Tag Archives: reproductive justice

Give. Thanks.

Black Friday is almost upon us, holiday shopping is set to begin in earnest and many of us are wondering how best to spend our dollars.

I have more than a few folk in my circles who have stated they are simply donating to organizations doing the work that needs to be done, and I applaud them. I can’t think of a better gift to give or receive than knowing a few more dollars went to the organizations standing up for people’s rights, providing needed services to underserved communities and helping more people gain access to all of the rights, responsibilities and privileges that should come standard with US citizenship.

So, I decided that this year for Thanksgiving I would ask you all to give. There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about teaching kids fiscal responsibility by having them divide any money they get into three even jars – “spend,” “save,” and “charity” so why not do a similar thing with our gift giving. Sure, buy the kids in your life books and music and art supplies and science kits but balance that with gifts to charities in their name – that models the kind of thing we’re asking them to do and shows them that you care about leaving them with a better world. And as for adults, unless you have an adult in your life who really needs a thing – donating in their name might be the best gift you can give. I know I wish I could afford to give more to charities, so having someone give in my name feels great!!

And, since I’ve been talking non-stop about taking positive action in the face of a Trump election, what better way to do something good for the world than to donate to a righteous cause!?! Last, there is a national movement called #GivingTuesday, and many organizations can double your gift if you make your donation on that day!

givelove

Since I love you all so much, I decided to make it easy for you! Below you’ll find a list of verified, top-notch groups and organizations to donate to, as well as ideas for local places to look into to make sure your dollars have the biggest effect possible.

First: let me ask you to donate to the people protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. What is happening to them is NOT OKAY and they need all the help they can get!

Once you’ve done that, here are my recommendations for getting the most bang for your bucks.

givemoney

 

  1. Donate to your local public school. Seriously, just write them a check. Almost all of them have a registered non-profit parent organization so you can get your tax write-off and get your employer to make a matching donation, if they do that sort of thing. (And if they don’t – ask why not. They should if they have more than a hundred employees.) If I can make a further recommendation – request that your donation go to arts, music or the library those are consistently under-funded programs and grants are hard to come by for those areas. Also, donating your money there reminds schools that the public still values art, music and literacy regardless of the educational fad of the moment.
  2. Donate to reproductive/sexual health organizations including: Planned Parenthood, Lilith Fund, The National Abortion Fund – or use this to locate your local/state abortion fund, Draw the Line, NARAL, or your local women’s health clinic. (If you don’t have a friend or family member to gift this donation to, I nominate Mike Pence to be the recipient of this receipt. Let him know you stand for reproductive justice! Information on how to do this follows.)
  3. Donate to organizations working to secure full civil rights and human dignity for LGBTQ* folk. I recommend GLBT, the Lambda legal defense and education fund, The Transgender Law Center, and the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Educators Network or GLSEN. Also check your local communities, see who is doing this work in your backyard and give them money. Also, look into the GSA at your local schools, I’m sure they could use a donation in order to help organize! And again, if you want to donate in someone’s name, but don’t have a specific someone in mind, I nominate Mike Pence to be the recipient of this piece of your mind!
  4. Donate to groups working to ensure civil rights for ALL people: The ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, The Anti-Defamation League, The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, The Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, The NAACP, The Native American Rights Fund, The National Congress of American Indians, The Innocence Project, The Justice Policy Institute, Black Lives Matter… There are more. If I didn’t find your personal brand of activism, check out this handy list of cool orgs… I highly recommend making your donation to these organizations in Donald Trump’s name. Info to take this step is below.
  5. Donate to your local food bank and/or homeless shelter.
  6. Donate to your local domestic violence shelter or organization working to end intimate partner violence and/or sexual violence.
  7. Donate to Flint, MI – those folk STILL need water and help mitigating the effects of drinking poisoned water for too long.
  8. Donate to an environmental group or organization. I am not linking to any specific groups because, I admit to being jaded here – the environment has been in dire danger my entire life, and I have given to many of these organizations over the years and I’m not sure what they are doing that is of tangible benefit to the environment. I feel like this issue is bigger than NGOs. I feel like this is an action we have to take to own smaller cars, drive less, consume less, and put pressure on our governments to invest in greener energy sources while also consuming less… BUT, if you have to spend money, I’d rather it went to an environmental organization than cheap plastic crap, so… (Also, if anyone wants to comment with a shout out to an environmental org they think is doing great work – do that! Post a link. Spread the word!)

givelight

To donate in the name of Donald Trump or Mike Pence, use the info below:

Office of Governor Mike Pence/State House Room 206/Indianapolis, IN 46204-2797

and

Donald Trump/ The Trump Organization/ 725 Fifth Avenue/ New York, NY 10022

moregiving

I’m sure there are organizations and causes that I have missed or accidentally overlooked – please, if you know of an important and worthy org, post a link in the comments, I will do my very best to screen them in a timely fashion.

In the meantime, enjoy the beginning of the holiday season and I hope that you are all able to spend time with people you love.

thankyou

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Naive idealism, Things that work

Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights

This might be the last post I ever have to write about abortion.

(Hahahaha… Just kidding. Did you see who won this last election!?!)

That said, if I could just get everyone to go out and buy, or borrow, and read a copy of Katha Pollitt’s new book Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights we might at least be able to all sit down and have a civil conversation and perhaps even make some progress on this issue.

pro abortion

Let’s change the conversation

This book says a lot of the same things I have been saying for years, BUT it says them better.

Katha comes to the table with history, research, facts, data, and many, many reality checks. She also comes to the table without the intense anger and rage that I often bring to my blog when I rant about this issue. She comes to the table congenially, hoping to calmly discuss, explain and possibly persuade. Not the hard-core anti-abortion, anti-choice crowd, but those of us who live in what she calls the “mushy middle.” The ones who think that when push comes to shove, abortion should be legal – in many circumstances, but maybe not all circumstances because really abortion is a tragedy and while it should be safe and legal, it should also be rare… Katha describes this group’s stance as, “permit but discourage” or, perhaps more accurately, “permit but deplore.”

That is her intended audience, and the conversation she wants to have with them, with you, with all of us, is why “safe, legal and rare” is a failing policy. Why that idea fails women, and families, and communities. What we need instead is, safe, legal and accessible abortion, “on demand and without apology”.

And more than that, we need to completely rethink our ideas about the abortion as tragedy storyline. Where did that come from? Why do we cling to it? Whose purpose does that narrative serve?

And if abortion is such a tragedy, why do we continue to claim that abortion is a “culture-war issue” rather than an actual matter of life and death for millions of women around the globe each year? Perhaps because by thinking of it as a culture-war issue we can dismiss it as unimportant, trivial – sort of the way we do with so many of women’s other concerns… But abortion is NOT a distraction from the “serious” issues like the economy. In fact, reproductive rights are an economic issue.

