Women’s Health Protection Act of 2013

We’ve seen a lot – a LOT – of legislation introduced at the state and federal levels that have been designed to limit people’s access to safe, legal abortion. With Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme court disallowed many types of restrictions that would prohibit people from obtaining abortions. But as we have seen in the past several years, anti-abortion proselytizers have found and abused a major loophole: while still allowing legal abortion, it has been possible to limit access to abortion by closing down abortion clinics via regulatory technicalities. Their hope is that by making abortions harder to obtain, there will be fewer abortions. The laws in which these technicalities are housed are referred to by pro-choice advocates as Targeted Regulation of Abortion Clinics, or TRAP laws.

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Realizations

Every once in a while I will experience something that causes a shift in my perception of the world around me. These thoughts or sentiments or realizations tend to stick around for a very long time. Some of these things are cruel and have seared into my memory, some have been freeing, and some are realizations about myself or my behavior. All of these experiences have felt huge, accompanied by some sort of inspiration, awe or groking.

Here are a few examples:

Cruelty: As someone who has struggled with body image for my entire life, I will never forget that horrible phrase “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”, fuckyouverymuchKateMoss. When I heard this bullshit statement I truly understood that there are people in the world who will never ever EVER understand what it’s like to be overweight in this society, and that they would never accept or respect people who are overweight – that they would never accept or respect me.

Freeing: When I was young I wanted to rollerblade down a huge steep hill in our neighborhood. I stood at the top, paralyzed with fear. I knew that if I tripped, it would hurt a lot, or I could bust my skull open, or I might fall into traffic (it was a neighborhood street without much traffic, but still!). As I was staring down that hill I suddenly had this feeling that it was going to be okay. I unclenched my muscles and took deep breathes and was amazed to feel a calm come over me. I pushed off and sailed triumphantly down three blocks of pavement, gently coasting to a stop at the bottom of the hill. In that moment I realized that – in some situations – it is possible to control my fear, that it is an emotion that can sometimes be tempered by consciously trying to relax my body, and that I perform so much better when I’m not gripped by fear.

Self-Awareness: When I first learned about microaggressions, and especially when I learned that I was subconsciously perpetrating some of the behaviors that can be characterized as microagression, I was floored. I began to try to recognize these behaviors – in myself and others – and was floored again when I realized how ingrained they are in so many aspects of my life.

So yeah…life-changing moments.

Here’s the newest one:

I recently read an article that came my way via a Facebook group. The group is closed, so I won’t elaborate – but I am grateful to the person who posted it. Thank you. The article is called How to Talk to Little Girls, and it’s from a group blog called LatinaFatale. The blog doesn’t have much in the way of new content, sadly (sadly because it is written by “progressive Latina feminists (and their allies)”, which is definitely a blog I’d love to read). How to Talk to Little Girls was written back in 2011. But discovering new old content is part of the beauty of the internet, right?

Here are a few excerpts:

Little Maya was all curly brown hair, doe-like dark eyes, and adorable in her shiny pink nightgown. I wanted to squeal, “Maya, you’re so cute! Look at you! Turn around and model that pretty ruffled gown, you gorgeous thing!”

But I didn’t. I squelched myself. As I always bite my tongue when I meet little girls, restraining myself from my first impulse, which is to tell them how darn cute/ pretty/ beautiful/ well-dressed/ well-manicured/ well-coiffed they are.

[...]

Teaching girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything. It sets them up for dieting at age 5 and foundation at age 11 and boob jobs at 17 and Botox at 23.

[...]

What’s missing? A life of meaning, a life of ideas and reading books and being valued for our thoughts and accomplishments.

That’s why I force myself to talk to little girls as follows.

“Maya,” I said, crouching down at her level, looking into her eyes, “very nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you too,” she said, in that trained, polite, talking-to-adults good girl voice.

“Hey, what are you reading?” I asked, a twinkle in my eyes. I love books. I’m nuts for them. I let that show.

Her eyes got bigger, and the practiced, polite facial expression gave way to genuine excitement over this topic.

