Tag Archives: Planned Parenthood

SB5 is Now HB2 and the Battle Isn’t Over

If you slept the easy sleep and dreamed the happy dreams of triumphant liberalism last Tuesday night during the Texas legislative battle over SB5 (a package of restrictive anti-abortion provisions), then it’s time to wake the hell up.

We didn’t win shit. We delayed. It was damn good television…er… YouTube, but today the fight continues. Less than 24-hours after Wendy Davis stepped off the floor in her pink sneakers, Governor Rick Perry called a second special session.

Need a recap of where we’ve been and where we’re going? Yeah, so did I. Did a little research and here’s what I learned, summed up for Thought Catalog:

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What can you do?

Click here for a rally schedule.

Follow the battle on Twitter with #HB2.

Donate to The Texas Tribune, an independent newspaper providing real-time coverage.

Buy a Planned Parenthood Action Fund t-shirt, “What Would Tami Taylor Do?”. We can be twinsies!

Related Post: One abortion provider’s notes on his experience learning to perform abortions.

Related Post: Things that are NOT the opposite of misogyny.

 

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Filed under Gender, Media, Politics, Republished!

S(Monday) Scraps 105

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1. TEXAS: This is a long and beautiful piece by Amy Gentry for The Rumpus about abortion, body politics, and who we’re really protecting.

2. BADASS: Senator Claire McCaskill replies to James Taranto’s horrifying essay about how the fight against sexual assault in the military is actually a “war on men” and male sexuality. Taranto: 0, McCaskill: ALL OF THE POINTS.

3. TRAVEL: Fascinating essay by travel writer Simon Winchester about a tiny island of 300 people, Tristan de Cunha, and how he got banned from visiting for violating local customs.

4. HISTORY: In the wake of the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, Slate has an example of the dizzyingly confusing literacy tests that were used in the 50s and 60s to prevent black people from voting.

5. PLANNED PARENTHOOD: In case you ever forget what Planned Parenthood provides, a lovely essay from the blog What Are You Doing Here, Are You Lost?

6. CITIES: Chicago Magazine has an awesome series of panoramic shots of New York, San Francisco, Chicago, pre- and during industrial development.

Related Post: Sunday 104 – Books in pie-chart form, awesome ASL translators, what is a bro?

Related Post: Sunday 103 – Awesome people reading, pin-up presidents, Rich Kids of Instagram

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Filed under Art, Body Image, Chicago, Gender, Politics, Really Good Writing by Other People

Wendy Davis and Her Pink Shoes

Wendy DavisThe list of things I could write about today is endless, but the nice part of having your own blog is that you only write what you’re moved to write. And Wendy Davis, man, that woman moved me! Leticia Van de Putte moved me! I never would have guessed that watching 15 minutes of a crowd screaming would move me like that, but there I was, bawling like a baby! If you didn’t watch Wendy Davis,  you missed out (but the Texas Tribune has great recaps). Unlike Davis, I barely lasted for an hour, and I was asleep before the final verdict had been called: the vote happened too late, the bill did not pass, hoorah for all!.

Disclaimer for the rest of this post: I’m going to do some nitpicking. Why? Because it’s what I do, y’all. Because I don’t know how to turn it off. Because I think it still matters how we tell the story even when we win the battle. Ignore me if you’re trying to make your good vibes last for a while. If you want to pick apart media coverage some more, read on.

So this morning, I get up to read the coverage of the epic legislative battle, and the first thing I read is the NYT piece that describes Davis, “a petite Fort Worth Democrat in pink sneakers staged a 10-hour-plus filibuster marathon in which she never sat down.” My Moran-sexism-censors start flashing (Caitlin Moran, author of How to Be a Woman says the simplest way to know if something is sexist is to ask, do men put up with this B.S.?) Normally, we don’t include clothing choices or bodily descriptions when we talk about male politicians. I posted on Facebook that a gender-flip of this would seem unlikely: “A husky/tall/lanky Fort Worth Democrat in red trainers….”

