following the recent passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“the Act”), it is necessary to establish an adequate enforcement mechanism to ensure that Federal funds are not used for abortion services (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered), consistent with a longstanding Federal statutory restriction that is commonly known as the Hyde Amendment. The purpose of this Executive Order is to establish a comprehensive, government-wide set of policies and procedures to achieve this goal and to make certain that all relevant actors—Federal officials, state officials (including insurance regulators) and health care providers—are aware of their responsibilities, new and old.

The Act maintains current Hyde Amendment restrictions governing abortion policy and extends those restrictions to the newly-created health insurance exchanges. Under the Act, longstanding Federal laws to protect conscience (such as the Church Amendment, 42 U.S.C. §300a-7, and the Weldon Amendment, Pub. L. No. 111-8, §508(d)(1) (2009)) remain intact and new protections prohibit discrimination against health care facilities and health care providers because of an unwillingness to provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.

Numerous executive agencies have a role in ensuring that these restrictions are enforced, including the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

Section 2. Strict Compliance with Prohibitions on Abortion Funding in Health Insurance Exchanges.
The Act specifically prohibits the use of tax credits and cost-sharing reduction payments to pay for abortion services (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered) in the health insurance exchanges that will be operational in 2014. The Act also imposes strict payment and accounting requirements to ensure that Federal funds are not used for abortion services in exchange plans (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered) and requires state health insurance commissioners to ensure that exchange plan funds are segregated by insurance companies in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, OMB funds management circulars, and accounting guidance provided by the Government Accountability Office.

I hereby direct the Director of OMB and the Secretary of HHS to develop, within 180 days of the date of this Executive Order, a model set of segregation guidelines for state health insurance commissioners to use when determining whether exchange plans are complying with the Act’s segregation requirements, established in Section 1303 of the Act, for enrollees receiving Federal financial assistance. The guidelines shall also offer technical information that states should follow to conduct independent regular audits of insurance companies that participate in the health insurance exchanges. In developing these model guidelines, the Director of OMB and the Secretary of HHS shall consult with executive agencies and offices that have relevant expertise in accounting principles, including, but not limited to, the Department of the Treasury, and with the Government Accountability Office. Upon completion of those model guidelines, the Secretary of HHS should promptly initiate a rulemaking to issue regulations, which will have the force of law, to interpret the Act’s segregation requirements, and shall provide guidance to state health insurance commissioners on how to comply with the model guidelines.

Section 3. Community Health Center Program.
The Act establishes a new Community Health Center (CHC) Fund within HHS, which provides additional Federal funds for the community health center program. Existing law prohibits these centers from using federal funds to provide abortion services (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered), as a result of both the Hyde Amendment and longstanding regulations containing the Hyde language. Under the Act, the Hyde language shall apply to the authorization and appropriations of funds for Community Health Centers under section 10503 and all other relevant provisions. I hereby direct the Secretary of HHS to ensure that program administrators and recipients of Federal funds are aware of and comply with the limitations on abortion services imposed on CHCs by existing law. Such actions should include, but are not limited to, updating Grant Policy Statements that accompany CHC grants and issuing new interpretive rules.

Section 4. General Provisions.
(a) Nothing in this Executive Order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect: (i) authority granted by law or presidential directive to an agency, or the head thereof; or (ii) functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This Executive Order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This Executive Order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity against the United States, its departments, agencies, entities, officers, employees or agents, or any other person.

THE WHITE HOUSE

Disney says no to actors with breast implants

According to the New York Post, Disney is seeking women actors for its next "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie. Here's what they say the casting call says:
"Beautiful female fit models. Must be 5ft7in-5ft8in, size 4 or 6, no bigger or smaller. Age 18-25. Must have a lean dancer body. Must have real breasts. Do not submit if you have implants."
Certainly Disney can put whatever restrictions they want on what kind of actors they seek. It's their movie, their call. It's not something I particularly agree with, on the assumption (which may or may not be correct) that a number of women actors probably get breast implants in hopes of helping them land roles (because, you know, boobs/looks can trump talent). So this sucks for them, and obviously for anyone who has had implants as part of any kind of medical/reconstructive procedure and not just for "enhancement".

