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Jul 2, 2014
“Marriage” is legally, religiously, universally accepted social institution whereby two people are bounded in a relationship of husband and wife to continue their generation. But does this indicate the relationship between only two people? It is a debatable topic. But for me, I don’t think its only the matter of two person.
When two person are married, its not only that two person are interconnected but it creates a connection between two families. These two individuals are brought up in two different families. Before marriage, they both have their two different world, two different families. They have their own near and dear ones. So when two individuals are bounded in a relationship, it has some effects to other members as well. Especially when we are brought up in a culture of living in a group i.e. in joint family. It’s not only the matter of two people. Though their part is major and their priority must be high. However, it can’t just be their only matter. In our culture bride needs to go to her husbands house leaving her own. So in this case she needs to be well adjusted with her husband’s family as well. After all, family have their own importance in a person life. It’s not only the wife but husband too needs to take care of his wife’s family.
So its not only the matter of two people to have the better understanding and happy married life.
Jun 6, 2014
1. Civil society …people must be at the center of development irrespective of their backgrounds. They have to be involved at all levels (people participation)
2. There is a greater need for young people and women’s involvement in governance at different levels to help drive policies that impact that.
3. Gender equality and equity needs a greater presence in politics and governance, we do not have enough women in critical decision making processes.
4. Politics and governance should ensure that at all times their actions are in the best interest of ALL their people. Development in a lot of countries, especially developing countries has showed that structural inequalities cause for resources to be skewed and not everyone has an equal chance of benefit
5. Harmful… outdated laws and policies that foster stigma and discrimination, abuse of power and no transparency must be done away with.
6. There must be sustained on the ground communication channels between policymakers and society.
7 .There must be institutions set up to see to the independent inverstigation and prosecution of public servants as a part of the accountability framework
8. Laws and policies must be evidence based and must compliment each other cross sectors so that there is a holistic and congruent enabling environment ( health, education, youth, justice etc)
Jun 2, 2014
(image reposted from DLCentral)
(This post contains SPOILERS. Trigger warning: misogyny and homophobia.)
The Last of Us: Left Behind DLC (downloadable content) came out on Valentine’s Day 2014 with rabid anticipation and celebration from fans of the original Playstation 3 exclusive The Last of Us and TLoU: American Dreams comic series. But not everyone was thrilled with the game.
I won’t hide that I’m personally a huge fan of this franchise. I waited years for The Last of Us and kept track of various nuances in the video game design, legal matters, and updates. I beat both the game and the DLC several times on different difficulties. I’m above hundreds of thousands in terms of skill and rank on the The Last of Us multiplayer leaderboard. I’ve also read the comics. So, let there be no doubt that I know what I’m talking about when it comes to this.
The Last of Us excels in many ways that other games do not. The graphics are miles above the majority of games that came out in 2012 and 2013. The gameplay controls and mechanics are solid and allow players to make choices on how they want to deal with the conflict of each chapter. Want to sneak around like a silent and deadly assassin? Or would you rather jump in on danger with molotovs and nail bombs and guns blazing? Players even get the option to have conversations with some of the NPCs (non-player character) and AIs (artificial intelligence) of the game, with prompts provided of course. The game also limits how much ammo or supplies a player receives. It’s a tactic that makes the players really think about how they should use their items and re-think their strategies against the infected and enemy humans in this post-apocalyptic world.
The first ten minutes prove to be an emotional experience. Each character’s personality, although existing in a fictional post-apocalypse, comes off real and the interactions of these characters are crafted masterfully. Any gamer knows that video games are notorious for having horrible dialogue and even worse voice acting. The Last of Us forces other game companies watching the success of this installment to re-think how they handle these things. Sometimes it’s just not enough to spend hours going pew pew pew or smashing things in a story full of holes and ineffective voiceovers–even though that can be extremely fun too. One of the things that really makes this game is the way it forces companies as well as fans to re-think how they treat people who identify as women in their own stories and gaming community… well, it’s almost there.
Girls and women make up 45% of all gamers in the community. While that’s not a majority, it is still almost half the entire community. And despite such a significant number of girls and women playing video games, our representation still only fluctuate around 17% in TV shows, movies, video games, and even Congress. If we break it down for just the entertainment industry, women only make up 18% of directors and executive producers, 15% of writers, 4% of cinematographers, and 11% of protagonists in a story.
What does this have to do with The Last of Us? Well, the game isn’t perfect. I still felt it lacked female characters even as miscellaneous extras. Most of the humans the player will come across will be men. Most of the women I came across were mushroom infected hordes, officially known as “clickers.”
(Great female representation, huh?)
So what made this game different from the others before it? In this game, women actually made up a half or more of the main characters, which is sadly a rare occurrence. All the main women had motivations that were separate from the male lead, and this isn’t just a rarity, it’s almost non-existent in any form of media. These women were three dimensional and complex. They were flawed, vulnerable, and yet so fierce. Players even get the opportunity to play as a teenage girl in the video game as well as in the DLC. These are all good things when we keep in mind of how much female representation, especially good representation, is lacking in the media. But we shouldn’t get too excited about the bare minimum. It would definitely pass the Bechdel test but while this progressive move is noted and celebrated, we shouldn’t be setting our standards for basic decency so low. As much as I love The Last of Us, the game still followed the same tired formula of brooding white, middle aged man with women being hurt at his expense. So what did MRAs (Men’s Right Activists) and your general misogynists have to say about this bare minimum in treating women as if they were humans capable of complex thoughts?
It provoked angry nerds and geeks to crowd the forums with complaints like:
“Feminists did it. They are ruining one of my hobbies. For anyone who plays video games as one of their hobbies, The Last of Us is a pretty fun game…. The feminist messages were close to ruining a game I waited a year for…”
“…will my games be misogynist? You better ****ing believe it. Misogyny The likes of which will make duke nukem blush.”
(source: Men Going Their Own Way)
“At no point in the making of this game can you imagine Naughty Dog sitting down and saying “what we should do with our apolocayptic epic, is try and tackle feminism!”
