Sex Ed – We’re Doin It Wrong

I was recently accepted as a volunteer for Planned Parenthood of Minnesota-North Dakota-South Dakota. One of the requirements for becoming a volunteer was attending four classes. The first two were introductions to the organization; the third and fourth were educational sessions focused on the basics of sexual transmitted infections (STIs), reproductive health and contraception. It makes a lot of sense to train volunteers in these topics, as the majority of what Planned Parenthood does is provide family planning and sexual health advice, education and health services.

After having attended these last two courses with a group of my peers, I say this: We need to do better at providing the people of this country standardized, comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education.

Remember: All of the attendees of these courses want to be there. All of us believe in reproductive planning, promoting sexual health, positive sexuality, and supporting a woman’s right to  have an abortion. We are all supposedly “the good guys”. But goddamn there were some ridiculous beliefs that were shared in that classroom! There were misunderstandings about how common forms of birth control work, what happens during puberty, how certain STIs are spread, how communication with partners can limit the spread of STIs, how to bring up the issue of STIs with a new partner. There were prejudices, preconceptions and privileged opinions about issues such as sex before marriage, how many partners people “should” have, relationship status (monogamous vs. polygamous vs. open marriages, etc.), gender identity, how young someone should be before they have sex, if parents should have a say in whether an underage girl is allowed to have an abortion.

In a country that allows parents to pull their children from classrooms during sex ed…

When sex “education” still seems to come primarily from friends or the internet or those first fumbling encounters…

When sex, birth control, reproduction and sexual autonomy remain taboo subjects that aren’t discussed in “polite” company…

When these things happen we find ourselves in a climate where people speak the right words and espouse the right positions, but we still don’t know what the hell we’re talking about. A lot of people in that room probably walked in thinking they knew all there was too know about the basics of reproduction, contraception and STIs.

Planned Parenthood seems to understand the reality of sex education in this country, and they have taken steps to extend their educational outreach to their volunteers as well as their clients. We can do better.

Cross-Country Connections: Thanksgiving

Cross-Country Connections is a Biodork weekly blog entry dedicated to telling stories in pictures of three family members – me, my sister and Mom – living in very different locations across the country. Every week we choose a different theme and then take or contribute a personal photo that fits the theme. This week’s theme is Thanksgiving.

Note: This past week Mom was in Minneapolis for the long Thanksgiving weekend.

From me and Mom in Minneapolis, Minnesota:

On Saturday morning, Mom, the Hubby and I went to breakfast at the Seward Community Cafe in south Minneapolis. There were hand outline turkeys all over the place in celebration of Thanksgiving. This one called to us. Although…there’s something ironic and cruel about using a Thanksgiving turkey to imply the phrase “Live long and prosper”.

From Erin in Takoma Park, Maryland: 

My husband, in-laws and dog in front on the Maryland State House in Annapolis, MD on cold, windy Thanksgiving.

Gangland Turkey Killing

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you who celebrate the holiday! I have a few odds and ends for today’s post, and then I’m getting back to the party!

Things are all a-flurry in the Bilyeu-Hubby family households. Over the past two days I have made gluten-free mincemeat pie, Mom’s made cranberry sauce, many board games have been played, and much 12-year Glenlivet has been drunkified.

I’m hosting Atheists Talk on Sunday. You can listen live at 9am CST when we interview Dr. Ivan R. Schwab about his new book Evolution’s Witness: How Eyes Evolved.  I can already tell this interview is going to be a blast; in 2006 Dr. Schwab won an Ig Nobel award in ornithology and he wore a giant, red woodpecker hat for his acceptance speech! Silly + Science Talk sounds like a good reason to wake up early on a Sunday to me! If you listen live, remember that you can always call or email us with questions during the show. We love that. Doooo eeet!

Here’s a little holiday-themed stupidness that my brain did when I was glancing at the newspaper yesterday:

Of course, the image is associated with the article beneath it, but at first glance I thought Thanskgiving had gotten really weird this year. Considering the seriousness of the first story, I have to say that’s some odd article formatting, Star Tribune.