As you can see, this is another one of those books that looks like it got humped by the rainbow sticky note porcupine. I checked it out from the library and now I have my own copy on order because this is a book that I need to have available to lend out.

pro abortion rights

So much goodness in such a small book.

Katha Pollitt begins her book with a brief history lesson – she reminds us that historically two things have been true.

First, women’s bodies have never been completely their own. Throughout time, they have been owned by fathers, husbands, communities, nations even. She reminds us that when Roe v Wade was decided in 1973, marital rape was legal in every single state – because a wife did not have the right to refuse or reject her husband. Rape was a crime against the MAN who owned the woman, it was “property damage”, not interpersonal assault. (You can still see the effects of this history in the way rape is talked about and dealt with today.)

Given this history of women’s bodies never being wholly their own, it is not such a stretch to think that women’s bodies should, of course, belong to a zygote, embryo, fetus should a stray sperm happen to find a willing egg to partner up with. What else does she have to do with her body that is so important anyway?

When we talk about zygotes and embryos and fetuses as “people” or “babies” we reduce women to simply being places, a sort of “comfy survivalist bunker – food, climate control, some time.”

This idea has taken such hold over our society that in 2006 the CDC’s guidelines recommended that all women and girls of childbearing age practice “preconception care,” which is to say that all women and girls should take care of themselves in the way that women who are trying to get pregnant do – no alcohol, no smoking, no cats, no high risk sex, and take extra vitamins, etc. regardless of whether they actually plan to get pregnant anytime soon or not. Because, hey, you just never know when it’ll happen and you want to be ready. Katha Pollit reminds us that no comparable list was set out for men/potential fathers, “don’t expose a woman to cigarette smoke or sexually transmitted infections, keep the litter box squeaky clean…”

The fact that the CDC thought in terms of protecting accidental fertilized eggs from women, and not protecting women from accidental fertilized eggs shows how shallow still is the idea of women truly being in control of their fertility.

This brings us to the second important history reminder that Katha provides.

Throughout human history, abortion has always existed. There have always been unplanned, unwanted pregnancies and women have been ending them in various ways since they discovered the herbs and other tools for doing so. Throughout recorded history, women have performed abortions and throughout history, until very recently, their right to do so was unquestioned because it was believed that the living woman held primacy over the potential child inside her.

Katha uses this idea as a springboard for a point that I’ve been meaning to talk about for ages, the idea that abortion is an act of self-defense.

This is a radical notion, but a true one all the same. When that politician came out with the “If babies had guns, they wouldn’t be aborted.” campaign sticker (yes, really.) he invoked the idea that an embryo or fetus has a right to “stand its ground” but the woman in whom the fetus resides does not. Yet, if a fetus had a (metaphorical) gun (say triggering or aggravating a condition that put the mother’s life at risk), aborting it would be a true act of self-defense. The idea that women should not have that right confounds me, but it does confirm that there is still a large group of people who simply don’t consider women to be people with the right to defend themselves.

And what about the other losses that women face when they are pregnant – many women who are in school when they get pregnant end up dropping out or taking time off, reducing their future earning potential. Many women who are pregnant face job loss or a reduction in hours and/or wages. There are very real, very documented financial costs to even the best, most wanted pregnancy.

If someone comes into your home and tries to steal money from you, you have the right to defend yourself, with lethal force if necessary (and in some states, even if it’s not necessary.) But as a woman, if something enters our wombs and threatens to hurt us, kill us or cost us real money or our future goals – we are expected to accept those risks and losses. After all, that is what we’re here to do. Or, something.

When pressed people often say that this is because the woman in question let the zygote in, she had sex, this is the consequence, she needs to accept it. But… Is that really true? Should I only have sex with my husband if I am willing to accept pregnancy as the cost? I have a number of married friends who do not want to have children ever and have taken steps to ensure that a pregnancy will not occur. But short of a hysterectomy, those steps are not fail proof. Should they also not be having sex? Ever.

And this is why even some hardline anti-abortionists will concede exceptions for victims of rape and incest, because in those cases the woman in question did not willingly invite this embryo into her body, she is not a bad slut, she’s a poor victim, thus SHE has the right to self-defense.

One of the other things that Katha reminds us in her wonderful book is that while people who are anti-abortion, and even many of us in the mushy-middle, claim to hold our positions out of a deep respect for motherhood, what that position actually conveys is a disregard for the actual seriousness of motherhood and parenting, not to mention a complete disregard for the truth that there is more to being a woman than being a mother.

Saying that all, or even most, women who become pregnant should work to produce a live baby is close to saying that “women can have no needs, desires, purpose or calling so compelling and so important that she should not set it aside in an instant, because of a stray sperm.”

Similarly, when we say that a 16-year-old girl isn’t mature enough to choose abortion and that she is therefore mature enough to endure pregnancy, childbirth and parenting, we are denigrating the actual hard work of parenting by saying anyone can do it, even someone too irresponsible to choose not to…

This viewpoint reduces motherhood to birthing a baby, ignoring everything that comes after.

Motherhood is not a joke. Parenting is hard fucking work. It is 24-7 for a minimum of 18 years. And it is unpaid, largely unthanked and often derided by the very people who want to force all women to “choose” that path.

Katha writes (emphasis mine), We need to see abortion as an urgent practical decision that is just as moral as the decision to have a child – indeed, sometimes more moral. Pro-choicers often say no one is “pro-abortion,” but what is so virtuous about adding another child to the ones you’re already overwhelmed by? Why do we make young women feel guilty for wanting to feel ready for motherhood before they have a baby? Isn’t it a good thing that women think carefully about what it means to bring a child into this world – what, for example, it means to the children she already has?

Further on, Katha expands on this idea.

Motherhood is the last area in which the qualities we usually value – rationality, independent thinking, consulting our own best interests, planning for a better, more prosperous future, and dare I say it, pursuing happiness and dreams – are condemned as frivolity and selfishness.

Next Katha reminds us that we MUST stop talking about abortion out of context. Abortion does not happen in a vacuum. It is inexorably tied to issues of sex, sexuality, love, violence, privilege, class, race, school, work, men, families, power, reproductive coercion, sexual coercion, the scarcity of good reproductive health care and realistic accurate information and education about sex and reproduction.

We talk about women being pressured to have abortions, but what about women being bullied into having babies?

And of course, we cannot talk about abortion without talking about why there are so many unplanned pregnancies to begin with.

