Thursday, January 28, 2010

Letter to Tim Tebow

Dear Mr. Tebow,

I cannot help but feel that your decision to advocate for the anti-choice movement in a commercial during the Super Bowl is grossly inappropriate. Purportedly your ill mother went against her doctor’s recommendations to have an abortion during her pregnancy with you. Luckily for her and you and the people in your life that hold you dear, she and you both “came through it” all right. However, this was a very unique case; surely you are not trying to suggest that all women go against doctor recommendations to terminate pregnancies in the case of illness? What a bold and dangerous course of action for you to urge others to take. There are many obstetric complications that would result in the death of both mother and baby. In research design, there is a concept called external validity; this refers to the extent which the findings or results from a particular study or experiment can be generalized to a given population. And trying to generalize the very unique situation of your birth to the entire Super-Bowl-watching demographic is statistically and logically flawed.

The problem is that many Super Bowl viewers may not be aware of the concept of external validity or the implications it may have regarding your message and story. Therefore, encouraging women to ignore their doctor’s advice is ignorant, callous, and insensitive on your part- not to mention dangerous.

The chances are very, very good that you will never become pregnant yourself. What makes you feel like you have the right to tell women what they should do with their bodies, especially concerning a situation that you will never encounter yourself? You are a football player. I’d be much more receptive to a message you’d give concerning something like a sports drink, or an athletic shoe. And both of those things would be very fitting for a commercial during a very popular sporting event. However, preaching your political views on a women’s rights and women’s health issue in such a forum strikes me as absolutely ridiculous.

Your personal situation was very unique, and certainly not the fodder for anti-choice propaganda. Hopefully someone in your camp will point these things out to you, and your “message” will not be aired between beer commercials next month.


A Footballer-Busting (When Deserved!)Pro-Choice Feminista, in response to this article

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Unexplored World of Attachment Parenting

After showing The Business of Being Born last night at the Women’s Resource Center’s first program of the Spring 2010 semester, I was encouraged by a knowledgeable attendee to research attachment parenting (AP). Confused, but curious, I proceeded to conduct a bit of preliminary searching into AP, a term and philosophy coined by physician William Sears that is based on the principles of attachment theory in developmental psychology. reports that:

“The long-range vision of Attachment Parenting is to raise children who will become adults with a highly developed capacity for empathy and connection. It eliminates violence as a means for raising children, and ultimately helps to prevent violence in society as a whole.

The essence of Attachment Parenting is about forming and nurturing strong connections between parents and their children. Attachment Parenting challenges us as parents to treat our children with kindness, respect and dignity, and to model in our interactions with them the way we'd like them to interact with others.”

The eight principles of this philosophy are as follows:

1. Preparation for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting
2. Feed with Love and Respect
3. Respond with Sensitivity
4. Use Nurturing Touch
5. Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally
6. Provide Consistent Loving Care
7. Practice Positive Discipline
8. Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life

These principles help craft a better understanding of the parenting tactics employed by those who practice AP, such as natural childbirth, home birth, stay-at-home parenting, co-sleeping, breastfeeding, babywearing, homeschooling, un-schooling, the anti-circumcision movement, natural health, cooperative movements, naturism and support of organic and local foods. While many of these terms were familiar to me, many more were not. For the purposes of this brief exploration, I was most interested in learning more about babywearing.

Babywearing, the practice of “holding or carrying a baby or young child using a baby carrier,” is universal despite not gaining mainstream acceptance in the United States. There are many different types of slings available on the market, as well as those which can be made at home so that parents may choose one that best suits their needs. I stumbled across this lovely story about the benefits of babywearing, in addition to this super adorable babywearing doll, check it out here.

While there are many criticisms (encouraging children to be needy, etc) to the AP movement, I can’t help but think it’s worth a bit of consideration since the benefits (father can be more involved with childrearing) seem to be more plentiful. However, personal research and education are the only way to truly determine if AP or other parenting methods are best for you and your family.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

New Orleans Uses Out-of-Date Law to Charge Sex Workers as Sex Offenders

I ran across this article written by Jordan Flaherty yesterday on Alternet and it made me really upset, thus this blog.

Prosecutors in New Orleans are using an old law which states that “unnatural copulation is a crime against nature” to charge sex workers as sex offenders. The law, which dates back to 1805, was originally written for child molesters, however now it is being interpreted as anal and/or oral sex.

Breaking this law is a felony, and so sex workers are receiving longer sentences and must register as a sex offender. According to the article, more than half of the currently registered sex offenders in New Orleans have been charged with a crime against nature (483 out of 861). Those charged with breaking this law are disproportionately black women.