On the other hand, I'm all for natural bodies and for promoting them and a healthy body image. Somehow, though, I suspect what Disney wants is natural boobs that are BIG. Or at least, you know, on the bigger side. Why else would they need to conduct a "Hollywood-style jiggle-your-jugs test and jog" during their auditions? Smaller boobs aren't going to "jiggle" the same way bigger ones are. To me, they're looking for thin women with big boobs -- natural or not, this isn't exactly a step toward promoting healthy body image. (Note: I'm not saying there is anything wrong with thin women who have big boobs; just that it's the kind of body most often held up as "ideal," and one that many, many women cannot achieve.)

Also, if Disney is so worried about natural boobs now, what was with all the makeup and contraptions used to "boost" Keira Knightley's cleavage in the other Pirates movies? What appeared to be her boobs were not, at all, her boobs:


Here's another article about it. Thoughts on this?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

NOW: "President Obama Breaks Faith with Women"

A press release issued by the National Organization for Women:
President Obama Breaks Faith with Women

Statement of NOW President Terry O'Neill

March 21, 2010

The National Organization for Women is incensed that President Barack Obama agreed today to issue an executive order designed to appease a handful of anti-choice Democrats who have held up health care reform in an effort to restrict women's access to abortion. Through this order, the president has announced he will lend the weight of his office and the entire executive branch to the anti-abortion measures included in the Senate bill, which the House is now prepared to pass.

President Obama campaigned as a pro-choice president, but his actions today suggest that his commitment to reproductive health care is shaky at best. Contrary to language in the draft of the executive order and repeated assertions in the news, the Hyde Amendment is not settled law -- it is an illegitimate tack-on to an annual must-pass appropriations bill. NOW has a longstanding objection to Hyde and, in fact, was looking forward to working with this president and Congress to bring an end to these restrictions. We see now that we have our work cut out for us far beyond what we ever anticipated. The message we have received today is that it is acceptable to negotiate health care on the backs of women, and we couldn't disagree more.
Repeal Hyde!

Suggested Sunday reading (3/21/10)

Happy Sunday everyone! Anyone else going to be following the health care vote today? Anyone not going to be following it? It feels like the general consensus is that the bill isn't perfect, but it's a start toward fixing the many problems with our health care system. I just hope the efforts to get funding for abortion continue full force after today's vote. I'd take all these suggestions by Katha Pollitt, too. On to Sunday reading:

I can't not mention this story, even though hundreds of blog posts have already been written about it: A commercial for tampons was declined by three networks because it had the word "vagina" in it. Yes, seriously. Three networks screened the ad and said no, we won't air it because it says "vagina." Presumably they know that tampons go in vaginas, but that doesn't matter. With their actions, they have reinforced the idea that "vagina" is a dirty icky word and a dirty icky part of women's anatomy that has to be taken care of dirty icky things like tampons. I'm surprised "tampon" can be used in a commercial, actually. So, for the record: erectile dysfunction commercials can air all the time, on any program, at any hour, but "vagina" cannot be used in a tampon commercial. Read more at the New York Times, Jezebel, Menstruation Research and see more about Kotex's new campaign here.

In other news:
  • Politics Daily: "Massachusetts Study: Health Care Reform Reduced Abortions."
  • Big Think: "'Femivores'? Spare Me." I loved this.
  • UK Telegraph: The Miss England pageant is getting rid of the swimsuit round and replacing it with a "sports round." Yay to no more swimsuits, but I have no idea what a "sports round" involves. (Wouldn't it be kinda fun it if were like Ninja Warrior?)
  • Newser: "Prada Ordered 'Old, Fat, and Ugly' Staff Fired." Oddly, the original article about this (also from UK Telegraph), is no longer around. But still, this is horrible, if true.
  • Salon: "Gay marriage's transgender loophole."
  • The Independent: "Kidnapped. Raped. Married. The extraordinary rebellion of Ethiopia's abducted wives." This is must-read.
  • New York Times: Nicholas Kristof writes about "Women’s Rights as a Security Issue." Also check out this interview (transcript) with Sec. of State Hillary Clinton on MSNBC.
  • Reuters: "At 76, Steinem laments elusive equality for women."
  • News Junkie Post: "Holocaust Survivor And Feminist Simone Veil Joins French Academy."
  • New York Times: "Liz Carpenter, Journalist, Feminist and Johnson Aide, Dies at 89."
  • Womenstake: "A Second Crack in the Glass TV Screen."
  • ABC: "Baltimore Judge Marries Accused Abuser to Victim During Trial to Avoid Testimony." There is so much wrong with this.