If anti-abortion leaders are really only opposed to abortion, not women having sex, women expressing independence, women having control over their own bodies and destinies, then why are they so keen to stretch its definition to include the most effective and popular methods of birth control? If they really want to stop abortion, without punishing women, wouldn’t they be backing the contraception mandate and handing out IUD vouchers in the streets?

Further, if what they really want to do is promote “pro-natalism” and increased birth rates, then they need to talk about, and support, what that really requires – robust social benefits and services to support mothers and parents and families. Things that would make it easier for women to return to school, to keep their careers, to hold onto their houses and lives and futures. They need to support free prenatal and post-partum care, paid parental leave, free quality childcare, subsidized housing, free quality education, increased nutritional and food assistance and perhaps even outright payments to parents. (Because parenting IS a job.) Yes, we’re talking about socialism.

We’re talking about actually valuing the hard work of mothering, of parenting.

We must also talk about leveling the playing field. We cannot biologically equalize men’s contribution to reproduction, but we can equalize the social and economic costs of parenting a child. We can equalize the burden of pregnancy, childbirth and parenting – and not just among individual couples, but across society.

Instead of seeing a low-income mother as a burden on society to whom government grudgingly doles out dribs and drabs of “services” that are never enough to lift her out of poverty or change her children’s prospects, we need to flip the equation: What does this woman, and the millions like her, require to raise her children to be decent, healthy, well-educated, productive, happy adults – and to be one herself?

Reproductive rights do not end at offering women the right not to mother, but MUST also include providing women the means and ability to mother, and mother well.

And even then, there will be times when pregnancy is still not a good idea for a person, when abortion is still the right answer.

As Katha Pollitt so succinctly put it, “We talk about respecting life. But what if we tried respecting women?”

respect women

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Filed under Of Course I'm a Feminist, Rant, Things that work

Bring abortion services into the mainstream

Okay, before we get started on this one, I’m asking all of you to take @AndreaGrimes#TacoOrBeerChallengeIt’s super simple, eat a taco, or drink a beer, or do both, snap and share a picture or video of it, using the #TacoOrBeerChallenge tag and donate money directly to an abortion fund. If you don’t see one in your state or area (Utah, I’m looking at you.) try contacting your nearest abortion provider and donating directly to them!

#TacoOrBeerChallenge

Eat a taco, drink a beer, fund abortion.

I posed a question on twitter this morning –

“Why isn’t medical abortion available at EVERY sexual & reproductive health clinic and through every ob/gyn and family practitioner?”

But there’s a follow up question, one that really gets to the true heart of the matter – considering that 1 in 3 American women will access abortion services in her lifetime, some of them more than once, why is abortion segregated from standard, basic women’s reproductive health care at all?

I, and a lot of reproductive justice advocates, have long said that one of the biggest barriers to abortion access is the fact that it is segregated from other regular women’s health care. After all, I can get my annual exam, a pap smear and STD testing at any ob/gyn office or sexual/reproductive health clinic. Many family practitioners will also perform those services. Those same doctors and physician’s assistants will also prescribe birth control pills, fit me for a diaphragm, insert an IUD, give me a shot of depropravera, insert the Ring, etc.

They will, in essence, address all of my sexual and reproductive needs. Unless I fall into the category of being one of the 1 in 3 women who need an abortion. Then, suddenly, I have to go to a special clinic.

Granted, many, indeed most, of the clinics that offer abortion also offer the full range of other sexual and reproductive health services listed above. BUT… Why don’t all clinics and offices that offer sexual and reproductive health services offer abortion services as well. Either you care about the health of women and female bodied people, or…

Now, I know the history that plays into this “ghettoization” of abortion services, the history that led abortion to be singled out and separated from standard medical care.

I mean, first there’s the fact that it was illegal from 1880 (That’s right, abortion was a legal and fairly basic medical procedure when this nation began. It was performed primarily by midwives, until that profession came under attack along with other aspects of women’s empowerment.) until 1973. Combine that with the history of birth control being illegal, and then only being legal for married couples, and then finally becoming legal for women to access on their own without the consent of a husband (or father) and we see that reproductive care in this country has long been viewed as a separate entity, a medical outsider.

What I can’t understand is how, 40 years later, that care that so many people require and access has remained outside the umbrella of standard medical service.

There are very real consequences to this continued choice to view reproductive care as secondary care.

Recently a woman was arrested for accessing LEGAL abortion pills online and providing them to her daughter. This woman is not a doctor, and so though the medication is legal, she is not legally allowed to prescribe or administer it.

So, why did she?

Well, because this safe, legal medical service was not available in her area. The nearest place that her daughter could access it was 75 miles away. The laws in her state further required that her daughter consult with a doctor before hand, wait at least 24 hours and then return to get the pills.

This meant that the mother and daughter would have to take two days off from their life to access a safe, legal medical procedure. They would either have to make this drive twice, or get a hotel room and stay the night.

To many of us middle class and above folk, this might not seem like an insurmountable hardship – but as someone who has not always been middle class, I can assure you – it absolutely can be.

But… What if this type of abortion, a medical abortion, that does not require surgery, was simply available at every ob/gyn office, at every sexual and reproductive health office, and from any family practitioner who offered pap smears, STD testing and birth control services?

What if it was treated as the basic, common medical care that it actually is?

What if this girl had been able to access it the same way, and from the same medical office where she could access medicine for gonorrhea or HPV or herpes? From the same office she received birth control? From the same doctor who had administered her last pap smear, or who had helped her deal with menstrual problems, given her a breast exam or addressed her other sexual or reproductive concerns.

First, the cost of this drug and procedure would most likely go down, because it would be available in more places.

Second, insurance would most likely cover it because it would be seen and treated as standard, basic health care. (Though the girl in the above story did not have insurance, it probably wouldn’t have mattered if she had, many insurance plans both public and private do not cover abortion services for political reasons. See your local Hobby Lobby store manager or GOP representative for details!)

Last, and perhaps most important – this mother would not be in jail. Because she would not have been forced to make a bad choice in order to help her daughter access her legal right to safe, effective medical care.

The question of accessing medical abortion came up when I was researching abortion services in my state this morning. Accessing the list of providers and seeing what they provided, I suddenly became outraged that Planned Parenthood, which is touted as being the nation’s largest abortion factory by its opponents, doesn’t even offer medical abortion at all of its clinics.

I am outraged that medical abortion is unavailable in my town. I am further outraged that there is a HUGE chunk of my state with absolutely no abortion services at all.

We keep hearing about Texas and other “bad” states where women have to drive HOURS to access an abortion, but that already exists, right here in my state. Nothing has changed from my high school days. Abortion might be legal, but it still isn’t available to far too many people who might need that service. This seems ridiculous to me now that medical abortion exists and is safe up to 9 weeks into a pregnancy. We don’t even have to train new doctors to perform a medical procedure. They only have to know how to determine gestation to make sure that a patient is within the safe period for a medical abortion.

