Category Archives: This Week In

Laughing through it all

two children laughing on green grass - one with short red hair and blue pants, the other with longer light brown hair in a flowery dress

Photo by BMiz

There’s been a lot of things going on in the world lately that have been far from funny. But humor’s always been one of my favorite kinds of stress relief, and that’s definitely been something that a lot of us have needed.

I was talking with my mom recently, and she brought out an idea that I’ve heard a fair bit: that humor is always about making fun of someone. We’d been talking about political correctness, and she was saying how frustrating she finds it when it comes to humor, because “safe isn’t funny.”

Now, much as I love my mother, I’ve come to loathe the term political correctness whenever it comes up in our conversations. (It’s one of the few generational gaps we have that feels like a chasm.) She uses the same tone when she says ‘political correctness’ that I’d use for ‘sentient, flesh eating fungus,’ and she often casts it as being the antithesis of everything that’s spontaneous and fun.

Thankfully, she’s wrong. I’ve been a fan of absurdist humor for a long while, and although it doesn’t lend itself to straight up jokes a lot of the time, I still find it to be awesome. (And a lot of jokes can end up being absurd, especially when told by little kids. This collection has been entertaining my partner and me for the past week.)

There’s also a really rich history of humor being used subversively to push back against injustice and inequality. (Granted, sometimes that does involve poking fun at people in power, but that’s a kind of offensive that I’m totally comfortable with,)

So, this week, I’m going to keep being thankful for the people who can help us laugh, even when it can be especially hard. (And Tig Notaro’s always good for knowing how to do that.)

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Links We Love: Monday Edition

Birth Control PillsGood morning, Feronians! This morning, we’re sharing our links we found this weekend that you might have missed.

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This Week In: Abortion

“The Republican-led Arizona legislature has now taken measures to cut off Planned Parenthood’s access to taxpayer money funneled through the state for non-abortion services.” Use of taxpayer money for abortion was already illegal, but apparently that wasn’t good enough – now Planned Parenthood will receive no funding. It is unclear at this time exactly how this will affect its services, but it is certain that this inhibits its ability to provide health care services at a reasonable cost. For people – especially women – in Arizona without health insurance, this is a direct hit to their ability to receive lifesaving cancer screenings, STD prevention and treatment, and affordable birth control.

Utah now requires a 72 hour waiting period before an abortion. Previously, there was a 24-hour waiting period but, as of Tuesday, it has expanded to three full days. I’ll be honest: waiting period laws make me angrier than any other abortion law. There’s no pretense of protecting fetuses here; it’s all about “protecting” fragile women from their emotionally burdened lady brains. As if women need the government to remind them to think about their decision, to take it seriously! It’s insulting. The real kicker here is that there’s no loophole for non-viable fetuses, so women are forced to carry a pregnancy that could not and will not result in a live birth for three extra days which, frankly, is just plain cruel.

Wisconsin’s Planned Parenthood suspends non-surgical abortions. There is a new law in effect that “requires women visit a doctor at least three times before having a drug-induced abortion, forces physicians to determine whether a woman is being coerced into having an abortion, and prohibits women and doctors from using web cams during the procedure.” Three times? How unnecessary. In case you’re wondering about the web cam thing, they are referring to the possibility of a doctor counseling the woman about her medication via webcam – a good option when there is are a limited number of abortion providers in your state. Aside from the obvious problems here, like interfering with the relationship between the patient and her doctor and limiting a woman’s access to abortion, this poses an issue for women unique to this law – insisting that women have a surgical rather than a medical abortion. There are pros and cons to both methods (look for an upcoming post about abortion options!), but some women prefer the medical because it is more private and less physically invasive. Losing this option may make their abortion experience even more difficult for Wisconsin women.

If you live in Arizona, Utah or Wisconsin, consider contacting your representatives to let them know you’re unhappy with their shenanigans. If you want to do something about anti-choice activities in your area, contact your local representatives or sign up at Planned Parenthood Action Network to keep up to date. (Please note that our “action” site is provided by our C4, or political advocacy, arm.)

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This Week In: Politics and My Increasing Frustration

No, I’m not actually an anarchist. And I’ll probably end up voting for Obama again, just to avoid having a president who will take away our birth control and make safe abortions illegal. But sometimes I look at our political system and the culture in which we must struggle for our rights and our health and just think … damn.

