Friday, December 21, 2007


I had taken a too long break from blogging, I admit it. But my friends over at feministing, broadsheet and jezebel seemed to have a pretty good handle on stuff. I am, however, pulled out of my slumber by none other than Rush Limbaugh and what has to be one of the most misogynistic questions I've come across in quite some time.

"Does," he asked in reference to Hillary Clinton, "our looks obsessed culture want to stare at an aging woman?"

Unfortunately for this blog, that question has actually rendered me almost speechless. I'm forced to wonder what exactly Rush would want our "looks-obsessed culture" to do with aging women? I would also argue that the issue to be addressed is not an aging woman per se, but rather the "looks obsessed culture."

And, if I may add, what is Rush Limbaugh still doing on the air? Didn't he have some sort of illegal drug activity going on? Or am I confusing him with another judgmental conservative commentator who hates women?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Jazz & Jewels

Get excited for Planned Parenthood of NYC's latest action fund event tomorrow -- Friday, November 30 -- night!

At the duplex with three amazing jazz performers -- Jacqueline Antaramian, Elizabeth Soychak and Michele -- and jewelry for sale.

9:30-12:30, 2 drink minimum, $20 cover includes action fund membership.

Monday, November 19, 2007

8, 9 and 11

According to the Associated Press, three boys ages 8 and 9 were being held Monday in a detention center on charges of kidnapping and raping an 11-year-old girl in the woods near a suburban apartment complex.

There are a lot of "alleged"s floating around in the story but whatever facts ultimately come to light this is heartbreaking. And I can't honestly think of a better, potentially more tragic, example of why parents desperately need to be involved in their kids lives AND to start having conversations about sex, sexuality, respect, boundaries, and relationships as soon as their kids can talk.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Rounding up

I've been a bad blogger this week. I apologize. To make up for it, I've compiled a bunch of things to get us all riled up.

Great week for women’s right. (Yes, that’s sarcasm).

Let’s see… for starters, the Associated Press reports that the Colorado Supreme Court cleared the way Tuesday for an anti-abortion group to collect signatures for a ballot measure that would define a fertilized egg as a person. If approved by voters, the measure would give fertilized eggs the state constitutional protections of inalienable rights, justice and due process. (I’m not entirely clear how a fertilized egg would seek due process since it’s, umm, not generally outside of a woman’s uterus or, well, able to talk.) But that aside, the award for disingenuity surely goes to those who have the gall to say that this measure is NOT an attempt to outlaw abortion.

In highly depressing news, a rape VICTIM in Saudi Arabia was sentenced to 200 lashes for being in a car with a man unrelated to her.

And in infuriating news, Senator John McCain, upon being asked by a supporter, “How do we beat the bitch?” responded not by denouncing the question, but by calling it “excellent” and then answering it.

On the upside, women do still have the right to vote.

And, speaking of voting, don’t forget to come to Planned Parenthood of New York City’s PNYC Action Fund’s event on Saturday night: Body Politic '08: Pro-Choice Poker! From 5-9 pm at Pete's Candy Store where you can meet other pro-choice New Yorkers, play a friendly (games are for fun, not money) game of poker and support the important political work of the Planned Parenthood of New York City Action Fund! Your $20 ticket** to this fabulous party also gets you a one-year membership to the Action Fund. As a member, you'll get all the latest info on how to make pro-choice political change in 2008 and beyond.

Have a grand weekend.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Birth Control Cri$is

For nearly 30 years, federal laws have been in place to help safety net providers, including college health clinics, buy birth control at affordable prices, then pass on their savings to college and low-income women. But the Deficit Reduction Act (DRA), passed by Congress in 2006, included a provision that adversely affected the ability of university health centers and other safety net family planning providers to purchase contraceptives at a discounted or nominal price. By most accounts, it was an inadvertent outcome of a complicated change in the law. However, nothing has been done to fix it, and millions of college women and low-income are being penalized. For example, the cost of a pack of birth control on college campuses has risen from between $5 and $10 to upwards of $40 and $50. As result, affordable birth control has become out of reach for many college women.

Congress can fix this problem immediately and Congressman Joseph Crowley recently unveiled stand alone, bipartisan legislation to restore low priced birth control at college clinics. The solution will cost nothing, and would simply clarify that college health clinics and other safety net providers are eligible to purchase nominally priced birth control.

Affordable birth control is essential to family planning and reproductive health care policies. Congress should act quickly to fix this problem.

To help bring more attention to the issue, Planned Parenthood of NYC, along with NYU Students for Choice; NYU Law Students for Choice; and Representative Joseph Crowley will be holding a rally on Monday, 11/12 at 4:45 at the Southside of Washington Square Park. Come join us and support access to affordable birth control!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Why am I surprised?

I may have to give up one of my favorite guilty pleasures. No, not Nora Roberts... America's Next Top Model.

Last night -- after all of Tyra Banks' semi-progressive talk about the modeling industry and starving models being bad, the panel voted off Sarah for no reason other than that she was "too thin to be a plus-size model and too large to be... a model."

Heaven forbid there be a beautiful woman with a "normal" body.

Not that we shouldn't have seen this coming: for the past two weeks judge Nigel Barker has been commenting that Sarah seemed to have lost weight since joining the show (can't imagine why, being "plus-size" in a house full of size zeros).

The whole thing is especially ironic, in a not really all that ironic kind of way, considering that "thin" model Heather passed out and needed oxygen after not EATING ENOUGH. I had been wondering why Tyra didn't have some sort of intervention with Heather but after seeing the results I realized that doing so would've exposed the show's hypocrisy even more.

On the plus side (pun really not intended) the episode DID feature singer Enrique Iglesias which may (may) have made up for the negatives. Not sure yet. Thoughts?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Asylum denied

Gosh. Sometimes injustice can be so overwhelming...

Acccording to a NYT article, Alima Traore was a young girl in Mali when she was forced to undergo female genital mutilation. Upon her return home (pending) her father is going to force her to marry her first cousin. In addition to, well, not loving him, she is extremely concerned that her children will have birth defects resulting from such a close union and she fears that her own daughters will be forced to undergo the same mutilation.

Alima applied for US asylum, but in September, the Board of Immigration Appeals rejected her plea and ordered her sent back to Mali. Their ruling was based on the argument that “the cutting, while "reprehensible," could not be repeated. "The loss of a limb also gives rise to enduring harm," the board said, but it would not be a good enough reason to grant asylum.”

Strangely, though, the board acknowledgedthat women who have been subjected to forced sterilization are routinely granted asylum even though that procedure, like genital cutting, cannot be repeated.

In its decision, the board, which is part of the Justice Department, rejected the reasoning of a 2005 decision by the federal appeals court in California, which refused to deport a woman who had been subjected to genital cutting in Somalia. "Like forced sterilization," Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, "genital mutilation permanently disfigures a woman, causes long-term health problems, and deprives her of a normal and fulfilling sexual life."

Added Judge Reinhardt, “We see no need for using initials rather than the full three-word phrase. We are short neither of paper nor of ink. The use of initials, if it has any effect, serves only to dull the senses and minimize the barbaric nature of the practice.”

Alima’s lawyers are appealing the decision, but – in addition to her own plight -- this should serve as a very painful reminder of all of the women who are forced to have their genitals scraped off with a knife.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Pro-Choice Poker

This just in:

On Sat, 11/17, the Planned Parenthood of NYC Action Fund is sponsoring Body Politic '08: Pro-Choice Poker! From 5-9 pm at Pete's Candy Store (details and RSVP click here), you can meet other pro-choice New Yorkers, play a friendly (games are for fun, not money) game of poker and support the important political work of the Planned Parenthood of New York City Action Fund! Your $20 ticket** to this fabulous party also gets you a one-year membership to the Action Fund. As a member, you'll get all the latest info on how to make pro-choice political change in 2008 and beyond.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Stealing from Broadsheet...

Sorry to copy so egregiously, but... really... what can I say that Lynn Harris doesn't? Except Ouch.

