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!