Friday, March 19, 2010

In History: Jacqueline Cochran

This is the 17th post in a weekly feature here at Spare Candy, called "In History." Some posts might be little more than a photo, others full on features. If you have any suggestions for a person or event that should be featured, or would like to submit a guest post or cross post, e-mail me at rosiered23 (at) sparecandy (dot) com.


During her aviation career, from the 1930s through the 1960s, Jacqueline Cochran (1906-1980) set more speed and altitude records than any contemporary pilot, male or female, and was the first woman to break the sound barrier. During World War II, she was instrumental in formation of the Women's Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs). This photograph was taken ca. 1962 when she received the Harmon Trophy for establishing eight World Class records in jet planes. (via) She was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1971, the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1993, and the Lancaster, California Aerospace Walk of Honor (where she was the first woman to be inducted) in 1996. Her accomplishments also landed her on a postage stamp, issued March 9, 1996.


Read more about Cochran here and here.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

"The Girl Effect"

Have you heard about The Girl Effect? I love the idea of this campaign, because it is so true. Check out this video (featured on telegraph21):



The Girl Effect's Web site has much more information, though you might not see it at first glance (try the links along the bottom of the page; the "Your Move" PDF is excellent.) You can also donate there, should you choose to do so. There are also more relevant links to check out at the telegraph21 link, and they also have an interview with Emily Brew, who led the development of The Girl Effect (to see it, click on the link, then click "interview" under the video).

What do you think about campaigns like this? To me, this idea is one that makes the most sense when it comes to changing the world into a better place, not just for women, but for everyone.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

2010 International Women of Courage Award

In case you missed it, on March 10 Sec. of State Hillary Clinton awarded 10 women the International Women of Courage Award. You can read Clinton's speech and/or watch a video of it here. If, like me, you're curious about the 10 women honored, a quick look at each:


U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, First Lady Michelle Obama, Reese Witherspoon, Andrea Jung, and the honorees listen as Ambassador Verveer speaks at the 2010 International Women of Courage Awards at the U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C. March 10, 2010. [State Department Photo/Public Domain

Shukria Asil of Afghanistan "serves as one of four female members of the Baghlan Provincial Council. Her work advocates for increased accountability and responsiveness of the government to women’s needs. Her portfolio includes issues that have no other advocate, such as the rights of the mentally disabled, and her approach draws upon innovative tools and ideas, such as starting a networking group for professional women, or pushing to launch a driving school for women."

Colonel Shafiqa Quraishi of Afghanistan "is the Director of Gender, Human, and Child Rights within the Ministry of the Interior. She began her career in the Afghan National Police. She created and led a working group on Afghan National Gender Recruitment Strategy, with the goal of increasing the number of women working in the Ministry of the Interior to 5,000 and of improving the quality of the Ministry’s service to the women and of Afghanistan."

Androula Henriques of Cyprus "has fought for years against the buying and selling of women, pushing for long-term institutional change by lobbying government officials at the highest levels to take action against trafficking and to increase protection for its victims. She has created her own anti-trafficking network, made up of people in the media, NGOs, the diplomatic corps, and others."

Sonia Pierre of the Dominican Republic "is the founder and leader of MUDHA (Movement of Dominican-Haitian Women). The organization works to address the problems that Haitians and their children born in the Dominican Republic face, and tries to reform the problems in documenting people in both Haiti and the Dominican Republic that give rise to a class of people unable to reap the benefits and protections of nationality and citizenship. Pierre has used a campaign of public education and legal action to reform the Dominican Republic’s birth registration system and to build awareness of how statelessness deprives people of access to crucial human rights such as healthcare, education, and safe housing and working conditions."

Shadi Sadr of Iran "is a lawyer, journalist, and expert on women's legal rights and has written extensively about the status of women in Iran. Until it was closed down by the Iranian government, she was the director of Raahi, a legal advice center for women. She founded Zanan-e Iran (Women of Iran), the first website dedicated to the work of Iranian women's rights activists."