“I’m all for stronger female characters but i also am sick of this sexist modern feminism which suggest been an attractive women is a bad thing. I also think it’s sexist to try repress straight male sexuality by suggesting its wrong to find women attractive by referring to it as objectification.”
“There are far more males play games than women…fact.Sick of hearing the constant nagging about sexism.”
(source: these comments are replies to The Last of Us isn’t the solution to sexism in games, but it’s a start.)
Some gamers took issue with the fact that many of the leadership roles in the video game were occupied by women, especially one woman of color named Marlene. She’s the leader of the Fireflies. It’s a rebellion group that’s focused on finding a cure to save humankind from this horrible zombie fungus affliction and dismantling the militaristic government system.
(Photo of Marlene, image reposted from GamerArtHub, original art concept and creation by Soanala Lee)
While the game faced heavy criticism from misogynistic players, The Last of Us hasn’t been left untouched by homophobia. In video games, people who identify as LGBTQ+ are either killed off, villains, or aren’t featured at all. I mean, the same can be said of most venues of media. So there’s no surprise when some of the heated backlash over the progressiveness of the game found its way to one character named Bill. He’s extremely paranoid, tactless, and rough but he’s very reliable. The game heavily implies with obvious subtext that Bill is gay. And it’s not just subtext, it’s been confirmed by one of the directors at Naughty Dog (company that created the game). GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) voted Bill onto their list of most intriguing characters of 2013. And here’s what they had to say about him:
“One of the characters the player encounters over the course of the game is Bill, an unstable loner in the town of Lincoln with a talent for fixing things. Through dialogue and backstory, the player learns that Bill once had a partner named Frank who he loved, but the plague drove them apart and led Frank to a bitter end. Both helpful and contentious, Bill is as deeply flawed but wholly unique a gay character found in any storytelling medium this year.”
(photo of Bill, reposted from GamerArtHub, original art concept and creation by Soanala Lee)
I thought the creators would leave all mention of queerness at subtext and podcast interview like so many others (J.K. Rowling, anyone?). But Naughty Dog took a brave route with their addition to the full game. While this DLC serves as a prologue to the actual game, Left Behind revolves around just Ellie and her friend Riley. Making a video game that completely centers around teenage girls with their own personal motivations and feelings is already unheard of. And how fun, as best friends, they can even take selfies in a photobooth with the players choosing the poses and backgrounds. But Naughty Dog takes it one step further. The writers created a scene of vulnerability, tenderness, and love between two girls in a world ravished by violence, oppression, and plague.
You can watch the three minute scene here. I would recommend that the comments should be left alone though. But in case you need an extra warning, the comments are along the lines of:
“Yeah…. I threw the game in the trash cause of this…….
NAUGHTY DOG! NEXT TIME LET HER KISS A GUY!”
“It makes me angry seeing gays trying to take over media now Games?!”
“the team was influenced by feminism, disgusting.”
“the gay kiss is totally perverted and f***ing sick… Naughty Dog is dead to me.”
(I copied and pasted these comments by the way but decided to leave the commentators anonymous.)
The creators of The Last of Us confirms that Ellie is gay and that the kiss she shares with Riley is of love, not just understandably reaching out for warmth and affection in a cold world, but a kiss with intentions of romantic love. Has anyone ever seen a game like that other than a manipulation of some Sims that we may or may not have made in the past?
It’s taken great steps toward progress, but we should still be fighting for more representation of identities in our media other than the usual white, male, cisgender, and heterosexual. This game, while it probably won’t be a catalyst for a culture shift, should be the kind of thing that gamers use as a standard, a bare minimum for what’s considered acceptable. And as the giants we are, we should go beyond that.
Apr 26, 2014
Generally Pornography is the depiction of erotic behavior intended to cause sexual excitement .Wikipedia defined it as the explicit portrayal of sexual subject matter for the purpose of sexual arousal. Pornography may be presented in a variety of media, including books, magazines, postcards, photographs, sculpture, drawing, painting, animation, sound recording, film, video, and video games. The term applies to the depiction of the act rather than the act itself, and so does not include live exhibitions like sex shows and striptease.
Porn short form of pornography is now the avoided entity of society and with the advancement of the internet and other social media it’s form, accessibility and of course effect is also increasing day by day. Pornography can be exciting for an adolescent boy to watch, but it can also be intimidating leading towards the misconception on sex and the sexual behavior. While watching porns on early teenage, one’s brain chemistry can become shaped around the attitudes and situations that he is watching. Sadly, pornography paints an unrealistic picture of sexuality and relationships that can create an expectation for real-life experiences that will never be fulfilled. I think pornography affects you whether you’ve ever viewed it or not, and it is helpful to understand some of its negative effects, whether you are a man or woman struggling with watching it. You may think you have not been affected by porn, but you have because it’s embedded in the surrounding culture and I tried to list those affects as follows:
o It contributes to the social, cultural and psychological problem to viewer as peoples who become addicted to porn neglect their schoolwork, office work, spend huge amounts of money and time they don’t have, become isolated from others, and often suffer depression, highly introverted, dissociative, distractible, narcissistic, curious, and have high anxiety and low self-esteem and finally leading to several negative haunting psychological experiences.
o I think porn converts sex into masturbation resulting Sex as self-serving . It becomes about your pleasure and not the self-giving, mutually responding relationship, familiarity or say spiritual linkage that it was designed for.
o Porn Degrades and Objectifies human as pornography is inherently self-centered–something a man does by himself, for himself–by using another woman as the means to pleasure, as yet another product to consume or vice-versa.
o I think porn degrades the beauty of human body structure and specially yes!! the beauty of naked women .it was told that For most of human history, the erotic images have been reflections of, or celebrations of, or substitutes for, real naked women but today a real naked woman resembles just a bad porn.
o I think Porn has numbing effect on reality of sex life and sexual behavior.it may make the real sex and even real world boring and imperfect. It may particularly anesthetize the emotional life of a man.
o Sexual harassments and sexual violence before and after marriage may increase due to pornography when sexual partner desires the level of simulated satisfaction as in the pron.
o Porn may lead to the high sexual activity of human and specially the adolescent and teenagers leading to numerous rape and attempts.
o Pornography shows us a world where relationships mean nothing and immediate sexual gratification means everything. Therefore, the adolescent viewer’s brain is being wired to expect that sex and relationships are separate from one another.
o Moreover the main effect is the addiction of the pornography. Addiction of it may make one’s passive, depressed which makes the most productive age generation of country useless.
