Thursday, March 25, 2010

Major changes made to 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'  

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Breaking news! Defense Secretary Robert Gates has majorly revised how the Pentagon will implement the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, making it much more difficult to remove a person from the military who does not out themself as gay. According to Gates, the changes will add "a greater measure of common sense and common decency" for those negatively impacted by the law. The Washington Independent reported:

Starting today, only a general officer in an accused service member’s chain of command can discharge someone for a violation of the ban, and only an officer with the rank of commander or lieutenant colonel or higher can conduct a fact-finding inquiry to recommend a discharge. The standards of evidence provided to those inquiries will become far less burdensome on the accused, with what Gates called “special scrutiny on third parties who may be motivated to harm the service member.” Entire categories of evidence will no longer be admissible, including testimony from clergy members, physicians, abuse counselors, security-clearance review personnel and mental-health personnel — a move that also significantly improves troops’ quality of life.

While this harmful law still unfortunately remains in place, this is an important step towards repealing it. Gates has stated that it isn't a matter of whether it should be repealed, but how. There is concern about abruptly ending the ban because it could put queer service members in danger, so perhaps eliminating the policy in steps is the best way to get homophobic service members used to serving next to openly queer soldiers/sailors/pilots/marines. But I have no doubt that I will live to see the end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Obama maintains ban on federal funds for abortion  

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Upsetting news. From The New York Times:

President Barack Obama signed an executive order on abortion on Wednesday that had won crucial votes for his healthcare bill, but disappointed women's groups that have been among his most enthusiastic supporters.

The order is intended to ensure the new healthcare law will maintain a ban on the use of federal money to pay for abortions, except in cases of rape or incest, or if the life of a woman is in danger.

The White House announced on Sunday that Obama would sign the order in exchange for support for the massive healthcare overhaul bill from Democratic abortion rights opponents' in the House of Representatives.

It's upsetting that Obama hasn't turned out to be as much of a supporter of reproductive justice as we hoped. But it's tricky... the morons who don't understand that a woman controlling her own body is a necessity won't budge on health care reform unless they know their tax dollars won't go to providing abortions.

Dear opponents of federal funding for abortion: There are plenty of places I don't want my tax dollars to go... but guess what! Part of being a U.S. citizen is paying all our taxes. Get over this "I don't believe in it, so I won't pay for it" bullshit, because that's unrealistic. Women need reproductive care, and there is no good reason to prevent this legal procedure from being funded by federal money. There will always be a demand for abortion, and whether you decide the government can pay for it or not, women will find ways to control their reproduction. The only difference is receiving the $700 to have an abortion safely and legally vs. paying a stranger $50 for a punch in the stomach. For once, stop thinking about what your churches tell you, and start thinking about the lives of women!

GAH!

National Back Up Your Birth Control Day!  

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Visit the official website to learn more, and head over to the Center for Reproductive Rights to tell the FDA to make emergency contraception available over-the-counter to women of all ages.
Saturday, March 20, 2010

Marketing breast cancer awareness to men  

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I've been on a major Freaks and Geeks kick lately, and naturally, I fell in love with Jason Segel's character, Nick (you know Jason Segel from Forgetting Sarah Marshall and I Love You, Man... but Freaks and Geeks was his much earlier work). Anywho, I went searching for an adorable photo of him to put on my desktop, and came across this one:


I said, "Ooooh, what is Men for Women Now?" and immediately went to MenForwomenNow.com to find that it is a website, designed to appeal to men, that collects donations for a breast cancer foundation. How lovely!

While I adore the idea of getting men involved in women's issues, I found the way in which the website appealed to men to be disheartening. First of all, their slogan is: It's a Matter of Life and Breast! Second of all, the main page has a big pink button that says "Save boobs now" to add their Facebook application. The page says: "When you click 'Save boobs now', in two easy steps, you can start saving boobs."

I don't like this. Is the only way to get men to join in on the fight against breast cancer to remind them that the disease threatens a woman's ability to have a great rack? I have just a little more faith in men than that... call me naive, but I think simply reminding men that breast cancer can, oh I don't know, cause deaths of their loved ones is enough to garner some concern.