[...]

Not once did we discuss clothes or hair or bodies or who was pretty. It’s surprising how hard it is to stay away from those topics with little girls, but I’m stubborn.

[...]

So, one tiny bit of opposition to a culture that sends all the wrong messages to our girls. One tiny nudge towards valuing female brains. One brief moment of intentional role modeling. Will my few minutes with Maya change our multibillion dollar beauty industry, reality shows that demean women, our celebrity-manic culture? No. But I did change Maya’s perspective for at least that evening.

The entire article made me realize that this cute overload response is EXACTLY the way that I usually say hello to young girls. There’s absolutely no good reason for this in the course of normal introductions. Every situation is unique, of course, and I don’t advocate never telling someone that they look pretty in their dress. But maybe I’ll start waiting to bring that up until after we have a chance to talk about more important issues, like books and drawings and other “intelligent conversation that respects her brain”, as LatinaFatale puts it.

A&F – Attractive & Fat

How badass is this?

Jes over at The Militant Baker has posted the most gorgeous and smoldering retort to Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries.

In her letter she challenges A&F’s fat-hating and sexist business practices,

The only thing you’ve done through your comments (about thin being beautiful and only offering XL and XXL in your stores for men) is reinforce the unoriginal concept that fat women are social failures, valueless, and undesirable.

she comments on current marketing perspectives of beauty and attraction,

Never in our culture do we see sexy photo shoots that pair short, fat, unconventional models with not short, not fat, professional models. To put it in your words: “unpopular kids” with “cool kids”. It’s socially acceptable for same to be paired with same, but never are contrasting bodies positively mixed in the world of advertisement.

and then stars in a jaw-dropping, sultry, sexy photo shoot by Liora K Photography, shot in the style of the Abercrombie & Fitch catalog and advertisements. You get one teaser here – for the rest, go visit the Militant Baker.

A&F

Jes in an embrace with model John C. Shay, giving the camera a dark glance as Shay lifts her chin towards him. This is one of many shots that shows off Jes’s tattooed, curvalicious bod. All of the displayed set is in black and white. Many of the other photos feature Jes wearing an Abercrombie & Fitch t-shirt.

In the letter she explains her motivations for the project:

I didn’t take these pictures to show that the male model found me attractive, or that the photographer found me photogenic, or to prove that you’re an ostentatious dick. Rather, I was inspired by the opportunity to show that I am secure in my skin and to flaunt this by using the controversial platform that you created. I challenge the separation of attractive and fat, and I assert that they are compatible regardless of what you believe. Not only do I know that I’m sexy, but I also have the confidence to pose nude in ways you don’t dare.

To end the set, Jes gives Jeffries the bird, as so many of us have.

Hat tip to C. Brown on Facebook for the link to the Buzzfeed article about Jes’s blog.

End Street Harassment

SWEndSH

I learned on the Twitters that today is the end of Anti-Street Harassment Week, a awareness campaign organized by a group called Stop Street Harassment. Stop Street Harassment has a heady goal of ending gender-based street harassment worldwide. Their front page shows a message that says “More than 80% of girls and women worldwide face street harassment: catcalls, groping, sexual comments and public masturbation.”

I number myself among that 80%. Here are a few of my stories. I invite you to share/unload/rage your own experiences in the comments below. And if you feel comfortable and/or want to share your stories on Twitter, you can do so under the #EndSH and #Ithink hashtags.

Street Harassment Haiku

#1

Unsolicited
I feel your eyes on my ass.
You weren’t invited.

#2

He hoots and slobbers;
They say it’s a compliment.
I feel small and used.

Years ago I was on a bus and I caught the gaze of a man who was sitting across the aisle. He saw me look over and gave me that…that look…that “you know you want it” sneer…and he slowly moved his hand under his coat to his crotch. He stroked himself while he stared holes through me. Much later I wished that I had caused a scene, that I had been like one of those YouTube heroines who calls out the asshole, that I had stood up, pointed and loudly exclaimed “Dude, are you masturbating!?” and shamed him off of the bus. Instead I scowled, moved as far toward the front as I could, took the next stop (making sure he didn’t follow me), and waited 15 minutes for the next bus on the route.