But on other side , a rising number of children are learning about sex from watching pornography because sex education lessons are inadequate, researchers have found. Children are naturally curious about growing up, how their bodies work and how humans reproduce. Their questions need to be answered honestly, using language and explanations appropriate for their age and maturity, thus avoiding unnecessary mystery, confusion, embarrassment, and shame. Various researches also shows that teenagers are starting to watch porn because schools are not handling the positive aspect of sex and provide the adequate knowledge about sex that they want to know about. If they are learning something about sex and finds what they need to know then why we should not integrate this to the sex-educational curriculum. Besides as society and parent thinks porn is not always bad and have only the single form. Porn has become a cultural mediator in how young people are understanding and experience sex. Porn is being as our most prominent sex educator as well.
Teenage is the time of great curiosity and great confusion because they budding sexuality opens them up to many questions, fantasies, and urges that have not existed before. Adolescent boys have historically sought out information about sex through friends, family members, and pornography, hoping that this knowledge will fulfill their newfound curiosity and urges. But in today’s digital world, most adolescents turn to porn for answers-and pleasure–and when porn becomes an adolescent boy’s primary mode of sexual education, it can be harmful to his brain’s sexual development and also many as I listed above and more. So the parents must certainly observe about their children behavior regarding internet porn watching and also could interact with them provide the supplement knowledge of sex. However as pornography is being so popular among teens then to solve the problem, surely its attributes must be included in the curricular matter of sex education and the better form of it may also help to educate teens more effectively about sex education. BUT before we determine that the solution lies in adding pornography education to the school curriculum, we need to ask searching questions about precisely what such lessons would consist of and about the moral framework within which the subject would be addressed…
Apr 25, 2014
It is a dangerous thing to convey mouthpiece status on oneself in situations where one cannot completely identify with the group of people spoken for. Pharrell Williams has left a lot of black people irritated with his claim of being “New Black”.
“The New Black doesn’t blame other races for our issues. The “New Black” dreams and realises that it’s not pigmentation: it’s a mentality and it’s either going to work for you or it’s going to work against you. And you’ve got to pick the side you’re going to be on.”
Easy for him to say. He’s had a very successful career and it could be said that his status, both financial and social, have enabled him to progress past the point where he would suffer through most of the issues that make being black in America difficult.
As far as I’m concerned, Pharrell is in that group of black people who are allowed to sit at the cool kids table because Eurocentric society has deemed them good enough. Jay-Z, Beyonce, Oprah also sit at that table. I wouldn’t be surprised if any of them turned around and said the same thing tomorrow.
His statement is so idiotic. With race as a continuously controversial issue and all the news coverage about systematic inequality, one has to wonder where he gets this sh*t from. Blackness is a mentality? Well forgive the rest of us for failing to recognize that all these years while we were struggling to understand why centuries of slavery was not enough; that we still have to contend with dehumanization and second-class status every day, on a multitude of levels.
With that said, dear black people everywhere, our great leader Pharrell has spoken. Our time would be better spent deprogramming our minds from this nonsensical notion of institutionalized racism. Oh golly! It makes me mad to think about all the time we have wasted getting blue in the face instead of just flicking the mental pigment switch.
Perhaps Oscar Grant and every other wrongfully murdered black person would have been alive today if they had only realized that they could voluntarily distance themselves from the microaggressions and stereotypes that they inherited the moment they fell into the world from their mothers’ wombs.
Please sir, use the royalties from “Happy” to buy yourself a few million seats and have ALL OF THEM. Just because no one came for you for featuring in that parallel reality “feminist movement”, and just because people all over the world are now dancing to your undeniably uplifting song, does not give you the right to try and pull this level of extravagant nonsense. Get yo’ life.
Apr 25, 2014
And read an abridged version of her talk here
Apr 19, 2014
Prom season is in full swing! Students across the country are reserving limos, renting tuxes, and posing for those classically awkward photos for their parents. But while we’re enjoying the glamour, let’s not forget safety! It’s always better to protect ourselves – and our partners – and these images are a reminder to do it in style. #promswag!
Show your love for contraception methods, while getting your prom glam on.
Keep calm, and Prom on.
Apr 14, 2014
I have seen people change and at the same vein witnessed a retrograde in youths. I have been around areas where there’s no hope for light and peace, but in this same situation some people still survive.
I have been around youths – Boys and Girls, that have made life difficult for themselves due to lack of knowledge. And my countenance has dwindled, because I have witnessed a holocaust of ruined lives in the past, even now.
I love peace and the prospect it brings. I love sanctuary – a foundation laid on the rocks of simplicity and the Arm of Justice.
I stand against the illegal acts displayed by the so-called Governmental body. I stand against rape, child abuse and its associated acts. I stand against the malfunctioning of child rights and value – I stand for a change, as an “Advocate”.
I stand as a Youth, Not a man, alone. But with men – the colony of change.
“A man cannot be a faculty, men can. The necessity of change begins with not one man, but with the uniformity of all”.
(Victor Omovbude Brown)
I stand against – Child punishment, Tribalism, criticism, Discrimination, and Queer visions. I stand for change, which is my first goal. As a youth, I stand for Unity, Peace and Progress.
I stand for a free and transparent Health service attributed to (children,youths and adults) – I stand against unequal rights and segregation in roles.
I stand for Quality Education – Void of preferential treatment, equal for all.
I stand against poor governance.
I am an “Advocate For Youth”.
