Category Archives: reproductive rights
But how do pregnancy fears heighten romance?
Back when birth control was illegal, men were told to “sleep on the roof” if they didn’t want more kids.
Yeah, that really helps romance.
Sleeping on the roof didn’t work for many couples. And then too many women died from self-induced abortions because they couldn’t afford more kids.
I suppose being dead enhances romance, too.
Meanwhile, despite a drop in hormone levels, some women are more interested in sex after menopause — because they have fewer children underfoot and fewer worries over pregnancy.
Is Polanski mourning a lack of romance? Or a lack of power over women?
Some abusive men destroy their lovers’ contraception, hoping to make their partners dependent — and stuck with them. (How romantic.)
As it happens, Polanski is an abuser. Years ago he was accused of child sex abuse of a 13-year-old girl. Facing imprisonment, he fled to France.
Of course, it would have been more romantic had the girl gotten pregnant.
It’s interesting that Polanski would add, “Trying to level the genders is purely idiotic.”
If by “masculine” Polanski means “empowered,” then by all means, I do hope the pill has made women more masculine.
This man’s comments wouldn’t matter except that some conservatives are trying to make contraception illegal and some are using these sorts of arguments to dissuade women from using birth control: you wouldn’t want to be “masculine” or lose romance! Don’t know how persuasive they will be. But some in the W. Bush Administration and some states have worked or been working to end contraception as we know it.
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Last week rape survivor, Zerlina Maxwell, went on Fox’s “Hannity” to discuss rape and guns. But instead of saying women should drink less, dress modestly, arm themselves and learn self-defense, like she “should have,” she told Hannity:
I don’t think that we should be telling women anything. I think we should be telling men not to rape women and start the conversation there… If you train men not to grow up to become rapists, you prevent rape.
“Thanks for the feedback, Internet dopes. Why would anybody think that you need some sensitivity training?” responds Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon.
Maxwell tells Salon that, “We need to teach (men) to see women as human beings and respect their bodily autonomy.” Williams points out that when you do, things change:
After Canada launched a “Don’t be that guy” consent awareness campaign in 2011, the sexual assault rate dropped for the first time in years — by 10 percent.
In fact, violence against women is much lower in non-patriarchal cultures that respect women. Both rape and battering were pretty much nonexistent among American Indians before Europeans arrived. Rape and battering have also dropped in the U.S. with a rise in feminism, according to Justice Bureau surveys of victims.
But why the rage when the focus of rape prevention turns from women to men?
Actually, the outrage hasn’t come from everywhere. It comes from right-wing groups — Fox News viewers and the like — who bolster the haves over the have-nots: typically whites, the rich, heteros and in this case, men, over everyone else.
Here, the matter relates to who is free and who is not. Do not even think about asking men to limit themselves. Women, on the other hand, should limit themselves: what they wear, what they drink, what time of day they leave the house… They must prepare themselves for defense against men who refuse to limit themselves. And continuing the right-wing rant, women must be stripped of freedom over their reproductive lives, entirely. No right to your own body in any way.
In this worldview even if rapists ACT, responsibility for the act must fall on the victim. Because men must be free, but women must not.
I would learn firsthand that in the vast majority of states — 31 — men who father through rape are able to assert the same custody and visitation rights to their children that other fathers enjoy.
That’s Shauna Prewitt. In her final year of college she became the victim of a horrifying rape. Nine months later she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. She chose to keep and raise her because her daughter was,
so much more than her beginnings. I blissfully believed that after I finally had decided to give birth to and to raise my daughter, life would be all roses and endless days at the playground.
I was wrong again.
Nearly 1/3 of women who conceive by rape choose to keep and raise their children. Like Shauna, they probably don’t realize that their rapist will be given visitation rights and end up in their lives forever.
As if the violent rape weren’t bad enough now she must be constantly reminded of it as she is forced into contact with the child’s father.
That may be just why the men seek custody. Rapists enjoy power and intimidation and can now create dread and fear through a lifetime. Or, as Shauna sees it:
It is not surprising that a man who cruelly degrades a woman would also seek to torture her in an even more agonizing way, by seeking access to her child.
A rape victim may, alternatively, sacrifice her need for justice by dropping the charges in a bargain to gain sole custody of the child.
Apparently, the court’s concern is that the man may not have raped the woman. But in this “he said/she said,” why does he win? Especially since rapists tend to have a controlling nature and a violent streak, risking child endangerment.
When I look at which causes greater harm, a man denied custody or a woman forever tormented and a child at risk for abuse, I wonder why the man’s rights trump the woman’s and the child’s.
Probably because every society is ruled from the perspective of the powerful. In this case, men. Those making the law are looking at things more from the man’s perspective than from the perspective of where the greater harm occurs.