This reminds me of the whole "Save the Ta-Tas!" slogan that can be seen on bumper stickers and bracelets. I know our society loves to objectify women and pretend that there isn't a brain attached to our bodies, but it really saddens me that campaigns to raise awareness for breast cancer (a women's issue!) sink to the level of society's mistreatment of us. Yes, it is called breast cancer, but it affects more than just the actual breasts... it affects a woman's entire life.
Thursday, March 18, 2010

Protect our schools' textbooks  

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This whole Texas textbook debacle makes me shudder. It may sound cliche, but true change does rely heavily on our children. But how can they understand what needs to change if they are being fed B.S. in school? The entire schooling system angers the hell out of me. I wasn't taught a damn thing about feminism until twelfth grade when I had a feminist teacher for my U.S. government class, who finally explained women's suffrage in a way that I understood. Still, she was forced to teach us how to pass the AP test instead, and had to leave behind most of the truly important stuff.

Well I'll tell you: I don't remember one thing on that AP test, but I do remember her telling us how Alice Paul was sent to prison, where she went on a hunger strike and was force-fed meals through a rubber tube inserted in her throat... and all so women would be treated like human beings. Still, my eyes weren't truly opened to feminism and the importance of equality and all the social injustices that exist in this world until I went to my super liberal college. It's so upsetting to me that children are being given textbooks that glorify Christopher Columbus (and leave out his slaughtering of Native Americans), exclude the LGBTQ movement, and devote all of two pages to women's rights. And it's about to get worse! From CredoAction.com:

Led by far-right ideologues, the Texas SBOE recently gave preliminary approval to a plan that would radically change what children across the country learn in history class.

The ultra-conservative majority on the board (none of whom are experts in any academic discipline and many of whom are explicitly anti-science) took the curricula proposed by teachers and made over a hundred changes to "correct" the perceived left-wing bias.

But it gets worse. Since Texas is one of the largest textbook markets in the country, material written to cater to the Texas curricula will find its way into textbooks across the country unless textbook publishers take a stand.

We can't allow a small group of extreme ideologues on the Texas State Board of Education to re-write history.

Children who use textbooks conforming to the new standards will not learn anything about the political philosophy of Thomas Jefferson or his thoughts on the separation of church and state. When they learn about the Civil War, they'll have to study Jefferson Davis' inaugural address alongside Abraham Lincoln's. And when they study the civil rights movement they'll have to learn about the "unintended consequences" of Great Society programs, affirmative action and Title IX. Oh — and Joe McCarthy was right all along no matter what historians actually say about it.

*bangs head on desk repeatedly*

Write to the United States' largest textbook publishers and tell them this is unacceptable, please. The future of this country depends on it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Buffet of the Week  

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Here's what's up:

  • A court in Illinois heard arguments yesterday regarding the parental notification law that has been stalled in the state since 1995. The law, if passed, would require that physicians notify the parents of women 17 or younger seeking abortions at least 48 hours before the procedure.

  • Representatives Jared Polis (D-CO) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced the Women and Workforce Investment for Nontraditional Jobs (Women WIN Jobs) Act late last week. The bill has more than 40 cosponsors and is intended to give low-income women greater access to high-wage, high-demand occupations.

  • According to CENTCOM Commander General David Petraeus: "the time has come to consider a change to Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

  • There's a campaign underway in New York called Fight Back New York that intends to defeat anti-gay candidate Hiram Monserrate in an election happening today. Visit their website to donate, spread the word, and watch a video featuring Cynthia Nixon on the importance of passing marriage equality in NY.

  • A heart-breaking occurrence at a Mississippi school: a girl name Constance wanted to bring her girlfriend to prom. But the school opted to avoid letting her by canceling the prom altogether. Take action at the Human Rights Campaign site.

  • Ever pay attention to the little pedestrian icon that flashes when it's okay to cross the street? Ever notice it's probably the icon of a man? A photography mural on the streets of NYC, titled "Walking Men 99," is making people more aware of the fact that pedestrian traffic light icons can actually have many other identities.

  • An article in Women's eNews exposes the hardships of women in Arizona with breast cancer: "Undocumented women with breast cancer in Arizona have to rely on community clinics and sliding scale fees to get services. Help is not easy to find. When it does arrive, economic barriers and fear of deportation often stand in the way or delay treatment."