Apr 12, 2014
Many a time, I have tried to deduce the consequences of some ; Arrogant notions displayed by most youths. The world we live in is Profoundly able to garnish our being to prosperity, and at the same vein make us subjects to harsh circumstances – which will carve us into : Strong, Unrelenting and Determined youths, if we work towards perfection. And destroy our aspect for a Futuristic goal if we reduce our stance, by ploughing the roads of havoc.
Today, we have youths in Prisons, for violating governmental laws and the Commandments ( which is induced in,”LOVE”).
Most parents have Been great and worthy of note, because they have nurtured and trained their children in the right way – using the right principles. Still at this, most youths feel reluctant and partake in ; corruption, rape, killing, cults, sex scandals and other illegal acts.
It’s stated that – “we (Youth(s)) are the leaders of tomorrow.”
But 88% of the world most populous crimes are done by youths. Youths whose future glow more than the stars.
Who is to blame ? Is it the Parent ? I don’t believe that a mother will advise her child to kill or rape a girl.
And I don’t believe a Father, in his sane mind, will propels his son to join a cult.
So who is to blame ?
The environment has a very tremendous phase to play as an assisting dictator of youth growth.
“But should we allocate the illegal acts, committed by youths to the environment ?”
Also, the Government. Poor governance has reduced the overwhelming growth of most countries, and as a result destroyed the countenance of most youths.
This has made most youths swear the, “Oat of Allegiance”, to evil.
Should we then, blame the government ?
Apr 1, 2014
What is it about twins that are so fascinating? Many of us have either envied them or idolized them. Twins are two off springs produced by the same pregnancy. Twins are rare and special. About 2 in every 100 pregnancies around the world are twins.
So how exactly are twins formed? The various studies show that the chance of having a twin pregnancy is increased by maternal age (30+).
There are basically two types of twins, fraternal and identical. But there are also the cases of third type called the conjoined twins.
Fraternal (Non-identical) twins: They are formed when two egg cells are fertilized; each egg by a different sperm so that two embryos are formed. Fraternal twins can be of the same or opposite sex and they don’t have to look at all alike. These non-identical twins are no more alike than any other two siblings. Non-identical twins are more common. Fraternal twin girls have twice the chance of giving birth to twins than singletons. One-third of all twins will be identical and two-thirds non-identical.
Identical twins: They are formed when one egg after being fertilized by one sperm, divides into two halves. The two halves are genetically identical. Identical twins are usually of the same sex.Identical twins share the same DNA but do not have the same fingerprints.About 1 in 250 pregnancies results in identical twins. No one knows what causes identical (monozygotic) twins. It appears that all women, irrespective of ethnicity, have an equal chance of having identical twins. Identical twins do not run in families.
Conjoined (Siamese) twins: They are formed exactly like identical twins, but during the split, the embryo does not separate completely to form two separate babies and the twins develop attached to one another.
Whether identical or fraternal, same sex or not, multiple child births are still one of the most amazing and mysterious births to present themselves to families and mothers everywhere. As fascinating as it can be, it can also invite the complications. Thus, the pregnant mothers should possess knowledge about twin birth.
(Facts are deduced from different sources)
Mar 31, 2014
The American porn industry: a world of opportunity for both actors and consumers. Everyone wins, right? Actors and actresses with “desired features” have sex and get paid for their performances; meanwhile, consumers happily perpetuate a market with an estimated value of between $10 and $13 billion, which boosts our nation’s economy. By virtue of increased access to pornographic content through the Internet, the industry has permeated American culture so much that the average person views their first pornographic image at the age of 11. Moreover, by 2006, pornographic videos were released on an average of one every half hour.
This is how capitalists would describe the porn industry. They love it because it’s profitable… and it’s also seemingly becoming more “normal.” But while it can be easy to “normalize” the porn industry in light of statistics like the ones above, the porn industry is far from normal. Notably, the actors and actresses who star in pornographic films are subject to abnormal, oftentimes degrading treatment by the same people who consume their products. This fact may not be readily apparent for most of us – how many pornographic actors do we know personally? More than likely, we know none. Porn actors per capita in an arguably moral nation like the U.S. are few; moreover, those who do star in pornography use stage names – most of the time to protect their anonymity. However, for one freshman at Duke University, the struggle to function in society while performing in pornographic films took a serious turn when her anonymity as a porn star was stripped away from her.
Most of America knows her by her stage name, “Belle Knox.” Her real name is Miriam Weeks, but she has only recently divulged her birth name – out of fear. This 18 year-old Duke University freshman has starred in over 30 pornographic films. Weeks has claimed that starring in pornography brings her both confidence and economic stability. On the one hand, Weeks says that as a degree-seeking 18 year-old, no other job could provide her with enough income to pay for her education – a hefty $50,000 per year bill. On the other hand, Weeks states that freely doing pornography is a part of her agenda as a person – she confidently approaches the adult film industry as a way for her to express herself as a woman and to take a stand against the way sex workers are ostracized.
However, after a fellow Duke student “outed” her name to her classmates, Weeks’ struggle as a pornographic actress trying to live a normal life has spiraled. Her ideals and her dignity have been shattered by threats of rape and death, opinions of her perceived economic freedom, critiques of her morality, and objectifications of her body above consideration of her personal ideals. Intense public scrutiny of her aspirations of becoming a respected member of society while working in the porn industry have done an injustice to the human worth of Miriam Weeks and highlight several important problems with the way this country treats sex workers.
By virtue of our technological society, it is much harder for sex workers to remain anonymous. And when these workers are put in the spotlight, our culture’s perpetual stigmatization of their profession leads to many negative, unwarranted responses on a large scale. Disagreeing with sex work is one matter. However, “slut shaming,” often in the form of death threats, rape threats, belittling, bullying, and objectification are unwarranted but present byproducts of being “outed” as a sex worker in our morally conscious culture. While it can be easy for us to think that sex workers have the ability to shrug off degrading comments because of their knowledge of how many people perceive their work, studies have proven otherwise: Extensive literature on the psychological state of sex workers has shown that the suicide rate among sex workers is six times that of the rest of the population. Clearly, these degrading comments are unsurprisingly degrading the mental and emotional state of sex workers at an unconscionable rate.
