Thursday, March 31, 2011

One Final Thought About Anti-Contraception

That was Janet Smith, guest speaker for the Catholic student group Veritas, who started a shit storm at Bowling Green State University this week.

Yesterday, I got a response to my column about Smith and I learned two things.  As usual, I don't know what I'm talking about.  And secondly, this:

Natural Family Planning maintains the union between the two crucial aspects of sex—unity and procreation. The reason Dr. Smith says a person can’t get pregnant “by accident” is because every act of intercourse has the potential to result in a new human life—even when using the 99% effective birth control pill. If a couple chooses to have sex, they are taking on the responsibility of potentially becoming parents as a result of that choice.

Embracing, rather than suppressing, this possibility makes sex less about two people selfishly seeking pleasure and more about two people selflessly accepting the reality that their love is so powerful it could co-create life.
And then the angry reader recommended the "Couple to Couple League" website where everyone uses Natural Family Planning-- "the only form of family planning that respects God’s plan for love, marriage, and sexuality."  And everyone has a baby.

Anti-contraception individuals are really just members of the anti-abortion movement.  Hiding from reality under the "pro-life" umbrella, they assume "birth control will lead to more abortions" because they believe the false statistics they create.

Following their flawed logic, women who don't want children and put their faith in oral contraceptives will end up pregnant 50% of the time-- which means they'll be next in line at the abortion clinic.  If they don't take the pill, then they won't risk having sex.

But believing birth control emboldens those who would otherwise abstain is naive.  People are going to have sex, with or without condoms and pills.  Telling them contraception is a waste of time or money because it doesn't work is only setting them up of pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, or worse. 

This, by far, is the biggest latent consequence of abstinence-only teaching.  Unprotected sex is one of the riskiest behaviors anyone can partake in these days. 

The heavily distributed "Contraception: Why Not?" by Janet Smith touches on several other topics I didn't get a chance to mention in yesterday's piece.

Obviously, abortion is the underlying issue.  Always interesting to see how the other side arrives at their conclusions, Smith has outlined the thought process here:

The connection between contraception and abortion is primarily this: contraception facilitates the kind of relationships and even the kind of attitudes and moral characters that are likely to lead to abortion.  The contraceptive mentality treats sexual intercourse as though it had little natural connection with babies; it thinks of babies as an "accident" of pregnancy, as an unwelcome intrusion into a sexual relationship, as a burden. 
What Smith refers to as the "contraceptive mentality" goes by another name: reproductive rights.  Some of us intend to never get married.  Even those who will settle down with a companion, married or not, may decide not to have children.  What with having the modern capabilities to control our own fertility, should women not have that choice?

Anti-contraception is anti-feminist.  In fact, Smith blames feminsim for society's overwhelming support for the pill.  She dismisses the notion "women couldn't get in the work place and find their fulfillment unless they were having fewer babies" as if employment, autonomy and children were completely unrelated.

Anti-contraception is deeply rooted in traditional gender roles.  The narrative is also completely heteronormative, for obvious reasons.  The Catholic Church is not exactly open to alternative lifestyles.  And Smith confesses she's appalled by women using in vitro fertilization-- "treating their bodies like machines."  This comment is directed towards "older" women, but one gets the feeling others are implied.

Smith's popular sermon focuses on women's sexuality.  Nothing is mentioned about men, their bodies, or their responsibilities. 

As Jessica Valenti has argued, this preoccupation with purity is just as sexually objectifying as the hyper-sexualized culture to which this holy movement is responding.  Telling young women they're only good for making babies is the same as telling them they're only good for sex-- they're still only good for one thing and it rests between their legs.

It seems pretty stressful, living in a religious community that constantly tells you society only values your ability to procreate-- and acting like you're pumped about it.  I wonder how many children Janet Smith has?  And I wonder if spreading this misinformation is her attempt to stay relevant, as she is passed her own child-bearing years.

I'm truly curious how a woman, like Smith, delivers this message to other women?  Or why it was a woman who felt compelled to send me a letter defending natural family planning. 

What possible benefit is there to this dehumanization?  If anything has reduced women to machines, it's this anti-contraception nonsense, knowingly treating them like a baby production assembly-line. 

In a system offering either repressed sexual desires or guilt and shame, it seems some women really do clutch the very chains that bind them.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Natural Family Planning Comes to College

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Permanently Scatterbrained under Creative Commons 3.0

