Tag Archives: United States

Honoring Women’s Equality Day

We interrupt the regularly scheduled coverage of the miscarriage of justice in Texas to wish you a Happy Women’s Equality Day!

protest_1

While we are obviously still not fully equal any chance to reflect on the work of those women and men who fought for women’s right to vote, and earned it 93 years ago, is a good thing. The right to vote, like many other rights in the United States, is often one that is unfortunately taken for granted.

I challenge each of you to make your voice heard. Make sure you are registered to vote. Encourage everyone you know to register. Educate yourself on the issues and candidates. And then forget party lines and vote with your conscience.

A travesty took place here in Texas this summer, but I will remember in November. I hope you will remember what your politicians have (and haven’t) done for you as well.

The White House blogged this reminder today:

Over half a century passed between the petition and women actually receiving the vote.  And goodness knows there were numerous setbacks along the way. Many who started the journey handed the baton to others to finish it, but the effort continued, and was ultimately successful.

I share this to remind you—and myself—that in the era of tweets and texting, the fierce urgency of now must also be tempered with patience, grit, determination, persistence, resilience and courage. So change often takes time.

6 Suffragist Picketing(4)

In keeping with that thought I also want to encourage you to go beyond the voting booth to make your voice heard. Sign a petition. Start a petition! Join your local chapter of whatever causes move you. Write letter to the editor. Blog. Speak to loved ones and strangers about those issues. PROTEST.

You are far more powerful than you will ever know. Use your power for good.


The Gendered Privileges of Emotions

Anger is the emotion of the privileged.

There. I said it.

meme-privilegeIf you’re not familiar with the politics of privilege, it’s basically the idea that with certain categories of humanness come certain privileges, or gifts. For example, being white in the USA means never feeling like people with a skin color comparable to yours are not well represented on television. Too abstract? How about this, being a cis-man in the US means you have the privilege of using a bathroom designated for men without fear someone will be violent with you because you chose to use that restroom. Ok, ok, here’s an easy one, being rich in America means you have the privilege of going to the doctor when you’re sick.

This entry isn’t about privilege in general though. Much has been written about white privilege, male privilege, heterosexual privilege, white heterosexual male privilege, and even how to talk about privilege. In the US, generally speaking, white, Christian, heterosexual, non-disabled, middle-to-upper class, cis-men hold the most privilege, and anyone falling into any of those categories holds some. If you really want to get into it read the article up there on the politics of privilege. Hell, just google any identifier + privilege and marvel at the results. What I want to focus on here is the ways in which expressing specific emotions in American society are privileged according to gender.

In dominant American culture masculinity and femininity (as if there is only one of each) are opposites and thus the people who are “supposed to” embody these characteristics are also opposites, i.e. men vs. women. Name some characteristic emotions of women or femininity. Go ahead, I won’t be offended.

Ok, maybe I will be, but that’s not your fault, it’s society’s, so if you’re helping to change socially constructed gender roles, don’t worry about it, lots of things offend me. Moving on.

What emotions would you prescribe for this baby?

What emotions would you prescribe for this baby?

Emotions normally associated with women: sadness, fear, love.

Happiness seems to be the only gender-neutral emotion, which is awesome, since happiness is what everyone deserves.

Emotions normally associated with men: anger. Full stop.

I know you’re thinking, “Men are allowed and even expected to love too.” Yes, but not as much as women. Men are expected to tell a crying son to keep his chin up, and never to tell their male friends they love them. (Just think about how much crap a guy in high school gets for writing a love poem for his girlfriend!) Men who are loving are often subject to ridicule and emasculated because obviously the worst thing you can call a man is a woman. Some of the world’s most influential men–John Lennon, Gandhi, MLK Jr. and JFK–were all assassinated for telling people to love one another. How much nicer would the world be if everyone could and would express all the love they really feel?!

Newton PoliceNow, when it comes to negative emotions like sadness, women hold nearly all the cards. Women are stereotyped as overly emotional and thus are expected, or at least allowed, to cry, scream and become “hysterical” from sadness. Men are not allowed to cry because they are sad or scream because they are scared. Again, much of the time either reaction (no matter how primal) will result in being ridiculed for expressing something “feminine.” Obviously there are exceptions to every rule like this heartbreaking photo of police officers embracing after clearing the scene at the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. But exceptions do not make the rule.