A second issue at stake for men and women like Miriam Weeks is society’s perception of the true freedom of sex workers. In Weeks’ case, many have argued that the pressure of paying for college has “coerced” the Duke freshman to seek sex work as a means to survive in a country that often prioritizes the value of an education. This is simply not true, according to Weeks, who claims that the money is only one of several reasons why she loves staring in adult films. However, although Weeks has asserted that she feels completely free to choose to do porn, it is not fair to say that all sex workers engage in their work purely out of their own free will. Sometimes, we hear stories of men and women in disparaging economic circumstances, who resort to sex work as a means to stay alive.
But why do some of us instantly typify Miriam Weeks as one of these people who do sex work as a “last resort” – a way to survive economically? Maybe its because when it comes to sex work, many of us are sharply divided on the issue, even though all of us are trained by society to find compassion for others, especially the “marginalized” members of our community (e.g., sex workers, as you probably guessed.) It’s not necessarily our fault: as soon as a conversation about porn starts, so starts the stigma, and instead of believing the possibility that a human being could ever want to do sex work, some of us tell ourselves that the person is just short on money. They’re just getting by until some other opportunity comes up. We excuse them for making the decision to sell their bodies. But when we perceive sex workers collectively as un-free workers, we all too often put words in their mouths. We rob them collectively of the value of their ability to choose. We rob them of their dignity as a rational human being.
Dignity: a word normally not associated with sex workers. But is there any inherent dignity working as a porn star? Miriam Weeks argues that this question is perceived with great bias by a majority of our society. I couldn’t agree more. There is an inherent dichotomy in the ways in which our society thinks about pornography. Although roughly 50% of American citizens freely admit to watching porn regularly, Weeks thinks that society at large has a tendency to shame pornographic actors and actresses publically and professionally while they cannot get enough of it privately. I cannot help but agree with Weeks that this enigma is one of the great plagues of our society. We jerk off with one hand, and we point our fingers with the other.
Breaking down this dichotomy will be a fundamentally challenging but necessary step to search for justice in the many issues surrounding our perception of sex workers. But the struggle for fair treatment of sex workers only begins there. We as a society also need to stop slut shaming as a means of expressing our discontent with someone’s profession. We need to realize that nobody likes being degraded; even if we consider someone derogatory, they are still a human, equally deserving of dignity and respect. Moreover, we need to give back the freedom of choice that we oftentimes take away from sex workers. Instead of being content with telling ourselves that sex workers as a whole are economically disabled, we should work to ensure that all sex workers are economically enabled. We should help those who are not as fortunate as Miriam Weeks and are struggling economically to be able to choose a career just like everyone else.
In closing, I’d like to address that I say “we” throughout this article because this issue affects all of us. Even if you have never watched pornography (I will be a little skeptical of that, but I will take your word for it) or you have not engaged in sex work, I’m sure someone you know has directly or indirectly struggled with the sex-negativity that so pervades our culture. We need to break the stigma surrounding sex work in our society because the reality is that some of us desire to engage in sex work. And no human being deserves to hear that their desires are disgusting.
By: Eric Thomas Roy
1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pornography_in_the_United_States#Economics and
Mar 27, 2014
Tennessee Sends Religious Anti-Discrimination Bill To Governor
Reposted from The Huffington Post | by Shadee Ashtari
Tennessee lawmakers approved a bill on Monday that seeks to expand religious liberty protections for students in public schools.
The Religious Viewpoints Anti-Discrimination Act, which passed the state Senate 32-0, would permit students to express religious beliefs in their homework, artwork and written and oral assignments without academic punishment or discrimination.
The legislation’s primary sponsors, state Rep. Courtney Rogers (R) and Sen. Ferrell Haile (R), introduced the measure after a teacher asked a 10-year-old student to choose a subject other than God to write about as the person she admired most, according to the Associated Press. The state House passed the bill earlier this month by a vote of 90-2.
Haile characterized the legislation as a pre-preemptive safeguard against potential lawsuits challenging school officials for permitting religious expression, according to the Tennessean.
The proposal would also allow religious students to organize prayer groups and other religious gatherings before, during and after school to the “same extent that students are permitted to organize other noncurricular student activities and groups.”
Opponents of the bill contend that existing laws already protect students’ rights to religious expression and that the new legislation would only expose students of different faiths to unnecessary religious coercion.
“While purporting to prevent discrimination against students expressing religious viewpoints, SB 1793/HB 1547 crosses the line from protecting religious freedom into creating systematic imposition of some students’ personal religious viewpoints on other students,” the Tennessee American Civil Liberties Union said in a recentstatement. “Should this pass, students with a range of religious beliefs, as well as non-believers, would likely routinely be required to listen to religious messages or participate in religious exercises that conflict with their own beliefs.”
Similar legislation, modeled after Texas’ 2007 Religious Viewpoint Anti-Discrimination Act, unanimously passed the Oklahoma Senate in February.
The Tennessee bill now awaits Gov. Bill Haslam’s (R) signature. Given the measure’s overwhelming support in both the Senate and the House, a veto by the governor would likely be overturned.
Mar 26, 2014
Since I’ve started my activism, and met my BCYC coordinator, my goal has been to attend Wellesley College.
After all the research I’ve done to see if this school truly is right for me, I’ve come to the conclusion that yes, this college is perfect for me. Not only does it have a relaxing environment, but it has the major I’m currently interested in, which is economics and political science. I have my heart set to this school, I’d probably enter depression if I were to not get accepted. Nothing will stop me from making my dream into a reality, except my parents.
I have not confirmed to my parents that I am a lesbian, but they have strong suspensions. If they were to find out that Wellesley is an all girl private school, they would hold me hostage in their home till they “pray away the gay”. I talk to them so much about how happy I would be to attend Wellesley, hoping they will understand once they find out it’s an all girl school, but they won’t.