When I want factually inaccurate information about contraception, I always look to the Catholic Church.  There’s no better source for sex, lies, and anti-choice propaganda.  And the most recent event hosted by Veritas proved just that. 
Sunday night, Professor of Moral Theology Janet E. Smith visited BGSU to discuss birth control, but more importantly, women’s sexuality.  While inviting 1995’s “Pro-Life Person of the Year” to talk to students about contraception may sound like a joke, I can assure you the event was “super cereal.” 
“Contraception, Why Not?” sounds like a consideration.  But the Catholic Church made up its mind about the pill a long time ago. 
It was 1968 when Pope Paul VI condemned all birth control, except for natural planning, or the “guess when you’re fertile” method.  Last year, Pope Benedict XVI condoned the use of condoms to combat HIV and AIDS, but the Church’s position on pregnancy prevention has not changed.     
Many Catholics, like Smith, endorse the Pope’s message.  And that’s fine.  The first amendment gives all citizens the right to follow any religion they choose.  However, the constitution does not give religious “authorities” the right to lie about medical science in hopes of pushing their moral agenda. 
Monday’s BG News reported several questionable things Smith shared with her audience.  The same statements can be found on her webpage, where a transcript of her infamous speech is available. 
Tuesday’s BG News published a letter to the editor and a falcon screech concerning the controversial event.  Many students were outraged by Smith’s dogmatic assertions.   
For instance, Smith said women using oral contraceptives will be attracted to losers.
This comes from a popular study in 2008, suggesting women find their mates by smell.  Typically, noses lead them to someone whose genetic makeup differs from their own, but the pill disrupts the olfactory and pushes women towards genetically similar men. 
However, something else can cause women to seek out these “inferior” partners; pregnancy.  When a woman becomes pregnant, the same research shows she wants someone more like herself to help protect and raise her baby. 
A closer look reveals “genetically different” means “more masculine” and “genetically similar” means “more feminine.”  The evidence is just another “scientific” push for traditional gender roles. 
Smith also said birth control alters hormones, causing women to become disinterested in their partners, which can lead to divorce.  But social scientists think divorce is caused by something else. 
A recent article in The New York Times found divorce rates rising in rural areas.  When asked about the increase of heartbreak in the heartland, sociologists explained more women are working, gaining autonomy and leaving.  And it seems class is an important indicator. 
College-educated people are more likely to get married and stay married while those who only have a high school diploma are more likely to split. 
Convinced there are latent consequences, Smith said the best alternative to birth control is natural family planning.  It’s easy, because women are only fertile 12 hours of the month.
Yet ovulation can occur at various times during a cycle, and may occur on a different day each month.  Very few women have “regular” periods.  There’s no sure way to know which 12 hours to avoid. 
But “natural planning” is purposely unhelpful because the last thing “pro-lifers” are trying to do is help women avoid getting pregnant.  Insisting failure is a “blessing,” makes this method even more transparent.
I would encourage anyone who has the time to investigate other ridiculous claims Smith has made in “Contraception, Why Not?”—your choice of tape, CD, MP3, or original transcript.
 Yes, things like, “people who have children become better people.”  (But what about child abuse or neglect?)  Smith also thinks children help hold marriages together because when you’re mad at your spouse and you go for a long drive, you always come back for the kids—and work things out.
Smith believes contraception facilitates adultery, because the only thing keeping people from cheating on their spouses is risking a child born out of wedlock-- not the mutual love or respect they share.
By destroying the offspring glue holding it all together, birth control is the ultimate home-wrecker.  Women using contraception can work and make money.  Financial independence enables them to leave a marriage when they are unhappy—which is wrong.
Relying heavily on “data,” Smith’s anecdotal evidence is pretty convincing.  But with all the facts and figures, there are no real citations.  
For instance, an unnamed priest told Smith 75% percent of couples who live together before marriage are divorced within the first three years.  She doesn’t seem to care how he arrived at this number.  She’s too busy blaming contraception.
And supposedly 50% of girls needing abortions at the “pregnancy help center” where Smith volunteered said their contraceptives failed.   
Yet the Mayo Clinic endorses studies showing “fewer than one of each one hundred women correctly using oral contraceptives becomes pregnant during the first year of use.”  Even beginners can successfully prevent pregnancy, which is why oral contraceptives advertise as more than 99% effective.
“Contraception, Why Not?” makes several other points, but the last one I care to mention is this; Smith compares contraception to a barrier keeping God out of sex. 
But not everyone wants to make it a threesome.  In fact, Catholics for Choice is a social justice group of dissenters who believe “the Catholic tradition supports a woman’s moral and legal right to follow her conscience in matters of sexuality and reproductive health.”  They’ve been around since 1973, arguing the Pope has no place in anyone’s bedroom but his own.
Some people think “the truth” doesn’t come from old white men whose power and influence relies on their ability to uphold an archaic, patriarchal institution.  But others do.  And that’s fine.   
All I ask is that those people express their religious beliefs as such, rather than distorting reality to serve their own narrow purpose.  Because otherwise you are lying.  And that’s a sin too.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sexist Contraception Talk Focuses on Women's Sexuality

Originally published in the BG News on Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Photo courtesy of Flickr user nateOne under Creative Commons 3.0
 "A Letter to the Editor," by Abbey Hilborn

Guess what, America? Women are having sex! And you know what? They're having sex for orgasms!

Shocking? Not really. You know what is shocking? That at the college-level, abstinence-only education is still telling women misinformation about birth control.

Recently, an abstinence-only-disguised-as-contraception-education speaker came to the University. She was anything but educational, even the title of her talk -- "Contraception, Why Not?" -- is misleading.

Now, reading that title, it implies it is educational about contraception, not promoting abstinence and providing false information.

She said a woman can't get pregnant by accident or how birth control isn't used anymore to prevent pregnancy. These statements are potentially dangerous to women, because they are just plain false and do not prepare women for sex.

As stated in the documentary "Daddy I Do," if a person is to "do sex safely, it's premeditated." Meaning that using birth control and condoms, a person is actively preventing pregnancy. Therefore, if by chance a woman does get pregnant after taking all the necessary precautions, it's an accident.

Let's say I'm driving down Wooster Street, I use my turn signals, check my mirrors and follow all the signs and red lights, but I end up wrapping my car around a tree. My intentions were not to get into a car accident because I tried everything to prevent it from happening.

Get what I'm saying? A woman didn't intend to get pregnant because she used birth control.

The speaker is sending the message that a woman can only get pregnant if her intention for having sex is to get pregnant, which we all know is untrue. Just turn on "Teen Mom." I highly doubt any of those girls intended to get pregnant when they had sex.

This isn't even the only piece of misinformation stated by speaker. She said  women aren't using birth control to prevent pregnancy but for medical reasons.

Although that may be true, it is not enough to dismiss birth control's main purpose and the woman who use it for that purpose.

The most ridiculous thing she said is that birth control makes women date "losers."

Just reading that makes me laugh. I highly doubt that all women on birth control date losers, and if a woman is dating a loser, I don't think the best solution is to take her off her birth control.