Teen forcibly shaved, pierced for being "out of control"

Via Feministe, a real Halloween horror show: A 13-year-old girl -- at the behest of her mother, as punishment for alleged promiscuity -- had her head forcibly shaved to make her unattractive to men and her labia forcibly pierced to make intercourse uncomfortable. This happened in Naples. The one in Florida.

Child Protective Services was called when the piercing, performed by Tammy "Tattoo Tammy" Meredith, became infected. A case against the mother, 39, went to trial last week. And in a story that's now making the blog rounds, a jury of five men and one woman, having deliberated over two counts of first-degree aggravated child abuse, took three hours to acquit.

Though you won't read it in this Associated Press story -- or other news briefs that package this, at very least by omission, as a straight-to-Jerry Springer tale of a "teen slut out of control!" -- it turns out, apparently, that the girl, now 16, had been molested since she was 11 by a family friend who is now 30, and who is now the mother's boyfriend. (You will read that in the awkwardly titled "Girl Pierced in Private Area Testifies in First Day of Mother's Trial" on, which is thorough enough to mention that jurors "passed around a photo of the girl's labia.") One can imagine that some of the girl's alleged "promiscuity" could have been a response to or symptom of this sexual abuse.

Though there was some dispute about when the mother found out what, prosecutors contended that she intended the piercing as retaliation for the girl's sexual "relationship" with her boyfriend. (Perhaps she was also inspired by something on the History Channel about the shaving of women's heads as a form of sexual punishment?)

Yes, there is a warrant out for the boyfriend's arrest. And yes, Tattoo Tammy is currently spending the year in jail for child abuse.

Fine. Great. Um. What about the mother?

One commenter at Lawyers, Guns and Money maintains that while the woman was clearly guilty of child abuse, the evidence presented may not, strictly speaking, have supported convicting her of charges of aggravated abuse as defined by state law, an even more serious felony carrying 30 years' jail time. (The judge had rejected two bargains in which the mother agreed to plead guilty to nonaggravated child abuse.)

Let's hope that that commenter is correct. (And let's hope that we can find compassion, where appropriate, for end-of-their-rope parents, even for violent, in-denial actings out in response to betrayal.) But let's also hope that had I been in the courtroom, I would understand why what happened in this heartbreaking case does not fall under Section 827.03(2)(b): "Willfully tortures, maliciously punishes, or willfully and unlawfully cages a child; or (c) Knowingly or willfully abuses a child and in so doing causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the child." (Yes, piercings heal and hair grows back, but come on.) Let's hope, in other words, that -- even if we don't like the result -- the jury correctly applied the law.

The law of the state, that is, not the law of Springer. "Maybe it was not the best decision in the world," foreman Colin Kelly told the AP after the verdict. "But the intent was to try to stop a girl who was completely out of control," he said (emphasis added). "Are you going to put every parent in jail for making a bad decision?"

-- Lynn Harris

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Time to weigh in on Hasbro

I was sorta half watching the hubbub about the Hasbro "Rose Petal Cottage," a toy designed for girls that apparently allows them to fulfill their dreams of doing laundry and making dinner. Yes, it's annoying that the toy conforms to gender role stereotypes but I had Barbies (and yes, the Barbie DreamHouse) and I'm pretty sure I turned out ok.

But now the game gets even dicier with the new Hasbro Tonka Trucks Ad -- which says... "Boys: They're Just Built Different." Incorrect grammar aside (thanks Apple), MUST toy companies insist on drawing such an explicit line between boys and girls?

There's nothing like making parents (or kids!) feel bad if they don't fancy the toys that Hasbro thinks they should play with.

Plus, how much more money could the company make if they pushed both items to both genders?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Tell Me You Love Me

I have to admit: I love HBO's "Tell Me You Love Me."

Here's how it happened. I got about halfway through the first episode and turned it off, bored by the slow pace and, honestly, bored by the sex scenes.

Then one rainy day I'd exhausted my DVR's store of "Ugly Betty's" and decided to give "Tell Me" another chance. Three hours later, I was won over by the slowly progressing stories of the four featured couples, all of whom struggle with and for intimacy. The show's use of sex, though graphic (and I would argue, a bit overdone), candidly displays the way people use it as a way to forge and avoid connections, manipulate and engage each other, reveal and hide themselves.

I was already applauding the show's refreshingly honest exploration of sex, sexuality and relationships and my sentiments only increased after reading Sunday's NYT's story on TV's "Va-jay-jay," phenomenon (complete with Gloria Steinem's concerns)

Yes, it's a slow burn but -- call me crazy -- I'm willing to bet that things are building to a big, umm, finish.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Baseball and politics

I'm not one who generally endorses the "inherent gender difference" argument. But occasionally situations arise that make me do a double take. Namely, this Guiliani/Red Sox thing. I just don't get it. In the face of serious issues, like health care, birth control, abortion, Iraq (to name a few) why is Guiliani's "support" of the Red Sox garnerning national attention?

One writer suggests he's pandering to MA (which historically votes Democrat anyway) at risk of alienating CO (which historically votes Republican). And, of course, THIS could be the death knell for his support in NY (umm... really?). Never mind that the Yankees are not in the Series and could therefore not possibly be supported (something I pointed out to my brother when he stopped speaking to me several years ago after I, a New Yorker, dared to announce my support for the Red Sox too).

So anyway, forget Roe v. Wade. I guess the real question is who are Hillary and Obama rooting for?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Who needs birth control?

Alarming news: college women and low-income women are now facing skyrocketing birth control costs at college health clinics and safety net providers.

For the last 20 years or so, college health clinics were able to buy birth control at nominal prices, and pass those savings onto college students. Because of a complicated change in the Deficit Reduction Act, college health clinics are now forced to buy birth control at market prices.

This results in a price jump, from $5-$10 to $40- $50, a drastic increase for many college women and low-income women. As a result, this puts affordable birth control out of the reach for many young women.

Congress has known about this problem all year, and has dragged its feet. Congress must fix this serious problem and pass legislation that will restore affordable birth control right now. The solution is simple: make university health centers and safety net clinics eligible, as they were last year, to buy birth control at nominal costs.

Monday, October 15, 2007

So what exactly constitutes rape?

Thanks to Broadsheet today for this very disturbing post they accurately called:
Rape at gunpoint, or "theft of services"?

As they post: "A Philadelphia-area prostitute arranged to meet a guy and have sex with him for money. She showed up at the meeting place, they had sex, and the customer asked if she'd have sex with his friend, too. She agreed, saying the fee would be another $100. Instead of bringing money, the friend showed up with more guys and a gun. She had sex with three more guys at gunpoint; the fifth guy saw she was crying, declined to have sex with her, and helped her get out of there. So here's the question: Does the fact that this woman negotiated sex-for-pay with two of these guys mean she wasn't raped? Philadelphia judge Teresa Carr Deni thinks so -- she dropped all sex and assault charges against the defendant at his preliminary hearing, saying, "She consented and she didn't get paid… I thought it was a robbery."

I dunno. Call me crazy, but if you need a gun to force someone to have sex with you, something tells me it probably ain't consensual...

Friday, October 12, 2007

Quiet game not so quiet

We don't really talk much about the schools over here in the repro rights world except to urge them to teach comprehensive sex ed. There is, however, a story in today's Daily News that should appall any sentient person.

Apparently, a teenage boy's spleen was burst open when his classmates threw books at him.

At a substitute teacher's direction, the kids were playing "the quiet game," which is a tool used by adults to make kids... be quiet. I have memories of such a game from my own childhood when my parents tried to make it fun: hey, let's see who can be quiet the LONGEST! (It didn't take my brother and me very long to tire of that fun game, I can assure you.) But instead of harmlessly (albeit tiresomely) going along with the game as is, the kids requested to play an extreme version such that a student who makes a noise doesn't just lose, but gets books thrown at him or her. While it's a bit unclear from the article, it does sound as though the teacher was in the room when this decision was made.

Ultimately, books were thrown, a kid was injured, had surgery, lost his spleen. Though I am really kinda shocked that students pelted another student with books, I can't quite wrap my head around the fact that this happened in the PRESENCE OF A TEACHER who, p.s., did not immediately (or ever) call 911 afterward.