• So March is Women’s History Month and the Obama administration issued a Proclamation about it. I read through it, finding “promoting workplace flexibility, striving to bring more women into math and science professions, and fighting for equal pay for equal work,” OK; “combating violence against women,” OK;  “equal role in peace-building” OK … wait a minute. No mention of reproductive health? Birth control? Abortion? Any mention of the issues all over the headlines every day recently? At my most generous, that’s … an odd oversight. Cynical me thinks that this is a meaningless proclamation designed to be as inoffensive as possible to avoid any controversy (which, to Democrats, means making Republicans mad). Do women’s reproductive health choices only matter when the administration is trying to pass a healthcare bill? I hope not.  I was also bothered by this phrase: “While we have made great strides toward equality, we cannot rest until our mothers, sisters, and daughters assume their rightful place as full participants in a secure, prosperous, and just society.”  Um, this nation has many women citizens fully capable of working towards equality – why is that phrased like the country is full of dudes who just happen to be related to women? Perhaps it was phrased that way because most of his administration is made up of men…oh snap.

• So, not only were women not included in the Congress panel on contraception, but the one woman who was invited (by the Democrats, of course) was not allowed to speak because her name was allegedly submitted too late … sure. Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown University law student, came to testify about the importance of birth control to women’s health and success. Even though she wasn’t even allowed to speak, she has still been subjected to media harassment. She’s been called a slut and a prostitute for admitting to needing birth control just like millions of American women. I’m not linking to a page because, frankly, I don’t want to give a certain someone more media attention, but Google if you must. But, in case you were under the impression that conservatives don’t think you’re a whore for being a sexual human being who uses contraception, sorry.

If you’d like to support Sandra Fluke, you can reach her on Twitter @sandrafluke. Have you guys been keeping up on the birth control stuff in the news? What are your thoughts?

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This Week In: Love, Sex, and Law

~In case you haven’t heard, Prop 8, the law banning gay marriage in California, was ruled unconstitutional this week.  Approved by a slim margin in 2008, Prop 8 made gay marriage illegal only 5 months after the state began to acknowledge them. In the ruling, the court said that the ban was unconstitutional “because it singled out a minority group for disparate treatment for no compelling reason.” One judge did dissent on the grounds preventing gay marriage “could help ensure that children are raised by married, opposite-sex parents,” because in his fantasy world procreation never happens outside of marriage and half of marriages don’t end in divorce, I suppose. Gay marriages may not resume immediately, as opponents have been given time to appeal, but all in all this is excellent news.

~In response to Oklahoma’s proposed personhood amendment, Democratic Senator Constance Johnson submitted an action to amend the bill to state that “any action in which a man ejaculates or otherwise deposits semen anywhere but in a woman’s vagina shall be interpreted and construed as an action against an unborn child.” She did it as more of a satirical act than a serious attempt at an amendment; in her words:

“My amendment seeks to draw attention to the absurdity, duplicity and lack of balance inherent in the policies of this state in regard to women…[and] to draw humorous attention to the hypocrisy and inconsistency of this proposal – from the Republican perspective of down-sized government and less government intrusion into people’s private affairs.”

Joke or no, Johnson managed to succinctly point out the poor logic and inherent sexism behind personhood amendments. Good job. As a side note, another democratic Senator, Jim Wilson, proposed a more serious amendment that would have made “the father of an unborn child financially responsible for its mother’s health care, housing, transportation and nourishment while she is pregnant.” It failed, which I am totally shocked about (not really).


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This Week In: Your Government, the Good, the Bad, and the Huh?

Obama has denied requests from religious organizations hoping to withhold insurance coverage of contraception to their employees. Under the Affordable Health Care Act, birth control will be covered as preventive care (finally!), and some religiously-affiliated businesses argued that this violated their conscience. After Obama’s decision, although churches will be exempt from providing this coverage, employees of religious universities and hospitals will soon be able to get their birth control covered regardless of their employer’s beliefs. (Psst, church employees, Planned Parenthood still has affordable birth control if you need it!)

The Republican party had their debate in Florida Thursday night. You know, I tend to get a little lazy about following primaries because I often already have firm opinions about who I’m voting for, but I do think it’s important to know what the candidates are out there saying. When candidates speak, I try to remember that they aren’t necessarily saying what they believe, but what their advisors think voters want to hear, and that allows us a glimpse at the public’s fears and desires. This debate had the super-rich Romney and Gingrich defending their controversial financial investments while also asserting that being rich just means that you work hard, and arguments over health-care reform  where the focus of an attack on Romney’s Massachessets’ health care plan was that it too closely resembled Obama’s. There is a lot to unpack there, but I think my favorite part was Gingrich and Romney arguing over who is the most pro-immigrant; I was surprised to find that being too harsh on immigration was supposed to be a bad thing in the Republican party, although the old chestnut about immigrants stealing our jobs was trotted out, as usual. Did any of you watch the primary, and what did you think?