If a guy is a loser, that's his fault, let's not blame women and their birth control because a guy is a jerk.

Can I just take a moment and point out how sexist this talk was? This talk was aimed toward women to not use birth control and have sex. Did the speaker tell guys not use a condom and to keep it in their pants?

It just goes to show women are not allowed to have sex and are called a slut if they do. But if a guy has sex, he's praised for his manhood and called a stud. That's just blatant sexism.

How many more studies need to come out that prove abstinence-only education doesn't work before people change their tune on contraception?

If you want the truth about contraception go to, visit the Student Health Center or visit the Women's Center in Hanna Hall.

Every woman has the right to know their options and contraception is definitely an option

Monday, March 28, 2011

Breaking Up with Chris Brown

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Nomor95 under Creative Commons 3.0

I used to like Chris Brown.  And not just because he was really, really, ridiculously good-looking.

At a time when everyone seemed to be "in love with a stripper," Brown was more respectfully interested in more modest women, like the ones he chased in "Excuse Me, Miss."  And when most music wanted you to "shake that ass" for them, Brown wanted to dance with you; "Forever." 

I even had "Kiss Kiss" as my ringtone for a while.  Because ringtones were  thing. And I used to really like Chris Brown.

When he and Rihanna performed together at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards, it seemed like a match made in pop culture heaven. I was even a little jealous. 

But that was almost 4 years ago. A lot has changed since then.

In February of 2009, Brown was arrested for assaulting Rihanna. According to sources for E! news, "she suffered visible bruises on her face during an early morning confrontation."  The couple skipped the Grammys the next day-- even though both were nominated for awards and scheduled to perform.

After spending some time apart, the two reconciled at P.Diddy's Florida mansion. While reports made it clear Rihanna's family was concerned, "her father Ronald Fenty said he would support his daughter whatever decision she made."

Brown was sentenced that August, receiving 5 years of probation.  The hearing revealed the couple had been involved in two other incidents of domestic violence before the very public February ordeal.

By November, they were officially over, and Rihanna was speaking out against domestic violence.  During a particularly painful interview, she admitted going back was a mistake and that she was embarrassed by her decision.

Fast forward to February of this year, when a judge lifted Brown's restraining order-- supposedly to make award shows less awkward.

Both careers continue to flourish.  Brown has even released a new album, F.A.M.E. which he recently promoted on Good Morning America.  But when he was asked about the past, Brown flipped and split. 

Reports explained:
"ABC News said Brown smashed a window in his dressing room after his interview with GMA's co-host Robin Roberts on Tuesday. Roberts had asked Brown about the Grammy eve beating two years ago, for which he is still on probation."
He apologized and "noted that he didn't physically harm anyone." But property damage, instead of assault, isn't exactly a personal victory.

Brown desperately wants to move on. But people aren't going to forget.  And they shouldn't.

In a world where too much domestic violence goes undocumented, Brown needs to be held accountable.  Otherwise, the courage it took Rihanna to come forward was all in vain.   

Usually celebrities wrong the unknown. But in this instance, both parties were already famous, so the victim had agency. Rihanna had access to the same news outlets as her assailant. And her story wasn't overshadowed by Brown's popularity because she was equally popular.

No one assumed Rihanna was doing it for money or fame. She was simply doing it because it was right.  And everyone saw how difficult it was for her to come forward.  Rihanna, like all victims, would gain very little. She had more to lose by telling the truth.

But Brown is still trying to make a comeback.  The first single off his new album (the same song he performed on Good Morning America, before he stormed off) is rather predictable; go to the club, pop bottles, yell things (like "yeah") and hopefully hook up.  Just another day in the life. 

And the music video for "Yeah 3x" showcases Brown's dancing, which increasingly defies gravity. 

But when it comes time to "break it down," Brown says rather something disturbing:

"All the pretty young things in the party-- lemme see your hands up.  And if they mad and they don't wanna party-- tell 'em shut the fuck up."

Normally, these non-rhymes would pass under the radar, almost completely undetected. But it's harder to stomach Brown's aggressive language, given his violent tendencies. 

Offended, my immediate response was; "Don't tell me to shut the fuck up, Chris Brown." 

Typically, musical misogyny is merely a performance. But I stopped giving Brown the benefit of the doubt once he blurred the line between questionable lyrics and unforgivable actions.

Of course it's problematic that hyperbole involving sexual objectification and violence against women sells music-- but real, documented violence is totally unacceptable.    

While Brown has tweeted his thanks to followers for their overwhelming support, this is one former fan who is not impressed.  Or buying it.  And as far as I'm concerned, it's over.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Protecting Planned Parenthood

Originally published in the Loyola Phoenix on Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"A Voice of Treason," by Anthony Betori

An examination of federal funding for Planned Parenthood offers a view into the intersecting issues that make up the furor over reproductive healthcare in America. Religion, taxes and abortion — all together they make a concoction of the Right’s hot button issues.

The flaw in the conversation about Planned Parenthood lies in the apparent familiarity of these issues: Too many people are defaulting to the usual arguments when Planned Parenthood deserves special consideration.

It is necessary to note that Planned Parenthood provides many services other than abortion — STI tests, counseling and mammograms, to name a few. It is a place for women to receive the care they need — care that is not necessarily readily available with many other health care providers. It is an institution focused on safety and discretion — two key aspects of Planned Parenthood’s identity which establish its role as a crucial member of any community.

The government de facto serves only the purpose the people set for it; there are no essentials, but the services provided by Planned Parenthood seem like good ones to allow. Planned Parenthood, considering its uniqueness and value, is something any government should promote if the government finds that it is necessary to promote anything. Reproductive healthcare has a major impact on all aspects of American life from workforces to schools to welfare, and it should be treated with appropriate gravity.