Ann Njogu of Kenya "was co-convener, in 2008, of the Civil Society Congress, which worked with other civil society organizations to avert total political collapse in the aftermath of the violence that tore Kenyan society apart after the December 2007 elections. Her organization, the Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW), documented sexual and gender based violence during the post election period, providing essential data for national and international investigations of possible criminal conduct by Kenyan leaders. Njogu was also instrumental in passage of Kenya’s Sexual Offences Act, as a co-drafter and lobbyist."

Dr. Lee Ae-ran of the Republic of Korea spent 8 years as a prisoner at a North Korea labor camp, eventually defecting to South Korea with her baby, but leaving behind her husband and family. She "is the first North Korean defector to run for the Republic of Korea’s National Assembly, and the first female defector to earn a doctoral degree. To help others in the refugee community reach the levels of achievement that she’s earned, she’s spearheaded a variety of initiatives. In 2005, she founded the Global Leadership Scholarship Program, which has provided more than a thousand North Korean students with scholarships to study English. In January 2009, she founded the Hana Defector Women's Organization, an NGO with more than 200 members that provides North Korean women in the Republic of Korea with job training, child care, educational support, and human rights training. This year, she also opened the first North Korea Traditional Culinary and Culture Institute to provide North Korean women with practical entrepreneurial and culinary arts skills."

Jansila Majeed of Sri Lanka "is the Managing Trustee of Community Trust Fund in Puttalam province. The Trust oversees a number of programs on minority and women’s issues, including women’s rights, peace building, relief work, working with young people, and mine-risk education in the North and East. Majeed’s own particular focus is on uniting the Muslim and Tamil communities in her province."

Sister Marie Claude Naddaf (a.k.a. Sister Marie Claude) of Syria "assumed the role of Mother Superior at the Good Shepherd Convent in Damascus in 1994, when Syria did not offer social services for women suffering domestic violence, homelessness, or trafficking. Women trafficked into prostitution were imprisoned for months on end, held in jail with criminals until they could be deported. Sister Marie Claude set out to create a range of services for women through her Damascus Convent, and, in so doing, gradually created a partnership with the Syrian government on tackling violence against women."

Jestina Mukoko of Zimbabwe "is the Executive Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), an NGO that monitors human rights abuses throughout the country. ZPP's reports provide the international community with accurate assessments of human rights abuses, including violence against women and politically-biased distribution of food, and were particularly crucial during the violent 2008 election period."

I'd encourage everyone to read more about these women, as a number of them have been imprisoned and are working against great odds to accomplish their goals and to better the lives of women. Inspiring.

(Via)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Abortion and health care reform, Part XXVLIII

OK, so I made up that Roman numeral in an attempt to convey this: "Yes, again, we need to talk about abortion and health care reform." Because things like this are, still, being said:
The National Right to Life Committee has branded Obama's bill as "the most pro-abortion single piece of legislation that has ever come to the House floor for a vote."
Seriously. And there's also this, from Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO of Americans United for Life:
"The legislation most likely to move forward in Congress would be the single greatest expansion of abortion since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision."
Seriously. Honestly, I don't know what these groups and people who support them are trying to accomplish, or why. Do they really and truly believe that health care reform will include federally-funded abortions? And if they really and truly believe, that, why?? It is Not True, and it's really not that hard to find out it's not true. So if they really and truly believe this, the only conclusion I can draw is they can't or won't read the bill and/or they believe everything they read and hear and are too lazy to go look for themselves.

The other option is they know it's not true but are putting these rumors and lies into the world in order to defeat the health care bill. Now, if they know it's not true and are working to defeat the bill ... why? Pro-life beliefs shouldn't be a far stretch from "pro-people having health care that helps them live," right? I'm not sure how a "pro-life" person would reconcile their pro-life beliefs with an anti-health care reform position. (I'm sure there is a way, though, and I'm sure someone will tell me what it is.)