Once a sex worker is convicted and forced to register as a sex offender, it makes life much more difficult for her.
“The law impacts sex workers in both small and large ways. Tabitha has to register an address in the sex offender database. Her driver's license has the label “sex offender” printed on it. She also has to purchase and mail postcards with her picture to everyone in the neighborhood informing them of her conviction. If she needs to evacuate to a shelter during a hurricane, she must evacuate to a special shelter for sex offenders, and this shelter has no separate safe spaces for women. She is even prohibited from ordinary activities in New Orleans like wearing a costume at Mardi Gras.”

Charging sex workers as sex offenders is attributed to the policy of the New Orleans Police Department to go after petty offenses. “According to a report from the Metropolitan Crime Commission, New Orleans police arrest more than 58,000 people every year. Of those arrested, nearly 50 percent are for traffic and municipal offenses, and only 5 percent are for violent crimes.”

Rosana Cruz of VOTE (Voice of the Ex-Offender) believes that there is a different reason saying, “what it is really about is over-incarcerating poor and of color communities. “

This whole situation appalls me. First of all, they’re mis-using a law from 1805. Eighteen Oh-Five! Things were totally different then, there were only a handful of states, New Orleans was a territory, and slavery was still legal! I feel that age alone should suffice to discredit the law. Not only that, but interpreting the law to mean anal or oral sex targets certain populations. The article mentions that persons who are transgender are often affected, but it also seems to target gay men and lesbians. Furthermore, as one person who commented on the article stated, one would wonder if the johns are also being prosecuted with a crime against nature’ I personally doubt this,which seems to indicate that they are not actually catching people in the act of “unnatural copulation,” but merely catching them soliciting.

Lastly, if New Orleans isn’t doing this to target certain populations of people and legitimately hopes it will cut down on prostitution, it’s just not happening. All this law is doing is limiting people’s options to the point where sex work is what they can do, as Deon Haywood (Women with a Vision) states.

"When you charge young women with this -- when you label them as a sex offender -- this is what they are for the rest of their lives," she said. Haywood said the women she sees have few options. Many of them are homeless. They are sleeping in abandoned houses or on the street, or they are trading sex for a place to stay. "The women we work with, they don't call it sex work," she said. "They don't know what that means. They don’t even call it prostitution. They call it survival."

Monday, January 25, 2010

Banning Freedom of Speech for the Greater Good?

Recently, legislation was introduced to the French Parliament to ban pro-ana blogs and websites. These websites promote anorexia and bulimia by giving tips on how starve themselves and “thinspiration.” According to one source, the legislation would criminalize the production of such websites and could result in fines of €30,000 ($42,435) and a two-year prison sentence for people who:

“provoke a person to seek excessive thinness by encouraging prolonged restriction of nourishment” to the point of risking death or damage to health. The prison term is raised to three years with a €45,000 fine if the person dies."

To be honest, I am a little hesitant to embrace this proactive law to stop the promotion of anorexia. On one hand it is stopping a practice that is damaging and deadly yet it is also limiting freedom of speech. I know that it seems silly to want to protect the freedom of speech of someone who is promoting something so dangerous, but what about the women who use these outlets (however damaging) as a way to cope. Rather than pursing these people as criminals and punishing them through means of fines and prison, maybe the truly proactive thing would be to provide help. For the time being, there does not seem to be any upcoming anti-ana legislation in the U.S., but if there is maybe we can pass out help and tips for recovery rather than sentences.

Friday, January 22, 2010

“She doesn’t kick like a girl”

As a follow up from my last blog I must share my most recent soccer experience. As I waited for the adult game to start, I watched the youth soccer practice finish up. As they scrimmaged, I noticed there were a couple of talented young girls. It was great to see these young girls playing soccer and giving the boys a run for their money. To add to my joy, I hear the guys next to me say, with a sideways glance toward me, “you know…you can’t take them for granted just because they're girls.”

"Great!!" I thought. They can see that women can compete with the men and I’m proving to be a good example!! As they notice my happy grin, one man decides to elaborate by saying “see this one [points at one of the girls playing]…she doesn’t kick like a girl!!” Trying not to let my grin fade I think, "so close…and yet so far away." Again I fought the urge to lecture…“what you mean is that she kicks like a soccer player. After all, she is in fact a girl and therefore kicks like a girl; a good, girl, soccer player. Sex has nothing to do with the quality or standards of kicking, the sport of soccer does.”