To try to undo the work of Planned Parenthood, by virtue of the no-abortion rule or the lower-deficit-at-any-cost policy, makes little sense.

The arguments I’ve heard about the issue surround two main points. “Well, it’s my money and I don’t want it funding the death of babies,” or “I’m sorry, but we can’t afford it.” These arguments don’t seem to justify stripping millions of women of a demonstrably basic right to health.

Planned Parenthood would have no need to defend itself if people understood the reality of Planned Parenthood’s ministry.

In the richest country in the world, you’d think taxpayers could afford to help educate our daughters about sex, and give them a safe place to go if they’ve been raped or sexually assaulted. You’d think it’d be in our best interest to plan families, to discuss children in terms of monetary ability and the time one can commit, and then walk people through the process of having children.

Why suffocate the conversations Planned Parenthood gives us the ability to have?

Planned Parenthood is an asset to America. Yes, it provides abortions, and if you find it necessary to write off the entire system as a result of this, than I’m not sure your priorities are in order. More easily available abortions are legal in America, and our elected officials, as well as our populace, must respect this.  The services Planned Parenthood offers justify federal funding much more than is necessary, even if a person is peripherally distracted by abortions.

Rather than defaulting to the same old arguments, let’s consider the reality of the situation and acknowledge that Americans are lucky to have Planned Parenthood as a part of our lives.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Sometimes I'll do something and I'll think to myself-- that is so Raven. 

And then other times, I'll do something, I'll be like-- that was not very Raven. 

Normally, Sat-ire-day is just something funny from Saturday Night Live.  For instance-- this is a hilarious critique of the Disney channel by someone who had their own (very successful) show on said channel. 

However, the depection of Raven Symone is questionable.  And I found this open letter to Saturday Night Live by Leslie Gray Streeter at "The Pop Shop."  In a list of Do's and Don'ts, one hit the nail right on the head.
DON’T: do any more sketches featuring black women characters unless you hire some black women. Seriously. I don’t know why I have to keep saying this. Keenan Thompson in a dress is old. And it’s insulting. Whoopi Goldberg and Jennifer Hudson don’t look like  men. If women of color are prominent enough to be parodied, they’re prominent enough to be employed. On a related note – I noticed that in “The View” sketch, Sherri Sheppard was supposedly away. Is that because you ran out of black men to put in dresses?
The list was posted two years ago.  Obviously, not much has changed.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday's Five Feminist Friends

1) ECHIDNE of the Snakes remembers the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

2) RH Reality Check: Uganda's Anti-Gay Bill Returns

3) WMC holds Lopez Accountable for "Pig" Comments

4) Womanist Musings: India's Caste System Silence

5) FBomb approves 'Glees' Awesome Body Images

Looking Forward to the Weekend

Originally published in the BG News on Friday, March 25, 2011

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Tom Marcello under Creative Commons 3.0

Are you worried that Women's History Month is almost over and you haven't participated in nearly enough events celebrating womanhood? Do you like talented women musicians who are not Rebecca Black? Then I know how you should "get down" tonight.

The Graduate Women's Caucus will host their second annual benefit concert tonight at Grumpy Dave's Pub. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show, featuring a variety of local bands from Bowling Green and Toledo, will start at 7:30.

"All of the bands have at least one woman in them," said Angie Fitzpatrick, president of the Graduate Women's Caucus.

Coincidentally, the affair resembles the University's theme for Women's History Month, which is "women in performance." While it was unplanned, it all fits together very nicely.

"We've got women in musical performances--bluegrass, rock 'n' roll. The women in these bands fill a variety of positions. Some of them play the guitar, the fiddle; some of them are singers, drummers. I think it's important for us to demonstrate that women can rock out just as well as the men," Fitzpatrick said.

The integrated line-up includes Hemline Theory, Abby Ray, Cory Hillman and Bruce Lillie and Root Cellar String Band, as well as Analog Revolution--a favorite at Howard's Club H.   

Wards of the Mayor, the "prog rock" headliners, will perform a set of musical storylines. Progressive rock, the psychedelic genre developed in the '60s, is responsible for bands like Pink Floyd and concept albums like "The Wall," so attendants can expect to have their minds blown. Eighteen and over, of course.

The cost is a $5 donation at the door--but feel free to give a little more because it's for a great cause. Half of the proceeds are going to the Cocoon Shelter, Wood County's only domestic violence shelter.

"In times of economic crisis, domestic violence rates tend to go up. It's important, now more than ever, to show support for the women and children in our community who need our help," Fitzpatrick said.

Last year's event was wildly successful, enabling GWC to put together their reproductive justice film series. The group showed "The Business of Being Born" and "The Coat Hanger Project" in the Gish Theater.

"For the Coat Hanger Project, we were actually able to bring the filmmaker here and have her talk about the experience of making the film, so it was pretty great," Fitzpatrick said.

Committed to developing the personal, political and professional aspects of graduate women's lives, GWC also holds workshops on job hunting, academic publishing and other topics throughout the year.

"We're interested in providing a support system for graduate women on campus--because even though there are more and more women in college classrooms, even at the graduate level, the system is still stacked against women," Fitzpatrick said.

Additionally, the organization fosters mentoring relationships between grad students and faculty, as well as grad students and undergrads. 

But rocking out is the only thing on tonight's agenda.

"This show is a way to bring Bowling Green progressives together in a space where we can support feminism," Fitzpatrick said.

We feminists are pretty excited. "We so excited." 