If this is what is going on in an environment where kids are supposed to learning, I am saddened to think of the future holds...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Mercedes Mesa, 62

Well, add another woman to the list of those (allegedly) murdered by (ex) boyfriends. Today's Post reports that the body of 62 year old Mercedes Mesa was found bludgeoned hours after her ex had jumped in front of a subway train.

Not sure what else to say.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Which flavor ice cream?

This is kinda unreal.

The Daily News reports that female correction officers have been given the “Orientation Handbook for Female Staff Working in an Institutional Setting,” a booklet that tells them to avoid gossiping at work and being bossy at home.

Among other tips in the 19-page booklet, female cadets are instructed not to display "jealousy" or "snobbery" to other women on the job. It also tells women to "eliminate flirtatious mannerisms while on the job" and avoid foul language "to be one of the boys."

Correction Department spokesman Erik Kriss said the booklet was developed in the 1980s when there weren't many women working in the state's prisons. "I don't believe it has been updated in awhile," Kriss said of the booklet. "It's time, like anything else, to take a look at some of these things and this is one of them."

It also suggests that women eat ice cream to deal with work stress.

While I guess there’s something to be said for advocating professional behavior in the workplace for BOTH genders, a female specific book talking about flirting and jealousy and ice cream sounds less deserving of updating and more deserving of eliminating.

Friday, October 5, 2007

If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes...

I'd have never believed it... And yet. I'm borrowing (read: stealing) shamelessly from Broadsheet today because, really, they say it all:

"Eek, it's Sexy Anna Rexia!

BroadsheetAny toddler knows that Halloween costumes are supposed to be scary, offensive and disgusting, right? So the professionals must have felt they hit on a winner with -- as they put it -- "this unique costume." Introducing every self-respecting woman's worst nightmare: Sexy Anna Rexia.

The costume consists of a skintight black dress with a skeleton print, accompanied by several rib-busting accessories: a choker that looks like a tape measure, an Anna Rexia heart badge and a ribbon belt resembling a tape measure! But of course, it's not supposed to be repugnant and chilling, but sexy and so, so fun. "You can never be too rich or too thin," the costume description reminds us. Ha ha ha!"

Thank you Broadsheet.

I mean. Anorexia as a Halloween costume? Isn't bulimia at least a bit more in order considering it's a candy holiday?

Joking aside, this whole thing makes me want to puke.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

They left the children behind

President Bush yesterday vetoed important legislation that reauthorizes the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (renamed CHIP in the legislation). CHIP is a public health care program created in 1997 to provide health coverage to children in families with incomes too high to receive Medicaid but too low to afford private insurance. Jointly funded by the state and federal governments, the program has made significant progress over the past decade in closing the gap between insured and uninsured children in the U.S.—providing coverage to approximately six million children and some adults.

Health care organizations, like Planned Parenthood, saw SCHIP reauthorization as an important opportunity to push to expand access to family planning services under Medicaid, offer care to pregnant women (older than 19) under CHIP, and to include a fix for Medicaid’s onerous citizenship documentation requirement. While the bill was ultimately not the expansion many health care advocates had lobbied for, it does offer a $35 billion increase in CHIP funds—which will offer critical health care coverage to an estimated 3.8 million new children.

Rather, it would’ve if the President had signed it… the legislation has been sent back to Congress, which will attempt to override the presidential veto. Here's hoping.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Prudishness: 1, First Amendment: 0

Well, we knew it couldn’t last.

Though the Supreme Court happily refused to consider Catholic Charities “case” against New York’s Health and Wellness Act, SCOTUS also declined to hear the challenge to Alabama's ban on the sale of sex toys, ending a nine-year legal battle. According to the Associated Press, an adult-store owner had asked the justices to throw out the law as an unconstitutional intrusion into the privacy of the bedroom. But the Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal, leaving intact a lower court ruling that upheld the law.

While Alabama’s anti-obscenity law (1998) does not ban the possession of sex toys, it does ban the distribution of "any device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs for anything of pecuniary value."

Similar laws have been upheld in Georgia, Mississippi, and Texas, but struck down in Louisiana, Kansas and Colorado.

Is it because I live in NYC? Or because I’m “liberal?” Or work in women’s health/rights that this seems INSANE to me? How can a state possibly outlaw the sale of vibrators (and the Supreme Court not even blink) while guns can be sold at big box stores?

To end on a “forward looking” note, at least Sherri Williams, owner of the Pleasures stores in Huntsville and Decatur plans to sue again on First Amendment free speech grounds. "My motto has been they are going to have to pry this vibrator from my cold, dead hand. I refuse to give up," she said.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Is it funny if we're not laughing?

A primer on stalking. According to Safe Horizon, “Stalking is the term used to describe repeated harassing or threatening behavior toward another person. A stalker can be a stranger or someone the victim knows including a partner, an ex-partner, or a family member. Laws vary by state, but stalking is generally considered to be any unwanted contact between a stalker and his/her victim that directly or indirectly communicates a threat or places the victim in fear. Anyone can be a victim of stalking. Stalkers can be former intimate partners, strangers, or acquaintances.”

None of that seems to be represented in the awful new t-shirt currently being sold at Wal-Mart which declares, “"Some say it's stalking, I call it love." In drippy blood lettering.

Ha. Ha. Ha. Was it meant to be funny? Probably. Is it? Nope.


In better news, Planned Parenthood will open its new, full-service health center in Aurora, IL.

After the previously reported delays, yesterday afternoon the State’s Attorney in Kane County announced that Planned Parenthood had complied with all legal requirements when it applied for permits to build its health center in Aurora, and Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner issued the permit that needed to open the doors and begin providing much-needed health services to women and families in the community.

Monday, October 1, 2007

The political is personal?

The criticism and defense of (liberal, feminist) journalist Katha Pollit's new book of personal essays, Learning to Drive seems to be endless, at least within our particular culture. Seems Ms. Pollit has both pissed off the left and given fodder to the right by -- gasp -- voicing some less than "card-carrying feminist" insecurities re: men, dating, driving etc...

Gosh, hard work being perfect right? It's not enough I suppose that the woman regularly, insightfully and bitingly takes politicians and regressive programs and policies to task in a persuasive publication with (inter)national distribution. The problem seems to be that collection of essays gives away the dirty little secret that the personal and political do not always jive; we are all human.

Being human, it is possible to fight tooth and nail to overturn against the cultural insistence that women need to look a certain and yet feel lousy over gaining five pounds. It is possible to long for equity between the genders and yet feel awkward when the check comes on a dinner date. It is possible to know that some guy's not give you everything you need/want/deserve and still fall in love with him. And it's possible to fight for women's workplace rights and still love Desperate Housewives.

Some of us are close to living within our ideals while others of us struggle to reconcile our beliefs with their behaviors. And some, possibly Katha, accept that we won't -- can't -- always be consistent and it's precisely that complication that makes people so endlessly fascinating. I, for one, thank her for letting us know that it's ok for women to be strong yet imperfect.

Friday, September 28, 2007

AND... more violence against women

Wow. Safe Horizon – along with the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence and Liz Claiborne Inc. – have released data from a new study “Corporate leaders and America’s workforce on domestic violence.” Seems that while over half of fortune 1500 CEOs think that intimate partner violence harms productivity, only 13% think their companies should play a strong role in addressing it. In contrast, 4 out 5 employees say that business should partner in reducing domestic violence.

More scary stats:

  • CEO’s underestimate numbers of victims in their own companies: on average, CEO’s believe only 6% of their full time employees are victims; employees who say nearly 3 times as many, 16% are victims
  • More than 1 in 4 women (26%) in the workplace admit to being a victim and 1 in 4 (24%) know a coworker who is a victim
  • 90% of employees think companies should offer programs to address domestic violence

And in related news, we have my ongoing count of women killed (or in this case nearly killed) by their ex-boyfriends: Yesterday, in the Bronx, a 17 year old man beat his ex-girlfriend Tahiri Rodriguez unconscious, dragged her to a rooftop and slit her wrists and then jumped off the roof. Apparently, he’d been saying for two weeks that he was going to kill himself and kill her, so that they can live happily ever after.

