Monday, September 2, 2013
Friday, August 23, 2013
"Self-expression, even feminine self-expression, was not my enemy. The real enemy was the ideals that women are expected to live up to, and suddenly that limited style of feminism just felt like another ideal breathing down my neck."
Great stuff all around! It's a very quick and simple read (almost too quick, I wanted more.) Again, I highly recommend it. It's a great end-of-summer, or any time read, really.
Friday, June 21, 2013
Choice is currently abysmal here, but this would be devastating, especially on poor, rural, people of color. It's the equivalent of having whole other-state-sized regions without clinics.
I've kept an eye out on the local coverage through the Lilith Fund, NARAL, and Planned Parenthood. There have been several protests and hearings already this week. Last night there was a people's filibuster scheduled for HB60, specifically. People began arriving at the capital at 1 pm. I had to work until 6, so I figured I'd just keep up to date on it all via Twitter. When I finally logged on around 8:30 pm, I realized that people were just beginning to make their testimonies. I was really pulled in by what I was reading and I knew I couldn't sit on my couch all night. I didn't want to testify, but I figured I could be there for support and help out in some way.
Fortunately, Mr. Nerdy Feminist was willing to drop me off and I was able to get in touch with my friend, who works in Planned Parenthood's community outreach department and would be there all night assisting testifiers. She told me that things would be going into the early morning and encouraged me to just come on down and jump in. Thankfully, I have a flexible job and was able to confirm that I could come in at 11 am today, so that I could at least catch a few hours of sleep.
When I got there around 9, I signed in as a non testifying witness in opposition to the bill. I helped my friend with a few tasks like getting email addresses, directing people to food, and answer questions the best I could. But mostly I listened to the people around me and offered my support.
It was an incredibly important, although tense, night. A vast majority of the approximately 700 people there were speaking in opposition to the bill. I was truly moved and humbled by the stories shared and I can't say enough how much I admire the many people who told their deeply personal stories to the committee.
I can't tell you how many times I had a lump in my throat.
Anti-choice committee chair Representative Byron Cook, did not handle things well. He was very short with prochoice speakers and cut things off a few times, calling the stories repetitive. Many people didn't get to speak at all. As has been widely reported, one woman, Lesli Simms (I know her!) pointed out in her testimony “Our words are not repetitive. Our government’s attacks on our choice, on our bodies, is repetitive.”
It's amazing how Representative Cook didn't seem to conclude that the testimony might be repetitive
because there is not wide spread support for this legislation. Did that get through to him?
All in all the filibuster was successful and things are being punted to the next stages without a vote for now. It's also likely that the horrible way that the hearing was run will raise "points of order" and there would have to be a second hearing. (I will admit that I still don't fully understand Texas political processes, but I'm trying to learn.)
I just hope we can continue to stall until the special session ends Tuesday, without this bill passing.
Last night I tweeted, "I swear I will lose my shit if this passes and I see coastal liberals making 'yuk yuk ass backwards TX' comments. We so showed up tonight. We're fighting and trying. DO NOT erase that fact later because you weren't paying attention." I SO stand by that sentiment this morning. Last night was hands down one of the most moving, important nights of my life. I heard directly from people of all backgrounds, colors, gender expressions, and ages---but who were all Texans, just how important choice is to them. I used to be a northerner who thought Texas was some conservative cesspool of a joke. (And I was in equally conservative Indiana, what was a thinking?!) But I have come to learn, first hand, how passionate the people here are about their rights.
Please: Do not dismiss that with thoughtless jokes, especially if you live in a state where choice is a given, and you've never stood in a crowded chamber for 14 hours waiting to beg a committee to trust you to make decisions about your own body.
I am so proud to have contributed to this effort in the very small way that I did. I'm so proud of the support that came from across the nation. (Pizzas from California, y'all!) I'm so proud of Representative Ferrar, the only friendly member of the committee, who stood up and apologized for the behavior of her cohorts, thanked us for being there after 4 am, and implored us to stay engaged and not be discouraged by the evening (we weren't!) I'm proud of Representative Howard who is not even on the committee, but stayed present until the very end, as a sign of her support and solidarity.
But mostly I'm proud of all the impassioned, brave Texans who stood up and told their stories. I'm so thankful for you, and just totally in awe.
No matter the outcome, this process was really important.
For more about the evening:
RH Reality Check
Update 1:30: Sad to report, HB60 just passed out of committee.
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Thursday, November 1, 2012
Ditto says being a feminist and understanding the cycles of abuse that women go through, it wouldn’t “be any good for me to harbor those resentments toward my mother when she in fact was a victim of it herself. She did the best that she could. I think when I put all of that into perspective it becomes really easy for me to just forgive.”Ditto's doing press because her book is coming out, and if I wasn't already before, I'm now thoroughly convinced to buy it.