Here are links to the first, very not-funny story about a gang feud in St. Paul, and to the second story about the weird not-really-a-pardon-more-of-a-stay-of-execution for the turkey named Bipartisan. 

And with that I’m back to the holiday chaos!  Have a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving weekend!

Not gonna tip. Not gonna do it.

Steven Olsen from WWJTD posted this photo on Facebook from the FB group for IfYouCantAffordToTip.com: 

The image shows writing scrawled in pen on a piece of paper that says:

Crystal,

Your service was Great. The Reason for No tip – I am starting my own Redistribution Plan Like Obama – Started 11/6/12 – I no Longer Tip or Donate to Charities. I give the Money to My Church instead & wounded warriors.

Thanks for Understanding

PS. Please Don’t Be offended I will Redistribute My own Money as I See fit!

*sigh*

There are many reasons why note this is frustrating. Here’s a few:

Number the first: For better or worse we tip our servers in the United States. It is very easy to make an argument against tipping (check out this 2008 article from the NYT called Why Tip? It’s fascinating), and how and why we decide how much to tip is as unique as the individual dining situations that we find ourselves in. But pouting because the other guy won the election has got to be one of the shittier excuses I’ve seen for not leaving a tip.

Number the second: You’re not going to leave tips or donate to charity, but you’re going to donate to your church? WHY? Why are you giving to your church? To where do you think that money is going? To church infrastructure? To supporting your church leaders’ house(s)? To church-approved charities (which are, you must assume, different from the other charities you might be giving to). To buy yourself a place in heaven? To spite Obama and the liberal agenda? <–lolwut? Why are these uses of your money better than donating to other charities? And PROTIP (ha! Pun!): Tipping your server is not charity.

Number the third: Redistribution of wealth. This is yet another case of someone looking at a word or phase and re-interpreting it in a manner that they see fit. Redistribution of wealth is a concept that is applied at a group level. To say that you’re going to “redistribute your wealth as you see fit” when what you mean is you’re going to “spend your money as you see fit” is to show your ignorance about the complex concept that is redistribution of wealth. If you want to make an argument against redistribution because you oppose the government telling you how to spend your money, or because you believe that redistribution is used by the government to set spending priorities that the populace doesn’t support, recognize the fact that tipping your server is the exact opposite of government control. YOU have the choice of how to spend your money when you tip. Ain’t gettin any more independent than that. Don’t blame the Obama administration for your greed and/or anti-social views.

Number the fourth: Good luck with trying to tell your server that they shouldn’t take offense at your jerkish behavior. Let’s see how that goes, shall we?

Mom’s In Town

Mom drove up from Carbondale, Illinois on Saturday. We’ve had all sorts of adventures since then. Yesterday Mom made a homemade golden cabbage roll dinner while the Hubby and I were at work. I haven’t had cabbage rolls since, well, since I lived at home with Mom. So good! Mmm…molasses. I usually do the cooking in our house, so having someone else cook a homemade meal…in my own house…waiting for me when I get home…bliss.

Last night we watched Cabin in the Woods. I’m still processing. I think I liked it. Like so many people I’ve talked to about this movie, I am a Joss Whedon fan but I don’t often enjoy horror movies. Reading the Wikipedia plot synopsis after the movie was over helped to clarify a few things for me, but I think Whedon and Drew Goddard threw more horror movie and social commentary into the story than I fully grasped in the first viewing. I rarely watch commentary tracks, but I might have to make an exception for Cabin in the Woods.

Cross-Country Connections: Leaf

Cross-Country Connections is a Biodork weekly blog entry dedicated to telling stories in pictures of three family members – me, my sister and Mom – living in very different locations across the country. Every week we choose a different theme and then take or contribute a personal photo that fits the theme. This week’s theme is Leaf.

Note: This week Mom in visiting me in Minneapolis for the Thanksgiving holiday!