They are both in critical condition.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

"Love potion" No. 9

Since I'm not a smoker, I don't really pay all that much attention to cigarette advertising, but I did a double take upon reading Anna Quindlen's latest column about Camel No. 9. This new product is designed as a cigarette for women -- complete with a pink and teal box. But in addition to the cigarette appealing to women (appealing as cancer sticks can be I guess), these cigarettes are also catching on among teens. And, according to the CDC, 90% of all smokers begin before age 18.

Wow. Equally upsetting was the response from several "women's magazines" when Congress called upon them to stop accepting ads for Camel No. 9. Most just ignored the request (except for Good Housekeeping which hasn't run cigarette ads since 1952!) , but one mag (unnamed in the column) responded by saying that the request was "at odds with the basic fabric of our country's value system." I guess that might be true if our country's value system included killing off women and teens...

On a more promising note my new favorite TV show, America's Next Top Model, actually banned cigarette smoking on this cycle of the show, with Tyra Banks saying that the models needed to be role models for young girls and therefore the show will not support smoking. In addition, for the models' first photo shoot, they took "glamour shots" with a cigarette and also showed the models as they'd appear when suffering from side effects or diseases caused by smoking.

All in all, a surprising and positive PSA from a show that could really just focus on lookin' pretty.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Teenage intimate partner violence

Lynn Harris on Salon's broadsheet today commented upon a really disturbing phenomenon: boys doing what they can to "force their girlfriends to get pregnant." She cites a study, published in this month's Ambulatory Pediatrics, that is said to be "the first in the general adolescent health literature to document the role of abusive partners in promoting teen pregnancy."

Said Elizabeth Miller, M.D. of UC Davis, one of the study's authors, "Our study suggests that those providing care, especially reproductive care, to adolescent girls need to ask questions that reveal the complexities of partner violence, specifically whether a partner is actively trying to get her pregnant when she doesn't want to be."

"When we see girls who cannot consistently use contraception, who are requesting frequent emergency contraception, or who seek repeat pregnancy testing, we need to be asking very directly about abuse from male partners and find ways to support [the girls] and promote their safety," added Jay Silverman, director of Violence Preventions Programs for the Harvard School of Public Health and senior author on the study.

The take away? Health care providers need to be aware that teens too can be victims of intimate partner violence and to become partners in sensitively identifying and helping those teens.

If you are a victim of intimate partner violence and need help, call the national domestic violence hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or the national teen dating abuse helpline at 1-866-331-9474

Monday, September 24, 2007

Crossing the line, over and over again

I've been dying to rail against the disgusting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (President of Iran), his Holocaust denial and my personal incredulity that a top university would offer him a platform to spew this bile. But, much as I detest every word he utters, I was having a hard time making a link between his hate speech and the repro health/women's issues this blog is designed to cover.

But lo and behold, he gave me that very link at the aforementioned platform where, among other things, he insisted that there are no gay people in Iran and that women are treated wonderfully, with respect and that they enjoy the highest levels of freedom.

Well that explains why there are no protections for gay rights (umm, no gays therefore no rights) but what about that pesky honor killing thing? Y'know, where the state essentially sanctions stoning women to death for holding hands with a man? Which level of freedom does that count as?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Three cheers for the Gov.

Late yesterday we learned that Governor Spitzer has refused federal funding for flawed abstinence only until marriage programs! Beginning October 1, the State will redirect state funds to comprehensive sex education programs.

Joan Malin, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of NYC hailed the move as "a break through moment for the health and well-being of NY's youth. Teens can't make responsible decisions if they don't have accurate information."

This highly anticipated decision to redirect funds will help support effective programs geared at curbing unintended teen pregnancies and reducing the number of cases of sexually transmitted disease.

Now we just need every state to follow suit...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Genital Mutilation...

No blog yesterday due to technical difficulties, so today I will blog about yesterday's NYT story: In Egypt, a rising push against genital cutting.

The article opens with a heartbreaking story about a young girl who died after having her clitoris removed. The government shut down the clinic, a move that was greeted with outrage -- by those who support genital mutilation.

According to the Times: Egypt’s Health Ministry ordered an end to the practice in 1996 but allowed exceptions in cases of emergency.

I am trying very hard to fathom exactly what kind of emergency might require the removal of a young girl's genitals and I must say, I'm drawing a blank.

Things are looking up -- though certainly not for the girls who've already been subjected to the practice -- because Egypt's health minister has now issued a decree banning anyone from conducting the procedure for any reason. Beyond that, the Ministry of Religious Affairs also issued a booklet explaining why the practice was not called for in Islam; Egypt’s grand mufti, Ali Gomaa, declared it haram, or prohibited by Islam; Egypt’s highest religious official, Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, called it harmful; television advertisements have been shown on state channels to discourage it; and a national hot line was set up to answer the public’s questions about genital cutting.

For more info and to help, click here

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

So out of the mainstream

Man, I keep finding myself at odds with my feminist blogging colleagues. Take the latest Southwest airlines issue. Yes, I think it was wrong to try to prevent someone from flying because of how she was dressed. I think was wrong to embarrass her. But I'm having a tough time getting riled up about the rather clever way Southwest has spun this into a "mini fares" marketing ploy (maybe because I have a healthy amount of respect for clever marketing ploys in general). In fact, the only thing that really bothers me about the campaign is that the airlines don't fly direct to Dallas.


What upsets me far more than Southwest behaving badly, and has a pretty dangerous impact on a whole host of women, are the shenanigans in Aurora, IL. Planned Parenthood's newest location has been beset by throngs of harassing protestors, as well as red tape from city officials preventing the health center from opening on time. Planned Parenthood attorney Chris Wilson says that the only reason city officials want to block the opening is that anti-abortion groups have touched off "a political firestorm" of protests against it.

In the meanwhile, the many women who need safe, timely (oh right, and legal) health care are being forced to delay their care because of an inability to access it. To me, THAT sounds like a good reason to protest.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Another dead woman

Back on August 13th, I blogged about the disturbing number of women who had been killed by their boyfriends. Let's add another tragedy to the mix.

Over the weekend, a 27 year old Brooklyn woman was shot dead in front of her daughter after bailing out her boyfriend -- who was in jail for violating an order of protection. Seems the couple were in a car together, attempting to patch up their relationship, when a cop pulled him over for a driving infraction. The cop noticed that he was violating the order of protection and threw him in jail.

Wow. So he assaulted her, she pressed charges, got an order of protection, took him back, he was arrested, she bailed him out and then he killed her. Most heart wrenching in all of this is a statement from the dead woman's mother -- her daughter had told her "If I leave him, someone is going to die."

Maybe one could argue that she should've left him in jail and protected herself. But maybe she knew he'd get out eventually and thought she could smooth things over by being the one to free him. Or maybe he promised he'd change, or maybe she loved him and didn't want to believe he couldn't.

I don't know, I'll never know. But I do know that there is something dreadfully wrong with a system -- with a society -- where murders like this happen with such alarming frequency.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Rudy, Roe and Reproductive Rights

An Opinion article in today's New York Times suggests that the election of Rudy Giuliani would hasten the overturning of Roe, and send the question of a woman's right to access abortion services back to the States. It's a scary scenario that the writer portrays, but at it's core as disingenuous as you can get.

The movement to outlaw abortion in this country always rests it's argument on the premise that if Roe is overturned it will simply return to the States to decide the issue, where they argue, it rightfully belongs.

What they fail to tell you, as esteemed Constitutional lawyer Michael Dorf reminded us in a The American Prospect article from July 2005, is this...

"Thus it is not alarmist to predict that within weeks -- if not days or hours -- of a Supreme Court decision overruling Roe v. Wade, Congress would enact legislation outlawing most abortions nationwide. At that point, the fate of legal abortion would depend on the justices' views about the limits of congressional power."

And that's why we remain vigilant, and that's why we care so deeply about Supreme Court appointees, and that's why we vote.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Know-Nothing Activism

Many thanks to Amanda Marcotte for posting the below article on the RH Reality Check Blog.