It’s all reminiscent of a newly proposed bill “aimed at throwing rape victims in jail if they refuse to honor their rapist’s right to control their body by carrying his child,” as Amanda Marcotte put it.
That’s right. Rep. Cathrynn Brown of New Mexico wants a bill banning abortion for rape victims because it “tampers with evidence.” Sounds phony since pregnancies may occur without rape and rape can occur without pregnancy. Wonder how much money one of her constituents contributed to get that bill proposed?
At best this ban sees through the eyes of the powerful instead of the powerless.
At worst it is misogynistic, an excuse to hurt a woman even more than she has already been harmed by rape.
When it comes to justice sometimes it’s a world turned upside-down.
Sounds crazy, but Naomi Wolf, famous for her book The Beauty Myth, suggests that’s what is happening.
The premise, laid out in her latest book, Vagina: A New Biography, has met mixed reviews from both scientists and the literati. But I found her thoughts interesting enough to give them some space here.
Wolf’s notion was sparked, oddly enough, when her spinal cord was repaired. Before surgery she had lost both her sex drive and her creativity. After surgery both returned. Curious, she began exploring how women’s sexuality might be connected to their broader empowerment and passion for life.
She began her journey by exploring more conventional notions of how society and power structures affect desire. But something was missing. So she moved on to biology, learning how the vagina, clitoris and cervix are connected to the brain. She found out that when neurotransmitters related to sexuality are blocked, an “anhedonic state” akin to depression can arise.
The science comes largely from Dr. Jim Pfaus, a researcher and psychology professor at Concordia University — and a defender of her book.
Next, Wolf suggests that extremists try to repress women’s sexual selves because sexuality allows women fuller, more productive and empowered lives. As she explains in the Huffington Post:
The data is sound elucidating the brain-vagina connection that many critics are struggling with. Dopamine builds confidence and motivation, oxytocin is about bonding and intimacy, and opioids are about bliss and ecstasy. If you know really what that cocktail [activated during sex] does [in the female brain], then it makes sense why patriarchy always targets female sexuality, always targets the vagina, with female genital mutilation, rape, and war, you know, derision, mockery. If you get that female desire and the vagina can be a medium for women of positive mindspeak unrelated to sex, it makes sense that the vagina is continually being targeted. The whole takeaway of the book is that the vagina is not just a sex organ. If you want to demean women, you demean the vagina.
I don’t know whether Wolf is right. (Are fanatics really that bright?) But interesting that sexuality seems so related to living a full-fledged, empowering life.
I recently wrote about religious men seeking therapy to overcome same-sex attraction. But the “therapy,” itself, seemed evil as men were shocked, given drugs to create nausea, told to strip naked and touch themselves in front of a counselor, or were forced to beat their mothers’ effigies.
Not long ago an Irish woman died because her doctors would not perform an abortion:
Despite her rising pain, doctors refused her request for an abortion for three days because the fetus had a heartbeat. She died in the hospital from blood poisoning three days after the fetus died and was surgically removed.
Her husband was left asking,
When they knew the baby was not going to survive, why not think about the bigger life which was the mother, my wife Savita? And they didn’t.
In the not-so-distant past some devout Irish doctors broke their patients’ pelvises to prevent miscarriage. The painful operation often caused chronic back pain, incontinence, and crippling. As one woman explained,
It ruined my life. I have two titanium knees, a bad back and I think about it every day. It was 53 years ago… They were torturers. They didn’t care. I was a thing.
Another described the procedure:
I saw the hacksaw. He started cutting my bone and my blood spurted up like a fountain. [She remembers the doctor looking annoyed that he had gotten her blood on his glasses]. You’ll never get rid of [the pain] until you’re not living anymore.
Not long ago a Polish woman named Edyta died because each doctor she approached refused to treat her colon condition, fearing an operation might lead to miscarriage or abortion. She could have expected refusals had she lived in Italy, Hungary, or Croatia, too, because in each of these places doctors may refuse treatment on moral grounds. Apparently, letting a woman die is not a part of the moral compass. The fetus died, anyway.
In North African countries the clitoris or vulvas of young girls are routinely cut with dirty razors and parts are removed to deaden sexual sensitivity, “making them pure.” Some die of infection, many are crippled, and most live in pain.
In other places brothers kill sisters over any “sexual impropriety,” including marrying who you want, being alone with a boy, looking at a boy, or rape.
In Saudi Arabia girls in night clothes were once forced back into a burning building to die so as to protect men from their immodesty.
The religious Taliban ordered a girl’s nose and ears cut off when she ran away from her abusive in-laws.
And don’t forget the Inquisition, the Crusades and the witch hunts.
I could go on.
Really, how callus can your religious beliefs make you?
The Golden Rule must be hiding around here somewhere.