Sentencing differencesWomen, on the other hand, are not allowed to express anger. According to some prominent politicians, anger is not ladylike. Indeed even police officers, judges and the legal system as a whole are much more comfortable seeing women in the victim role rather than as aggressors, as evidenced by the generally ridiculous sentences many women receive when they kill an abuser in self-defense. Sometimes the sentences are the result of a lack of knowledge that domestic violence is not always physical, but even in a high profile murder case the victim’s reality is often overshadowed. In some states even sentencing for first-time non-violent offenders is absurd. Women’s incarceration rates have grown over 600% since 1980, a direct result of the War on Drugs and punitive Three Strikes laws, while abuse of women in prisons is rampant across the nation.

Obviously a considerably higher percentage of prison inmates are men. While it does seem that statistically men just commit more crimes than women, this is directly due to the thinking that says that masculinity must be expressed through overt displays of power and domination and often the kind of anger and aggression that lead to violence. Men are allowed to be angry, yell, beat their chests, use threatening language, and even commit overt acts of violence. In any situation though it is the person or people in power who have the privilege of getting angry: marginalized voices are not allowed to yell. Indeed when women do express anger they are chastised and labeled man-hating feminist lesbians. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, (well, except for the hating part, that gets us nowhere) but dividing marginalized groups is the easiest way for dominant groups to retain their power.

Despite the fact that the public is generally more comfortable seeing men as violent and women as victims, even when women are frequently sexually assaulted they receive little to no help, are put on trial for their sexual histories and rarely get justice. There are lots of us working to end domestic violence and sexual assault, and you can do your part too, by demanding the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. As we leave behind the wonder and horror of 2012 I wish you all a happy, equal 2013. Have a safe New Year’s celebration and do your damnedest to break out of the cage!

Regardless where any of us sits in this picture, we are all inside the cage.

Regardless where any of us sits in this picture, we are all inside the cage.

 


The Evolving Electorate

The November 2012 election was a cacophonous backlash against the Republican War on Women. While 47,000 women annually around the world are dying from being denied abortions, Americans made it clear that politicians have no place playing doctor. Women and men across the United States let it be known that misogyny and religion have no place in politics–and cast their votes for (and against) some very influential people and laws.

The “Legitimate Rape” Republicans this year saddled the American people with an onslaught of outrageous policies like demanding proof that a disabled rape victim show evidence of physically fighting off her attacker. From suggesting women should be paid less, to not reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, to voter fraud, to flat-out denying abortions to raped women in war and raped women soldiers, to the party platform calling for a constitutional ban on abortion, to calling conception from rape a gift from God, to denying birth control on the basis of religion, to claiming breast milk “cures” homosexuality, to making it legal to kill abortion providers the GOP really went off the deep end. The joke has made its way around the internet since November 6th but it’s true: When someone says, “The rape guy lost,” and you have to ask, “Which one?” your party is in trouble.

Romney lost not only the debate to women but women cost him the election too. With the last House Democratic hold-out finally signing on to co-sponsor the Respect for Marriage Act in September, Dems were paving the way towards equality in the months leading up to the election. Their commitment to human rights, (including President Obama’s stated support for marriage equality campaigns in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington, with WA, ME and MD successfully voting for equality), reflects the fact that 51% of Americans support marriage equality. Obviously there’s a long way to go for full equality for the LGBTQAI community since it is still legal in 29 states to fire someone for being gay and legal in 34 states to fire someone on the basis of gender identity, but with 7 LGBT representatives in the 113th Congress at least some states are making progress.

This election was one of many firsts. Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin is the first openly gay (lesbian) Senator to be elected in US history. Another Tammy, newly elected Illinois Congressional Representative Democrat Tammy Duckworth, a mixed-race double amputee Iraqi War veteran helicopter pilot, has got to be a first as well. She easily triumphed over imbicil incumbent Joe “abortion is never necessary to safe a woman’s life” Walsh. Meanwhile in Arizona a shining spot of hope became reality when Democratic Representative Kyrsten Sinema was elected as the US’s first openly bisexual member of Congress. Other firsts include the first Asian-American woman (and Hawai’i’s first woman) Senator, Democrat Mazie Hirono, and North Dakota’s first woman Representative ever, Senate Democrat Heidi Heitkamp.