Amanda's piece gets to the heart of the total absurdity of anti-choice zealots aggressively interfering with a woman's right to obtain contraceptive services. I will never understand the rigid stance that anti-choicers take in trying to deny both abortion services AND contraceptive services to women in the United States. And, why are so many of them men????

"When historians look back at turn-of-the-21st-century America, there are going to be a lot of questions on their minds. Is America the equivalent of latter-day Rome? Did people really care about Anna Nicole Smith’s baby daddy or Paris Hilton’s jail sentence? Did the Hummer ever really settle anyone’s unspoken fears about being a bit smaller than average? One of the most troubling of these questions will be, “How on earth could one of the most powerful political movements in the nation collectively be unable to string two thoughts together in any type of coherent form?”

"I’m speaking, of course, of the anti-choice movement. Never has a group of people put so much time and energy into a cause – we’re talking decades of agitating here – without devoting a single moment to wondering if their ideological stances make an ounce of sense. For all the ink spilled and prayers offered, you’d think that someone would pause to say, “Perhaps we should flesh out and analyze our belief system just a little bit, maybe run it past a reality test, see if our policy ideas could work in the real world, even.” But no, that never seems to happen.

Case #1 from this week’s news of the anti-choice rejection of coherent thought processes: the fight over funding international family planning programs. Granted, we all know that anti-choice groups really protest this funding because they object to the use of any kind of birth control whatsoever, whether pre- or post-conception. But anti-choice politicians demand a decent cover story, because coming out against sex itself is roughly as politically popular as supporting a ban on ice cream. So the official excuse of anti-choice politicians, including our President, for opposing this funding is that they are against abortion.

You can see the problem here. If you begin with the premise, “I don’t like abortion,” the only way to oppose preventing abortion through contraception is to refuse to think. It’s like the famous South Park episode where they happen upon the brilliant plan to make money by selling stolen underwear, except this time the plan looks like this:
Step #1: Dramatically increase the demand for abortion worldwide by reducing contraception access.
Step #2: ?
Step #3: No more abortion!

As Ann at Feministing notes, the President claims to support the right for “responsible adults” to use contraception, but since he plans to veto any bill providing the funding so that responsible adults around the world can do just that, it’s a teeny bit hard to believe him.
The other possibility is he defines “responsible adult” as someone who has had the foresight to be born an American citizen.

Case #2: Planned Parenthood has opened a new clinic in Aurora, Illinois to provide much-needed health care services to the population. Anti-choice organizers have decided to make a big fuss, flooding the area around the clinic with people who are deeply interested in making sure that they’re seen praying so everyone can know that they’re the biggest, brightest, most Jesus-loved anti-choicer around. Lest you think I’m exaggerating the extent of what’s going on, the organizers are calling for a 40-day “prayer vigil.” No word on if the prayers are worded, “Look at me being holy while you women were no doubt off fornicating,” but the general intent gets across.

The juxtaposition between the sheer amount of effort and the sheer lack of rational thought on this issue is staggering, especially when it comes to people who show up to shame women who need a variety of health care services, including abortion. Energy is spent on putting together posters and fliers exalting in the spiritual superiority of those who have time to judge their neighbor and throw stones. Energy is spent organizing and making calls to the media. Energy is spent examining each woman walking into a clinic for outward signs of sexual sinner status---if only fornicating women had their noses turn purple so they were easier to identify.

Energy is even spent worrying about whether or not men who support choice live up to a masculine ideal, as this quote from Jill Stanek at Prolifeblogs demonstrates: “Apparently, Chicago PP CEO Steve Trombley is a girly-man general who can no longer handle the situation and may also have majorly miscalculated by concealing the clinic's intended occupants a little too long.” Emphasis mine. I’m not sure what her point is, but she sounds almost as if she’d expect an arm-wrestling contest between men who respect women’s rights and those who don’t, to be a blow-out in favor of the latter. I wouldn’t bet money on that, but it’s irrelevant anyway. Grave concern about levels of “girliness” in your political opposition doesn’t add any intellectual heft to your arguments.

With all that energy being spent, nothing is left over to think about the ramifications of the anti-choice position. Not a brain cell strained wondering what we’d do with all the babies they want to force women to have against their will. Not a moment spent sweating the fact that it might be better if every child was a wanted one. As Jill Filipovic recently demonstrated, those who spend huge percentages of their waking lives trying to ban abortion haven’t even paused to consider that a ban on abortion would make it a crime to get an abortion. That’s a lot of not-thinking going on. It must be a lot of work to think that little.

If you want to show your support for Planned Parenthood as they suffer under an onslaught of anti-choicers trying to pray at them until they disappear, please buy a ribbon of support to be displayed on their wall. If nothing else, it’s very lonely for many women to walk through a crowd of people eager to cast judgment on you for getting pregnant on accident, and seeing a wall of ribbons from those who support you and remember that you’re as human as anyone else probably gives comfort.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Kudos to the NJ Supreme Court

Finally, some good news! The NJ Supreme Court today in a 5-0 decision rejected the claim of a plaintiff that a Doc had committed malpractice by failing to advise her that her abortion would terminate the life a whole, separate, irreplaceable human being. In a nutshell, the Court held that this was not medical information, and surely not medical information about which there is any consensus either within the citizenry of New Jersey, or the medical community.

Instead, the Court said that this is a philosophical and moral statement about which people must reach their own decisions, and that compelling a physician to make such statements would be tantamount to compelling the physician to tell the woman that the abortion is murder.

"’On the profound issue of when life begins, this court cannot drive public policy in one particular direction by the engine of the common law when the opposing sides, which represent so many of our citizens, are arrayed along a deep societal and philosophical divide,’ Justice Barry T. Albin wrote for New Jersey's highest court. The decision, citing past rulings, said the court ‘will not place a duty on doctors when there is no consensus in the medical community or among the public’ on when life begins.”

I'm guessing the case will no doubt be challenged, but for the moment, we can rejoice.


I want to say a bit more on the Britney Spears thing. I do not, by any stretch, think that she is fat. What I do think is that it's impossible to look at Britney outside of the image/package she helped create and used to market and sell herself. Part of that package was an extremely sexy image that relied in no small part on her displaying a remarkably toned and taut body. She has knowingly relied on that image, denying that recent photos of herself (indicating a similarly fit and toned body) were airbrushed. Regardless of whether or not this standard is fair -- and I would argue it is not -- that is what she sold, what her fans expect and what she recently failed to deliver. This, I suggest, is why the commentary on her body seems less unjust than it would be if she weren't the icon into which she turned herself.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Salt in the wound

So here's the news: A 54 year old fundamentalist church pastor in Australia raped his two daughters for over a decade. He was sentenced to 8.5 years after pleading guilty. He is up for parole in four years.

The reason he gave for forcing his children to have sex with him? He was teaching them how to be good wives.

His church and his wife remain supportive.

Wow. So many things wrong with this. The short sentence, the possibility for early parole. Umm, a decade of rape, not to mention the idea that girls need to be trained somehow or other to be good wives (independent of learning how to be loving, good people in general). But, there is something unspeakably sad when the very people who are supposed to protect kids are the ones hurting them. These two girls were abused by their own father and their mother is supporting him?

I hope never to meet someone who can understand or justify either behavior.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Context is king

Over on Feministing, Jessica Valenti blogs todayabout Britney Spears at the VMAs last night, saying "... if I hear one more person comment on how 'fat' she was, I'm gonna lose it. Whether it's a news story saying she has a "paunch" or a cable news dude calling her chunky and fat--it's ....gross and wrong. When was the last frigging time a male musician's beer belly made news?"

I'm honestly conflicted on this. While I tend to agree that it's wrong and misogynistic (Etc...) that society imposes a certain standard of beauty/appearance on women, I can't help but think that Britney Spears sure as hell benefited from that system. Don't we all remember her writhing around with the snake around her shoulders? I might even go so far as to argue that her behavior and image (up until recently) sent a darn high physical standard for other young girls to fail to achieve.