But back then I hadn’t heard of other women standing up to street harassment. I didn’t even know what street harassment was.

Next time I won’t be the one leaving the bus early.

Marketing Mute Mommies

This is a post by guest blogger Ellen Bulger.

I’ve never been a big Disney fan. Growing up, my exposure was minimal. The cartoons weren’t broadcast on TV and my parents took me to maybe two movies in my entire childhood. The only one I remember was Mary Poppins. And when I was in junior high, for some reason my dad took me to see the French Connection, which I remember being a pretty great film.

But the cartoons on TV were Fleischer (wonderful) and Warner Brothers (a mixed bag ranging from wonderful to meh) and Hanna Barbera (utter crap, all of it) with hardly a Disney cartoon in sight. But still I constantly heard about how Mickey Mouse was the most beloved cartoon character of all time and how everyone loved him. Most of this fawning press, I later came to realize, was generated by Disney’s own publicity machine. However masturbatory it was, it was effective. People will believe most anything if you simply say it loud enough and often enough. I don’t like to think about that during election season, but there you go…

I saw maybe half a dozen Mickey Mouse cartoons and they all utterly disappointed me. They were never nearly as inventive the Popeye and Betty Boop cartoons I adored. And while Disney animation was more meticulous than Warner Brothers, the cartoons were flat because the personalities of the characters were boring, really boring. And more than that, Disney never challenged the status quo, more like the studio enforced every bit of tedious and toxic middle American midcentury thinking. And while the other studios were likewise part of this culture, they were, at least, iconoclastic thinkers. No matter, I didn’t like Disney, I didn’t see much Disney, I didn’t think about Disney.

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Purity Pearl

It’s time to mock a product!

I saw this claptrap at Sea Life in the Mall of America.

On the outside of the box the script reads, “Real love takes time to grow, just like this unique pearl. Experience the thrill of opening one of nature’s most perfect gifts. Please enjoy the beauty and surprise it has in store for you.”

Inside reads, “God created Women and Pearls as nature’s most beautiful gifts. Each takes time to grow to their full potential as intended. Treat both with the Respect and Love that they deserve. Love is eternal and Life should be enjoyed to the fullest.”

Awww…isn’t that… *hurls* Really? I wonder what they’re referring to when they say that “real love takes time to grow” and “Women…take time to grow”. And the thing is called a Purity Pearl… Hmmm… I dunno. It’s just all so vague.

Oh, but let’s continue the women = pearls analogy, shall we? What do we do with this symbol of purity after we’ve dug it out of the Real Oyster Shell in the kit? Well, what does one do to keep purity safe? We keep it in a cage:

Oh Sea Life… couldn’t you just stick with the over-priced cute plush turtles and sharks?

Ada Lovelace Day: Mary B.

This article is written for Ada Lovelace Day:

Ada Lovelace Day is about sharing stories of women — whether engineers, scientists, technologists or mathematicians — who have inspired you to become who you are today. The aim is to create new role models for girls and women in these male-dominated fields by raising the profile of other women in STEM.

You can learn more about Ada Lovelace, the Enchantress of Numbers, at FindingAda.com 

Today, October 16th, 2012 is a day to celebrate women in science, technology, engineering and math, and bloggers, vloggers and other content producers from all over the world are writing and talking about the accomplishments of their female STEM heros and and inspirations. At the website you can add your own story about a woman in STEM who has had a positive impact on your life.

I wanted to write about a contemporary female scientist, so I asked around to my circle of friends and found Mary B. Mary agreed to let me share her story here, but because she wants to maintain a modicum of privacy, I will refer to her just as Mary.

Mary is a senior scientist for a Twin Cities biotechnology company. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a minor in Chemistry, as well as an AAS in Marine Science. She’s been fascinated with science since she was a little girl. She recently turned 57 years young, and has been employed in various scientific fields for most of her life.