So we'll see you there. Knowing your money will help sustain a worthy foundation and activities like these, how could you possibly say no?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Making History

Photo courtesy of Flickr user ibitmylip under Creative Commons 3.0

Fighting to be Remembered

Every March, time is allotted in the American school system to discuss women’s impact on history.  For roughly 30 days, the sidebars in text books become the main event. 
As children learn about women fighting for the right to vote or participate in sports, it’s worth noting the observance of Women’s History Month itself was a struggle. 
The battle for the calendar began in 1978.  Initially only seven days of remembrance, “Women’s History Week” hovered over the already established International Women’s Day—a worldwide holiday that celebrated its 100th anniversary this year. 
The United States was content with just a week of women’s history for nearly a decade.  And then it became an issue.  
According to the National Women’s History Month Project, it was 1987 when the group “petitioned Congress to expand the celebration to the entire month of March. Since then, the National Women’s History Month Resolution has been approved every year with bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.”

Why History Matters
If women are half the population, they should be half of everything else.  Yet women are underrepresented in government, underpaid at work, and under appreciated in the past. 
Why does history matter?  When little girls learn that women didn’t do as much to make this country great, they internalize they can’t do as much in the future. 
With centuries worth of women’s contributions overlooked or erased, one month of relevance hardly seems sufficient.  Luckily, there are several agents working to preserve women’s history all year long. 
The National Women’s Studies Association is “leading the field in educational and social transformation.”  The importance of Women’s Studies and the academic understanding of gender are incalculable.  Unfortunately, these topics are reserved for classrooms in university settings—as are resources devoted entirely to women’s history.
The Feminist Press, set up at the City University of New York, is helping to make women’s history visible.  Dedicated to “rescuing lost works” and publishing “exciting writing by women and men who share an activist spirit and a belief in choice and equality,” this publisher seeks out what’s been forgotten.  If you’ve read The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, thank the Feminist Press. 
But what about something more tangible for the public? 

70,000 square feet of women-centric exhibits is a good place to start.  The Women’s Museum opened its doors in 2000, explaining “a fully democratic civil society must represent and involve both men and women, and that the voices, vision and contributions of women must be part of the fabric of history and shape of the future.” 
The Smithsonian affiliate resides in Texas, while the Smithsonian Institute is located in Washington D.C.  Another organization is attempting to build the first-ever women’s history museum in the nation’s capital, but the project has been stationary for years while Congress keeps the bill on hold. 

Who Makes the Cut
This year’s theme for Women’s History Month is “our history is our strength,” which brings me to my final thought.  When teachers incorporate women into the curriculum, they always turn to the usual suspects.
But women’s history is not just Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.  Looking back, suffragettes like Alice Paul sealed the deal with more radical tactics. 
And it’s more than Amelia Earhart or Helen Keller.  While each of their life’s work was incredible, they continue to overshadow Emma Goldman, Dolores Huerta, and all the women who fearlessly fought for workers rights. 
Women’s history is made up of Margaret Sanger, who gave us Planned Parenthood and the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, who wrote “Our Bodies, Ourselves.”
It’s more than Gloria Steinem, but Dorothy Pitman Hughes, Margaret Sloan, Flo Kennedy and all the women who shared a vision of a more egalitarian lifestyle.
The road to social, political and economic equality was paved by Betty Friedan and the National Organization for Women (NOW) as well as Rita Mae Brown and the Lavender Menace.
And women’s accomplishments aren’t just Sandra Day O’Connor and all the women who came first, but Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonja Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and all the women who came after.
There are eight days of Women’s History Month left.  Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is this:
First, learn about a nontraditional figure in women’s history.  Find someone other than a white, able-bodied, heterosexual, well-known icon to add to the conversation.  Act as their publicist.  Tell everyone. 
And second, realize you have the potential to make history yourself.  So do it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

BGSU Vagina Monologues 2011

The Organization for Women's Issues hosted Eve Ensler's Vagina Monologues last month. 

Old favorites like "Hair" and "My Angry Vagina" were performed alongside "Say It" and the spotlight monologue-- dedicated to radical feminist activist Myriam Merlet.

Money raised nationally by the V-Day fund will be donated to the women of Haiti. 

Proceeds from BGSU ticket sales will help the Cocoon Shelter; a local safehouse for victims of domestic violence.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Anissa's Rules for Club Dancing

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Nisha A under Creative Commons 3.0

And now, another fabulous guest post from the always insightful Anissa Mahmood.

As a relatively frequent bar patron, it has occurred to me that the majority of gentlemen (and I use that term very loosely) in the club scene lack a certain amount of, shall we say, etiquette?

Or maybe they just lack common sense. Or even a hint of decency.

In any case, I have a solution.  And to make things easy, I have spelled out a set of rules.

Finally, some (common sense) tips for approaching and dancing with women you haven't met yet-- also known as "strangers."  These are good guidelines in all dancing situations.  But obviously the rules can bend if you are dancing with your girlfriend or a lady with whom you have already established some sort of relationship.

I have compiled this list through personal experiences and eye-witness accounts.  Adhering to these suggestions will not only benefit you, but all the women you come in contact with on the dance floor. Enjoy!

The Rules

1. Ask!

Ok, so this might sound a bit trivial, but it's actually a major issue. Recently, I've noticed a trend of guys actually asking to dance with me, and I have to say, I LOVE it.

Although I sometimes let them get away with it, I think it's truly disgusting when a guy just maneuvers himself behind me and starts gyrating away. It's the equivalent of a dance-rape. You don't have permission and I can't even see your fucking face.

Guys, you look so mature when you ask.

If she says no, that's ok-- just move on.

But she might say yes-- because you asked instead of sneaking up on her.

2. Have Rhythm, Or Get Off the Floor

You know that rumor that women equate dancing to sex? That is entirely true-- but not in the way you are thinking.

What I mean to say is that women judge you by your sense of rhythm and how well you pay attention to and accommodate them.

Think about it: good sex is all about the way you respond to your partner, not how fast or hard you can grind yourself into them. 