Seriously...go check it out, now.
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Now, before I expand on this I want to clarify one thing. It could be easily said that I'm being sexist because I'm attacking a politician's wife. Mitt is the candidate--not Ann, I get that. And it's true that so often politicians' wives face an unfair amount of sexist pressure and scrutiny. However, last night, when Ann threw her arms up and said, "I love WOMEN!!!!!!!" in possibly the most ridiculously Oprah fashion ever, I decided all bets were off. The Romney campaign is using Ann as a supposed access point to female voters (that's not unusual.) Ann is being spun as "like me" and "for me" and "someone who gets me" and because of that, I am going to respond.
As I said, the word that keeps popping up for me in regards to Ann is disingenuous...in other words, I can't shake the feeling that she's being incredibly fake and insincere. There were so many reasons I felt this from her "I love women" declaration while supporting a party/candidate that works against us, to the opening of her speech in which she said love is the most important thing, but then made a snide comment about her marriage being "real." A few things in particular stuck out to me the most.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
My mom is a breast cancer survivor.
When she was diagnosed in early December of 2009, I was just 20 days short of the biggest transition of my young life. I was moving 1,100 miles away from everyone I knew. Of course, the idea of leaving my family at a time when my mom would need more support than ever was terrifying. That Christmas, 3 days before my departure, I gave her a Susan G. Komen shirt. I had a matching one. I wanted her to wear it and know that I was thinking about her no matter where I was.
Monday, January 30, 2012
All too often we forget to give thanks where thanks is due. But today, I'd like to give you a heartfelt thanks for the fact that preventative services are now covered under the Affordable Care Act. In the contentious political climate, the voices complaining about "Obamacare" are getting a lot of attention and I'd like to bring a little perspective to the situation.
I went to the doctor today for my annual exam. Because of the coverage of preventative care, I didn't have to pay a bill when I left.
Monday, December 19, 2011
|Me, as the Grinch, obviously|
Everywhere I see these stories linked, on various forums and Facebook, people are saying the stories have made them cry, warmed their hearts, and inspired them to do something nice for another person. And that's great. I'm happy that people are inspired by these stories, but frankly, I'm not that moved by the actual acts themselves.
Layaway programs are typically used this time of year for holding gifts that you can't afford by paying them off in small increments until they are paid in full, ideally by Christmas. Call me the Grinch, I just can't get on board with thinking that paying off someone's layaway bill is the greatest way to help another person. In fact, I don't even see it as amongst the top 5 things money should go to. Layaway programs don't help victims of a natural disasters or domestic violence. They don't educate children, cure cancer, or provide food and clean water to people who go without.
They provide materials items, most frequently those which are unnecessary. And the money ultimately goes to big businesses, like Wal*Mart. I mean, if you want to do something of this nature, comparable nonprofit programs which help give gifts to needy children seem much less frivolous than paying off someone's layaway bill.
Really, I am happy that people are giving to one another. And I'm glad that this positive story has been highlighted by the media, which too frequently focuses on death and destruction. However, the focus does seem to be on consumerism, which, as I've argued before, is far too prevalent this time of year. My advice is that if you feel moved by the "layaway angels" stories, you check out some of the nonprofits in your community and give a gift which will have an impact beyond a present which will end up under a Christmas tree.
Monday, September 12, 2011
After nearly 40 years of partnership, the state has cut its ties to Planned Parenthood of Austin, defunding its East Seventh Street clinic, which provides basic reproductive health care and family planning services to low-income and uninsured women. The clinic last year received $474,000 to provide services to approximately 3,700 women; now it will get nothing, and neither will its clients. Notice of the cuts came just four days before the beginning of the new fiscal year, leaving area providers scrambling. "We didn't expect zero funding with four days' notice," Sarah Wheat, interim co-CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capital Region, said at a press conference last week.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
When many people think of "entitlement" they think of this buzzword "entitlement programs" that is floating around in regards to budget cuts. They think of poor people accessing government programs.
I want to offer you a real life example of entitlement, which much more fits in with this lovely Wikipedia definition (as Wikipedia is the source of all good information, naturally):
"In a casual sense, the term "entitlement" refers to a notion or belief that one (or oneself) is deserving of some particular reward or benefit."
A youth serving organization I am familiar with runs a summer camp. This summer camp, as a nonprofit, has scholarships available for people who really, really need them. LIMITED scholarships that their development department works hard to fundraise for. The typical family who applies for these scholarships has an annual income of $5-15,000 per person annually.