  • See how International Women's Day was celebrated in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Sunday, March 14, 2010

Women's History Month presence on a college campus  

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When I graduate in May, I'm going to miss college moments like this. For Women's History month, there is a "Women and Social Movements" display in the library. Several glass cases hold photos and information on all different groups of women: feminists, queer women, Latina women, sex workers, and many many more. It is a beautiful representation of women's history. Here's a photo of the cases put together by two clubs I'm in: the Feminist Collective (right) and Take Back the Night (left):


(Thanks to Kay for the photo!)
Thursday, March 11, 2010

Afghan women burn themselves to escape abuse  

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This video is a little old (I just found it on the International Women's Day website), but it is something that I would not doubt is still going on in Afghanistan. It's heartbreaking, to say the least.

Warning: this video may be triggering for some.



You can visit the sites of organizations like Women for Afghan Women and the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan to learn more about the hardships of post-Taliban life, and to find out how you can help.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A big thank you to abortion providers  

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It's March 10th, the National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers. But the wonderful people who work in clinics to ensure that women have access to a safe and legal abortion deserve our appreciation every single day. Their work isn't easy, but they have many reasons to stick with it. I cannot thank them enough for being there for the women who need them.

Today also marks the anniversary of Dr. David Gunn's death in 1993. He was murdered by anti-choice activist Michael Griffin in Pensacola, Florida, becoming the first abortion provider to be killed simply because he provided abortions. And supporters of reproductive justice were greatly shaken when Dr. George Tiller was murdered last May. My heart goes out to the families and friends of Dr. Gunn, Dr. Tiller, and other abortion providers/clinic workers who have lost their lives.

There are many things you can do to honor today. A simple, but powerful, action would be to send a thank you card to your local abortion provider(s) and/or clinic workers. You can also (if you have the means) make a donation to any of several organizations that work towards reproductive justice. The National Network of Abortion Funds allows you to find a local fund for low-income women who need abortions. There's also Medical Students for Choice and Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health.

Also, be sure to head over to the National Abortion Federation to add your name and thank you note to their collection.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Support the International Violence Against Women Act  

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Sign the petition here.
Monday, March 8, 2010

IWD 2010  

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It's today! What are you doing to celebrate?
Sunday, March 7, 2010

4000 > 40  

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February 17th marked the beginning of the 40 Days of Life campaign, which is basically an excuse for anti-choicers to harass people outside clinics even more than usual for 40 whole days. If you need to access a Planned Parenthood or a similar clinic, be aware that the crazies will probably be on your ass.

BUT... oh, how I love reproductive rights activists. There is an excellent response campaign (hat tip to Feministe, who posted about this) called 4000 Years for Choice. This is especially great to check out in honor of Women's History Month. One need only take a look at their timeline to see that women have been finding ways to control their reproduction for thousands of years.

And guess what? 4000 trumps 40.
Saturday, March 6, 2010

Men and the birth control pill  

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I saw this posted on The Sexist. It's a video created by Amanda Hess, where she interviewed men on birth control and how it works. Watch!



Wow. Some of the things said by the men (the birth control pill is the same as Plan B? wtf?) are just shocking. Unfortunately, a lot of men who have sex with women don't bother to learn about birth control because they see it as something only women have to deal with. Birth control is as much a man's concern as it is a woman's, and deciding on a method of contraception should be a collaborative process.

But too many men take the birth control pill for granted - there seems to be this idea that it's this simple process involving popping a pill a day with ease, and there's no need to think or talk about it. But men should know how it works, and men should understand that it's certainly not easy for a woman to take birth control. It takes awhile to find the right brand, and with every brand comes a slew of terrifying side effects. Can most men even name one side effect of the birth control pill?

I'm not blaming men for being ignorant. I know the real reason is that somewhere down the line, men got the message from society that birth control is not a man's issue. So men, it's time to unlearn what society taught you and hop on Wikipedia to learn about birth control. It'll be one of the most manly things you'll ever do.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010

D.C. legalizes!  

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Same-sex marriage is now LEGAL in Washington, D.C.

Congratulations to all couples who are finally able to tie the knot, and thank you to the D.C. politicians who voted in favor of equality.