Tag Archives: reproductive rights

Feminist Friday: “We Asked 22 Women Why They Take Birth Control And These Are Their Answers”

As I shared with you on the Fourth of July, I am not at all happy with the recent Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision. And, as it turns out, I am not the only one who is pissed off. There have been plenty of articles, op-eds and political analysis about how five old dudes endangered the reproductive rights and freedoms of all American women. But I have found none as poignant, honest and relevant as this piece of photojournalism from BuzzFeed: “We Asked 22 Women Why They Take Birth Control And These Are Their Answers” by Lara Parker, Candace Lowry and Alison Vingiano. The three writers asked 22 of their coworkers why they went on the Pill and took photographs of the women with their written answers.

Here’s mine, just for posterity:

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I really enjoy these photos because they explain this issue in a way that our politicians will not. Deciding to go on the Pill does not necessarily have anything to do with sex. And–to be quite honest–even if it does, that is no reason to treat it as taboo, risque or immoral. In any case, these women demonstrate how that heinous Supreme Court decision does not just pass judgment on the sexual lives of women. It also endangers their health and makes clear that one crazy family’s religious beliefs mean a hell of a lot more than freedom for millions of women.

Check out the piece here: http://www.buzzfeed.com/laraparker/we-asked-women-why-they-take-birth-control-and-these-are 

And here are a few of my favorite answers to the journalists’ question:

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And now, before I say goodbye for today, let me leave you with the wise words from the Women & Women First Bookstore ladies of Portlandia:

“If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”

(Images 1 and 2 courtesy of yours truly; Images 3,4,5 and 6 courtesy of buzzfeed.com)

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Feminist Friday: “The Eggs and Us”

Hello, my fellow patriots! Welcome to Feminist Friday: Independence Day Edition.

This is the time of year we celebrate our country’s revolt and ultimate freedom from England by stuffing our faces with hot dogs and allowing small children to handle flaming sticks. I kid! I kid because I love. As surprising as it might seem to some pundits and various other douchebags, progressives and liberals (like myself) are not automatically anti-America or unpatriotic. On the contrary, I love my country. I’m not pointing out its flaws to be bitchy; that’s just a perk. No, I’m doing it because I want to make my country better, a place that reflects my own values. A place that is safe for women.

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More than anything else, I respect America’s goal to give every citizen freedom. I say “goal” because this principle only works in theory. In practice, women, racial minorities, the LGBTQ community, the working class, students, non-Christians and many others do not have the automatic freedom that our leaders keep harping on about. Usually, I feel somewhat optimistic about all of this. I think Hey, it’s 2014! Sooner or later we will all wake up and demand justice and equality for everyone. Unfortunately, two recent Supreme Court decisions have dampened my faith in America and its dedication to women’s rights and freedom. It’s hard to be all USA! USA! USA! when future employers are completely within their rights to deny coverage for my contraception, and it is possible that going to a Planned Parenthood clinic (for a variety of reasons) would result in verbal and/or physical abuse.

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But just when I am tempted to sit in my room and cry because two major decisions that affect me and every American woman have been disproportionately influenced by five old, saggy white guys, I remember Gail Collins. She is an op-ed columnist for the New York Times and one of the few journalists who balances wit with biting political analysis. She and Nate Silver got me through the last election, but that is neither here nor there. Her June 27, 2014 column is entitled “The Eggs and Us: The Abortion Wars Rage On” and discusses the now-defunct buffer zones and the then-upcoming Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision.

Read it here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/28/opinion/gail-collins-the-eggs-and-us.html?emc=eta1&_r=0 

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Here are some of the best tidbits if you are too lazy (shame on you) to read the whole thing:

  • “…this [buffer zone] decision came from people who work in a building where the protesters aren’t allowed within 250 feet of the front door.”
  • “…the Greens [of Hobby Lobby] draw the line at anything that they believe might endanger a fertilized egg, like Plan B, or IUDs. Many scientists would disagree with the Greens’ theory about how contraceptives work, but it doesn’t matter. Religion trumps.”
  • “Once again, we are reminded that men do not get pregnant.”

If you are also ready to start picketing the Supreme Court due to their increasingly shitty choices (from 250 feet away, of course), then I highly recommend reading this and all of Collins’ future op-ed writings. She covers current events and contemporary politics in a sensible, funny, never-bitter style. You should also pick up a copy of When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present. It will piss you off, inspire you, and inform you about our women’s amazing strides and devastating failures throughout the past 54 years. It totally changed my life.