But wait! That's not all! The "full price" cost of camp is very, very, very low. In fact, it works out to be approximately $2.50 per hour of care--and this care is not babysitting. It utilizes intensive, detailed curriculum on truly life enriching topics led by qualified staff people. The true cost of the camp for the organization is actually about $12.50 an hour per child.
Ok, you with me? We're talking about an extremely affordable camp. But as we know, if you are grossing $10,000 per person in your household a year, you don't have $100 a week for a summer camp. So this is where those scholarships come in.
By now I'm sure you're wondering, "Where is this definition of entitlement of which you speak?" Don't worry, I'm getting to it...
Recently, there was a request to be considered for a scholarship from a family that grosses $135,000.
Let's take a look at that---this is about $115,000 MORE a year than the average single mom, single child family who requests a scholarship. This family makes a little over $11,000 a month, which is more than the other families are existing on per person each year.
I just...I don't even...I can't...
This is what I think of when I hear the word "entitlement." This is thinking you are deserving of a special benefit. Requesting help with basics (food, healthcare, child care) when you cannot afford them is not entitlement. Requesting help with basics when you EASILY can afford them IS entitlement. This example here stems from a total lack of perspective.
In case my description of the typical scholarship recipient didn't give enough perspective on this situation, let me contribute some more:
- The salary of the average full time, highly qualified youth development worker at an organization like this makes about $100,000-$105,000 LESS a year than this family.
- The pay rate for the seasonal and part time staff (who hold bachelors degrees and have extensive youth work experience) is $12-14 an hour. This family makes in the range of $66 an hour.
- The federal poverty limit for a family of EIGHT is $37,620. In order to be considered "impoverished" by the federal government, a family making $135,000 a year would need to consist of 33 members.
- Their annual income is roughly the cost needed to run the entire summer camp.
- They are in the top 5th percentile of incomes in the US.
No. NO. NO. NO.
You don't get to ask for help when you make this kind of money. I'm sorry--I don't know the particular circumstances of their lives, but trust me, I can say that they haven't faced some catastrophe and they don't have 33 people who are supported by them. If they can't pay $100 a week for a full time summer camp, then they need to do some serious budgeting. They do NOT need a scholarship. They do not need any financial assistance, they just need financial planning. The people in this income bracket should be giving back, not taking.
Monday, January 10, 2011
"The chilling truth is that his story could have been mine. The tragedy is that my story could have been his." Wes Moore
So I've decided that every now and then I might post a book review. Deal.
This weekend, I finished reading Wes Moore's The Other Wes Moore. I first heard about this book on NPR, around it's release as it was getting a fair amount of media coverage. I was instantly drawn in. Here's the brief "pull you in" paragraph from the book's website:
One name: Two Fates. Two kids with the same name, living in the same decaying city. One grew up to be a Rhodes Scholar, decorated combat veteran, White House Fellow, and business leader. The other is serving a life sentence in prison for felony murder. Here is the story of two boys and the journey of a generation.
That paragraph really sums up the book's premise, which was what drew me in. The Wes Moore who authors the book discovers there's another Wes Moore from his childhood neighborhood who ends up serving a life sentence for murder. So he writes to him. Much to his surprise, the other Wes Moore writes back and they form a preliminary relationship which allows the author to be granted access to the other Wes Moore's story through his own words and interviews with his friends and family.
The similarities are striking. They both were born into the same city in low income families. Both struggle in school initially. Both of their fathers were missing from the picture. However, the differences that emerge are where the story is told. The Wes Moore who grows up to be the author was raised by a single mother because his father passed away due to a misdiagnosis. The other Wes Moore's father was not a part of his son's life by choice. The author's mother was a college graduate, prioritized education, and fought to find her son opportunities when she saw that he was struggling to find the right path. The other Wes Moore's mother never wanted her sons to end up involved in drugs and robbery, but is unable to meaningfully intervene.
The book is a fascinating, quick read that takes us through the journey of what it means to be an African American young man growing up in an urban area in the 80's and 90's. We see what it means as crack invades neighborhoods and participating in the drug trade becomes one of the few main ways to make money--and lots of it. We see how school systems fail the boys. The other Wes Moore skirts under the radar only to ultimately drop out, despite his intelligence; which we later learn about when he briefly "goes straight" to enter a job corps program and excels. (However, he abandons his new life as he is left making wages far too low to support his family.) Our author, on the other hand, whose mother placed him in private school, felt stuck between two words; his rich classmates and the kids in the neighborhood, never fitting in either (until he finds his place in military school.) We learn how the idea of hyper masculinity directly impacts the other Wes Moore's fate. We see, painfully clearly that the dominant idea of being a man is never backing down. If someone strikes you in the face, you raise them with a gunshot wound to the shoulder.