It has even been argued in front of both legislators and judges, this is something that doctors could do over the phone, or over skype to better serve rural patients. So why isn’t it at least available at every sexual and reproductive health clinic in the USA? Why doesn’t my town offer this type of abortion, despite having two such reproductive health clinics? Why doesn’t the town with the highest teen pregnancy rate in my state have this service? (Not that teens are the only people who need this service, but that seems like a pretty solid indicator of demand!)

And what about surgical abortions? Non-medical abortions are considered to be a surgery. A minor, outpatient surgery in the first and early second trimester, but a surgery none-the-less. That means that only certain types of doctors can perform them. Despite studies showing that trained nurses actually have improved safety records with first-trimester abortions, it remains a procedure that only doctors are legally allowed to administer. This limits access in additional ways, especially when you consider that ob/gyns are not required to learn how to perform an abortion as part of their required training!

Why aren’t more of us fighting to change this? I can understand not requiring family practitioners to learn this skill, after all they are not specializing in reproductive health. Yes, many of them will administer a basic pap smear or STD panel, but once a patient is pregnant, they recommend them to a specialist.

Part of caring for people of reproductive age and biological sexual maturity is helping them to manage the potential consequences. Whether that comes in the form of advising sexually active people to use barrier methods of STD and pregnancy prevention, prescribing other forms of birth control, administering STD tests, prescribing medicine to treat STDs, helping someone stay healthy through a pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby, or end an unplanned, unwanted or unsafe pregnancy.

Abortion care is part of sexual and reproductive care. It is not separate. It is not “other”. When 1 in 3 women require a service, that’s an indicator that that service is basic care and that the doctors who treat other issues related to that service, should be required to learn how to perform that service as part of their training and licensing.

And before anyone jumps into, “but FREEDOM!” ALL ob/gyns have to know how to do a pap smear, test for and treat STDs, give a manual breast exam, etc. etc. In order to call yourself a doctor, there is a list of things you must know how to do and when you specialize, additional items specific to your specialization are added. Abortion services are part of reproductive health services, thus doctors who choose (there’s your freedom, right there!) to go into reproductive health should be required to learn how to perform this incredibly common, safe, legal medical procedure, and medical offices which offer reproductive health care that include pregnancy services, should be required to offer and provide the entire range of pregnancy related care, which includes ending a pregnancy when keeping it is not in the best interest of the pregnant person. No ob/gyn gets to say, “But I object to looking inside vaginas” and keep their ob/gyn license. Likewise no doctor specializing in pregnancy care should be allowed to say they will not help a pregnant woman end an unhealthy pregnancy.

Back in the early days of this nation, abortion was legal. Midwives performed them as part of their standard arsenal of care. It was understood that not all pregnancies were viable. Not all pregnancies were safe. Not all pregnancies would end in the birth of a live child.

Abortion was understood to be a necessary service that kept women healthy, safe and alive – so that they could continue being mothers to any children they already had, or so that they might remain healthy and alive to bear children at another time in their life, or simply so that they could remain healthy and productive in some other capacity – because not all women want to or are able to bear children.

It’s time to get back to seeing abortion as standard medical care. It’s time to take it out of the shadows and bring it back into the mainstream. It’s time to treat reproductive health as essential health. We need to train our doctors, allow nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants to join the pool of people allowed to perform early abortions and administer medical abortions. We need to ensure that anywhere that reproductive services are offered, those services include the full range of reproductive health, including abortion.

Women should not be going to jail because they could not access legal medical services. Women should not be showing up in clinics or doctor’s offices requiring care for botched self-induced abortions. Those days should be behind us, but they won’t be as long as we keep treating abortion care as a fringe medical service, as something rare and dangerous and separate from other standard, basic reproductive health care.

 

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Filed under Naive idealism, Of Course I'm a Feminist, Things that work

Emotions, deeply held beliefs and actual facts.

I’m 3/4 of the way through 6 articles right now – Part 2 & 3 of the American Gun Culture conversation, a piece on teaching children compassion, a piece on immigration reform and Obama’s rumored executive action on that, a piece on being an askable adult and a piece on buffer zones and free speech.

I haven’t been able to work on any of them for the past couple of days because I have been blinded by rage. And… as much as I like preaching to, or screeching with, the choir from time to time, recently I’ve really enjoyed using this space to try to speak a little more calmly and clearly about issues that matter to me and to try to shed new light on contentious issues.

So… I’ve been doing some gardening, some cooking and when I could, some reading.

I’ve been trying to breathe and find my peace in the world.

This afternoon, finally, I was able to slink past the visceral emotion for a brief, shining moment to give a friend some additional facts to support her argument that Monday’s SCOTUS decision regarding Hobby Lobby was complete and utter political/religious bullshit.

*deep breath* Trying to calm the rage and get back to facts – because… The facts simply aren’t on the side of Hobby Lobby.

Here’s the tip of the iceberg –

Beyond the fact that Hobby Lobby  has no problem importing most of their cheap products from China, which engages in forced abortions, or the fact that their retirement plan invests in companies that make bank producing and selling contraception, including the forms they claim to object to…

Hobby Lobby’s employee insurance previously covered precisely the forms of birth control they “sincerely object to” – until they re-examined their policy in light of ACA and pressure to bring suit by an outside organization.
http://www.becketfund.org/…/Hobby-Lobby-Complaint… (Note 55, page 14 of their original complaint.)

They claim they did not know they were covering it, but here in Colorado, if you offer insurance to your employees, you are required to cover all forms of FDA approved birth control if prescribed by a doctor, so… They knew because birth control coverage is mandated in 26 states in which Hobby Lobby operates! (For those who need a little help, that would mean that the majority of US states recognized contraception as basic health care prior to the ACA.)
http://www.ncsl.org/…/insurance-coverage-for

A side note here – this can be looked at two ways, as employers being required to pay for things they don’t agree with, or as insurance companies being required to cover a defined minimum set of standard medical care options, including contraception.

Last, their sincerely held belief that IUDs cause abortions is scientifically and demonstrably false so having the Supreme Court uphold their right to deny their employees medical care based on false beliefs is truly terrifying. SCOTUS’s response that the government can come in and pay for/subsidize these forms of birth control is naive since the Hyde Amendment bars the federal government from funding abortions and SCOTUS just agreed with Hobby Lobby over medical science that these 4 forms of birth control are actually abortifacients if you just clap your hands and believe hard enough.