Perhaps most exciting is New Hampshire’s first– the first all-female delegation ever elected! Two female Representatives, two female Senators and America’s only female Democrat Governor make the Granite State one of the most progressive in the nation. New Hampshire serves as a sign of hope that eventually one day gender won’t matter in elections, or in life. But for now gender does matter, and women made up 53% of the electorate in this election, were elected to at least 77 Congressional seats and now serve in 20% of Senate seats– the most ever in US history. Here at Feminist Activism we’re also thrilled that Democrat Elizabeth Warren beat incumbent Republican Scott Brown to the Senate in Massachusetts and that Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill was re-elected and legitimately shut down Tea Party Republican Todd Akin.

As Emily’s List’s Impact Project shows, having Democratic women in office hugely affects the issues that are of most importance to constituents. It’s safe to say that a majority of women in the United States breathed a sigh of relief when Obama’s re-election was announced. Hopefully his Supreme Court Nominees will ensure that we don’t have to worry about Roe v. Wade being overturned in our lifetimes. And with the United Nations declaring access to contraception a universal human right, maybe the feminization of poverty that results from so many unplanned or unwanted pregnancies around the world will start to dwindle.

Despite some a lot of rampant sexism throughout the election season there were many shining moments for the advancement of gender equality as well, including the This Is Personal campaign Your Reproductive Health is No Joke and the You Don’t Own Me PSA. If you want to keep up pressure on our government and ensure that access to safe, legal and affordable birth control and abortion are protected, draw the line and sign the Center for Reproductive Rights’ Bill of Reproductive Rights, and tell President Obama to protect women’s reproductive health! Keep up the good fight voters, let’s have the next Democratic Convention in Denver!

 

 


40 Days of Hate and Hypocrisy

 

My recent move back to the United States has brought me full circle and I’m working again for the same abortion provider I was when I left the US three years ago. Counseling women in a time of need, helping women navigate the personal and political ramifications of abortion, and standing up for reproductive health and human rights is the most fulfilling thing I have ever done. Abortion rights are under vicious attack now in the United States and anyone who cares about personal liberty has a responsibility to vote out the conservative radicals this November. Al Jazeera takes an interesting look into the world of abortion protesters here.

Conservative, religious radicals are out in force across the nation and even liberal cities like Austin, Texas aren’t immune to the invasion of privacy and emotional blackmail of anti-choice protesters. At least in Austin Crisis Pregnancy Centers or CPCs are required by law to clearly state that they are not medically licensed and will not provide abortion care. Unfortunately their offers of free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds and counseling still lure in patients seeking abortion… and their lies and manipulation do a lot of harm in delaying or even preventing women from exercising their choices. This past Wednesday, September 26th, a group called Austin Coalition for Life began their 40 Days for Life “prayer vigil” outside Austin abortion clinics, getting good-hearted church-goers to sign up for one-hour shifts to stand outside our office and intimidate our patients.

This action, by this group, though peaceful, has already and will cause even more unnecessary stress, fear and heartache for women making one of the most difficult decisions of their lives. The hypocrisy is overwhelming. Even some patients who identify as being religious tell us “I don’t believe in abortion,” and yet there they sit. A few protesters a few times a week is normal for us but multiple protesters everyday for 40 days (until November 4th!) is exhausting. Having to warn patients that their decisions, their bodily autonomy and their health are going to be disrespected by people who feel entirely justified in forcefeeding their faith to others makes me wince. Hearing angry fathers threaten violence against protesters for upsetting their daughters makes me nervous. Seeing posters that try to coerce vulnerable young women into becoming ill-prepared parents makes me nauseated. Reading about the “And Then There Were None” project to syphon abortion clinic employees into religious CPCs makes me dizzy. Imagine the additional trauma these “people of god” are causing to already scared, hormonally volatile women–women who are confident in their choice that this is not the right time for them to bring life into this world through their own bodies.