My gut reaction was that describing Davis’ body and wardrobe were not relevant to her actions on the Senate floor last night, and consequently those comments are a rather benign but contributing part of the overwhelming pattern of objectifying female leaders and reinforcing a culture where attractiveness is a primary component of how we measure female worth. I may be overstating it. Some friends on Facebook certainly thought I was, which is why I’m eternally grateful for all the smart friends I’ve got on Facebook.

Rather than paraphrase, here are a few of their counter arguments:

From Lily:  Well, the description of her frame makes me want to vomit, but I think the sneakers bit could have been framed in a way that would be perfectly relevant to describing either a man or woman staging a filibuster (I mean, here, if someone’s wearing sneakers in a setting where you’d normally wear formal shoes, then you know they’re armed to the teeth and preparing for a long battle).

From Christian:  Pink sneakers are definitely an anomaly for state reps to wear – it tends to be a more formal setting, and pink could either be coincidental or a deliberate choice (given the profile, I am going with deliberate though). They make her memorable for a news story. While I agree that a description of her frame is out of line, I think pink sneakers are at least marginally (and possibly more than marginally) relevant.

From Brie: I think she wore [the shoes] on purpose, but journo should have discussed (however briefly) the REASON why she wore them, rather than just implying ‘isn’t she just the cutest little thing?’ A simple “Sen. Davis drew attention her effort by wearing pink sneakers throughout her 13-hour filibuster.” Acknowledging that she makes choices, rather than is just a woman to be impassively described. Male gaze, etc. etc.

From RyanI’m gonna call reach, although, of course, you’re entitled to your opinion. Wendy Davis is a political unknown; people don’t know her and the media tends to describe people physically when no one knows who they are. Also, she wore sneakers instead of traditional formal footwear because she was standing for 10 hours! That seems totally in-bounds to me. Even so, as a man, my body isn’t subjected to the daily scrutiny that a woman must endure.

From Michele: I get this point in general. That said, I distinctly remember, in childhood, appreciating the descriptions of (mostly male) scientists that opened most Discover magazine articles. We’re visual people, and it does mean something to say that X is sun-tanned, Y has wiry hair, Z is wearing a blue shirt. It humanizes people who belong to segments of society (science, the Senate) that can seem super-unapproachable.

From Dan: The color “pink” is also reasonably notable. It’s a bright color and carries a generally unprofessional tone, as would neon green, bright yellow, or Giants orange tennies. If her shoes were black tennies, I doubt any mention would have occurred. In that narrow context, she willingly stepped into territory for which anyone–male or female–would be criticized.

What I love is that nobody pulled the “You bitchy feminists hate beautiful women, the color pink, shaved legs, bras, penises, etc!” card or assumed I was just being obnoxiously critical for the sake of being obnoxiously critical. Everyone responded thoughtfully and for that, I am so, so grateful. I think Brie’s comment resonates the most with me, but everyone’s notes have shifted my perspective on this a little bit.

So where do I net out? I think, like the Supreme Court, we have to apply an extra level of scrutiny to descriptions of women’s bodies and clothing in the media, especially powerful women whose influence is often undermined by objectifying coverage. There are certainly valid reasons to describe clothing and bodies (of both men and women). In this case, her sneakers served a practical purpose (she was standing for 10+ hours) and were relevant to the uber-important political action she was taking. The fact that they were pink seems superfluous to me, but I’ll allow it based on the argument that the color is significant politically (indicating a commitment to women’s issues).

The “petite” is where I really get tripped up. This was a news article, not a New Yorker profile. Per Michele’s point above, we humans do love to know what people look like, and I don’t think there’s harm in sketching a more complete picture of a public figure. That said, I’ve been clicking on random other news articles today to see if any other political figures have physical descriptors attached to their introductions. Haven’t found one yet (though send me some if you do!). There is a long history of excessively discussing female politicians’ sartorial choices (see pantsuits, scrunchies, make-up, running shorts, etc) in lieu of covering their policies or accomplishments. It is an overal damaging trend that reduces the scope of female accomplishment to that which is accompanied by pretty clothes, a trim figure, or perfectly styled hair.