From Mom in Minneapolis, Minnesota: 

Leaf printed on glass

Glass Leaf

From me in Minneapolis, Minnesota: 

Frida Kahlo - Thinking About Death

Many of Frida Kahlo’s works focus on themes of life, death and rebirth. Nature and leaves are an often seen symbol in her paintings.

From Erin in Takoma Park, Maryland: 

Staring at leaves

The Maryland contingent watching the leaves fall outside.

Hazrat Ali Shah – Another victim of blasphemy laws

Ugh. Rights activists in Pakistan must have their hands busy. Asia BibiRimsha MasihMalala Yousafzai. Here’s a list compiled by FP.com of ten women who have – for the most part – been high-profile victims of human rights abuses in Pakistan (Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy is an exception on the list; she made a movie about victims of human rights abuses in Pakistan). The Human Rights Watch website on Pakistan and the HRW 2012 Report on Pakistan make me want to go back to bed and pull the covers over my head.

These are just the abuses that make it into the news.

And now this: Hazrat Ali Shah is a 25 year-old man who has been convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to imprisonment and death by a judge in Chitral, a city in the northwestern region of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan.

iOL News is reporting that he was charged in March 2011 after insulting the Prophet Mohammed and the Qur’an during a fight. He was tattled on reported by fellow villagers, who later provided the “evidence” of Hazrat Ali Shah’s blasphemy at his trial. According to TheHindu.com, his family has distanced themselves from him as well.

Imprisoned, sentenced to death, no support from his family.

Has freedom of speech ever looked so good? We have had so much evidence just in the past year for why we need to reject measures such as resolutions to condemn defamation of religion in the UN. Well, not enough for this guy. If he had his way, this self-righteous, delusional prat, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai, would have blasphemy laws enforced:

The Catholic patriarch says Christianity is often a target. He mentioned that Jesus, the Church and the Bible are attacked and insulted in movies and documentaries. To prevent this, he wants the UN to intervene with a resolution.

He argues, the UN needs to take action, since world peace is based on respect for God and all religions.

No disrespect in movies and documentaries!!!??? Well isn’t that swell? I wonder who gets to be on the board that screens movies and documentaries to make sure they measure up to the patriarch’s definition of “respectful”?

Bechara Rai’s idea of world peace is based on all of us having respect for his God and his ideas for how other religions should be. Protip: Not all religions share this ideal of mutual respect for other religions. The COEXIST bumper sticker is a lie.

Blasphemy laws don’t lead to peace. They lead to state-sanctioned murder of hot-headed 25 year-olds like Hazrat Ali Shah who shoot their mouths off in the wrong place and the wrong time.

Savita Halappanavar’s Death

On several occasions I have been asked to explain my views on the intersection of atheism and reproductive freedom. Well here it is, isn’t it? From BBC News, the story of 31 year-old Savita Halappanavar, who died in Ireland on Sunday due to complications of pregnancy:

“On the Saturday night everything changed, she started experiencing back pain so we called into the hospital, the university hospital.”

He said she continued to experience pain and asked a consultant if she could be induced.

“They said unfortunately she can’t because it’s a Catholic country,” Mr Halappanavar said.

“Savita said to her she is not Catholic, she is Hindu, and why impose the law on her.

“But she said ‘I’m sorry, unfortunately it’s a Catholic country’ and it’s the law that they can’t abort when the foetus is live.”

This was a woman, and a family, and medical professionals who knew that aborting the pregnancy was the safest, sanest medical decision. This hospital stood by as Savita Halappanavar died slowly and painfully of septicemia. They refused to treat Savita as her her husband, Praveen Halappanavar, watched helplessly as her organs shut down one after another.

Because it’s a Catholic country.

According to the article, several investigations by different groups are underway.

UPDATE: There are several hashtags on Twitter that are following activism around Savita’s case: #Savita #RIPSavita. Here is a legislative action website. A protest is taking place tonight. A Candlelight Vigil is being held in Galway this weekend.