Some patients get angry and do verbal battle with protesters, asking if they’ll come to their home at 2 AM to feed and change the new baby. Others come into the office crying after being harassed by a protester yelling, “Mommy don’t kill me! Your baby loves you!” Sometimes patients talk to them, listen to their gospel, accept their literature and still have abortions. A few laugh them off and ask us who has the time. Most patients just ignore them, which is what all of us who work there must do. But for me, as an atheist, someone telling me they are praying for me to have a change of heart just makes me shake my head. Who are you to judge my patients and tell anyone what to believe?

What this group in particular and all other “religious and peaceful” anti-choice protesters do not understand is that their silent prayers, sidewalk counseling and general anti-choice stance lead the way for and justify the beliefs and actions of those anti-choice activists who feel that violence is the answer. In the same way that telling (or not speaking out against) a rape joke perpetuates rape culture and allows any rapist who might overhear it to feel that his actions are normal and acceptable, a violent anti-choice activist is bolstered in his beliefs when he sees dozens of protesters outside an abortion clinic who he feels are on his side. Dr. George Tiller of Kansas was murdered by one such extremist who felt that god wanted him to kill this doctor to prevent abortions.

According to the Guttmacher Institute in 2008 there were only 1,793 abortion providers in the entire United States, a drastic drop from 2,908 in 1982, largely due to threats of violence and absurd political restrictions. A bomb was planted at the office where I work a year before I started there. Everyone who worked there at the time returned the next day. Because of extremist anti-choice groups like Operation Rescue I fear for my life everyday when I go to work. Yet every day I go to work I am confident that I am doing the right thing by helping my patients access safe abortions. Roe v. Wade wasn’t the start of women in the US having abortions, it was the end of women dying from them.

I’m helping provide a medical service to women, one that is unremarkable in some places but is demonized and dehumanized in the US. The political climate in America now is so disgustingly misogynistic that a medical procedure that a full third of all women undergo by age 45 is barely ever discussed openly between friends, let alone honestly and on a personal level in public. The secrecy surrounding abortion and the fear many women live in is directly related to the guilt and shame being piled on by the religious right–the same people who want to restrict access to birth control, discontinue Welfare and Medicaid, and teach abstinence only! Protesters both peaceful and violent alike are given confidence when they hear prominent Republican politicians spewing phrases like “legitimate rape” and threatening to overturn Roe v. Wade and “get rid of” Planned Parenthood.

Infuriatingly, the politicians who are trying their damnedest to eliminate access to abortion “have never thought about” why a woman might consider it. In the same vein, most Americans who claim to want abortion to be illegal have no answer when asked how women who obtain abortions illegally should be punished. These people are playing politics with people’s lives and shaming them for making the best choices for themselves AND THEY’VE NEVER EVEN THOUGHT ABOUT THE CONSEQUENCES!!!

My co-workers and I have 37 more days of “life” to get through but networking events like this week’s Jane’s Due Process appreciation mixer, and the upcoming NARAL Pro-Choice Texas 26th Annual Celebration of Choice event definitely make it easier on us. Want to help change the reality of abortion politics in the US? Donate to NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned ParenthoodClick here to tell your representatives that women won’t go back to back alley abortions! Register to vote and then VOTE like your lady parts depend on it… because they do!

 


What I Learned From DFA

 

I recently finished Democracy for America‘s online activist training “The War For Women” in the hopes of combatting current Republican efforts to undermine women’s rights in the United States. To see the series of events that set off the need for this training watch this depressing video and refer back to this blog. Even Al Jazeera is exploring America’s feverishly religious abortion debates. The training was entirely virtual (and entirely FREE–thanks DFA!) and took place once a week for an hour; because of the time difference this meant I tuned in from 3-4AM to participate but, as any good student will tell you, sleep deprivation is a small price to pay for knowledge. This highly interactive War For Women training consisted of six topics, each featuring experts in their respective fields and downloadable action kits full of ideas, links and practical information for activists wanting to get their hands dirty in the fight for justice. What follows is my take on each session.