So maybe, just maybe, these groups do know the bill doesn't actually provide federal funding for abortion, but they're trying to defeat it to help the Republican politicians who happen to be the groups' allies in the "pro-life" world. See, if Republicans are "pro-life," and if Republicans are Taking A Stand against health care, it could (would) be bad for them if it passed. Insert wedge issue (abortion) here! Get some "pro-life" groups to go on a spree of lies, convincing people that the bill pays for abortions with your money, and get the people on the Republicans' side. This seems the most likely scenario to me. Republicans need to defeat this bill. This is how they're trying to do it. (Well, that and claiming the deficit incurred from this bill will basically make the entire country go up in smoke.)

If you have any doubts about what the health care bill does or doesn't cover as far as abortions go, please read this article at Politics Daily, "The Senate Bill Funds Abortions? Nope, and It's More Pro-Life Than the House Version." You might just be surprised. Add to that this article at the Washington Post, "Universal health care tends to cut the abortion rate." This seems like such common sense, I can't believe people haven't used this argument more aggressively. And add to both of those this article in Guernica, "Lucky Girl," about a woman trying to get an illegal abortion in 1962, just as a reminder of why every woman should have access to safe, legal abortions.

I'm thankful I didn't grow up with the Internet

And I will tell you why in just a second, but before I get into that, a necessary disclaimer: Yes, I love the Internet and I'm extremely thankful for it. Now. I love the social aspect of it and that it has allowed me to keep in touch with (or get back in touch with) friends across the years who I no longer live near. I love the news aspect of it. Shopping on the Internet? Yes please! And on and on. Probably the only downsides of the Internet, for me at least, is my propensity to waste hours on it, and the revelation of how stupid and ignorant so many people are. BUT. That often fuels me, too, and really the Internet ultimately exposed my own ignorance about the amount of stupid in the world. Which is A Good Thing.

A couple other things you should know, for reference. I am 33. I graduated from high school in 1994, college in 1998. Really, I just missed out the Internet as a youth. I might have gotten my first e-mail account in 1994; I think my parents got dial-up toward the end of my first year of college, so 1995? My first dorm didn't have any Internet connections, though my second one did. (I actually bought a word processor for my first year of college!) Bringing a computer to college was seen as a luxury item. Most of us hiked to the computer labs or the library if we had to type up something. We also still did research at a place called the library. And the Internet back then just wasn't the Internet of today. Video on the Internet? Nope. No social networking sites past very early chat rooms and bulletin boards. Heck, e-mail was still a thing of wonder! And in case it doesn't go without saying, no cell phones either. (Car phones FTW! Oh, and the long-distance carriers. Sigh.)

So, I don't mean to get all "When I Was Growing Up" on you, but seriously? When I was growing up, I did not have to worry about things like this. The headline on that story is "Teenage boys watching hours of internet pornography every week are treating their girlfriends like sex objects," and it was published recently by the Daily Mail. It starts off talking about how girls are inviting "chaperons" to dates -- in the form of another girl -- "because they want protection from the sexual demands of their boyfriends." And the article says these girls believe the demands come straight from porn. It never mentions anal sex by name, but I have to think that's what this is referring to:
'Boys just want us to do all the stuff they see the porn stars do,' one 16-year-old girl told me. 'It's as if we have to pretend we are in a movie. They want us to dress like porn stars in sexy underwear, have bodies that look like porn stars, and sound and behave like them too when we are alone. That's why we like to have our friends around us now.'

Another 15-year-old told me that what her 16-year-old boyfriend had wanted her to do had made her cry. The sexual request is not suitable to be described in a family paper, but as the mother of three daughters aged 16,15 and 13, I found it particularly upsetting.

The girl told me the act was now considered to be the final frontier by dare-devil teenage boys; the so-called 'fifth base'.
The article goes on to talk to more girls about their experiences, attempts to talk to some teenage boys about it, mentions a couple stats on time spent viewing porn, other studies, etc. It also touches on cyber-bullying, with naked photos or revealing intimate details about someone's body/sex life as a way of getting revenge. It's not the best article ever, there's no doubt about that. But reading things like this got me thinking (emphasis mine):
'He even starts talking as if he's in a movie,' she says. ' Suddenly, when we are being intimate, he'll say something that he must have heard in a porn film. For example, he'll call me a "bitch" and use dirty language that he'd never use normally. It's awful. It's so obvious he's copying his actions from watching porn. No boy would call you beautiful. They use words like "hot" and "sexy". That's why my friends and I like using third wheels. We want protection.