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That’s all, folks. I hope you have a wonderful Fourth of July! Appreciate all of the opportunities that the United States has given you. And never stop reaching for the equality and freedom that you were promised and deserve. I’m gonna Google Obvious Child for the twentieth time.

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(Image #1, #2 and #5 courtesy of plannedparenthoodaction.org; #3 courtesy of harvardmagazine.com; #4 courtesy of yorkblog.com)

Everyone deserves the right to choose (to listen to punk music)

“In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it.”

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

As of last Tuesday, the Alabama House passed radical restrictions on a woman’s access to safe, legal abortion in that state. This new legislation prohibits abortion once there is a fetal heartbeat. That means a woman cannot make the choice to be a mother after the first five or six weeks of her pregnancy. In other words, she might not even realize she is pregnant until after it is too late to make a decision.

This disturbs me for several reasons. If you have been paying attention to me at all, you probably have guessed that I am pro-choice and a feminist. So any law that restricts a woman’s personal liberties sends me round the bend. I also resent the hypocrisy. Not to completely generalize, but many anti-choice politicians are also the individuals who oppose government imposition on people’s individual freedoms. Don’t you think the freedom to make choices about your own body is just as important as the freedom to buy a gun? Finally, it pisses me off that so many of these anti-choice politicians block free access to condoms, birth control, and emergency contraceptives. Bottom line: If you want fewer abortions, make it easier to have fewer unwanted pregnancies.

Why am I going off on this political, probably controversial rant? Because I want to live in a society where I don’t have to worry about being restricted and repressed because of my gender. I don’t want to have to make a devastating decision, like the one Marjane Satrapi was forced to make.

In the course of Satrapi’s graphic narratives Persepolis I and Persepolis II, Marji leaves her homeland, Iran, twice.She loves her home and her family, but she can no longer bear the oppressive regime and the radically conservative views about women, their role, and their sexuality. In order to be who she is–independent, outspoken, stubborn, sexually agentic, a punk music fan–Marjane has to leave Iran permanently. She does not want to be compelled to wear a veil, practice a religion, act submissive, or hide her true self. Even if she is spiritual and understands why some women wear the veil, she resents religion being a government requirement. As Marjane grows as a person, the Iran she knew devolves into nothing but a memory. The new regime is not safe for an Outside Girl.

Forcing a woman to wear a veil, practice a religion, and prohibiting her from choosing her own clothes, makeup and music is different than denying a woman access to a legal abortion. What Satrapi experienced is an example of extreme government intervention into a woman’s life. Marjane’s very behavior is subject to punishment. But we, as a culture, should not get up on our high horse. The U.S. might seem like the land of liberty and individuality, but denying women the right to choose is not that far away from controlling the way they live their lives. Our plight is not as difficult as Marjane’s, but restricting one right makes restricting others easier.

We like to think of ourselves as a progressive culture, as a free country. But we also have debates about women’s rights on a daily basis. I have the emails from Emily’s List and Planned Parenthood to back me up on this. We’re really not so different from many of the cultures that we condemn as backwards or medieval. We might scoff at the way some countries treat their women, but are we really that far away from being like Marji? No one is making me practice Christianity, but the religious beliefs of some lawmakers seriously affect me and women like me.

Before Marjane leaves Iran for the last time, her mother tells her “You are a free woman. The Iran of today is not for you. I forbid you to come back!” Her mother is right. Even though Marjane loves her country and many of Iran’s customs, she cannot fit in. Marjane is a born rebel, an outsider. After all, as Jennifer Worth opines, for Marjane “the margin is clearly not a negative place, but quite the opposite; it is ultimately a place of freedom, where living on her own terms and performing her own journey is finally possible.” She enjoys being different from the crowd and basks in her own distinctive identity. Unfortunately, being an Outside Girl doesn’t just separate her from the crowd. Her otherness puts her in mortal danger. Marjane’s choice to completely be herself results in more than social ostracism; it marks her as a government subversive.

*Please be advised: I think everyone should have the right to do what makes them happy, but no one should force them into anything. I have no intention of insulting Iran or its people. And I do not wish to stereotype Islam or anyone who chooses to wear the Hijab. Just because there are a few extremists in one nation or religion does not mean that we should write off the entire community. I am only reiterating Satrapi’s story and trying to defend women’s rights around the globe. 