1) Heath and Reproductive Rights
Inhabiting the same (albeit virtual) space as Cecile Richards (President of Planned Parenthood) was a little overwhelming. Her fervor and success in fighting for women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights is inspiring. The furor with which the religious right-wing is attacking women’s sexuality and bodily autonomy is terrifying, maddening and outrageous. Check out this timeline of reproductive justice that takes us up to October 2011 before the onslaught of War on Women legislation this year. Because of my extensive background in SRHR much of the factual information presented I was already familiar with, but the action ideas for fundraising house parties and creating more community dialogue and support for Reproductive Justice will be useful for even the most seasoned activist. Check out this session’s action kit here. Its 14 pages are full of useful ways to make sure women’s reproductive health and rights are not diminished by the government. Other downloadable tools for this topic include a Planned Parenthood Action Fund Toolkit, a WAW Volunteer Sign-up Sheet, an Obama/Romney Contrast graphic, and a WAW Pledge Card.

2) Victory Over Violence
Violence against women was one of the first topics as a young woman that enraged me, and consequently pushed me into feminism and activism. The highly successful and extremely established presenters of this session (Debbie Tucker, the Executive Director of The National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence and  Susan Celia Swan, the Executive Director of V-Day) likewise have devoted their lives to combating gender based violence in the US and around the world. A considerable portion of the presentation is devoted to getting trainees up to speed on the sickening recent delays in passing the Violence Against Women Act. The hands-on training is facilitated by Ruby Reid, DFA’s spectacular Online Training Organizer who also emcees the other five sessions. Reid takes activists, step-by-step, through the proper etiquette for successful lobbying of elected officials. Lobbying should always be the first action those wanting to make change take; when lobbying fails, however, there are a host of strategic nonviolent actions to fall back on. Reid and Tucker share best practices for contacting supportive/undecided/non-supportive legislators, a great To Do/Not To Do list for lobbying, and tips on organizing a successful (and media flooded) rally. There are useful tips in the training for men who want to take action against violence against women too! The Victory Over Violence action kit can be found here.

3) The Economic Gender Gap
The feminization of poverty happens all around the world and in the United States the issue of equal work for equal pay is somehow still contentious. Host of The War Room, former Governor of Michigan Jennifer Granholm ties the whole War For Women together in a four-and-a-half minute video explaining how the underrepresentation of women in politics and science, and how injustice in reproductive health all affect women’s earning power and thus the economy of the United States. Shockingly, if all women in the US were paid equally it would add $523,900,000,000 to the consumer economy!  This session gives lots of other surprising and outrageous information about how unequal pay affects women’s lives, but the focus of the action-training is on branding. The “friendraiser” Jennifer Daniels, an expert in messaging, takes us through how to craft an effective narrative that addresses issues that affect you. The detailed and useful information here builds on the lobbying training from the second session and comes into play again in the fourth session. Here is the 13-page action kit for the Economic Gender Gap which includes an extremely useful tool for any strategic nonviolent activist: Creating a message that resonates.

4) Women and the Media
Used in conjunction with previous subjects like how to craft an effective narrative and how to be successful in lobbying (and because of the overwhelming importance of media coverage and access and how few women are represented in the decision-making processes of media,) this training may be the most important. The trailer for the 2011 documentary Miss Representation opens this session and a short analysis of how representations of women in the media affect everyone’s ideas of what women can and should be follows. MSNBC Analyst Karen Finney leads a discussion of how women can be seen as authority figures and effective leaders in the media across the spectrum of topics. She also addresses the fact that a woman has not anchored a presidential debate in the past 20 years. Since the training took place it was announced that CNN anchor Candy Crowley will moderate a town hall-style debate. Kimberly “Dr. Goddess” Ellis addresses what she learned from  the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and the unequal and sexist coverage of the Olympics in the US. Her major point is that we must support women in media by watching women, supporting/funding women who are trying to make their way into the media and not tokenizing women or people of color. John Brougher, Founder of the blog Male Feminists, addresses how women’s allies can use their personal and political power to work for women’s progress. DFA’s Communications Director, Linsey Pecikonis, leads the training in earned media, explaining the differences between (and how to use) press releases and news advisories and how to make pitch calls to media outlets. The action kit for Women and the Media, including templates for news advisories and media kits, is available for download here.