I got an invitation today from Wellesley telling me to “come on over to the Junior Open Campus” and it just made me so sad because their is a strong chance I won’t be able to make my dream come true, because of my parents! I keep looking at it and re-reading it just picturing myself on the campus taking a stroll, sitting in a classroom receiving the best education, or reading a book in the beautiful greenhouses, it just sadness me to think that my parents don’t want this for me.
I lie awake at night thinking of plans on how to hide the fact that it’s an all girl school from my parents, but it won’t work out. If I tell them I feel likes it’s me coming out to them, and if that’s the case, they won’t help me financially or emotionally with anything in my future. And I know I need them.
Sometimes I just think of settling at a college I know I won’t be happy at jut to make my parents happy, but it’s my life… I want to be happy.. I don’t know. I keep pushing this dilemma back because I don’t want to deal with it, but time is running out and I need to be a women about this.
I’ve considered living my life in debt just to go to Wellesley, I’d do anything, I’ve already started to sign up for scholarships! I’ve pushed myself harder in school to make sure nothing education wise messes up my chances.
I guess I’ll see what happens.
Mar 22, 2014
In the past years, I have volunteered my skills and time on a number of community projects. But the feeling I had this morning after digging for the laying of pipes which will convey potable water to the community of the of the Bassa Industrial area especially those of the “Plateau Guinness” neighborhood was special. Special because sparked by the smiles on the faces of the adults of this community who had come out in their numbers to contribute to the building of the taps from which will flow this so much talked about “Precious” liquid which some have said is “Life”. The smile on their faces was as radiant as I have only seen on the faces of children enjoying every minute of their life on a school playground at break.
These persons have every reason to smile because Cameroon’s water sector is one of the most neglected and poorly maintained. According to a United Nation’s Environment Program (UNEP), about 92% of Cameroonians living in cities have access to improved water while only 47% of Cameroonians living in rural areas can access potable water. This situation has not only been the cause of the repeated Cholera outbreaks that the country has experienced recently but caused untold damages in families and communities especially rural communities.
In fact, these people who are not alone in their case have had their sisters, daughters, and mothers raped as they moved to the stream to fetch water, they have missed their lessons or being late to school because of they have to move for long distances to fetch water for the family every morning while their peers are in class, and have lost a loved one to diarrhea and other water related diseases. This has no doubt contributed to the lamentable state of rural areas in my country Cameroon.
We must all make the progress our world is currently enjoying benefit all. It is only when the fruits of the progress the world is currently experiencing are enjoyed by all that the development we are so much clamoring for will really be sustainable.
Knowing that atrocities such as those described above are experienced by a countless number of people in other communities around the world is revolting because we live in a world of plenty and can all afford to make life better for all. In fact, the United Nations estimates that 800 million people lack access to safe, clean drinking water .May the below extract from Reflections on Water by the Ecumenical Water Network, a project of the World Council of Churches, inspire you to act in your own small way for this liquid as we observe World Water Day today, March 22nd 2014.
Like the ticking of a clock marking out time, water drips noisily.
Maybe it drips off the edge of a stone or roof in times of rain and plenty,
or perhaps from a badly turned off tap in societies where earth’s most precious
and vital resource is unconsciously wasted.
Mar 12, 2014
Meeting the President has by far been one of the most enlightening moments of my life. From chatting up with the secret service to networking with tons of awesome people, I truly enjoyed myself! Throughout his speech, President Obama stressed the importance of gaining a higher education. Through his story I think we all can learn that we can do whatever it is that we put our mind to. I find it ridiculous that almost half of the nations students fail to submit a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) causing a surplus of over 100 million dollars in unclaimed money from the government! How crazy is that? After his speech, I gave an impromptu speech to all the kids in my class on the importance of filling out their app even if they felt that they wouldn’t qualify because a little goes a long way!
Mar 8, 2014
Mar 7, 2014
It has nearly been four months since Eastern Visayas was ravaged by Super Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda) yet the situation of the people remains difficult and our future uncertain. No words can aptly describe of our situation in those trying moments. In just four hours, Yolanda destroyed our homes, offices, schools, and our source of livelihood. Along the rubbles that the mighty current of storm surge have carried are the lifeless bodies of our friends, neighbors, relatives, and loved ones – many of whom are still missing, or have joined the count of dead bodies waiting to be identified and be given proper burial.
I am deeply grateful and touched by the love and support of my friends and families abroad. For five days of uncertainties, they have filled-up my Facebook walls and my e-mail with messages of hope mixed with concern and prayers that have sustained me. I want to personally thank my amazing family in Advocates for Youth (especially to Nicole, Mimi, Janine, Sulava, Urooj and everyone), my orange family – Y-PEER Pilipinas (especially to Ate Zai, Kuya Mario, Ate Aiza, and everyone), and my relatives who sent their help in many forms that help sustain our temporary exile from Tacloban.
My unwaivering faith with my God has inspired me to move on and go on with life. It is the first time that I wrote a lengthy blog. I have to admit that the super typhoon has somehow robbed a part of me and somehow that emptiness has also made me not inspired to write with gusto as much as before. Now, I am back. Inspired with the new hope that the city of my birth will rise above the rubbles, I returned to Tacloban last January 11 to begin anew but dealing with the stress and trauma is not easy.
The days, weeks, and months that followed after Yolanda were particularly difficult for us as we try to come into terms with our loss and face the uncertainties of future. After four months, we are continuously hearing of the rebuilding and rehabilitation plans that our national government was able to come up and will be implementing. The people are being forced to accept this plan but the pressing questions are these: Were they able to exhaust their means to consult the people on the kind of rebuilding and rehabilitation that we, the people affected by Haiyan wanted? Were our voices heard in the process? Have they taken into account of our welfare and well-being?
We have decided to act. Since we are able to stand-up on our own feet, it is high time that we act and get involved in the rebuilding and rehabilitation of Yolanda-affected areas. This is for our survival from climate change induced calamities and from the shackles of poverty. We must not allow the national government to come up with a rebuilding and rehabilitation plan that will send us back to the situation that made us vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change and poverty. That is why the Freedom from Debt Coalition together with the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) Eastern Visayas ngan Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) will be organizing a March Rally tomorrow, March 8, 2014 so that the national government will hear our cries, the people will listen to us. Let us make it known to the government our demands which include the following:
1. Livelihood fund for women. Women are one of the most vulnerable sectors to climate change. They should the capacity and means to rise above from the ruins of Haiyan so that they can be self-sufficient and so that they can help their families as well.