The book ends leaving you with mixed feelings of sadness and hope, for as the teaser description explains, there are two fates in the story. But one can't help but wonder if these fates are evenly distributed amongst young African American men. The statistics support the sobering reality that many more turn out like the other Wes Moore than the author. Time and time again in the story, we see how the systems in play worked against the other Wes Moore. No teacher championed him. No mentor showed him another life. And even when he worked to better himself, proudly completing his GED and job corps training, he was thrust into a world which compensated his trade well below what he was making on the streets.
The author himself claims that he is lucky. Not only did he have a mother who wouldn't accept anything less than excellence from her son, but he also encountered many positive male mentors who showed him what his life could be and opened many doors for him. I can't help agree with the description that the book is the "journey of a generation." Never before have black man accomplished so much. But how many more turn out like the other Wes Moore?
All in all, The Other Wes Moore is a wonderful nonfiction read, which I would recommend to anyone who has interest in issues of social justice, education, urban policy, masculinity, or African American studies. I would love to read the book a second time and further analyze how gender dynamics play out differently amongst the two Wes Moores' lives.
Saturday, August 7, 2010
I don't really care to go deep into the discussion about the feminism of child free spaces. I will state that I, like many, was rubbed the wrong way by Maia's post, but I tried to understand where she was coming from. And for those of you unfamiliar with the debate, I'll summarize the conflicting sides:
1) Children are people too. They deserve to be in public. That is where they can learn appropriate behavior. However, kids are kids, and so they're going to behave inappropriately time to time. Because our society still places the responsibility of child rearing disproportionately on women, to restrict children from public spaces is to essentially restrict women from those same spaces. It is not always reasonable that single parents can afford childcare or a babysitter, but they should not be restricted to their homes because of this.
2) Adults have the right to adult-only spaces that are free from the behavior challenges of other people's children. Of course, some public places are kid friendly and any person entering them should reasonably expect to interact with children, but that is why adult-only public spaces should be respected. Childfree people* have the right to enjoy childfree environments, where it is logical (like bars, upscale restaurants, and their own homes when inviting guests.)
So with this as the background, what I really want to discuss is how privilege and motherhood interact. What I have seen emerge in the comments (which I fizzled out on reading inevitably...) is both sides accusing the other of privilege.
Motherhood as privilege: Childfree people assert that there is an inherent privilege in having children. The default position of our society is to "settle down and have kids." When you get to a certain age and meet new people, one of the inevitable questions is, "Do you have kids?" From this perspective, the privilege comes from being a mother because society promotes motherhood as what "good" women do. Because motherhood is seen as a the ultimate role a woman can take, there is inherent privilege. Childfree people are positioned as the other; outliers in the social structure that caters to families which include children.
Childfree as privilege: The other side asserts that the privilege is in not having children. The idea is that our society doesn't support women in parenting, especially single mothers. Instead of affordable childcare, living wages, and accommodations in the workplace, women with children face a number of financial and societal barriers, making those who are childfree the privileged in their workplaces and social circles.
Both sides are pretty compelling, right? The way I see it, neither is actually right or wrong. Instead, there are so many more factors to consider, because as every feminist situation, there are numerous intersections. I'm going to just address a few.
First, there is the issue of money. High income mothers obviously experience privilege. They are able to fit the expectation of being the "ultimate woman" by having children. And yet, they don't face any of the aforementioned challenges (like affordable childcare.) Additionally, for many low income mothers, there was never an option to be childfree, be it because of lack of access to contraceptive methods or information about sexual reproduction, or even because of coerced or forced pregnancies. Also, being childfree interacts with income. As mentioned above, it is much easier to be childfree if you have access to money and education.
Other factors also interact with motherhood to compound various privileges. For example, women of color are much less likely to be privileged by being mothers. There are so many racist stereotypes surrounding the black "welfare queen" that I can safely say African American mothers are not regarded as favorably as white mothers by American culture. Imagine what people would say, for example, if Michelle Duggar was black. And don't get me started on this new terms of "anchor babies." If that term doesn't highlight the racism, fear mongering, and scorn associated with Latina mothers, I don't know what would.
My point is that in the case of motherhood, as with so many things, you can't sit back and blanketedly say "being a mother gives you privilege." There is so much more at play, and no two person's experiences are identical. I, as a married, middle-class, hetero/cis white woman might feel a societal pressure to conform to having a traditional family which includes children. But that doesn't mean that all mothers are privileged.
It'd go a long way for us all to remember that our own frame of reference isn't the rule for everyone.
*I use the term childfree in this blog to connote a certain lifestyle choice, not people who just do not have kids currently. I do not identify as childfree although I currently don't have kids because I see them in my future, and I respect that this is not what the childfree lifestyle is about.