5) Women as Voters
Celinda Lake, President of Lake Research Partners and prominent strategist and pollster, uses research to oust incumbent Republicans from office. Her video highlights what issues have historically been important for women voters, how disparities in voting affect women and how to get women back to the polls. The NAACP National Training Director, Jessica Pierce, tackles the intersectionality of oppression and how voting affects issues that are critical to women, people of color, the working class, etc. She also addresses recent voter suppression efforts and how the NAACP is using all kinds of media and outreach to get more people to vote all over the country. The activist training portion of this session, lead by Ruby Reid, covers tried-and-true get out the vote “GOTV” tactics that work for women. Women as Voters action kit includes great tips on how to register voters and how to identify supporters and contact voters. The National Mail Voter Registration Form (which can be used in every state except New Hampshire and Wyoming) is also there for download.

6) Women as Candidates
With women representing an abysmal 17% of Congress, the importance of women running for office could not be clearer. Check out Emily’s List‘s Impact Project to see how important it is to have women in office. Jennifer Granholm is back in this session to share her experience as a candidate and encourage us to build bridges between women in office and those women who are considering running. The 2012 Project, with its tagline “Don’t get mad. Get elected.” is working “to increase the number of women in Congress and state legislatures by taking advantage of the once-in-a-decade opportunities of 2012.” Debra Shore, of the Illinois Water Reclamation District, takes us through practical aspects of running for office for the first time including crafting your narrative, the importance of fundraising, the impact of running on personal relationships and finding support in unlikely places. Angela Zimmann, a candidate for Ohio’s 5th Congressional District, shares her experiences as a candidate and how to overcome dismissive detractors and feelings of inadequacy. Erin Molchany, Candidate for State Representative in Pennsylvania’s 22nd District, explains what made her campaign successful: hard work, inclusivity and accessibility to voters.  Regina Schwartz, Deputy Director of the Analyst Institute, shares her very interesting work in understanding how voter outreach affects elections, how to make campaigns as effective as possible and more successful GOTV tactics.

Overall these six sessions were very enlightening and worthwhile. Take six hours of your life and watch each webinar video, then take another three and go through each of the action kits to make yourself the most effective activist possible in the War For Women. If you’d like to participate in any of the upcoming virtual or local DFA trainings, contact them here. To contribute to their very important work and make trainings like these more accessible for everyone, go here. Thanks for reading, now go out and change the world!

 


The War FOR Women

Soon I start a six-week online training course designed to teach Americans more about how to defend women’s human rights against the egregious attacks against women’s health, sexuality and autonomy coming from right-wing politicians. Democracy For America has organized the War FOR Women training sessions which will all take place virtually, once a week, at 8pm Eastern (5pm Pacific). Topics include practical rebuffs to the attack on reproductive justice, lobbying techniques to stop violence against women, how to address pay inequality in your community, how to get the media to cover your story (VERY important for the success of strategic nonviolent action!), how to register voters and encourage women to exercise their hard-earned right to vote, how you can be a successful political candidate and how to get out the vote.

The schedule is as follows:

July 10 – Women’s Health and Reproductive Rights with Cecile Richards (President of Planned Parenthood)
July 18 – Victory Over Violence with Debby Tucker (Executive Director of the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence)
July 25 – Economic Gender Gap with award–winning educator and communicator, Jenifer Daniels (“the friendraiser”)
August 1 – Women in the Media with Karen Finney (MSNBC Political Analyst) and Kimberly “Dr. Goddess” Ellis (California Director, EMILY’s List)
August 8 – Women as Voters with Celinda Lake (Pollster and Democratic Strategist, Lake Research Partners)
August 15 – Women as Candidates featuring DFA’s slate of progressive women candidates

I am thrilled to be inhabiting the same virtual space as Cecile Richards, one of my personal heroes, as she explains “what’s at stake for women’s health nationally and in particular states where dangerous legislation is being considered. Deirdre Schifeling, Planned Parenthood’s National Director for Organizing & Electoral Campaigns, will provide a practical training on how you can join the fight.”