Let’s start with Katherine Fenton, scolded for asking how the candidates would ensure equal pay for women in the second debate. All hell broke loose in Wingnut-Sphere where the “femanazi question” was deemed illegitimate and Fenton became the “Whore of Babylon” inciting “Twitter hate masturbation” as Amanda Marcotte over at Pandagon put it.
Nearly every Republican congress member knows better, having voted down the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
The loony right’s insensitivity to rape has been widely panned, but deserves a brief review. Representative John Koster cavalierly called it “The rape thing.” Mike Huckabee sees rape as an alternative baby delivery system and Paul Ryan minimizes rape by calling it a “method of conception.” In fact, Paul Ryan co-authored a bill with Todd Akin (victims of “legitimate rape” don’t get pregnant) to narrow the definition to “forcible rape.” Richard Mourdock found forced pregnancy through rape “a gift from God” and told folks to “get over it.”
Feminist, Caroline Heldman wondered how pregnancy from rape could be a gift from God if raped women can’t get pregnant?
Meanwhile, Republicans voted time and again against contraception and abortion (even to save a woman’s life) even though contraception prevents abortion.
And if women die because they can’t get the procedure legally and safely, who cares, says Mississippi State Rep. Bubba Carpenter:
They’re like, “Well, the poor pitiful women that can’t afford to go out of state are just going to start doing them at home with a coat hanger.” That’s what we’ve heard over and over and over. But hey–you have to have moral values.
Laws that lead to women’s deaths are moral?
In other news most of the GOP refused to protect all women in the U.S. from domestic violence.
And, they pushed to block cancer screenings and HIV testing for underprivileged women.
Women’s rights just aren’t important says Eric Fehrnstrom, senior campaign adviser for Mitt Romney. They’re just “shiny objects” that are used to distract voters from real issues as he explained to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos:
Mitt Romney is pro-life. He’ll govern as a pro-life president, but you’re going to see the Democrats use all sorts of shiny objects to distract people’s attention from the Obama performance on the economy.
First it’s women as objects. Now it’s women’s rights as objects.
These guys haven’t got a clue. And they lost, big time.
Conservatives insist there is no war on women. They must be willfully ignorant to miss the signs.
In recent years the extreme right has voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, they have refused to protect all women in the U.S. from domestic violence, they have pushed to block cancer screenings and HIV testing for poor women, they have voted against contraception and abortion that could save women’s lives. Five states now require women seeking abortions to endure ultrasounds, which might require intrusive, vaginal probes. Some have made light of rape, narrowing the definition to “forcible” rape (what’s nonforcible rape?) or, as Amanda Marcotte at RH Reality Check points out:
Showing their true colors has been a theme of anti-choicers this campaign season, from Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment to Huckabee’s extolling the virtues of rape as a baby delivery system to Paul Ryan minimizing rape by calling it a “method of conception”… They don’t really think rape is a big deal—it’s not like raping uterus vessels is the same as violating people, right?
But what’s behind the war? Here’s one idea: sexist men fear that independent women won’t need them.
Marcotte points out that attempts to control women swell whenever women become more independent. She may have a point. We’ve seen increasing attempts to use government to control women as we become more independent. And the same thing occurs in relationships when some men destroy contraception, hoping their wives or girlfriends will get pregnant and become more dependent.
And the same men who work to limit women’s control over their bodies say things like this, from Rep. Allen West of Florida:
And all of these women that have been neutering American men and bringing us to the point of this incredible weakness. Let them know that we are not going to have our men become subservient.
Or Rush Limbaugh:
The average size of a penis is roughly 10 percent smaller than it was 50 years ago. And the researchers say air pollution is why. Air pollution, global warming, has been shown to negatively impact penis size, say Italian researchers.
I don’t buy this. I think it’s feminism.
Well then, men had better get their control over women back, and soon!
Marcotte sums it up:
Hostility to abortion rights and contraception access is about gender anxiety. It’s about this strange fear that unless women are forced into a subservient, dependent position to men, women will not want anything to do with men. Anti-choicers are reacting to a paranoid belief that if women are totally free to choose our own paths, we won’t choose to have men on our journeys. It’s yet further proof that misogyny has an element of man-hating to it, because the misogynist believes that men are not capable of being true friends and partners to women.
Looks like feminists have a higher opinion of men than these sexist men do, themselves.
- Obama supporters want to relinquish individual choice. Romney supporters stand upon the principles of individual freedom.
- Republicans want to erase a woman’s right to choose. They seek to deny abortion even in cases of rape, incest, or when a woman’s life or health are at risk. Beware who you vote for! It concerns the well-being of your mothers, sisters, wives, daughters and granddaughters.
Those sentiments come from two letters to the editor, which appeared one after the other.
Which side is for freedom?
Really, it’s a question of whose freedom is at stake.
Paul Ryan loves liberty, he says. But not women’s.