I can't count the number of guys I've danced with who have no rhythm at all.  I mean, you might as well not be listening to the music.

For these poor souls 'dancing' just means swaying your hips back and forth all willy-nilly, or worse, humping their victim like a crazed animal.

Listen.  I came here to dance, and I'd be doing just fine with or without you. So if you can't keep up or move with me, then get the fuck off the dance floor.

And by the way, the whole 'dancing being like sex' thing is just a judgment about your bedroom abilities.  It does not mean that women equate dancing with you to actually wanting to have sex with you. See rule #3.

3. Never Assume She Is Interested In You

I consider this the golden rule. Too often, guys approach the dance floor thinking that if a girl agrees to dance with them, she must be interested in them and wanting to have sex with them.


In my case, it always always means I am not interested in fucking you. Get your head out of your ass and consider that a girl may actually just want to dance and thought she would oblige your request.

Dancing is an activity in and of itself, and should not be indicative of sexual interest. Enjoy it for what it is.

4. Keep Your Boner to Yourself

Few things in life are more awkward than feeling a stranger's hard-on poking into you. That is gross, to say the least.  And when I talk about, my guy friends say shit like "Well we can't help it. It's your fault, you shouldn't be dancing on us like that."


Popping a stiffy in the club reflects the excitability of a 12-year-old. You are basically letting everyone know that you get so little action, you can't control yourself in public.

For fuck's sake, she is not a stripper. If you find yourself dancing with a girl and you feel your temperature rising, maybe you should take a break and cool off.

Shit happens.  But no one should have to deal with that.  And if you can't handle it, then don't fucking dance with any girls.

Or jerk it before you get to the club.


6. Keep All Groping to a Minimum

An invitation to dance is not an invitation to feel her up. If you want to test the waters, gently put your hands on her waist or hips.

Gripping her body in a sexed-starved bear-hug is not okay. Rubbing her thighs, ass, or tits is definitely not okay.

Honestly, she might not even tell you if she is uncomfortable. That is just the sad society we live in. But always assume she doesn't want you to grope her, because you are a creepy stranger. 

Never assume you have the right to touch her like that.

Remember rule #2, and realize that faux-screwing her on the dance floor is not attractive.

Now, if she grabs your hand and puts it on herself or responds positively to you touching her, then go with it. Otherwise, tread softly.



8. Don't Kiss Her

You smug fuck, you don't even know if she's single. What part of dancing made you think she would want to make out with you?

I dance with my friends, girls and guys, and it's totally platonic. I don't even see how kissing comes into the picture when you are just dancing with someone you don't know.

You are just as much a stranger as you were when you started. A good-bye peck on the cheek is pushing it.

9. Don't Overstay Your Welcome

You probably shouldn't dance with the same person for longer than 2 or 3 songs, unless she seems like she is really interested in you. You're being selfish, assuming she wants you there. Just go away.

And don't antagonize the situation by doing something annoying, like asking for her number. You look super desperate.

If she is honestly into you, she will seek you out herself or try to prevent you from leaving. Give someone else a chance. It's sort of like a 'free love' system. Get your dance time in and move on.

10. Take a Hint

Just face it, the girl may not want to have anything to do with you - before, during, or after dancing with you.

Maybe she has a boyfriend.  Maybe she's not attracted to you.  Maybe you have made her uncomfortable.  Maybe she just doesn't want to dance with anyone.

The point is, girls have a variety of subtle and obvious ways to let you know it's not happening. These include, but are not limited to:

- Pointing to a random place in the crowd and saying "My boyfriend is right over there"

- Moving far enough to be away from you, but still dancing within the vicinity of her friends

- Wedging herself between her friends so that you cannot possibly approach her from behind

- When she stops dancing as soon as you start dancing with her

- Saying she has to go somewhere, like to find her friend, and never coming back

- Pretending she is a lesbian

No matter what you think, these maneuvers are done on purpose. They are not meant to hurt your feelings, but to get out of the uncomfortable situation of rejecting you.

Unfortunately, some guys just don't get the hint. And that is annoying as fuck.

You are not going to win her over by harassing her, so just get over yourself and move on.

Keep all of these rules in mind and your next episode might showcase how mature and respectful you actually are.

Of course you will see plenty of people breaking all of these rules, so feel free to spread the word.  Respect is attractive.  Forceful social engagement is not.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday's Five Feminist Friends

1) The Root-- Why I am a Black Male Feminist

2) The Root (again)-- Why We Still Need Feminism in 2011

3) Ms.endorses male basketball player majoring in Women's Studies

4) Feministing says men suffer post partum depression too

5) Jezebel: NOT impressed with new Wonder Woman costume 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Japan, Racism and the Aftershocks

Originally published in the BG News on Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A series of unfortunate current events started last week, with an earthquake. 
Friday, Japan was shook by a force earning a 9.0 on the Richter scale-- nearly two points higher than the trembling that devastated Haiti.  Followed by a 10 meter tsunami and several smaller earthquakes, much of Japan is completely devastated. 
As buildings collapsed and infrastructure washed away, cities became unrecognizable.  With the ground still rumbling, Japan has yet to finalize its death toll.  In fact, residents are awaiting more catastrophes surrounding the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
Citizen journalism is giving the world a first person perspective of this tragedy.  After the power of social networking made itself known in Egypt, the World Wide Web appears be, in Charlie Sheen’s terms, “winning.”  
But latent consequences of easy access to technology are playing out on the internet as well.  Anyone can post a video.  Anyone.
And like a futuristic Pandora’s box, the damage can be monitored by the number of hits received, but never contained—even when one utters terrible things about people living through hell.
After explaining she and fellow Christians prayed for Atheists everywhere to see the error of their ways, a young extremist said this:
And she’ll be praying even harder, asking her vengeful God to miraculously knock out a few more nations of non-believers before Easter.   
“Not even a few days later, God shook the country of Japan.  He literally grabbed the country by the shoulders and said ‘hey look, I’m here.’  Oh, it’s just so amazing to see how God can answer prayers like this and I am so overjoyed and so encouraged.”