I will blog about the trainings and what I am learning over the next six weeks. If you’d like to join Democracy For America will “show you how you can challenge the GOP’s attack on women and build a movement for equality.” Register here for seminars that will “provide practical tools and create a community of people of all genders committed to fighting for women’s rights. Each session will feature leading experts on each issue, a practical training on how you can take action, and a chance to connect with like-minded people who refuse to be silent in the face of injustice.” What more can you ask for?


The Republican War on Women

The War on Women being waged in the United States is culminating in the likely closure of the only abortion clinic in the nation’s poorest state, Mississippi. Measures specifically introduced by the state’s legislature to shut down its last remaining abortion provider have been successful so far, with a new law passed requiring abortion providers to have privileges at local hospitals. While the office’s three doctors have all applied for hospital privileges, as of yet they do not have them. It is unknown what will happen to the clinic after the new law takes effect. In Virginia similar measures are being protested that would make it extremely difficult for abortion providers to remain open. This piece explores the painful reality these abortion restrictions inflict on women, an important voice in the conversation when women are not even “sources” for women’s rights issues. It’s high time women were not ashamed to say that they’ve had abortions, and while men’s opinions on everything from menstruation to menopause seem to hold more weight, we in the pro-choice movement would like to hear from more pro-choice men.

The legislative tactics used by Mississippi and Virginia to effectively make abortion illegal, or at least unobtainable, are nothing new. Across the country a terrifying 1,100 pieces of anti-women legislation have been proposed since 2011! You really should check that link out. Add to this the very real violence faced by clinic workers on a daily basis, like death threats, arson and bombings, and it’s no wonder abortion is becoming impossible to obtain safely and legally in the wealthiest country in the world. Republicans are even trying to sneak language about life beginning at conception into completely unrelated bills, like this one extending FEMA’s national flood insurance plan. But disaster-stricken Americans are not the only ones the GOP is alienating. Not only should women have no control over their own sexual and reproductive health, argue elected Republican officials, their work is worth less than men’s. Extending the war on women to their ability to feed themselves, Republican Senators refused to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.

From the absurdity of women being excluded from a panel discussing birth control (and the attacks women who wanted to speak endured) to the extremely anti-choice Michigan legislature banning two female representatives for “inappropriate language” i.e.. vagina and vasectomy, during debates about anti-choice legislation, legislators and laws in the US are becoming more and more misogynistic. Beautifully, thousands of protesters took to the… steps with a performance of the timeless Vagina Monologues to demand that freedom of speech extend to female legislators discussing body politics. If you want to send your own message to Michigan legislators sign this petition asking Facebook to allow users to change their middle name to Vagina, then change yours. You might also mention that the double standard– Medicare covers Viagra and penile implants, yet Republicans think birth control should be an out-of-pocket expense– is unacceptable. Thankfully, while the majority of the anti-woman rhetoric in the US is coming from the Christian Rightwing, it’s good to see other religious figures supporting women’s bodily autonomy.

As you can see from the graphic at the top Michigan isn’t the only state waging war on women’s reproductive freedoms. In Ohio alone a staggering 16 pieces of anti-choice legislation were introduced since 2010. North Carolina Republicans are trying to defund Planned Parenthood, again. Texas Republicans are promoting proven-ineffective abstinence-only sexual education courses. Kansas Republicans have introduced a host of Christian-based anti-woman legislation and a doctor there may permanently lose her medical license for refusing to force a ten-year-old to give birth. South Dakota has proposed a 72 hour waiting period between ultrasound and abortion for women seeking to terminate their pregnancies. And in Arizona now it is perfectly legal for doctors to lie to their patients if they think the information they give will influence them to have an abortion. Also in Hell Arizona, “reasonably suspicious” women and men are being asked for Papers, please, despite a mixed Supreme Court ruling on the legality of SB 1070. This article takes on an excellent exploration of what this means for immigrant women, and what the situation of immigrant women means for equality for all people in the US. Check out the pictures supplied by Planned Parenthood at the end of the post for other evidence of the war on women.

And then there’s the Violence Against Women Act…. The Senate passed a beautiful, sparkling reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act that extended protections to undocumented women, Native American women and lesbians. The House promptly stripped those additions, leaving millions of women in traditionally under-served populations even more vulnerable, all the while claiming that women would use these new provisions to scam the system with false accusations. The President has vowed to veto the House version if it crosses his desk. LGBT lobbies and Native American women’s lobbies are still pushing for passage of the Senate version at Capitol Hill and even Christian websites think Congress should pass the Senate version! At least New York understands.