2. Assistance for farmers and fisher folks. In agriculture, the farmers especially those in the coconut industry and the fisher folks are the ones whose livelihood was badly affected by the super typhoon. They need assistance in order for them to recover their source of income.
3. Student calamity fund for students in Yolanda-affected areas. Allocate a budget for State Universities and Colleges in Haiyan-affected areas so that it can help their students especially those whose parents are financially incapable of financing their studies in the form of: scholarships; employment opportunities such as hiring student assistants; and other ways and means in which the fund can help the students.
4. Automatic PhilHealth coverage to all families affected by Yolanda since most does are not capable of paying their hospitalization and not all areas in Region VIII have a public hospital or health centers.
5. Lower the price of commodities. Government should implement Price Freeze and strict monitoring on the prices of commodities and implementation of the law by government-designated agencies such as DTI.
6. Temporary suspension of the Value Added Tax (VAT) to basic commodities in Eastern Visayas and other areas directly or indirectly affected by Haiyan.
7. Regular and permanent jobs, not only Cash for Work. Many of our brothers and sisters have lost their livelihoods to super typhoon Yolanda and most of them cannot go back to their former livelihood.
8. Assistance to homeless families in order for them to rebuild their homes. We have heard of the construction of bunk houses and plans for permanent shelter for homeless families. Bunk houses constructed without following international standards should be reconstructed. Permanent shelters should be built not later than soon. Those whose houses are damaged but still habitable should also be extended with help.
9. Climate Justice for all victims of Haiyan. Super Typhoon Yolanda was brought about due to the unabated Carbon Dioxide emissions to the atmosphere by factories and machineries of developed countries since the start of Industrial Revolution which resulted to global warming. Developed countries are accountable to developing countries like the Philippines for their historic and current role to climate change and global warming. Therefore, it is but right that they should pay developing countries in a form of reparations such as the Green Climate Fund which can help them be more prepared and adaptive to climate change and so that they can mitigate the effects climate change that is unavoidable.
10. Fund for climate change induced calamities and poverty such as what President Aquino signed in 2012 in what now known as the so-called People’s Survival Fund Law which allocates 500 million pesos for Climate Change adaptation and mitigation which remains un-allocated and un-programmed since the Aquino administration has yet to craft its Implementing Rules and Regulation (IRR).
Since we are able to stand-up on our own feet, it is high time that we act and get involved in the rebuilding and rehabilitation of Haiyan-affected areas. This is for our survival from climate change induced calamities and from the shackles of poverty. That is why we must not bide with time and wait for the government to act. This is an opportunity for us to be stand in a common ground and be united. We must not allow a “business as usual” recovery and rehabilitation. Yolanda left us a hard lesson and a grim reminder that Yolanda may not be the last super typhoon to visit Eastern Visayas. Let the memory of those who die will not fade in our consciousness. Do we want that the events in November 8 happen again in the future?
Mar 2, 2014
Feb 28, 2014
Feb 25, 2014
February is Teen Domestic Violence Awareness month. Domestic violence is unfortunately a regularly accruing act of violence in society and yet it’s long lasting and devastating impacts are often under spoken about on a societal level.
Jan 29, 2014
Okay, this is a bit of a personal entry….. But I’m curious.
I recently got dumped by my girlfriend of two months. Well, it was by letter. A type of breakup that drives me nuts. This was a week ago. We go to school together, and I don’t see much of her, but it feels like I’ve been seeing more of her now that we’re not together, like she goes out of her way to avoid me. Not that I’m upset, I just don’t get it.
It’s also been just two weeks since I’ve gone completely Trans. I’m now wondering if that’s what it’s about.
Has anyone had an experience like this?
Jan 28, 2014
“And in my favorite recent example, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and Jay-Z got on the Grammy stage last night and did what conservatives have been dying for someone to do for ages: they made marriage look fun, and sexy, and a source of mutual professional fulfillment. As Caitlin White wrote in her review of Beyoncé’s self-titled album: “She claims female pleasure as pure and grown, something dominant that can coexist with monogamy and marriage and her own status as an artist.” And that’s particularly true of the song Beyoncé and Jay-Z chose for their Grammys collaboration.”
via Think Progress
Jan 23, 2014
Adrian Nava (18 years old) and Scarlett Jimenez (18 years old)
Colorado Youth CREATE Council Members
As educators, advocates, and allies of sexual health, we often ask ourselves why we are still having conversations about the implementation and support of comprehensive sexuality education for young people across the nation. For a lot of us, the issue of reproductive rights and justice is one that hits very close to home. As advocates, our stories and personal experiences hold immense power in our work. They allow us to break down barriers when interacting with others, and to create room for meaningful human connections and a space to share why we are so passionate about the work we do.
We share our stories with the hope that we will create awareness and support for comprehensive sex education. Having personal stories that reflect a lack of inclusion of all sexual orientations, or lack of information about healthy relationships and self–esteem, we – Scarlett and Adrian – understand and are optimal examples of why sexual health education is essential for all youth. During our years in advocacy, we have both been exposed to a world of possibilities, and have actively participated in various levels of advocacy.
From local to national participation, both of us have had the opportunity to express ourselves as young people. During the 2013 legislative session at Colorado’s State Capitol, we were actively involved in advocating for the passage of House Bill 1081, what has become known as Colorado’s “updated sex ed law.” We wanted to make sure that young people’s voices and concerns were included throughout the process. As part of CREATE, a youth advocacy council sponsored by Colorado Youth Matter and Advocates for Youth, we testified in favor of the bill during committee hearings and organized a youth advocacy day, which brought more than 230 youth to the capitol to speak to their legislators about the importance of passing laws that increase access to comprehensive sex education.