Unbelievable?  It should be—because “tamtampamela” is a troll and her entire YouTube channel was a hoax.  After finally coming clean, she deleted her account. 

While this should come as a relief, there were comments suggesting viewers felt otherwise about the “cunt” and her “blasphemy.”
Then, proving anything can be outdone, a UCLA student identified as Alexandra Wallace was featured in a vlog criticizing “Asians in the library.” The tirade began with her generalized observation that Asian students receive too many family visitors, which overcrowds her apartment complex.     

But the setting of her greatest grievance was the University’s library because “in America, we do not talk on our cell phones in the library.”
Apparently its finals week in UCLA-land and her “epiphanies” are interrupted by stereotypical imitations of the Chinese language—“ohh, ching-chong-ling-long-ting-tong, oh,” which she uses when referring to people from Japan.
“I swear they’re going through their whole families just checking on everybody from the tsunami thing,” was the ultimate low blow, making this video more than insulting.
After Wallace became an overnight sensation for all the wrong reasons, she apologized:

“Clearly the original video posted by me was inappropriate. I cannot explain what possessed me to approach the subject as I did, and if I could undo it, I would. I’d like to offer my apology to the entire UCLA campus. For those who cannot find it within them to accept my apology, I understand.”

More upsetting than the outlandish free speech expressed by the faux-fundamentalist and the valley girl are the comments reacting to their antics. 

For instance:
“LOL! What a stupid cunt. You don't need a UCLA degree to have a career in porn. Next time that you decide to open that mouth, make sure that it's doing what it does best.”
And then:
“What the hell was this DUMB UGLY TRASH doing in the library? The bitch should be on Sunset Blvd waiting on customers as her PIMP told her. She is going to get her ass whipped tonight by her pimp. UGLY FAT WHORE.”

But Alexandra Wallace is not overweight and she’s not unattractive.  And there’s no way to know anything about her sexuality or employment from what she stated in her video. 

Audiences only know she studies Political Science at the University of California, Los Angeles where she is very comfortable with her white privilege—comfortable enough to star in her own racist video.
The backlash is predictable.  When it comes to insulting women, cunt and bitch are automatic.  Slut and whore are almost second nature.  And fat and ugly are like adjective icing on the reputation-ruining cake. 

But threats of physical and sexual violence were made against these offensive women, who could easily pass for little girls.  It’s frightening, but more importantly, it’s gendered.
In January, Rush Limbaugh impersonated the speaking patterns of Hu Jintao, the President of China.  After broadcasting his own “ching-chongs” on his radio show, no one threatened to kick his ass or rape him.  No one called him fat or ugly, or even promiscuous. 

They simply called him racist—if they called him anything at all.  
It is what it is, but when “what it is” refers to women, there’s always a few extra words sneaking into a personal attack.  And insults rush through a floodgate when a target is accessible online.
People’s comfort with cyber bullying and digital cruelty prompted President Obama and multiple celebrities to team up with MTV’s “A Thin Line” campaign which asks, “if you wouldn’t say it, why would you type it?” 
But this only pertains to text-messaging, Facebook, or other traceable public forums-- with a focus on teenagers. 
We have yet to see a public service announcement addressing the millions of people (of all ages) who comment anonymously and viciously anywhere comments are permitted.  And we have yet to see any educational materials dedicated to controlling misogynist hate speech.
What these vloggers said is inexcusable—but so are the thousands of comments festering with hate below their virtual mistakes.  While humanity navigates its new ability to reach the masses with the push of a button, some will surely stumble.  But that doesn’t justify anyone kicking them when they are already down.   

All this proves, as Shark-Fu of Angry Black Bitch said, is that we are no more post-feminism than we are post-racism.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Gloria Steinem Returns to Oberlin College