And, in your What-On-Earth news of the day, a Senator in Oklahoma has proposed a bill to ban the use of aborted human fetuses in products or food. Some questions immediately come to mind, such as: What? Why? Isn’t that…already illegal because of state infection control and biological material disposal regulations? (Yes, by the way). But it’s real. According to Senator Shortey who proposed the bill, its aim is actually to prevent use of stem cells in food products, which he states some companies have used to produce certain flavors. However, the actual language of the law states “no person or entity shall manufacture or knowingly sell food or any other product intended for human consumption which contains aborted human fetuses in the ingredients or which used aborted human fetuses in the research or development in any of the ingredients.” I’m not sure Senator Shortey is too clear on the concept of stem cell research and how it works, but I’m interested to see how the rest of the Oklahoma government responds to his proposal.

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This Week In: Sexism

● My new favorite blog Skepchick writes about what happens when a teenage girl posts a headshot of her holding a Carl Sagan book on an Atheist forum. Spoilers: Rape jokes, misogyny, then some more rape jokes. Why is this significant? Because too often this type of behavior is assumed to be the realm of the openly hateful–maybe the super right-wing, or the fanatically-religious, or the men’s rights activists, or the frat jocks–but sometimes we forget that even the supposedly liberal spaces can be hostile and dangerous for women. Things like this serve to remind us that there is still a lot of work to do.

● The Lego Company is releasing a new line for girls…for some reason. Why it’s assumed girls can’t just play with regular Legos, I don’t know. To the surprise of no one, the girls’ Legos will have less boxy, more lithe and shapely figurines, and feature pastel sets with lots of pink. I’m no longer surprised by marketing that is divided into a male/female dichotomy, nor am I surprised that items marketed to girls would be rife with pastels. I even get that it’s more about capitalism then sexism. But really, what is it with marketers being so uncreative that they always seem to reach for the old-fashioned gender stereotypes? Is the part of our brain that makes us want to buy stuff on the opposite side of the critical thinking part? I don’t get it.

● Women in Egypt continue being awesome, in what according to the New York Times historians are calling “the biggest women’s demonstration in modern Egyptian history.”  These protests were triggered after soldiers stormed Tahrir Square, stripped a woman of her abaya and revealed her bra. Discussion of the protests requires much more nuance and detail than can be covered in this post, but the gist of it is anger at the military council and its behavior towards dissenters. I don’t know about you but I find the protesters courage really inspiring, and I’ll be following the news closely.

● And you may have seen it already, but frankly looking at current events can be a little depressing, so lets wrap this up with a freaking adorable girl ranting over the ridiculousness of the gender division between boys’ and girls’ toys. Seeing kids learn these lessons so young makes me hopeful for the future.

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Celebrating the Winter Solstice

Solstice comes from the Latin word “sol,” which means sun, and “sistere,” which means to stand still. Due to the earth revolving around the sun and the changing tilt of the earth’s axis, there may be a huge difference in the amount of daylight during the summer or winter months, depending on how far you are from the equator. The Winter Solstice represents the transition from darkness to light as the days slowly become longer. Think northern Alaska in winter when the sun rises around 10:00, merely half way up the sky, and sinks back below the horizon by 3:00. Compare that to Ecuador where the days and nights are the same 12 hours long all year round.

Many cultures past and present celebrate the solstice as a sign of death and rebirth. In ancient Greece, the festival was called Lenaea, “The Festival of the Wild Women.” A man representing the harvest god Dionysos would be torn to pieces and eaten by a group of women. Later in the ritual, a birth was celebrated. By classical times, the human sacrifice was replaced by a goat!

What we like about the solstice is that many cultures and religions celebrate in various ways around this time of the year. In other words, it’s a celebration for everyone, and at The Feronia Project, we like the idea of being inclusive. To learn more about Winter Solstice celebrations click here or for ideas on how to celebrate, click here.

Will you be celebrating the Winter Solstice?

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This Week In: Abortion

● The Guttmacher Institute has published a fact sheet on induced abortion in the US. It’s a quick read and it disproves a lot of stereotypes on who has abortions.

Here’s the info:

  • Only 18% of women obtaining abortions are teenagers, and women in their 20s account for more than half of all abortions.
  • Approximately 61% of abortions are obtained by women who are already parents to one or more children.
  • Non-Hispanic white women have the most abortions, accounting for about 36%; then non-Hispanic black women at 30%; Hispanic women at 25%; and women of other races at 9%.

Also, abortion has been proven as very safe, with less than 0.3% of patients experiencing a complication that requires hospitalization, but “the risk of death associated with abortion increases with the length of pregnancy, from one death for every one million abortions at or before eight weeks to one per 29,000 at 16–20 weeks—and one per 11,000 at 21 or more weeks.”  Think about that the next time someone tries to pass abortion restrictions like waiting periods that make it hard for women to get to clinics when they want an abortion.