Sure, I feel bad for her, in a way. But I'd be more likely to agree with Jessica on this if Britney had attempted in some way to call out this impossible standard of perfection (maybe by not wearing a bra and panties onstage), rather than what it appears that she did: try to convince herself that she still conformed to it.

To be clear: I don't think that women need to be a certain size, shape or hair color to dress however they see fit. But I think it's disingenuous to pretend that the audience, or the performers, or Britney herself -- agrees.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Scary news

So today's NY Times reports on an alarming trend: suicide among Americans aged 10-24 increased by 8% in 2003-2004, which they say is the largest jump in 15 years. The sharpest increase has been among teen girls.

This will no doubt revive the question as to whether anti-depressants (and their attendant black box warning) are harmful or helpful for teens as well as concerns about why so many teens are depressed and suicidal in the first place.

I'm, however, hung up on a different issue. The CDC released these results, which span 2003-2004, yesterday. We are approaching the end of 2007. At best, these figures are three years old. I'm no statistician, but... what's been going on for the past 3 years? Are even more kids killing themselves? Did it increase another 8% each year?

Considering that the results are already 3 years outdated, I can't really be heartened by the assertions that this "needs to be looked into..." Thoughts?

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

We ARE different than men...

And that could kill us.

As a woman who works in women's health (and has a family history of heart disease), you can imagine I might be interested in the new study showing that women with heart disease may respond differently to certain treatments than do men.

In fact, according to Kaiser, the American College of Cardiology revised its treatment guidelines to recommend that doctors be more cautious about subjecting women at low risk of heart disease to invasive procedure, recommending that they might want to see if further symptoms develop in a woman with a clogged artery rather than performing an angioplasty.

(A Swedish study of 184 women with heart conditions showed that eight women who underwent an invasive procedure died after one year compared to one woman who died while waiting for further diagnosis.)

Docs are unsure why there's a difference but suggested that gender differences should be further studied. I'd be inclined to agree.

Blogs are media!

I have to admit I never really thought I'd be a member of the media--but it turns out I am! We are! The FEC says so:

Again, TechCrunch keeps me in the know.

Why I'm Rooting For The Jacksonville Jaguars

Although my sustained interest in professional football has waned as I've become older and discovered that there are lots of other things I could be doing on Sunday afternoons, I've still kept an eye on my original and adopted home state teams - the Bengals, the Browns, the Giants and the Jets.

But as of this morning I'm adding the Jacksonville Jaguars to the list of teams for which I have a soft spot. Why? Well because I just read that the Jaguar's Foundation has given a total of $90,000 over the past three years to fund a fantastic Planned Parenthood program in Northeast Florida.

The program - Facts for Adolescents about Choices, Education and Sexuality, or FACES - includes a teen theater group and peer counseling designed to teach young people about everything from abstinence to HIV/AIDS prevention, and works to prevent unintended pregnancies. You can read more about it here.

I say this is very responsible good citizenship on the part of the Jaguars and shows deep concern for the community in which it exists. We need more philanthropic efforts like this from professional sports organizations. The Jaguars are providing good role modeling.

So this Fall, I'm rooting for the Jags!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Anti-women men

Thank you feministing for pointing out this fairly ridiculous bit where Men's Daily News is recommending that urges dying rich men to put "men's rights" organizations into their wills rather than their wives. The goal? To prevent their wives from funding feminist organizations.

To quote from Men's Daily News:

In 2007, money is not only flowing into feminist organization coffers from dead widows and vindictive ex-wives like Heather Mills McCartney. The feminist groups are also getting big dollars from big politically correct corporations like Exxon-Mobil (see their support for the women-as-victims Tahirih Justice Center) and, of course, an American Congress which is filled with blackmailed perverts like Senator Larry Craig who have clearly been doing almost everything the feminists wanted just to keep themselves in business at the local men’s restroom.

Therefore, you real men who might die in the next 10 years (you could be hit by a truck) have an obligation to leave serious funds to men’s rights organizations that can do battle with the above-mentioned juggernaut. Please go change your last will and testament today (tomorrow if it is after 5PM when you read this).

Even if you only have $10K to spare in your will, that would sponsor a district-level challenge to a federal law like the so-called Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) the new version of which allows women who shack up with men to call 911, fraudulently claim abuse and keep the guys house. An example of a prime candidate for serious funding would be Dave Usher of the American Coalition of Fathers of Children. Although I am not saying that he should leave his current job immediately, I can say that American men would benefit greatly if Usher were funded to lead a men’s rights organization full-time.

Similarly, if you have a problem with the fact that both political parties are interested in background checking men before they can even say hello to women…consider funding Online Dating Rights, which is run by a brilliant Colorado man and his wife, both of whom have to earn their living in the business world now. "

Man. With such vitriol spewed against women, I'd almost be surprised if the male readership had wives to even leave their money to!

Friday, August 31, 2007


As we gear up for a nice long weekend, some short little comments.

1. Have y'all been following the "grey rape" discussion? I've tried to avoid really engaging because I don't think some things really warrant a discussion (i.e. the question of whether or not someone was raped if she was passed out and woke up to find a man having sex with, umm, raping, her). But I do want to throw out a brief position stolen from a button I got my freshman year of college: "If she says no, it's rape." And, oh yeah, if she's passed out, it's also rape.

2. Larry Craig's 15 minutes have lasted 15 minutes too long.

3. Unrelated to all our relevant issues, but how tragic is that many of the dogs that Michael Vick tortured and turned into monsters will likely now have to be put down because many are unrehabilitatable (word?)?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Online mapping higlights/lowlights

So I'm the one who spends a large percentage of her time thinking about online tools. But every once in a while, a website really sticks out.

Vision 20/20: is a website that mostly sells you GPS tools to track your children's movements (you can set an alarm to call you when your child roams "out of bounds" or outside the neighborhood):
“...without it there is no way that I would have known that my
daughter was on her way to the beach after hours.”

So, pretty creepy to begin with, sure, but their new free service takes it just one step further. A tool to map where people who have been convicted of sexual assault live. Then, once you do a search, you can call up individual mug shot/criminal record/address. I understand that all of this information is, in fact, public, but making criminal records immediately available and having your criminal record follow you for the rest of your life seems extreme to me. I understand the thinking behind it (protect your kids by scanning your neighbors for criminal records), and I don't support sexual assault, but it seems like we lose something important in a society where every past action becomes visible. And these things always start with the crimes related to sex (scarlet letter to now), because we're quicker to judge. Maybe I should start looking for some google map mash up of white collar crime?

I guess it boils down to: Which do I find more disturbing--the fact that this tool exists, or the fact the I tried it and was a little wowed by the beauty and sophistication of their maps?

Thanks for freaking me out, techcrunch.

Where in the world is South Carolina?

Seems the latest item making the rounds is this video (thanks YouTube) of Miss South Carolina sputtering out an inarticulate response to a question about map-reading. Great. A questions though.

1. Must we get our jollies by making fun of a teenage girl who really has done nothing wrong (i.e. cruel, immoral, illegal) except apparently be less educated (or articulate) than the "rest of us?"

2. Why are we surprised that a girl who has been clearly valued largely for her appearance may not have been encouraged to excel academically?

3. Why do we, in 2007, still live in a society where (some? many? most? all?) women are valued largely for their appearance and then tormented for living up to that imperative?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Cincinnati Court Upholds Right to Privacy

Good Morning - I was born and raised in Cincinnati and left right after college, never to return. One of the reasons being that Cincinnati was so archly conservative that I felt I was suffocating under all that repressive history. And trying to curtail constitutional freedoms is part of that historical baggage. Who can ever forget one of Cincinnati's most shameful hours when Robert Mapplethorp's The Perfect Moment exhibit in 1990 resulted in the unsuccessful prosecution of the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center and its director Dennis Barrie on charges of "pandering obscenity"?

But something wonderful happened recently that makes me think that there is hope for our constitutional guarantees in my birthplace.

A three-judge panel of the 1st Ohio District Court of Appeals on Friday unanimously ruled that a Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region clinic does not have to provide all records of abortions given to women under 18 to lawyers of a family who is suing the clinic.