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It’s not a tramp stamp, it’s a tattoo.

I have two tattoos. I want more! I love wearing art that is important to me, carrying with me the memories and experiences that went into my choice of tattoo. Even though my first tattoo was flash picked off of a wall, I smile at the eagerness of my just-turned-18 self, that the fact that I was getting a tattoo was more important than what I put on my body. Even that crappy tattoo has its place.

All sorts of people get all sorts of tattoos for all sorts of reasons, and in recent Western culture we have placed judgement on the types of people who get tattoos, what those tattoos are, and even where they’re placed. If you get a tattoo you’re a punk who will never amount to anything, you’re defiling your body because teh bible. If you get a highly visible tattoo you’re an idiot who will never get a respectable job. There might be a few instances where it’s okay for a man to get a tattoo – military tattoos come to mind. But if you’re a woman, well, it doesn’t really matter why or where you get tattooed – you’re a skanky whore.

Critink has a post about this perception of women who get tattoos. The author justifiably took exception to an article which mentions the phrase “Skank Flank: The New Tramp Stamp”. With very little digging Critink shows that judging women who have tattoos is just one more instance of body-shaming and the idea that women should be told what we can and can’t do with our bodies:

Here is how the same douchebags would like us to view tattoos:

  • Lower back tattoos: you’re a tramp
  • Rib tattoos: you’re a skank
  • Wrist tattoos: you’re a dumb skank
  • Arm tattoos: you’re a whore
  • Leg tattoos: you’re a whore
  • Feet tattoos: you’re a whore
  • Shoulder tattoos: you’re a whore
  • Tattoos anywhere: you’re a whore
  • No tattoos: you’re still a whore.

Visit Critink for the full story. It’s a short, but powerful read.

Is violence the only way in this situation?

I felt out of place in a recent conversation about this story from CNN about two women who beat a Muslim cleric who approached them in public because he felt they were not dressed properly:

He told one of the girls to cover up, the report said.

“She responded by telling me to cover my eyes, which was very insulting to me,” Beheshti said. So he asked her a second time to cover up and also to put a lid on what he felt was verbal abuse.

She hit the man of the cloth, and he hit the ground.

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Glasses to Blur Out the Wimminz

Or alternatively, Fuzzy Glasses, Fuzzy Logic.

It’s August and as far as I know there’s only one April Fool’s Day every year. Right?

RIGHT?

I went to Google to see if this “Associated Press” article that I saw on Twitter was real (Ohhhh… you say you’re <air quotes>Associated Press</air quotes> Sure ya are. Got ID?), and found that the story is being carried by several other news sources including the Washington Post, HuffPo, and about a kazillion bajillion blogs. So here it goes:

What do you do if you’re a man who is forbidden by his religious doctrine from having contact [edited per comment 3] with the majority of women in this world? Well, you start by making women invisible in your society. That makes it totes easy for you, and you’re the man so why shouldn’t life be easy for you? So you pressure your women to dress ultra-modestly and forbid them to interact with you; that goes a long way toward your goal. But you know… you can still see them.

Hmmm…

What if a button breaks and you catch a glimpse of a lady’s neck? Or an ankle – gasp! And what if she purposely tries to tempt you by…oh I don’t know…by letting a stray hair slip from her head covering? You have to trust the women to follow your clothing rules so that you’re not tempted into lusting after them! *groan* And let’s not even get started on the women outside of your community who don’t have to follow your rules. You have absolutely no control over this situation!

But wait – you do!

Take some regular glasses and put stickers over the lenses. No not just any stickers – that would be silly. You have to buy special fuzzy stickers that allow you about 10 feet of clear vision, and beyond 10 feet everything fuzzes out – including your repressed sexual desire!

Problem solved!

So that takes care of that. Except… for those times when you need to cross busy roads or read street signs or – nahhhhh. You’ll be fine. And secure from unexpected lust that’s totally not your fault or responsibility! Everybody wins!

Right?

RIGHT?