(Image #1 courtesy of progressillinois.com; #2, #3 and #5 courtesy of blogs.stockton.edu; #4 courtesy of  morningsidereview.org)

In every generation, one girl is chosen to fight the forces of darkness…and piss off her predecessors

 

“Individuals must now choose the kind of life they want to live.”

Angela McRobbie

In my admittedly limited studies of feminism, gender and sexuality*, there are a few patterns I see over and over. One of these is the conflict between older feminists and younger feminists.  Generally, second wave feminists (those who fought for the ERA, reproductive rights, equal pay, etc.)…

…do not get along with third wave feminists (younger feminists who include sex-positive, global, or LGBTQ activists in their fight).

Why is that? Third wavers sometimes view their founding mothers as stodgy, racist and elitist. Conversely, second wavers sometimes think of their daughters’ generations as spoiled, slutty, lazy and ungrateful. Since I think of myself as a blend between these two groups, I just want to say that both the Betty Friedans and the Tavi Gevinsons of the world have good points and glaring blind spots. But I digress…

I think McRobbie is one of the few feminist scholars who sees these tensions but does not outright attack either group (although there is a slant towards the second wave).  She describes that the media, peer pressure and ideological institutions all “invoke hostility to assumed feminist positions from the past, in order to endorse a new regime of sexual meanings based on female consent, equality, participation and pleasure.” As McRobbie sees it, the world is training us to see the second wavers as man-hating lesbians and to believe that Lady Gaga and her sparkling lady parts are the height of female empowerment. Really, this means that pseudo-feminism and the third wave have become intertwined and blurred. The older generations recognize this, but still feel that sexual agency might be a teensy bit indecent for ladies. And younger generations wish their moms and grandmas would just leave them alone so they can read Gossip Girl in peace.

Whoosh. Did you get all that? To bring it back to the quote at the beginning of this post, young women (like myself) need to find what makes them uniquely happy and liberated and go for it, traditional feminism be damned. Since, as McRobbie claims, “young womanhood currently exists within the realm of public debate,” there is a lot of pressure and opinions swirling around our heads. Can we be political while still being likable? Is it okay to wear clothes that accentuate our hips and breasts? How can we be taken seriously? Am I allowed to think about relationships constantly if I still get a 4.0? Am I selling out if I love Hillary Clinton but still sing along to Katy Perry in my car?

No matter what you do, somebody gets pissed off.

Which brings me to my petite, blonde hero: hail Buffy Summers, the slayer of vampires.

After watching all seven seasons of this show, I have come to the conclusion that Buffy’s character inhabits the tensions and pressures of young feminists. First, Buffy clashes with the Council, Giles (her Watcher), and another slayer, Kendra. Apparently there is some ancient rule book on how to turn bloodsuckers into ashes. You are not supposed to tell anyone your secret; social lives are off limits; you can’t date, marry or have kids; you aren’t allowed to let anyone help you fight the good fight; etc. etc. etc..

Buffy considers that path for about one episode and then just does whatever feels right to her.  She and her fellow Scoobies work together, contribute different skills and create their own family. Willow brings the smarts and the witchcraft; Xander brings the comic relief; Angel brings the brooding sex appeal; Spike*brings the hilarious bitchery; Cordelia brings the fashion; Giles brings the bespectacled, British common sense.  Together, as Milly Williamson points out, they embrace their “socially marginal identities, speaking from and for the experience of outsiderdom.”

You see, Buffy is an Outside Girl because of her vocation and because she doesn’t fit neatly with second or third wavers. She just does what makes her comfortable. Buffy fights demons in halter tops, has sexual relationships with two different vampires, and shares the weight of the world with her friends and mother. Even when they try, no one can tell her what kind of slayer–or feminist–she is allowed to be. Buffy might be “chosen,” but she is  also an individual.

*American Women’s History class; Introduction to Women’s Studies class; Gail Collins’ book; Jezebel; Leslie Knope; Tina Fey; Joss Whedon’s awesomeness

**Nice Segue: I can’t decide which evil, bitchy pop culture villain I love more, Loki or Spike. Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

(Image #1 courtesy of ew.com; #2 courtesy of thegreatkh.blogspot.com; #3 courtesy of the-unpopular-opinions.tumblr.com)