Ryan wants to prevent women from even controlling their own bodies. He backed a “personhood” bill which would have prevented women from using many forms of birth control. Miscarriage could have become grounds for criminal investigation. And abortion would have been banned even for victims of rape and incest. Ryan voted for the Blunt Amendment, which would have given employers control over a woman’s access to contraception. And he co-authored a bill with Todd Akin (victims of “legitimate rape” don’t get pregnant) to narrow the definition of rape to “forcible rape.”
What is non-forcible rape, anyway?
Paul Ryan doesn’t want freedom for women. He wants a government takeover of our bodies.
But he does want freedom for the One Percent. In fact, he seeks to reduce Social Security and Medicare benefits for the middle class in order to give many in the One Percent a 1% tax rate. They will then have the freedom to buy more big homes and big cars and big boats and big vacations. Some Wall Streeters buy gold-filled hamburgers so that they can literally shit gold.
But will Ryan’s budget bring more freedom to the middle-class? The New York Times reported that focus groups found the plan so cruel that they “simply refused to believe any politician would do such a thing.”
Does greater liberty arise when some can no longer afford both food and medicine? Or when they are ill and can’t get medical care? Or when they die? The hungry, sick, and dead don’t have a lot of freedom.
The Hunger Games comes to mind as the rich have their fun while the hungry poor die.
Paul Ryan believes in freedom. For the powerful and privileged. But he’s not so keen on freedom for the rest of us.
A group of 10, perhaps 15, men surrounded the girl, beating and stripping her for the next 20 minutes. By the time the television crew and the police showed up, the mob had grown to about 40 men.
The attack resembled this 2008 Mumbai scene:
Two women were alleged to have been attacked by 14 men as they left the Marriott Hotel with their friends. When the police arrived, the mob assaulting the women as they lay pinned down on the ground had grown to more than 50 men.
The New York Times explains that these sex crimes are a tool to rein in women’s freedom in India.
Several stories point to that common theme.
Consider the police response to sexual assault. When a female journalist was shot and killed while driving home women were warned against driving late at night without escorts. And when another woman was raped the municipal administration recommended that women not work after 8 p.m.
Some village leaders banned young women from using cell phones and wearing jeans.
Even discussions of these assaults revolve around questions of:
How far women’s freedoms should extend. What kinds of jobs or working hours are considered respectable for a woman? Can a woman go to a bar or restaurant with friends without inviting censure or sexual advances? If a woman is out in a public area after dark, is she, to use a term that often crops up, a “loose” woman? The question of how much freedom a woman should have, and who should control that freedom, underpins the debate over sexual violence.
Sex crimes have also been used against women fighting for democracy in the Arab Spring, with female journalists (symbols of power) and protestors, alike, assaulted and beaten.
But women can be punished and controlled over nothing. In Afghanistan a 22-year-old woman was killed in the name of purity for being sexually involved with two men, “either through rape or romantically.” In fact, she was tortured and killed to settle a dispute between the two men. As the shots rang out a crowd cried, “Long live Islam. Long live Mujahideen (holy warriors).” Men may do whatever they wish. Women may not.
In South Africa lesbians are attacked with “corrective rape” as men shout, “You are not men” – implying that women do not deserve male privilege – including rights over their own bodies.
Similar attitudes exist in the U.S. where rape is about men feeling dominance over women. Next, the community may blame women for their rapes – they were drinking or dressing immodestly or staying out late at night – acting as though they were free.
Constraining reproductive rights works the same way. “Pro-lifers,” who don’t care if women (or the poor) die, assert that men – and not women – must control women. Keep them barefoot, pregnant and dependent so that men may more easily stay in charge.
Yes. There’s a common theme.
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U.S. Nuns are grappling over a response to Vatican concern with their doctrinal loyalty. Church leadership wants them denouncing abortion and gays more than saving the lives of women and children, and affirming God’s love for all of humanity.
One sister explains:
We have a differing perspective on obedience. Our understanding is that we need to continue to respond to the signs of the times, and the new questions and issues that arise in the complexities of modern life are not something we see as a threat.
The sisters are in line with Bible heroes.
When Jacob wrestled with God he received a new name, Israel, meaning “He struggles with God.” At the end of the tussle God “blessed him there.”
God blesses one who struggles with Him?
Or, Job questioned why God made him suffer. His companions admonished him, demanding he accept God’s judgment.
Yet God did not think highly of the friends who spewed standard lines about submitting to divine will, repenting and being humble. God said, “You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.”
And then Job conversed with God, proclaiming, “I knew of you with the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes have seen you.” He got to know God, and this would never have happened had he taken the standard “counsels of piety” and played the submissive, unquestioning part his friends advised. It was only by being authentic in his doubts and questions that he could bring enough of himself to have a chance to get to know God.
These Bible stories speak well to the nuns’ intentions.
Go get ‘em girls!