It seemed to get worse from there. As the adult game got going I blocked a shot on goal. Now it’s important to understand that for some of the young men, these shots seem to be an opportunity to display their power and not-to-be-reckoned-with-maleness. Consequently they kick the ball as hard as they can. This irritates me to no end because when the ball is kicked so hard, control is almost totally lost. Thus it goes soaring off into the nets, sideboards, people…basically anywhere but the goal (granted it does get there quickly). However, since the point of shooting is to score, I am continually frustrated by this unnecessary, fruitless tactic.

So when I blocked this forceful ball, it smacked my upper body and it hurt. But despite my momentary pain I would rather that everyone just continued to play, AS I DID. But no I get an apology “I’m so sorry, are you ok?” Yes, I am! Can’t you see I am still playing, not crumpled on the ground crying. I’m a soccer player, and as such I expect that I will get hit. In fact I will place myself in the ball's path in the hopes that I will get hit. That’s the point! Maybe next time I will just respond by saying “no problem, you were just kicking like a boy!”

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sex Worker Protection and Needle Exchange: Safety or Morality?

As of today, there is no known medical cure for HIV/AIDS, though various sources seem to indicate there are plenty of untapped social cures. In this context, cure implies a means intended to lessen the impact and prevalence of HIV/AIDS globally. After stumbling across an article entitled “Neither Victims Nor Voiceless: Sex Workers Speaking for Themselves” through RH Reality Check, I became interested in sharing a few related finds and observations. The article and accompanying film discuss sex workers in India who are tackling sky-high HIV rates by employing HIV-Peer Education and condom distribution. The community-based organization which leads these efforts is called SANGRAM; it aims to prioritize the voices of sex workers to better understand the best strategies for effectively assisting these women.

While this specific organization focuses its efforts mostly within India, there are many other similar organizations that aim to decrease the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in other parts of the world. Condom distribution is certainly not the only means of contributing to this effort. In fact, while watching a travel show on PBS a few months ago, I was struck by a needle exchange program employed in many parts of the world. According to, this program basically works by providing “access to sterile syringes and other injecting equipment such as swabs and sterile water to reduce the risk of IDUs coming into contact with other users’ infected blood.” Such programs have been shown to significantly reduce HIV/AIDS rates, and a study by the WHO found no evidence that they increased usage of illicit drugs. Moreover, needle exchange programs view drug use as a medical condition rather than a criminal activity. As a result, they teach drug users about safe disposal techniques, safer sex practices, and how to access treatment. The U.S. finally lifted the ban on government funding of these programs in 2009.

Having not been directly involved with the sex industry or intravenous drug usage, I can only speculate as to what is feels like to be pushed to the edges of society as a result of something that may be entirely out of your control (i.e. resorting to sex work or drug usage). Since both sex workers and drug users typically resort to such measures out of economic desperation, it is frustrating to see that much of the resistance to previously mentioned reform programs is based on misunderstood conceptions of how and why these people live the way they do. The assumption that sex workers and drug users have only themselves to blame for their condition is an uneducated, individualistic viewpoint that fails to consider the broader structural conditions that contribute to their wellbeing, such as institutionalized racism and the feminization of poverty. I also feel it is naïve and unrealistically utopian to assume our world exists without money for sex or illicit drugs.

Only true economic, racial, and gender equality can ensure that all individuals are given the same opportunities to pursue a potentially drug-free, prostitution-free and/or HIV-free life. As stated in the article published by RH Reality Check: “The exercise of human rights should not be contingent on whether or not you think a person’s choices or circumstances are a good way to live or be. Entangling morality with a conversation about rights…only perpetuates their disempowerment.”

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Saving Face, or Self Mutilation?

Human beings have flaws. Lots of them. One of my flaws is a fascination with the MTV show “The Hills”. I hate MTV and I think it sucks, but for some reason I occasionally like to watch that particular show. So, one of the “characters” is Heidi Montag, who is in the news a lot recently because of some extensive plastic surgery she underwent at the end of last year.

This woman is apparently the victim of a warped self image. She had 10 procedures done over a 10 hour time period. When one examines before and after photos, the change is quite dramatic.

People carving up their bodies and faces is not exactly a new phenomenon. But I still can’t help but be repulsed by it. Some would argue that it is the product of an image-obsessed culture. It is natural for one to want to look their best. But I feel that using cosmetic surgery to alter your features is a drastic, unnecessary and dangerous measure.

Reconstructive plastic surgery is another story; I see nothing wrong with that. But a 23 year old woman who is already beautiful electing to have cosmetic procedures such as “neck liposuction” or “chin reduction” perplexes and saddens me. Beauty fades, looks fade… I’d rather take pride in the nature of my soul than the arrangement of my face.