Does “petite” contribue to that culture? Yeah, I think it does. I think it was unnecessary and detracts from her actions, which certainly speak loud enough. Do I think it was malicious? No. Do I think it’s the most awful thing I’ve read this week? Hell to the no, not by a long shot. That prize goes to Scalia or Jodie Laubenberg, who put forth SB5.

Related Post: Notes on 40 Years of Roe

Related Post: HuffPo and the Changing Iconography of the Abortion Debate

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Happy Anniversary, Roe

roeToday is the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Tomorrow, I’ll have something more concrete about what Roe means to me, but today there’s lots of great content roaming around the internet that I wanted to give you in the meantime.

First, I want to call out a friend’s blog, Dr. Coffee’s Brain Banter. Dr. Coffee is a med student in Florida, and as part of his program he participated in abortion training through a reproductive health externship. He writes extremely eloquently about about the medicine, but also about his patients and the process. Part one is mostly science, part two is mostly ethics. Just a sample:

Where these women are is often in a very bad place, and though I was only one cog in the machine, I began to take ownership of their plight.  If they didn’t want to feel this way, and knew that ending this pregnancy was their path back to feeling healthy and free, I even felt some aggression toward that growing mass of cells.  Let’s get that shit out, now, and without apology.

I mention this because despite the normal dark-cloud tone that hangs above most dirty Ab-word discussions, probably a third of the patients I’ve seen will actually smile… and smile a good amount!  (Indeed another friend recently mentioned that her experience wasn’t much to write home about.  Quick and easy.)  They smiled as the team introduced itself, smiled as they laid back and vocalized their nervousness with a laugh, and were relaxed and calm in the recovery room.

When he first shared this writing, it reminded me an non-fiction essay called “What Comes Out” by Dawnelle Wilkie, which is also worth a read.

Have you read Caitlin Moran’s How to Be A Woman? She also has an excellent chapter on abortion that focuses on one of the most forgotten/ignored statistics: In 2008 60% of women who have abortions are already mothers. That number has actually risen to 72% in the last four years. You mean people have a harder time taking care of their families during a recession? Crazy talk! The reason I want to drive home this point about mothers is because it undermines that weird caricature that Republicans* like to point to, the “sex-crazed”, can’t-keep-her-legs-shut, slutty, irresponsible, 23-year-old. Sure, those 23-year-olds exist and I completely support their right to choose, but that’s not actually the average user of abortion services.

Abortion isn’t really about sex, it’s about economics, and childcare, and education, and healthcare. That’s not as salacious as some conservatives would like to make the story, but it is the truth.

*A commenter left an excellent point on this phrasing. There are plenty of pro-choice Republicans (and there are pro-life Democrats). This should have read, “that weird caricature that pro-lifers like to….” Thanks commenter, good call. 

Related Post: Huffington Post and the changing iconography of the abortion debate

Related Post: Things that are not the opposite of misogyny.

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Sunday Scraps 55

1. INCARCERATION: Photo series from Wired inside of juvenile detention centers. Remind me again how we justify putting children in rooms like these for any period of time?

2. BOOKS: Saundra Mitchell articulately points out that girls read books with boy protagonists all the time, and consequently the argument that we need more YA boy books is flawed. We need to teach boys that some stories are universal.

3. DATING: GOOD Magazine does a whole series on deal breakers. Since DealBreakers is one of my favorite I’ve-had-a-lot-of-wine-and-I-want-to-make-lists games, I enjoyed it very much.

4. ABORTION: Amazing piece in the NYT by Susan Heath telling the common, but often untold, story of married mothers who seek the services of Planned Parenthood.

5. INK: Nerdy tattoos. Many are too nerdy for me to get, but I’m nonetheless fascinated by the things people choose to wear forever.

