Category Archives: reproductive rights

Too rich, too thin, too in control of women’s bodies

Wolf_Of_Wall_Street.jpg.CROP.rectangle3-largeA rich Wall Streeter looks in the mirror and sees someone at the cusp of poverty.

An anorexic looks in the mirror and sees someone who is fat.

One is addicted to money. The other to starvation. As each grasps for power.

Enter Mike Huckabee.

***

In my last year on Wall Street my bonus was $3.6 million — and I was angry because it wasn’t big enough.

Read the rest of this entry

Criminalizing Abortion Doesn’t Stop It

Birth Control Pill ContainerMy born again friend worries about me. I want to keep abortion safe and legal. But she wants me to shout down sinners and demand restrictions. I’ll go straight to Hell, for sure.

Truth is, I don’t really like abortion, and I wish that no woman ever felt a need to get one. At the same time I know that accidents happen, mistakes happen, that women become desperate, and that one third of American women have an abortion at some point in their lives.

I also know that criminalizing abortion doesn’t stop it.

A global study by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Guttmacher Institute found that abortion rates are about the same in countries where it is legal and where it is not.

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Men Mustn’t Pay For Pregnancies They Cause

2009-10-08-IMG_14331No fair! Men shouldn’t have to pay for women’s maternity care!

Oddly, that’s a recent GOP argument against the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, which says insurance companies can’t charge women more than men.

It’s left extremist men complaining, “No babies will ever pop out between my legs, so why should I have to pay for someone else’s pregnancy?”

After all, men have nothing to do with getting women pregnant. Right?

Next, they’ll be whining that babies should have to pay for their own care!

Yet babies don’t ask to be born.  Read the rest of this entry

Tampons Confiscated as Women Protest in Texas

cq5dam.web.1280.1280You know what happens when women protest restrictions on their rights?

In Egypt they’re harassed and raped.

In Texas their tampons are confiscated.

If you can’t bully women by forcing something into their vaginas, just keep women from putting anything in there, themselves.

That’s right. You can take a gun into the Texas State Capital. But tampons, pads, and condemns are forbidden. Or even diabetic supplies that could save your life. Because pro-lifers just don’t like that sort of thing.

After all, women’s lives and autonomy are far more dangerous than guns.

Any sort of control women have over their bodies and reproductive lives must be stopped by Texas law enforcement! Abortion, contraception, sex ed… and now tampons.

texas tampons

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“The Pill” Blocks Romance?

imagesI think that the Pill has changed greatly the woman of our times, masculinized her … that chases away the romance from our lives and that’s a great pity.

So says celebrated director, Roman Polanski.

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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Outrage at Blaming Rapists, Not Women

Zerlina-Maxwell---HannityA proposal: “Blame the criminal, not the victim.” And there’s an uproar?

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.

And all hell breaks loose. The Blaze calls her words “bizarre.” Blogs and tweets say she should get raped.

“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.

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Rapists Get Child Custody?

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.

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Extremists Messing With The Vajayjay

Are right-wing extremists obsessed with controlling women’s sexuality because screwing with a woman’s vagina-brain connection can weaken women and give men control?

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.

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Religious Cruelties

article-0-0D220DA8000005DC-480_468x503[1]Some wonder how morality can exist without religion. Yet too often religion submerges morality.

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.

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Women’s Rights: Distracting, Shiny Objects?

With all the rightwing nuts running about, I must make a post mortem on the election and women’s rights. Which would be comical, if it weren’t scary. Ok, both.

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.

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