With a staggering 1 in 3 Native American women raped in her lifetime one would hope Republicans could at least show compassion in the wake of such terrible violence. But no. A sickening story of a Tampa rape victim who was arrested on charges of outstanding warrants after she reported her rape has outraged women across the country. The worst is yet to come. After being booked, a guard where she was being held confiscated the second pill of her emergency contraception because it went against her beliefs. A federal court has ruled that the victim will be allowed to sue the guard for violating her right to privacy. In other news of the State violating individuals human rights, this (potentially triggering) piece explores the unnecessary police practice of forced catheterization in Utah. Even liberal San Francisco is being accused of victim blaming people who come to the police as victims of rape and domestic violence.

Rape in the US military is a hot-button issue too, yet House Republicans showed little compassion when blocking abortion access for soldiers who have been raped. The award-winning documentary The Invisible War explores the issue of rape that is poisoning the US military. One service member interviewed explained victims’ options as “suicide, AWOL, or deal with it.” The film explores why many rape victims don’t report the incident: for 25% of women who didn’t report the rape to their commander, their commander was their rapist. The documentary’s website, in addition to the trailer and information on the movement, offers ways to take action and help demand accountability and justice for service members who have been raped.

Pillamina on the campaign trail!

Now that I’ve thoroughly depressed you, I want to give you the good news. In addition to the beauty of an estimated 3-5,000 people filling Michigan’s capital steps to respect the word vagina, across the blogosphere people are overcoming the shame of using the word vagina. Like the personal story of abortion linked in the beginning of this post, it is extremely important women are speaking out so that their voices are heard. Public performances, like The Vagina Monologues, have long been an effective tactic in the strategic nonviolent activists’ arsenal, and with Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney wanting to “get rid of” Planned Parenthood, a giant pack of birth control pills, Pillamina, is now following him along the campaign trail. If that doesn’t make you smile, how about this: since 1990 abortion rates have decreased 18% for women in their 20s due to increased contraception access. Also, many big city mayors (a lot of whom are men) have added their names in support of women’s reproductive rights. Rock on Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Hartford and New York!

And not all news from individual states is bad. The Governor of New Hampshire vetoed a “partial birth” abortion ban since a similar ban (for a procedure which doesn’t actually exist) is already in place at the federal level. Also in New England Connecticut has included abortion as an essential health benefit in the state’s insurance plan. And even quiet Midwesterners in North Dakota are fighting back against this war on women, deciding they don’t want to expand religious liberty to discriminate against anyone. At the federal level Congress actually did something right, by failing to pass a ban on “sex-selective abortions,” a problem which deserves national attention in India and China but is almost non-existent in the US.

Though the comments on this video are repulsive, the White House 1 is 2 Many campaign to encourage men to speak up if they witness violence against women is a good reminder that bystanders have power too. As we saw with the contentious issue of undocumented women being covered by VAWA, immigrant women are the often-forgotten victims of violence against women. Thankfully the newly opened Tahirih Justice Center in Baltimore is a haven for immigrant victims of domestic violence throughout New England. If you want to get involved and fight back against the misogynistic legislative attacks, including the VAWA embarrassment, check out A is For, a group seeking to reclaim the scarlet letter A. Or join the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health in their Week of Action for Reproductive Justice because you, like Mary Gonzalez, the openly lesbian Latina doctoral student recently elected to the Texas House, are poderosa.

Finally, the best news of all. In addition to this long, well-cited list of Obama’s accomplishments as President he can now definitively add “bringing American healthcare into the 21st Century: The Supreme Court has upheld Obamacare!!! This landmark decision ensures that women and men will be treated equally by insurance companies, and preventative services like birth control (with no co-pay), mammograms, and pap smear cancer screenings, will all be covered by insurance! If you’re so inclined you can write a letter of thanks to the five Supreme Court Justices who voted in favor of universal health care. Thank you for reading, be well, and as always, if you have ideas, suggestions or comments as to how we can fight back against the patriarchy, please share them below.

In Peace~

 


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