You can see a clip from “Good Morning America” where Heidi Montag is asked some tough questions here on Jezebel.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Feminism Triumphs Fun....Sometimes

Even though I considered myself to be a feminist before I began working at the WRC, during my time here I have become even more aware of the gender stereotypes that are thrown at society from every possible direction. As a result, I find myself pointing out these instances to those around me and occasionally, I end up ruining everyone’s fun.

For instance I was watching TV with a friend of mine and a commercial for the show Burn Notice came on. As my friend and I watched I said “this drives me crazy…look…there’s the hot speeding sports car, the sexy skinny woman in a skimpy dress holding a big gun that of course she has complete command of, and the macho guy in sunglasses saying ‘looks like murder is in fashion this season’ (or something to that effect)...I mean come on, it’s like the writers said what do men like…hmm…spies in cool cars, explosions, guns and hot chicks…let’s throw all that together.” Unbeknownst to me at the time, my friend, unlike me who has never seen the show, likes and watches Burn Notice. From then on every time the commercial came on she made a comment like “oh no…there it is again” or “I know, I know, you’re right.” I know it seems like a small thing, but I don’t want her to feel bad for liking the show.

So last night when I was playing soccer (me, another woman, and about 25 men), the other woman scored a goal and I hear from the guys standing next to me say something like, “you just got scored on by a girl..!” I wanted to ask why it was so surprising that a girl scored, did they not think she was capable because she was a girl, were they trying to make the other team feel humiliated because a girl scored? But I didn’t say anything. I knew that I would probably be perceived as the lecturer-feminist who couldn’t just laugh along with everyone else. So…when it was my turn to play…I scored a goal…and while similar comments may still have been made on the sidelines…I concluded that this was probably a more effective way to get the message across.

Upcoming AFC events and FIRST meeting!

While the U.S. has one of the most advanced health care systems in the world, it also has the second-highest infant mortality rate of any industrialized nation. Midwives preside over most births throughout Europe and Japan, but less than 10% of American births, despite their proven record of care and success. The Women’s Resource Center and Advocates for Choice are starting off the semester with a showing of “The Business of Being Born,” a documentary that explores the history of obstetrics, the role and history of Midwives, and how many common medical practices may be doing new mothers more harm than good. Please attend on Tuesday, January 26 from 7:00-8:30 p.m. at the Women’s Resource Center (on corner of Lincoln Highway and Normal).

Similarly, Advocates for Choice, a student organization dedicated to educating the university community about reproductive health and access issues, will have its first meeting of the semester here at the Women's Resource Center on Monday, January 25 from 6:00-7:00 p.m. To learn more about this growing group, e-mail or find us on Facebook.

Look forward to seeing you at this and/or many of the other upcoming Women’s Resource Center and Advocates for Choice events.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Remembering Miep Gies

I heard on NPR this morning that Miep Gies passed away yesterday at the age of 100. She was one of a group of people who hid Anne Frank and her family, as well as four other people, in a secret annex during World War II. She and her fellow helpers smuggled food, writing paper, news of the outside world, and books to those who hid in the attic. She also is responsible for “rescuing” Anne’s diary; she gave it to Anne’s father Otto after the young girl died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

I was amazed by the courage and bravery of this woman. Perhaps the most impressive thing was her refusal to be seen as a hero; she believed that a person should not be celebrated for doing what was right. That kind of conviction can serve as inspiration for all who aim to do the right thing.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Is it "true love" if everything about it is fake?

A new semester of school has just begun, and with it, my roommate has returned to our apartment from winter break. She also brought with her a new show that she has apparently been following. Last night she “reserved” the TV in order to watch the new episode. What, you may ask, is this show that has captivated my roommate’s attention? Tough Love.

Tough Love is a reality TV show on VH1 where contestants are trained on how to find a mate by a matchmaker, Steven Ward. With this brief description you can probably guess that the show is a recipe for a misogynistic disaster. He claims to have credentials to pick apart women because his mom was a matchmaker, although, at 28, he is not married, which seems to be the only goal that is worthwhile. Thus, he is failing at his own game. Additionally, besides telling women everything that they have going wrong for them, he also has some great (dripping with sarcasm) tips like this one:

(found on Steven Ward's profile)

Fortunately, we have Sarah Haskins to help make fun of the show for us:

I know that the quality of the shows that VH1 produces are never up to my feminist standards, but I feel that shows like this SCREAM “offensive.” I watched an episode with my roommate and could not stop thinking about how insulting it is to women everywhere. The host dissects each woman - basically telling her that a man can never love her for who she is, and that she should change herself to be more appealing to the opposite sex. Whatever happened to loving -and respecting- someone for who they are (quirks and all)?