Photo by Kate Noftsinger, March 2, 2011, Oberlin College

There’s something so inspiring about the dedicated group of women depicted in Gloria Steinem’s “Life Between the Lines.”  When reading my favorite selection from Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, I swell at the thought of Steinem, Flo Kennedy, Dorothy Pitman Hughes and Margaret Sloan touring America in those radical times.
Longing for a memory that isn’t mine, it saddens me to think the third wave has never known a spectacle quite like this. 
Met with applause and adversity, these brave women traveled from city to city, using their commanding rhetoric and united front to make the world a better place. 
I always believed Gloria Steinem possessed the ability to create change with just her words.  And after hearing her speak at Oberlin College earlier this month, I know it’s true.
Steinem visited that very campus in Ohio with Margaret Sloan 39 years ago, where they explained to a rather “open-minded” student body that race and sex could not be separated.  But not every school was ready to discuss the intersectionality of oppression in 1972.
“Lots of campuses didn’t invite us at all.   And we were very aware of that.” Steinem said.
Arguably the most recognizable name feminism, many young women were dying to know where their aviator-wearing idol found the spark that ignited a wildfire. 
Personally, I would begin by explaining that Steinem was involved in multiple campaigns, pushing alongside Cesar Chavez for workers’ rights.  Or anything of interest, really.  And it wasn’t until she attended a Red Stockings abortion speak-out that she began to focus on gender. 
Given these experiences, it seems ironic the current events overshadowing her second Oberlin appearance were nationwide protests supporting unions and Planned Parenthood—issues the speaker cared deeply about and insisted were intrinsically connected. 
Steinem made a career of crafting sentences that made sense.  Authoring several books and endless articles, she’s best known for her expose in Show magazine, revealing the rather unglamorous life of a Playboy Bunny. 
Following the journalist and her chronological bylines in The New York Times, topics slide from fashion and patterned tights to feminism and a more egalitarian society.  “Ms. Steinem” went on to launch Ms. Magazine and co-found the Women’s Media Center.
But when recently asked how she got started all those years ago, Steinem decided it really began with the word ‘no.’
“It was a series of saying no to things.  Saying no, I don’t want to get married just now.  Later—I’ll do that later.  And that lasted a long time until the women’s movement came along in my life and let me know not everyone had to live the same way.”
Often criticized for being a media favorite, Steinem seemed particularly sensitive to adoring fans, endless praise, and the hero-worship surrounding her iconic existence.
“I’m very conscious of being lucky to be a recognizable part of a movement.  But I’m very conscious that it’s a movement.  If I disappear tomorrow, it would go right on,” Steinem said.
But where would it go and what would it do?  The obvious “hot topic” is reproductive rights and the slew of anti-abortion legislation the House Republican majority has put on the table. 
Steinem believes this is the only issue where Republicans will vote against money.  Countless studies show that every dollar spent on women’s health actually saves tax-payers three or four dollars in the long run—which quickly adds up, considering the 75 million they’re attempting to take away from Planned Parenthood.
 “They know they’re voting against their own financial interest but there’s something deeper and that is controlling reproduction.  And in order to control reproduction, you have to control women.”
Public opinion continues to support abortion—yet not everyone is making it out to vote, which could have an unfortunate effect on public policy regarding women’s health. 
But will Republican anti-abortion extremists ever go so far as to overturn Roe V. Wade?
“Actually, they have overturned Roe V. Wade for most people,” Steinem said, explaining that many women are restricted by clinic access or the price tag of an abortion, not to mention minor’s parental consent laws.
“It’s become like a class privilege, practically,” Steinem said.
“The shell of Roe V. Wade remains because they’re afraid to overturn it-- because it’s a big symbol.   I think even they would worry about actually overturning it.  But we have to overturn the Hyde amendment.” 
Restricting federal money from funding abortion services since 1976, the Hyde amendment guarantees most low-income women cannot afford their right to choose.
“I know that there’s a feeling that ‘oh, we’re fighting the same battle over and over again’ but this is the battle.  If we weren’t the means of reproduction, so to speak, we wouldn’t be in this jam,” said Steinem, believing the opposition is motivated by the fear that their melting pot will soon see a white minority. 
Controlling reproduction, to Steinem, means restricting white women while exploiting women of color.
While abortion is old news, there’s plenty of fresh material for a feminist analysis.  In fact, it’s strange to think Gloria Steinem has witnessed the Jersey Shore, women’s self-objectification and what Ariel Levy described as “raunch culture” in her lifetime.
On March 2, 2011 one woman asked if today’s society seemed strange to an admittedly older feminist.  Was it more alien for her to move throughout the 21st century and its “liberated” women?
 “I suppose it’s not more alien,” Steinem answered, “but because we should have progressed more, it’s probably more frustrating.”
And then it was time to talk about the effects of aging on feminism, as well as the effects of feminism on aging. 
There is a well-known disconnect between women of the second and third waves.  However, Gloria Steinem has been able to transcend generations.  As she maintains her relevance to all women, she functions as a messenger between young and old; because they will listen.
“The young women I know are very frustrated, by being judged apathetic and being judged not caring because they are—they’re there,” Steinem said.
She acknowledged that the major feminist organizations are typically run by older women “because there’s no place for them to go.”  With older women unable to move on, “there’s no place for younger women to move in.”
And so begins another endless battle— established revolutionaries wanting to show their protégés the ropes and Riot Grrrls wanting to unravel the existing beliefs because the status quo is still not good enough.
Steinem had a partner with women’s health advocate Barbara Seaman—and a plan.  Together, they joked about gathering the entire second wave and graciously asking them to move aside.
“Gratitude never radicalized anybody.  I did not walk around saying thank you for the vote.  I got mad because of what was happening to me.  And even Susan B. Anthony always said ‘our task is not to make young women grateful, but to make them ungrateful,’” Steinem said.
But she also understands the natural paternalism.
“I think what happened is that there were several generations of women who worked so hard, and were so brave and never got rewarded—in fact got punished.  So, in a human sense, it’s somewhat understandable that they’re looking for gratitude and reward from their daughters or granddaughters,” Steinem said. 
And then she qualified her own position in a room full of starry-eyed student reporters by saying, “It didn’t happen to me.  I got over-rewarded.”
As her previous statement went almost completely unnoticed, a girl of barely twenty asked Steinem which issue she should care most about.  With the patience of a feminist saint, Steinem answered the question she had undoubtedly been asked thousands of times; “whatever affects you.”
“Anybody who has experienced something is more expert than the experts” Steinem said, insisting if we share our experiences, others will relate.
“That’s what we used to call the consciousness-raising experience.  Now it’s called a book club,” she teased, and then turned serious again.
“If unique people are having a shared problem—it’s political.  It’s about power and we can come together to change it.”
As long as women can identify sexism in society, feminism will be there to envision an alternative.  And that’s why post-feminism is “bullshit,” according to Gloria Steinem.
The argument against change of any kind has always been that it’s not necessary.
“We did it anyway.  And now the argument is, well it used to be necessary, but it’s not anymore.  And it’s just not true.  We’ve barely begun.  Any movement has to last a hundred years in order to survive and really be embedded in a culture,” said Steinem.
Well, we’re nine years away from a century of women’s suffrage this March.  And as we near a familiarity with women’s participation in government, one thing is certain; Gloria Steinem is already embedded in our culture as the chosen mother of a movement that refuses to stop moving.