These are actual facts – that Hobby Lobby’s “sincerely held belief” only began once Obama signed the ACA into law, that prior to that they had never sued any of the 26 states which required all employee insurance plans to cover all FDA approved forms of birth control and that their belief that these forms of birth control are abortifacients is simply false and therefore SCOTUS just showed an employer’s religion preferential treatment over their employees, thus actually violating the intent of the first amendment they claimed to be upholding.

Here are some more facts.

If we have insurance, we are all paying for things we disagree with. That is how insurance works. They take all our money, pool it together in one giant pot and use that money to pay out claims – without consulting us. I don’t have a say in whether Bob next door gets to take viagra, or whether June down the street really needs medication for her depression. Those are decisions that are made between a patient and a doctor and the insurance company’s job is to pay the damn bill. And yes, my money, as a healthy person who never goes to the doctor, is being used to cover those treatments whether I agree with them or not.

This whole, “But I don’t want to pay for your…” argument is tired and boring and ignorant.

pay for war

I don’t agree with war. But my taxes still pay for it.

We are ALL paying for each other via insurance premiums and tax dollars.

In addition to that – allowing employers to say that they don’t want their insurance plan to cover certain items is dangerous and despite what SCOTUS said, should be illegal.

Here’s why.

Insurance offered through your employer is part of your overall compensation package which consists of wages AND benefits. How we spend our wages cannot be controlled by our employers. How and where we use our vacation time cannot be dictated by our employers. How we use our insurance shouldn’t be either.

Freedom to impose your religion

Your freedom ends at my body.

If Hobby Lobby really has a sincerely held religious objection to these 4 forms of birth control, then does that mean they can dock the wage of any employee using these forms of birth control, or fire people who are using them (or benefiting from their use)? I ask because of this whole, “They shouldn’t have to pay for your slutty choices.” argument.

If they are paying wages to someone who uses those wages to purchase an IUD or Plan B or any other form of “objectionable” birth control (If they were Catholic that would be ALL of them…) that really is the same as offering insurance to their employees which covers those options.

Could an employer fire someone because they used their sick days or vacation time to access an abortion? If not, they should not be able to dictate how an employee uses their private insurance which is offered to them by the company as part of their overall compensation package.

What people fail to understand about the birth control coverage mandate is that – it requires insurance companies to simply cover all FDA approved medical prescriptions – including but not limited to birth control. It requires those to simply be part of every plan. It does not actually require anyone to USE that coverage, any more than it requires me to get a colonoscopy even though that too is covered by my (and your) insurance plan. If I don’t want a camera up my ass, I don’t have to let a doctor put one there. But if my doctor tells me that it would be a good idea to take a look, at least I will know I won’t have to pay $1,000 for the discomfort.

(And not because I have “pre-paid” for that service via my monthly premiums but because the other members of my insurance plan have been paying into the pool. So, you might be paying for that. Since Rush Limbaugh wants video of my slutty sex if birth control is covered by insurance, does that mean he also wants the video of my colonoscopy!?! That thought almost makes me want to get one… Because I’m malicious that way.)

A last note – I know that Obama created a work-around for actual religious institutions and organizations. For the record, I was pissed off then – and this is why, because of the slippery slope it created. I am tired of women’s health being up for debate. I am tired of being told that no one wants to pay for my slutty sex while staying absolutely silent on the continued coverage of penis pumps, viagra and penile implants.

I am so tired of the argument that birth control is frivolous and therefore shouldn’t be covered by regular insurance alongside viagra.

Seriously? Men have a “right” to erections, but women don’t have the “right” to protect themselves from an unplanned pregnancy?

See, birth control is something that is used for many purposes outside of slutty sex. The pill is something you have to take every day whether you plan on having sex that day or not. If you plan on having sex that month, or the next month – you have to take the pill every day. If you’re worried that you might get raped, you have to take the pill every day. IUDs are long term birth control that a woman gets and tends to just leave in until she decides she wants to have a child. It isn’t worth the hassle or expense of getting one put in, taken out, put back in… They ARE NOT abortion machines delivering 365 abortions per woman per year. (366 on leap years.)

The pill, IUDs, the Ring, Depro, etc. are all basically insurance policies for women (and the men having sex with them). They are not things women use and pay for so they can have slutty sex every day. They are tools for planning and controlling family size and timing. Many of the most effective methods are used by women for long periods of time even when they are not having sex.

I used birth control for a full year before I ever had sex. And I stayed on it during every “dry-spell” in between partners. It helped me walk home late at night from my job as a security guard in the middle of a rape epidemic. I hoped being on it would mean that even if I was raped, at least I wouldn’t ALSO have to deal with a pregnancy and abortion.

Beyond preventing pregnancy, many birth control methods are also tools for promoting the overall health and well-being of the women who use them. Women use birth control to treat a variety of ailments that have nothing to do with sex or preventing pregnancy.

The reasons a woman is using birth control, as well as her reasons for choosing one method over another, are private medical decisions that take place between the woman and her doctor and she should never have to justify them to her boss, to her legislators or to strangers at her insurance company. Contraception is basic, common preventative health care and it’s time we started treating it as such.

As for who is going to pay for it – we all are. Just like we all pay for the other basic, common, non-controversial health needs in this country. It’s time we recognized women’s health needs as legitimate health needs.

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The Big Long Young Adult Pregnancy Post

I spent Saturday at perhaps my favorite event of the year – the Colorado Teen Literature Conference in Denver.

This was my fourth year attending and my third year as a presenter.

I was honored this year to be asked to present two discussions, one on gender representation in Young Adult fiction and another on pregnancy and abortion in YA.

In the discussion on teen pregnancy, I realized I wanted to bring the conversation to a larger audience. This is a big topic and it deserves a bigger light.

Because the conclusion that I came to – after MONTHS of reading very little outside of YA fiction about teen pregnancy and teen parenting is that:

WE NEED MORE STORIES.

The vast majority of books covering this topic that I found covered it from a white Christian perspective. Those weren’t the only stories, but if you took all the books covering teen pregnancy and put them on one set of shelves, covered your eyes and pulled a random book off the shelf, you’d have about an 85% chance of grabbing a book written from a white christian point of view.

Because of this, there were some troubling common themes throughout the majority of the books I read. (Note not all of these themes are Christian, or Caucasian – but seem to reflect a larger cultural zeitgeist. One which does not include a great many people or their stories.)

They include such tired ideas as: “It’s all her fault.” No matter that there was a dude involved – only stupid girls, or very manipulative conniving girls, get pregnant.