Anti-abortion forces are attempting to pass a personhood amendment in Colorado.  No, you haven’t somehow time traveled to 2008.  They are pushing the issue again after it failed in 2008 and 2010.  They say this time it’s different, because it will act to “protect every child, no matter their size, level of development, gender, age or race.” That sounds like a pretty broad, vague goal to me.  It will still work to give a zygote full legal rights and potentially make birth control, IVF, and even miscarriages illegal.  The people of Colorado already beat this twice, so if I were on the Personhood campaign, I’d be worried.

Personhood Amendment supporters in California are passing around a petition to get such an amendment on the ballot for 2012.  Considering that this failed in conservative Mississippi, if this passes in California of all places, I will eat my hat. As a bonus, “The Legislative Analyst’s Office and Department of Finance said if voters adopted the initiative, the potential cost to the state could be in the tens of millions of dollars annually to establish due process and equal protection for “zygotes, embryos, and fetuses.” California voters will just love that.

● And my favorite pet peeve is the news again: Conscience clauses. Nurses in New Jersey are suing the hospital they work at for requiring them to, you know, take care of patients. But these aren’t just any patients, they are patients who are having abortions. The nurses are arguing they shouldn’t have to take care of women they find immoral, because it goes against their beliefs.  Look, I’m an omnivore now but for a while, I was vegan.  I found (still kinda do, actually) eating factory farmed meat to be cruel and wrong.  If I had gotten a job at McDonalds and told them, “Look, I will do any task here but I won’t sell hamburgers because I think it’s wrong for these people to eat meat,” I would have been fired for not doing my job.  When you are a nurse, your job is to take care of your patients.  If someone comes in who was injured while committing a robbery, you take care of them even though you think theft is wrong; you also can’t turn someone away from a hospital because you think they are immoral.  The only reason the complaint about abortion is being considered by the courts is because it is a religious complaint.  I’m looking forward to the outcome of this lawsuit, because I know it will set a precedent for future cases – and there will be similar cases.  Hospital patients deserve care and respect, and should not be at risk for receiving less quality care because they are having a routine and common medical procedure like abortion.

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This Week In: Sexism

Sexual harassment has been highlighted in the media lately and, though I’m glad awareness seems to be increasing, the messages being put out are not great for women.

 ● Katie Roiphe at the New York Times writes an article dismissing sexual harassment as something too “vague, subjective, slippery” to care about, and says “Show me a smart, competent young professional woman who is utterly derailed by a verbal unwanted sexual advance or an inappropriate comment about her appearance, and I will show you a rare spotted owl.”  I don’t know about you, but when I’ve been sexually harassed I was never derailed but I was hurt, embarrassed, nauseated and angry.  And it was still harassment.

 ● Nonprofit research organization American Association of University Women found in a research study that “nearly half” of 7th to 12th graders out of a representative group of 1,965 students have experienced sexual harassment in the last school year. Girls were more likely than boys to have experienced physical sexual harassment, and female students reported that the harassment that bothered them the most were unwelcome sexual comments.  Boys stated that the harassment that had the “worst effect” on them was being called gay.

 ● J. Bryan Lowder at XXfactor weighed in on the above study and missed the point entirely, referring to the harassment as “youthful mistakes” made out of “adolescent ignorance,” and stating that writing on Facebook that a girl is a “whore” [is not] equivalent to molesting her at a party.” 

Okay, this sounds a lot like the old “don’t you have more important things to worry about?” derail.  The problem here is that when someone finds it necessary to point out that a particular type of harassment is not as severe as other kinds, they – whether they mean to or not – sound dismissive of said harassment.  And this dismissal would be a mistake because it’s not just the level of harassment that we should consider, it’s the cause.  Minor and severe harassment or assault are manifestations of the same internalized cultural beliefs.  Calling a boy gay in a derogatory manner and beating up a gay kid come from the same belief that being gay is wrong.  Grabbing girls in the hallways at school and assaulting them at a party come from the same belief that girls exist as sex objects that don’t deserve bodily autonomy.  And if we dismiss school harassment as youthful immaturity we miss a chance to teach our kids better values before their behavior becomes even more harmful to others.

 ● And in case you missed it, Sady Doyle of the excellent blog Tiger Beatdown recently started a Twitter hashtag called #mencallmethings to illustrate the type of gendered abuse women bloggers receive on the internet.  Trigger warning for lots of sexist comments, rape and assault threats, and foul language.  It’s an interesting window into the types of comments women writers on the internet have to deal with on a regular basis.

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