Seeing courts uphold the right to privacy, especially in places like Cincinnati, Ohio, give me reason to believe that we will prevail in our long struggle to uphold a woman's right to self-determination.

As Becki Brenner, president and CEO for PPSOR, said, "This [ruling] is a victory for patients and their right to medical privacy" (AP/Cincinnati Post, 8/24).

And it is, big time!

For more on this story, go here...

Monday, August 27, 2007

Say it ain't so

Oh God. I just read on Broadsheet that a a security camera caught a 26-year-old woman in Minnesota being beaten and raped for over an hour in the hallway of an apartment building. But what really saddens me is that the security footage shows at least 10 neighbors peeking out of their apartments and venturing down the hallway to investigate the commotion -- but no one intervened. The police were finally called nearly 90 minutes into the attack, reports the Star Tribune.

Yes, there is a phenomenon called "bystander syndrome" or the bystander effect where someone is less likely to help out in an emergency situation when other people are present. Presumably because everyone thinks that someone else is going to help. (An infamous examples isthe 1964 Genovese case where a woman named Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death in 1964 by a serial rapist and murderer on the streets of Queens.)

I dunno -- admittedly never having been in that situation, I can't say for certain that I wouldn't fall prey to the syndrome, but I still have a hard time believing that anyone could witness a woman being raped without at MINIMUM calling 911. Maybe next time, since tragically there will no doubt be a next time, everyone should assume that nobody is calling for help and therefore be the one to do it.

Imagine that poor woman just waiting for help that didn't come. I can't get it out of my head. Neither should the people who let her wait.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

What's the matter with Missouri?

Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri (PPKM) has filed a lawsuit challenging a recently enacted Missouri law that requires PPKM's two clinics that provide abortion services in Missouri to be licensed as "surgi-centers."

Interestingly enough, one of the two clinics does not even provide surgical abortions (or any other surgeries for that matter.) But the state is taking the position that the medication abortion that the clinic does provides somehow triggers the surgi-center licensing requirement.

The other clinic, in Columbia, Missouri, has been providing first trimester "surgical" abortions for many years. And, while the regulations for surgi-center licensing provides modified requirements for existing facilities -- requirements that the Columbia Center could meet -- Missouri is insisting that those "grandfathering" provisions are not available here, and that both clinics must comply with the specific and elaborate requirements applicable to new facilities.


As the PPKM CEO Peter Brownlie said “Forcing Planned Parenthood clinics in Columbia and Kansas City to close would not stop women in Missouri from getting abortions...Women would travel farther and spend more money at greater risk to their health to get abortions."

He adds that the the new law "should be declared unconstitutional because it is unreasonable, burdensome and discriminates against abortion providers."

I would agree and add that it also puts an undue burden on the women seeking an abortion who would face much greater obstacles in accessing care if the centers were forced to close due to an onerous, illogical and biased law.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Let's define consensual

Today, Lynn Harris over at Broadsheet calls our attention to a website called Christian Domestic Discipline/Loving Wife Spanking in a Christian Marriage. She points out that the site is designed for "married couples who practice safe and consensual Christian Domestic Discipline, or for those who would like to learn more about it."

Umm. Ok. I guess.

But the part that I find troubling is that the site sets up the relationships in power dynamics that appear frighteningly exploitable, explaining that a domestic discipline marriage is one in which one partner in the marriage is given authority over the other and has the means to back the authority, usually by spanking. But it's not one partner as in, umm, either partner.

It's partner as in the husband: "A Christian Domestic Discipline marriage is one that is set up according to Biblical standards; that is, the husband is the authority in the household. The wife is submissive to her husband as is fit in the Lord and her husband loves her as himself... It is the husband loving the wife enough to guide and teach her, and the wife loving the husband enough to follow his leadership."

In case any of this remained unclear, the non-debatable rules are succintly repeated: "The wife is to submit to her husband, and the husband is to love the wife... the husband has authority to spank the wife. The wife does not have authority to spank her husband."

Well, call me crazy, but while entering into the agreement may (may) be consensual, it doesn't sound all that easy to extricate oneself if one ultimately decides that subservience and discipline isn't quite what she fancies after all. I wonder if my concern is borne out by some of the womens' blogs, which include commentary about needing/deserving a spanking, trusting one's husband to know when they've been disobedient (and therefore need a spanking), listing household rules they may not break as well as general self-esteem issues pre-dating the relationship.

Again, what goes on in the privacy of a consensual bedroom is none of mine or anyone else's business, but... this just doesn't sound like consent to me. (Especially since the site also includes a disclaimer saying that: "Though we believe the Bible gives a husband the authority to use spanking as one tool in enforcing his authority in the home with or without his wife's permission, in today's world we recognize the legality that mandates that all CDD must be consensual....")

But, I dunno, maybe I'm just not the submissive type.


And thanks to Cara over at The Curvature for blogging about the absolutely horrific rape and assault of a woman and her 12 year old son in the Dunbar Village housing project in West Palm Beach, Florida last month. Both the woman and her 12-year-old son were attacked and beaten. The woman was repeatedly raped and sodomized by up to 10 men. At gun point, she was forced to perform oral sex on her son. Then both were doused in household cleaners. The attack lasted for 3 hours, and nobody came to their aid during or after.

I had not previously seen media coverage of this, seems there hasn't been much. MSNBC did write about the crime, including the neighbors' tragic "this is what it's like here" response.

For more, click here or here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

And you call yourself a feminist....

Well, yes, I do. And it's therefore a bit surprising, even to me, that my current guilty pleasure is... America's Next Top Model.

I know that the modeling industry imposes arbitrary (and impossible) standards of beauty upon women and upon the models themselves. And in a climate of rampant eating disorders and financing for plastic surgery, it can be refreshing to see moves that ideally would encourage healthier eating, such as the one by Spain officials to ban models with a body-mass index of under 18 from the city's Fashion Week. And it's next to impossible to support the rampant sexualization of young girls. And we all know that the models's pictures are retouched, sometimes heavily, making the impossible standard of beauty even MORE impossible.

The list goes on and on. So why did I watch three hours of America's Next Top Model last night? Maybe because it was raining. Maybe because there's still something appealing and, dare I say, rewarding about watching young women gain an opportunity they otherwise wouldn't have received -- it is, after all, their lives and while I have issues with the industry per se, who am I to judge what other women want for themeselves?

And finally, I can't help but admire host Tyra Banks who, in addition to motivating the young women by encouraging them to be self-confident and believe in themselves, has herself challenged the standards imposed by the industry by refusing to be adhere to them! She gained some weight, she wore a bikini anyway, she was photographed galore and, in that moment, she actually inspired women to embrace themselves for who they are. Tough thing to do her line of work -- in any line of work, really -- but if she helps young women make a career, trust in themselves and maybe challenge external standards, that sounds like something darn close to feminism to me.

What do you all think?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Greenie, we hardly knew ya

We say a sad good-bye today to Greenstone Media, Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda's love child radio network, which went off the airwaves (and the internet) this past Friday. This radio station by women for women promised "good news, smart personalities, and important topics to help balance your work, family, and life." Despite the many calls for more women's voices in the media, the station just didn't take off in many locations.

I don't, however, think this failure speaks to the death of women's radio as some right-wing rags have claimed or to a lack of women listeners. I think, rather, it suggests that the solution to increasing women's voices isn't to carve out a "room of one's own" -- comforting an idea as that may be -- but rather to demand and claim the stronger place we deserve in mass-market media.

Friday, August 17, 2007


Our friends over at Salon's broadsheet today highlight a disturbing -- and thought-provoking -- online quiz. Seems Radar created an online quiz (titled "Bitch Slap") aimed at comparing public comments about sport superstars accused of rape or domestic abuse with the spleen spewed at Michael Vick over allegations that he killed and tortured dogs.

The quiz author writes that :

“Vick's critics have been so unforgiving that a reporter in Pittsburgh went so far as to say that the player would have been "better off raping a woman." The reporter later apologized for his remarks but, based on people's vitriolic reactions, he may not have been so far off the mark.