Things like – Even though it’s all her fault, and she is the one who will have to carry the physical, mental, emotional (and at least half of the financial) burden of whatever comes next, the guy should have final say in what she does. (Though this theme came up many times, I am happy to say that by the end of these books, the girls almost always made their own choices. But doing so almost always resulted in a loss of support from the guy, from her parents, from her school, etc. The majority of these books implied that there were no good choices available to girls who got pregnant, only varying degrees of bad choices. The guys by comparison all got off pretty easy, even the one who chose to parent the child without the mother had to sacrifice very little to do so.)

One of the books, Detour for Emily by Marilyn Reynolds summed up the overall message best, “I think once you let yourself get pregnant, you have a lot to feel bad about, whether you keep the baby, or have an abortion, or put it up for adoption, you’re left with some bad feelings.”

This is problematic on a couple of levels – one, “let yourself get pregnant”… Most of the couples in these books were using some form of birth control. There were a couple of instances of “heat of the moment” unprotected sex, but overall, I wouldn’t say these girls “let themselves” do anything but have sex. Which leads back to another common theme – pregnancy as punishment for having sex out-of-wedlock. As if a wedding ring has magical powers to make it so you only get pregnant on purpose.

wedding birth control

“With this ring, God shall protect you from unwanted pregnancy…”

Second – while I agree that unplanned pregnancies are a challenge for most people, I disagree that the choice people make has to be riddled with guilt. It reminds me of the time I applied for a job with an organization working to end sexual assault. In order to interview I had to read and agree to a list of beliefs about sexual violence one of which was, “All forms of sexual violence are equally devastating.”

Reading through my own lens I read that as, “You must be devastated by your rape.” Which I wasn’t, and which I refused to be. I brought up their wording in my interview suggesting they make a small change, instead of stating unequivocally that all sexual assault IS devastating, why not say, “can be” which leaves more room for survivors to navigate and accept their own process.

I didn’t get the job, and they didn’t change their mission statement, but the lesson in language stayed with me – language matters. Word choice matters. Messages matter. And the messages we send teens matter a lot.

Which brings me to another disturbing theme in these books. The first question out of every male mouth when the girl first tells them, whether it’s the girl’s sexual partner, his best friend (in the instances where the partner died before the girl learned she was pregnant) or her father.

“Are you sure? How do you know it’s mine/his?”

Because… The very first reaction to a girl becoming pregnant in most of these books was to label her a slut. No matter if she got pregnant the first time she had sex, with the only person she had ever had sex with, or after a string of sexual partners – girls who get pregnant are clearly sluts in the eyes of their peers, and often in the eyes of their parents.

 

good girls get pregnant too

This is NOT a helpful message.

This reaction from the men in these girls’ lives ended up making them highly unsympathetic. Also, from a teen reader point of view, if I was in that vulnerable state and reading books to try to get help deciding what I should do – the message that was repeated over and over was – don’t go to any of the men in your life for help or support! That is a VERY harmful and dangerous message to be giving young women.

Moms in these books had at least a 50/50 shot at responding in a helpful manner. Best female friends seemed to be the best bet though.

The final major theme showed that most girls who choose abortion won’t go through with it because they will get to the clinic and suddenly realize that abortion is wrong! ACK! I’m not saying that there aren’t people who believe this – but most wouldn’t make it as far as the clinic to begin with. According to statistics, most women and teens who choose abortion follow through with that choice – whether that means that they must attend multiple counseling sessions, listen to their doctor read them a script filled with false and scary misinformation about abortion, wait three days, view an ultrasound, travel hundreds of miles, raise the money on their own, use unapproved and unsafe methods to self abort… Women who know they can’t have a child right now, know they can’t have a child and they will do what they need to do to not continue their pregnancy.

So after two months of reading, sighing a lot, reading, screaming, reading, throwing books across the room, reading, remembering and reading some more… I have come up with a partial list of stories that are not being told, that need to be told, that deserve to be told. Partial because, clearly I can’t think of all of the stories. There are approximately 3.4 million unintended pregnancies in the USA each year according to the CDC. Of those, 840,000 are teens. That means that each year 840,000 new young adult pregnancy stories are being lived.

Here are just a few that were missing or severely under represented in the YA books that I studied:

Islamic stories. Jewish stories. Buddhist, Hindu, Mormon and Catholic stories. Animist stories. Pagan stories. Agnostic and Atheist stories.

Latina/Hispanic stories. African American, Asian American, Indian American and Native American stories. Stories from all the many ethnicities, racial identities and cultural backgrounds that exist in this melting pot.

Immigrant stories. What about the stories of undocumented teens for whom accessing medical care is already tricksy. Now they must also deal with this. What about documented immigrants, still new, still struggling with language barriers, additional cultural barriers and uncertainty of their place.

What about the teens who don’t have health insurance? While that number is going down – those people still exist and pregnancy, prenatal care and birth all are ridiculously expensive in this country. Or what about the ones who are insured, but whose PRIVATE insurance isn’t allowed to cover abortion care?

Stories about girls who get pregnant as the result of rape. What about girls who get pregnant via rape in one of the 31 states where rapists are granted legal parental rights? How does that change her choices? Her options? What does that mean in practical terms?

Stories about girls who live in states which require parental consent for an abortion – and for whom that is not a safe option. How does a vulnerable teen navigate the court system in time? How does she afford an attorney to represent her case and convince the judge that asking her parents for permission is unsafe? What does that story look like?

Stories about girls who choose to keep their baby only to discover that their pregnancy is killing them – or that their fetus has complications that are not compatible with life – but only after she is 20 weeks along, when getting an abortion in her state is no longer a legal option. What happens to those girls?

Stories about pregnant teens for whom abortion is not an option – not because they believe it is wrong, but because where they live, there is no access to abortion. This is an increasingly common true story in America. It is one that I have witnessed.  There are many ways this story can go, they are all deserving of their place on the shelf if for no other reason than to remind people that there is nothing “pro-life” about letting women and girls suffer or die because they cannot access medical care.

How about telling a broader range of adoption stories, including girls being pressured and coerced into putting their children up for adoption. Or the girls who choose adoption and then give birth and change their minds? It’s not a common story, but it’s at least as common as girls who choose abortion and then change their minds – and that story was told in many of the books I read, so why not choosing to keep the child after previously agreeing to give it up for adoption? And what are the legal and social ramifications of that?

What of the kin-adoptions, which is the most common form of voluntary adoption, where a close relative adopts the baby? How does that play out? How does it feel to interact with the child you birthed while it is being parented by someone else? What if you don’t like the way they parent?

What about miscarriage and still birth? Or are those seen as taking the “easy way out” because they don’t force her to choose and then live with her choice? But what if she did choose and then, just like with a planned pregnancy that act of nature undoes her choice?

What about the planned teen pregnancy? Yes – they happen. What goes into making that choice? What does that process look like? Is the outcome any different than the teens who become pregnant on accident? Do these teens have parental support for their choice? Financial support?