'We don't, of course, want a world where we are not equal, like it was in Jane Austen's day. But in some ways we've gone back to inequality anyway because we are not being treated equally when it comes to what boys want from us when we are alone with them.

'It's all about performing sexual acts for them, and they assume we'll love it.'
I can't imagine dealing with this when I was 15, 16, 17 years old.

This is not to say there weren't sexual demands when I was growing up; of course there were. And I can't even say for sure if kids were or weren't "demanding" things like anal sex back then. My experience says no. It was never brought up by anyone, male or female, that I remember in my teens. No guy I dated, not even in college, ever brought it up. (But since then? Ha. It's everywhere.) Was I in the minority? I don't think so. My girlfriends and I were never shy about talking about sex; if this were a common demand, I hope I would have heard about it. (Anyone else my age have a different experience?)

The sexual demands we dealt with were the first four bases, and looking back on it, they seem almost quaint. You know what I mean? It's almost like the sexual demands my generation dealt with, and the way they were demanded, are more comparable to the 1950s than to today.

But more than what the demands were: We simply didn't have the Internet to deal with. If someone wanted to share a naked photo of me out of spite or as a joke, they would have to 1. somehow take the photo, 2. develop the film, 3. photocopy the picture, 4. push-tack it up everywhere or hand it out in person. Or carry it around and just show it to everyone, I suppose. Point being, it was not a push-one-button process. And neither was porn. Teens got their porn from parents, siblings, other teens or Cinemax. It was in magazine form or on VHS. It was often soft-core porn, or "just regular sex" porn. There was no stringing together 10 adjectives and finding thousands of sites devoted to that exact kind of porn. There was zero chance of a guy I was friends with or dating sending me a link to a video of porn, or of naked women, or anything else that falls under that category.

The sexual pressure we went through could be bad at times, sure, but at least it made sense: the ultimate goal was (vaginal) sex, and we all knew it. There was a common ground, in that sense. A goal that was worked up to. If I had been making out with a guy and he called me a bitch, I probably would have fallen apart. In my view, that could be a changes-the-rest-of-your-life moment. And being pressured to have anal sex at age 16? I don't appreciate being pressured about it now*. Realizing at age 16 that you're performing acts, as the girl above said, "FOR THEM," is so heartbreaking. How does that not radically affect your views of sex for the near future, at the least, if not for the rest of your life? The article mentions that the porn viewing is having a negative effect on how boys view and treat girls; what about the girls these boys are dating? Is anyone doing studies on their views? (And what about the girls who watch porn? Cause we all know they are. Does it affect them negatively? Make them feel worse about sex? Make them feel better? Anything?) What about sex education? Are there any sex-ed programs out there that deal with and address the amount and kinds of porn teens have access to these days? Any that say things like "porn is a business, and not real life"?

Maybe I was just lucky, I don't know. I hope not; I hope many, many people who grew up in the same years I did had similar experiences -- experiences that did not scar for life, that can be looked back on with something like fondness. Part of me also hopes the girls interviewed for the article aren't the majority, or even a big minority, but I think that would just be kidding myself. I suspect that's how it goes more often than not now. And I am so thankful I didn't have to go through that.

Or maybe I'm just making all this up in my head, which is entirely possible. Maybe sexual demands are sexual demands, regardless of anything else, and it's something we all go through, regardless of the generation we're in, and it affects us all differently. I'm sure it's entirely possible that when these girls are in their mid-30s, they could be thinking how grateful they are that so-and-so or such-and-such wasn't happening when they were teens. Thoughts on that?

*I say "now" in the vague sense of "in general, at my age." To clarify, I am not being pressured now, in the sense of "at this very moment." But I dislike being pressured about it because it's not for me, and that answer doesn't seem to be acceptable to the many guys who want it to "be for" every girl. I don't think 15-17 year old girls are the only ones out there suffering from male minds being over-saturated by anal sex porn. However, if it's for you, wrap it up and have it! 

Monday, March 15, 2010

A variety of NSFW items to start your week

The articles have content and photos that are probably not safe for work. Heck, this blog post itself might not be either. Up to you if you want to proceed!