6. MASSACHUSETTS: List of fake town names from my home state in McSweeney’s. I’ve since learned this will probably not be funny unless you’re from Massachusetts.

Related Post: Sunday last, Trayvon and race, Peter Dinklage, used yoga mats.

Related Post: Two Sundays past, nail art, baby ear piercing, Romans vs. the U.S. military.

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Fundamentals

Did you see that nutso video from the American Life League about the machinations of Planned Parenthood? Their bottom line is that, much like drug dealers want to create drug addicts to drum up business, Planned Parenthood is trying to create sex addicts to increase “sales” of contraception and abortion. Planned Parenthood even has its own gateway drug to lure in the unsuspecting youth: masturbation.

It’s preposterous on many rational levels, but rationality has never been a strong suit of these folks. This video is so far off the rails that I can’t even be offended, only amused. When it’s all over and the condom-rolling, Pride dancing, and funny sex illustrations have run their course, I’m left feeling like this man (and who he represents) is living in an entirely different universe than I am.

The problem is, we are never going to agree, and there is no compromise to be had. Our fundamental difference boils down to this:

In my universe, sex is mostly good.

In his universe, sex is mostly bad.

In my universe, we celebrate the fact that in the course of history, people have found this huge wide array of ways to find pleasure. We say, go out and seek them as you see fit, but treat yourself and your partners with dignity and respect.

In his universe, we condemn the fact that people have found all of these non-heterosexual, non-monogamous, non-marital, non-reproductive ways to find pleasure. They say, it doesn’t matter what you want, stop that nonsense and do only this one particular thing that doesn’t offend my delicate sensibilities.

In my universe, we should regulate people’s sexual behavior as little as possible, and only in ways that are absolutely essential to public safety (i.e. prohibiting rape, child pornography, etc.)

In his universe, we should regulate people’s sexual behavior as much as possible, limiting them to a very specific act that subjugates pleasure in favor of reproductive duty.

In my universe, “condom,” “oral sex”, “clitoris,” and “homosexual” are just words. They describe acts, objects, and body parts. They are not evil or wrong or bad. They are also not inherently good. They are just words.

In his universe, “condom,” “oral sex,” “clitoris,” and “homosexual” are the roots of all evil. Even “pleasure” is a dirty word, and not in the fun way.

These are fundamentally different world views, and I don’t have much faith, if any, that they will ever be reconciled through persuasion or compromise. Secession? Might just be the best bet.

Related Post: The “Death of Pretty” conflates innocence with purity. 

Related Post: Some people think lesbian role models have no place in the Girl Scouts canon.

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Filed under Education, Gender, Sex

Race for the Cure?

This is a picture of me and two friends at the 2010 Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure:

We look pretty badass, no? I was so proud to finish that race (1:06!). It’s the longest one I’ve ever completed and it represented the culmination of my journey from never-runner to sometimes-runner. I was proud to raise money and to demonstrate with my actions and efforts a commitment to health for myself and for women across the country.

Sigh. You’re probably familiar with the hullaballoo over Susan G. Komen’s grantmaking process changes that seemed remarkably well-targeted to negatively affect Planned Parenthood (a recipient of $600,000+ in grant money for breast cancer screenings). I had no beef with Komen, besides the annoying pink ribbons plastered over everything. There’s much that has been written about the sexualization of breast cancer fundraising (“Saving Second Base”), but I still believed that Komen’s fundamental goal was a good one. Not so sure about that anymore.

This year, I have a new plan, and you are all more than welcome to get on board. Come September, I will be running a 10K alongside thousands of other racers. I will not be a registered runner, however, and my t-shirt will announce that I stand with Planned Parenthood. Stay tuned, I’ll be asking y’all for donations.

Related Post: How Amy Poehler finally got me to pony up my Planned Parenthood donations.

Related Post: Kate from Smart Girls, Stupid Things on the attempted defunding of PP.

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