What about the trans* teen who becomes pregnant? What do that person’s options look like? How are they treated?

Where are the stories about disabled teens who get pregnant – what do those stories look like? How does it change if the father is the one who is disabled, how does that change the conversation?

What about the girls who don’t choose abortion, or adoption, or parenting – what about the girls who find another option, a hidden option…

There was one book which talked about “Option D” for an unplanned pregnancy – infanticide. A book called After by Amy Efaw peeled back the curtain on the teen mother who throws her newborn infant into a dumpster. We tend to call these women monsters, this book helps make them human again.

We need more stories that are compassionate toward pregnant teens and teen parents – whatever road they end up walking.

Also – There are a ton of contemporary YA books dealing with teen pregnancy, but where is the fantasy, the sci-fi, the horror? Where is the genre fiction that deals with, touches on or explores teen pregnancy and teen parenting? We have Unwind by Neal Shusterman. Twilight or whatever the last book was called. Thumped and Bumped by Megan McCafferty, which I haven’t read but seem to be The Handmaid’s Tale but humorous and written specifically for teens.

What of high fantasy dealing with teen pregnancy? Or teen pregnancy in a space opera? Or the Rosemary’s Baby of teen pregnancy books?

And, because it isn’t all bad – what about the stories of teens who get pregnant and aren’t destroyed by it?

What about a story of a girl living her life, reaching for her goals, who gets pregnant and makes her choice and is able to continue with the rest of her journey? What about a story where a teen pregnancy is a part of the story, but it isn’t THE WHOLE story?

What about a story where a teen gets pregnant and makes her choice and feels good about it, and gets support for it from her sexual partner, from her family, from her friends and school. What about a story where a teen gets pregnant and it’s not a crisis?

How about a story about a teen who gets pregnant and is not required to give up her dreams and goals because of it? Nor even to delay them. One of the books I read, No More Saturday Nights by Norma Klein, followed a boy who sued his pregnant ex-girlfriend for custody of the child when he found out she was giving it up for adoption. He was then allowed to keep his scholarship to Columbia, move to New York City with a 5 week old infant, find housing and child care – which he could afford – go to class, maintain his required GPA to keep his scholarship, etc. Not a single book about a pregnant girl gave her this option to “have it all”. In part, that is because none of the books I read offered any of the girls the level of privilege and support that this boy received. So many people were willing to help this boy, give him a chance, offer him support that all he had to give up was wild Saturday nights and a little sleep.

There are so very many stories out there to choose from. Even something as simple as changing the point of view changes the story completely.

One of the books I loved most out of the mix was Things I Can’t Forget by Miranda Kenneally, author of Catching Jordan. Things I Can’t Forget follows a teen girl who was raised in a strict fundamentalist Christian home and church. She is grappling with herself and her relationship with God after helping her best friend obtain an abortion – something she believes with all her heart to be sinful and wrong. She is struggling to reconcile what she did, and why she did it with her beliefs about her God. It is a very compassionate and caring book. If it had been told from the POV of the girl who had the abortion, it would have been a completely different story.

Miranda’s acknowledgements sum it up nicely,

“When I left Middle Tennessee and moved to Washington, D.C., I found that my beliefs began to change. To this day, I don’t really know what I believe, but that’s okay. With this story, I want to show you (teenagers) that your beliefs matter – no matter who you are or where you come from. Your opinions matter. You matter.

“To me nothing was scarier than understanding that my truth wasn’t everyone else’s truth. It took a while, but I discovered that’s okay – it’s better if I do the things I want to do and believe what I want to believe. I hope you find your truth.”

Ultimately, that is the take home from my months and months of reading non-stop pregnant and parenting teen books – there are many stories, many truths. They are all equally valid. They all deserve to be told. And they all come together to help others understand that their story is not the only story, their truth is not the only truth.

We are all here on this marble just doing our best, trying to get by the best we can with the tools we have. And we could all, regardless of our circumstance, regardless of our choices, use a little compassion, a little understanding.

A little less “Are you sure?” and a little more “How can I help?”

And one of the ways we can all help is by expanding the story to let more people in.

 

 

 

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Conspiracy Theory Update

Pulling on the #RantyPants for this one.

ranty pants

People are people, yes, even women.

So, a year and a half ago I floated a conspiracy theory about the GOP and the war on women.

It went something like this: The GOP, which claims to be all about jobs, but is really all about enacting harmful legislation restricting women’s access to reproductive health care including birth control and abortion, knows exactly what it is doing.

abortion restrictions graph

Unprecedented.

The GOP is deliberately trying to force more women into pregnancy and, hopefully, out of the workplace, in order to create the illusion of more jobs and more opportunity because for every woman who leaves the work force, there is a man waiting to take her place. And the women who leave the work force because of pregnancy, or to raise children don’t show up on the unemployment roles. Ta-da! Instant job creation!

I was angry when I wrote that. I was fed up with the relentless onslaught of legislation restricting my rights and the rights of my daughters to determine our own futures, our own sexuality, and the timing and size of our families.

I put it out there as a half-serious, and scared, and half-joking, and angry, hypothesis. The truth is, I didn’t want to believe that the GOP could really be that clever and conniving.

Today – GOP congressman Bob Goodlatte actually spoke my conspiracy theory OUT LOUD. And he wasn’t joking.

He really believes that the new GOP anti-abortion bill that just passed the house committee will… create jobs!

Yes, limiting women’s reproductive choices is a real economy booster…

Except, of course, it isn’t.

Keeping women barefoot and pregnant doesn’t raise the standard of living, or put food in anyone’s mouths, or keep roofs over anyone’s heads… We have an economy that makes it really, really hard for a family to live on a single average American salary. Which means, barefoot and pregnant equals poverty. Which means government assistance, not the self-sufficiency that the GOP claims to want to achieve.

Now, I know, I know, those slutty sluts could just stop having sex if they don’t want to get pregnant.

So, men, are you ready to give it up? The sex? Because if women are only safe having sex when they actively WANT to get pregnant, well… That’s a whole lot of not shagging going on.

These policies need to start having consequences for men too. Men need to understand that women don’t get pregnant in a vacuum.

Luckily, the great Charlie Glickman has posted a lovely piece on redefining sexual success. Perhaps all those forced-birthers should give it a read so they can prepare themselves for their intercourseless futures.

Or, I guess they could just go with another lovely GOP candidate, Dick Black (You can’t make this stuff up) who thinks that there’s no such thing as marital rape. I mean, she gave consent on the altar amiright!?!

#EndRant

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Calling All My Scattered Pieces Home

A couple of people have recently made comments that cut to the bone, in the way that only truth can.