It seems that Americans will tolerate certain things from their athletes—a sexual assault charge, stalking, the occasional domestic dispute—but they draw the line when it comes to their pooches. Does the public really value a pit bull over a woman? Radar has compiled a list of quotes to help you decide.”


The quotes included in the quiz generally support the author's thesis. Relatively forgiving quotes were directed at alleged rapists and abusers. After learning that the wife of alleged obsessive husband and Tampa Bay Devil Rays outfielder Elijah Dukes had sought a restraining order, the team manager said "In visiting with him, I can see he's pretty much upset. I anticipated that, so I thought the wise thing to do would be to not start him tonight and more than likely play him tomorrow."

Meanwhile, vitriol was directed at the dog abuser -- Senator Robert Byrd took to the Senate floor in July and shook with fury as he denounced the fights as "barbaric" and "sadistic," and advocated death for its practitioners, saying that "I have seen one individual in my lifetime electrocuted in the electric chair. ... It is not a beautiful spectacle. So I can say I could witness another one if it involves this [business] ..."

Just, y’know, as examples.

While it’s obviously tricky to use handpicked quotes and reader votes as the be-all and end-all of social commentary, I do think it at minimum raises a point about still existing biases against women: her skirt was too short, she asked for it, why didn’t she leave (see Monday’s post).

Sadly and disturbingly, there are all sorts of excuses people use to justify why a woman was abused. It’s a lot harder to blame the victim when it’s a dog.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The manufacturing of a "controversy"

I was a little bit curious why the media was suddenly all over the Manhattan Mini Storage ad so I poked around online a bit. Sure enough, yesterday the Catholic League issued a press release condemning the advertisement (step one).

Step two: finding people who are "up in arms" over the ad. (That proved a bit harder to do as most people quoted seem pretty ok with the campaign, but hey.)

Step three: the repro rights and health groups, such as ourselves, support the ad because it helps raise awareness about growing restrictions on abortion rights.

And there you have it, your "controversy" du jour: The Catholic League is opposed to it, repro rights and health groups support it.

The upshot: thanks to the Catholic League, repro rights groups and -- of course, the AD the League so opposes -- are getting a ton of free publicity.

Couldn't have done a better job myself.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Go Manhattan Mini Storage!

You may have read about the new "controversy" over Manhattan Mini Storage's pro-choice ads. Seems the cheeky campaign, which includes a photo saying "Your closet space is shrinking as fast as her right to choose" is raising some hackles. To see the ad, click here.

May we suggest that all ire be directed not at the campaign -- which is true -- but at the Bush administration which is largely behind that shrinking right (if not necessarily the closet space)?


Elsewhere, our friends over at Jezebel share this juicy tidbit: "an unidentified Glamour editor shared 'Dos and Don'ts of Corporate Fashion' at a New York law firm via a slide show. First slide: an African American woman sporting an Afro. A real no-no, announced the 'Glamour' editor to the 40 or so lawyers in the room. As for dreadlocks: How truly dreadful! The style maven said it was 'shocking' that some people still think it 'appropriate' to wear those hairstyles at the office. 'No offense,' she sniffed, but those 'political' hairstyles really have to go."

Needless to say (or, at least, I hope needless to say), seems a managing partner sent out an email afterward pointing out "the stupidty of the Glamour editor..."


On a lighter note, does anyone want to share thoughts on Showtime's Monday premieres? Weeds and Californication?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Shocked. We're just shocked.

We (well, most of us anyway) already knew that abstinence-only programs didn't do anything to prevent pregnancy or reduce teen sexual activity. Now breaking news, courtesy of the NY Times, shows that abstinence-only programs for HIV prevention do not work either!

The analysis, which was published in the The British Medical Journal, covered 13 studies involving more than 15,000 young Americans and covered mostly school based programs for kids in grades five through eight. Compared to control programs, says the Times, abstinence-only programs had no significant effect in either decreasing or increasing sexual risk behavior (the studies also found that none of the programs made any significant difference in preventing pregnancy, reducing unprotected sex, or delaying sexual initiation).

Hmm. What should we do next? I know -- MORE money to abstinence only because clearly the problem was not enough funding for the programs!


Also, I'm going to verbatim quote Will Saletan from Slate because, well, you'll see why:

"Another Egyptian girl has died from female genital mutilation. This is the second death in three months. Six years ago, according to a survey, nearly every Egyptian woman of childbearing age had been subjected to the procedure. The usual lethal risks are hemhorraging, infection, and childbirth complications—did we mention the mutilation? This time the cause of death was apparently related to anasthesia. It's been nine years since the government officially banned the practice and two months since it issued a similar decree, but apparently it's not doing the job. Legislation is in the works to stiffen the penalties."

To help stop female genital mutilation, click here!

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Blame Game

  • Tumi MCCallum, strangled in Manhattan. The suspect: her boyfriend.
  • Yvonne Rivera, shot dead in Staten Island. The suspect: her estranged boyfriend.
  • Brenda Jones, a former domestic violence counselor, found dead in
    her Brooklyn home. The suspect: her husband.
  • Guiatree Hardat, shot dead in Queens by her police officer boyfriend.
  • Claudette Marcellus, and her son Brian, knifed on a Brooklyn street. The suspect: her boyfriend, despite an existing order of protection against him.

That’s (at least) five women in the last three months murdered by their boyfriend or husband. I don’t know if this is statistically high or statistically low, but I do know that it’s five women too many. Andrea Peyser, in today’s NY Post, essentially slams the women for staying with the men. I suggest that we should be slamming the men for killing the women.

People tend to ask “Why did she stay?” And while studies and interviews show that there are a host of reasons why women, once in an abusive relationship, stay in abusive relationships, the most cost compelling is that she is more likely to be killed if she leaves or tries to leaves.

I suggest that is the wrong question. The question we need to ask -- and answer -- is why did he ever think it was ok to be violent?

If you are in a violent relationship, you are not alone. Organizations, such as Safe Horizon, can help you. For more information, click here or call 1-800-621-HOPE.

Friday, August 10, 2007

What are we saying if we can't say abortion?

So last night I was at an (unfortunately titled) forum called "What's so Bad About Abortion?" sponsored by the New York Salon. Except for the title, however, the forum -- which included speakers from NARAL, NAF, Reproductive Health Technologies Project and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service -- was truly a fascinating conversation about the direction in which abortion language is moving. There was a level of previously unseen frankness and honesty to the discourse, as well as a willingness to (finally!) engage "difficult" questions. The audience was a mix of pro-choice and anti-choice and, while I think a bit too much time was therefore spent on the made-up "post-abortion syndrome" -- which really goes to show the pervasiveness of that junk science as well as the relative success of that particular anti-choice tract -- there were some challenging questions posed by all sides on the issue.

Including: Is abortion killing and, if so, what does that mean? Don't father's have rights? Does increase access to birth control really reduce abortions or does it actually increase them? If Roe falls, are states truly protected or can/will Congress simply outlaw it across the board?

I do think a large take-away that really underscores the movement's progress that repro health thought leaders have abandoned the "clump of cells"' argument and have adopted a more emotionally resonant way of talking about abortion that really takes into consideration the most important piece of the puzzle: the woman having the abortion.

To read the papers and learn more about the speakers click here.

I'd love thoughts and comments!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Real men don't eat quiche

Back when the NY Times started their Thursday style section, I remember a bit of mumbling about why, exactly, they needed two weekly style sections. Now we have our answer. This week, the Times treats us to "Be Yourselves, Girls, Order the Rib-Eye." The article goes on to explain that a lot of men find it sexy when women order steak (independent, confident etc.). This , says the article, belies the former strategy that women used to use to snare men: ordering nothing and eating less.

I love steak (med rare, please) so this is a train I would easily board. However. At the end of the day, it seems the article suggests that, regardless of what women order, they are doing it with the end-goal of not, say, enjoying their meal but for presenting a particular posture to their male date.

Is it so much to ask that women (and men!) be able to do as the headline almost exhorts and be themselves?