A decent portion of my time on the Internet is spent reading and looking for reading material. I try to stay up to date on feminist-related topics, obviously, and in doing so often come across sex-related (or sex organ-related) articles. These need to be shared:

Mother Jones writes about "The 6 Weirdest Things Women Do to Their Vaginas." Some of these aren't "weird," per se ... more like dangerous or unnecessary. The article mentions a specific vulva dye called My New Pink Button, and in case anyone wants to try it out, first consider reading this piece on the Consumerist, in which a woman tried it and -- surprise! -- it didn't work.

Speaking of things women do to their vaginas, perhaps you've heard about Vajazzling? This post by Sadybusiness responding to someone else's vajazzle made me laugh. I don't care one way or another if women are or are not vajazzling, but Sady's comparison of vaginas to Starbucks is too good.

The Frisky has had a couple posts recently that are worth checking out, if only so you know about these things that exist in the world. One is "The G-Spot Mouse And 7 Other Freaky-Geeky Tech Products" (here) and the other is "11 Ways To Stylishly Stash Rubbers," one of which is pictured above. (here). For the record, No. 5 on the tech products? Eww.

Also not really but sorta related, the NY Daily News reports "Switzerland company offers young boys extra-small condom, the Hotshot." This is smart, but can you just imagine the outrage that would occur if these were available in the United States?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Suggested Sunday reading (3/14/10)

I don't know how many of you are sports fans (of any kind), but I am. Baseball is my favorite. Football is up there. I even take part in fantasy leagues for both sports. So I love stories like these: Japan's Eri Yoshida is trying to become the first woman to play professional baseball in the United States. She's already the first in Japan. And she's just 18 years old.

Then there's this: Natalie Randolph was just named the head coach of a high school football team in D.C. She isn't the first, per se, but this is so rare that most people wouldn't even consider the possibility of a woman being head coach of a high school football team. She sounds well-qualified: She was a "wide receiver for the D.C. Divas women's pro football team and a standout sprinter and hurdler at the University of Virginia. She has experience coaching boys, having been an assistant football coach for Washington's H.D. Woodson High School in 2006 and 2007." And she's just 29 years old. (Another story here.)

And while I'm not really a racing fan, this is cool, too: Four women will start in today's IndyCar Series race, the season opener. They are Danica Patrick, Milka Duno, Simona de Silvestro and Ana Beatriz Figueiredo. This is a first; previously, three women had started in the same race. Congrats and well wishes to all of these women.

In other reading:
  • The Guardian: "In pursuit of flexible working." Yes please.
  • The Abortioneers: "Sad Times," about the unsafe, unsanitary clinic in Pennsylvania that was closed.
  • Slate: "Black Death: The selective crusade against black women's abortions." From the article: "But there's something odd about the billboards. The child who appears beside the text is fully born. Abortion doesn't kill such children. What kills them, all too often, is shooting."
  • The Washington Post: "D.C. to be first U.S. city to give away free female condoms to fight HIV/AIDS." This is a great idea.
  • The New York Times: "The world's best countries for women."
  • The Economist: "The war on baby girls: Gendercide."
  • Feminists for Choice: "A woman that deserves a year-long celebration." (It's Margaret Fuller!)
  • CBS News: "Trouble for Mitt Romney? Mass. Health Plan Covers Abortion"
  • Gender Across Borders: "Who Defines “Family Values?"
  • Time Magazine: "Sexual Assaults on Female Soldiers: Don't Ask, Don't Tell." I hate that these women are fighting for our country, and our country doesn't fight for them.
  • Hurriyet Daily News: "Afghan women’s rights trampled despite new law."
  • Merced Sun Star: "UAE's model behavior on women's rights."
  • AP: "Minority births on track to outnumber white births."
  • Quad-City Times: "Iowa House bans guns after domestic abuse convictions."
  • Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "Study finds median wealth for single black women at $5."
  • New York Times: "Panel Urges New Look at Caesarean Guidelines."
  • Salon: "How lesbians 'ruined' prom."
  • The Scavenger: "Sex not specified: Australia leads the way with legal document."
  • RH Reality Check: "Banning Abortion: The First Step Toward Theocracy."

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