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.