As I was telling them about my new career path, in the hopes of garnering their support, they instead made comments to the effect of, “Let’s be honest, this is just what you want to be this week.”

In one instance there was still an underlying support and enthusiasm – not for my choice of career, but for me. There was a “This is why we love you, you’re always moving.”

In the other instance, it felt like a way to dismiss me, to write me off. “Why get excited, you’ll just change your mind/career/life in a couple weeks anyway.”

It hurt.

It wasn’t just dismissive of my career choice, it was also dismissive of me.

In that second instance, there was an implication that the way I was living was wrong. That my choice to not stay in a career after it stopped being what I thought it would be, or after I had gotten out of it what I was looking for – my choice to keep moving, somehow made me unworthy of this person’s time, consideration or approval.

In their eyes I was a failure, and it was time for some tough love.

For the record – yes – I’ve gone through a lot of changes in the last 34ish years.

I subscribe to the “Fail Fast” method of learning and life.

I’ve never been on a straight or narrow path.

I believe dearly in the Buddhist idea of impermanence, in the idea that the person who woke up on my side of the bed this morning is not the same person who fell asleep there last night, nor the same person who will put her head down on that pillow tonight.

We are always growing, changing, metamorphosing… We are, each day, becoming.

Which is not to say that we wake up each day as a fresh, blank slate.

No, we get the benefit of our experiences, our lessons, our accumulated knowledge and wisdom. Each day is a chance to improve in some way on what came before, to tweak the formula, to shake out the cobwebs, to avoid a familiar obstacle.

Each day takes us closer to living a life that makes our hearts sing. (Well, let’s be honest, not EVERY day – some days blow us completely the opposite direction, but we learn from those too.)

A while ago I was talking with a friend about the difference between geeks and hipsters and saying that geeks emote.

We're all geeks here

We’re all geeks here

His response was that I must be the biggest geek in the universe because I emote about EVERYTHING.

This has been a lifelong “problem” of mine.

I remember as a child being asked what I wanted to be when I grew up – every day I had a new answer, because every day I learned something new – about the world, about myself, about the possibilities that existed.

I was so envious of people who KNEW, who gave the same answer every time. I watched them chart their courses with certainty and conviction, lining up the steps they needed to take to reach their goals and checking them off one by one.

When I was about 10 I broke down in tears. I told my parents that I was scared to grow up because I didn’t have a passion. I didn’t KNOW what I wanted to be.

They laughed, hugged me, and said, “Baby, that’s not true at all. If anything you have TOO MUCH passion.”

The trick seemed to be finding a way to channel all that passion into just one thing.

I was just on the phone with my husband, who understands me better than I understand myself some days. He reminded me that that may be the American Ideal, but it’s not the only way to succeed.

Go to school, get a degree in a field, work in that field for 40+ years, retire.

Do one thing. Keep doing it. Get old. Quit. And then, start enjoying the life you “earned”.

“That’s not you.” He said.

He reminded me that I’m a firestarter, a rabble-rouser, a ranty pants. Those are my strengths, my super powers.

My zen rests in motion.

I’m less City Slickers “Find your one thing”

and more Better Off Dead “Go that way, real fast. When something gets in your way, turn.”.

So, yes, my path is windy – and bumpy – and it has switch backs and U-turns and dead ends and the occasional long stretch of open highway. But even that twists and winds along a cliff edge.

Love me for it, leave me for it – it’s my life, it’s who I am.

Right now, I’m trying to look both forward to what I want, and backward at what I’ve already achieved. I’m trying to pull all the scattered pieces together to see what I’m working with, and how I can use it to get what I’m working for.

In a recent conversation with my mom, I gushed, “Mom, I growing up, I just had no idea some of the things I could do and be when I grew up! I was so limited in my world view. I didn’t know I could make a living talking about sex…”

See, I came of age just as Abstinence Only sex-education was taking over the airwaves. The only way to make a living talking about sex was to demonize it and make people feel uncomfortable and ashamed of a perfectly natural part of their lives.

That wasn’t me – I wanted the opposite.

I wanted everyone to be knowledgeable and feel comfortable with themselves. I wanted everyone to be able to communicate with their partners and find enjoyment together.

I wanted people to know that sex doesn’t equal love, and love doesn’t have to include sex, but that sex can be a wonderful part of love.

I wanted people to know that it’s supposed to feel good, and it if doesn’t its time to pull back and talk about it and change it up until it does feel good. I wanted people to know that what feels good to one person won’t feel good to everyone, so you HAVE to talk, you have to ask questions, you have to pay attention to your partner’s cues. I wanted people to know that what felt good last night, might not feel good today, so even after you think you know someone inside and out, you still have to keep talking, keep questioning, keep paying attention…

I wanted people to know that consent is sexy. That consent means saying yes! Enthusiastically, unabashedly, YES! And so I wanted to empower people to say yes, not just no.

But I didn’t know, or believe, that I could really do all of that.

Then I read a quote that was going around.

“What would you do if you knew you would not fail?”

It stilled me.

I froze, while my lungs filled, my mind quieted and my heart expanded.

It grew three sizes that day...

It grew three sizes that day…

If I was not afraid to fail, I would change the world!

I would help people love, accept and value others.

I would work to normalize sex (not to make all sex vanilla – but to make sex not a taboo subject), to promote healthy body images, healthy relationships, healthy communication, respect for ALL people…

I would work to break down the social barriers that prevent so many people from accepting their own sexuality, from seeking help when they need it, from talking with others and learning from them, from accepting others who are different…

I would work to educate parents so they felt more comfortable talking with their children. So many parents I know tell me they’d like to talk to their kids, but they don’t know how because no one ever talked to them. Where do they start? WHEN do they start? HOW do they start!?!

I would work with teachers and administrators so that they felt comfortable talking with the children and youth they serve about the issues affecting them.

I would work with adults who were trying to form or maintain healthy relationships to give them more tools to talk and communicate so that they could give and receive pleasure and enjoyment together.

I would work to make it so that when my daughters grow up, the partners they have will be as informed as they are about bodily autonomy, respect, pleasure and the wonderful workings of the human body.

Is this my forever path?

Hardly.

I still want to be a writer.

I still want to be a senator.

I still want to be an explorer.

I will forever be a dreamer.

If that means you can’t support me now, because I WILL change my mind again, I understand.

We all come at life a different way.

Right now, this way feels right for me. It takes the lessons I’ve learned, the skills I’ve earned and the passions I live and breathe and puts them together into one package. It moves me forward in a direction that hopefully brings me and the world I live in into closer alignment.

It feeds my soul.

If that changes, or if something gets in my way – I’ll turn.

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