I consider myself an advocate not only for programs and policies that promote youth sexual health, but for change founded on social justice principles. As an advocate, a person of color, and someone who identifies as gay, I remember sitting in a crowded 7th grade health class during my glorious awkward pre-pubescent years, asking myself what the ladies at the front of the room were talking about. It turns out that these women were teaching the girls how to say “NO” to males who would only want to have sex with females. I then realized that this uncomfortable discussion was actually part of a “sexual health” class. Yikes! This situation was uncomfortable not only because I did not know what sexual health education looked like, but because I was being targeted as a male. I was expected to insist on having sexual intercourse with women. I was ultimately astonished and speechless at the sexist, and judgmental tone that was being set within a classroom environment.
As a student, I was genuinely eager to learn about what was going on inside of my body and mind. But after much talk about “male and female relationships,” I asked the teachers if it was possible for two boys to be together, and the teachers ignored my question and moved on to talk about the importance of abstaining from having sex.
I began to feel like it was wrong to ask that question – which meant that something about me was wrong, since I was attracted to people of the same gender as me. The following day, my peers and I participated in an activity in which one person was assigned to be a person with “AIDS.” To my surprise, that person was me. I learned later that gay men are stereotyped as having HIV, which only deteriorated my self-esteem and self-love because I was not exposed to positive messages about LGBT people.
My negative experience of feeling ignored and stigmatized in the classroom is the reason I became actively involved in advocacy work for increased access to comprehensive sex education. I was made to feel ashamed of being gay, which harmed my emotional health for a long period of time. I wish I could have received comprehensive, inclusive, medically accurate, age-appropriate information about my body and mind – but I didn’t.
However, just because my school did not provide me with that education, it does not mean that future generations should not have access. I am completely in love with my advocacy work and impacting my generation, for the better. I find empowerment through making my voice heard and mobilizing young people to speak about and advocate for their sexual health.
I am an advocate for comprehensive sex education and reproductive rights and justice for young people, because I believe that the issues at hand should be considered as part of our basic human rights. I believe that young people should have the right to have access to accurate information about their bodies. Furthermore, youth deserve the opportunity to develop the life skills that are included in comprehensive sexuality education. I believe that my high school experience would have been a much happier and more successful time had that been included as part of my education.
On a daily basis, young women are bombarded with highly sexualized messages from the media that dictate the social norms. I think that it is absolutely essential for young women to learn that these messages are disempowering and are not actual expectations of women. All youth, regardless of their gender, deserve to hear that they are much more valuable than the media depicts them. High school is such a hectic and overwhelming stage for teens. Oftentimes, teens do not receive much needed positive and empowering messages about themselves or young people in general. I know that for myself, low sense of self-worth and a lack of basic sexual health information and the ability to communicate with my partner led me into an unsafe relationship and a very hard time in my life.
I am an advocate for comprehensive sexuality education, and all that it entails, because now I have a vision for future generations. Creating access to comprehensive sex education can inform and support youth to be empowered, inclusive, educated, compassionate, communicative, strong, and driven by their identified passions and goals.
Jan 23, 2014
As I transitioned from high school to college, I thought that my student outreach efforts on behalf of Colorado Youth CREATE would get easier. With a bigger campus, more people, and more freedom, I reasoned that I would easily be able to reach more people to join our youth activist network and support our cause of increasing the availability of comprehensive sex education on local and state levels. However, I soon realized that the climate of students at my private university was very conservative and not very supportive of sexual health education. This was something that I found to be completely ironic because people are definitely “doing it,” and people are definitely gossiping about it. But no one wants to discuss safe sex, healthy relationships, or sexual assault.
The first few times that I tried to talking to some people I met in college about my work with CREATE it did not go well. They stopped me mid-sentence and told me that I was wasting my breath because they had conservative values. In another instance, someone physically put their hand over my mouth and told me, “Stop. Just tell me if you’re from an abortion clinic because I don’t want to hear it!” Even when I was able to get through my one minute spiel about being an advocate for comprehensive sexual health education, I was often met with very judgmental stares and gaping mouths, as if I had just confessed that I was drug lord. People at my school felt uncomfortable with my messages and I was beginning to be labeled and dismissed as the “raging liberal.”
I realized that I needed to change my approach. I knew that the issues I was talking about are things that we all face, both as young people at this university and in this world. To me, the issues that I advocate for are about human rights—the right to identify however we choose to identify and love whoever we may love. The right that we, as citizens, have to access to affordable health care and services. And the right that we, as young people, have to receive truthful, medically accurate and culturally inclusive education. I realized that I needed to frame my message in a way that was not received as a partisan issue, and instead illustrate how comprehensive sex education truly affects and concerns us all.
I was received much better when I used a more holistic and rights-based approach with my audience. Below are a few strategies that I developed in order to reframe my advocacy message about the need for comprehensive sex education:
1. Cultural Competency/ Sensitivity- Always Walk Your Talk!
It is important to keep in mind that people may come from different backgrounds or have different ideologies from your own when you’re doing outreach. Just like in a comprehensive sex education class, your conversation should recognize what the other person values! For example, if the person you are talking to has chosen to abstain until marriage, note that that’s great for them- abstinence is the only way to prevent unplanned pregnancies and STIs. However, you will both be able to agree that not everyone will share that decision. You can point to the national rate of teen pregnancy and talk about how comprehensive sex education not only can help reduce that number but also includes a strong abstinence message.
2. Personalize Your Message!
If you feel comfortable and safe enough, share a story as to why you do the work that you do. This helps transform the issues into something very human and relatable. Through storytelling, your message is framed in a way that shows the effect that sexual health has on everyday people.
3. Keep The Door Open For Conversation
No issue is easy or black and white. Allow for discussion about the issues, as long as it remains respectful and non-intrusive to you and your personal space. I have found that in some situations it is very important to draw this line, like when I felt disrespected for just defending myself. Openly discussing your issue creates an opportunity to learn about what is valuable and important to the other individual while also sharing what is important and valuable to you. Both parties can end up a little more enlightened about different perspectives from even a short exchange of ideas. You may not always agree, but you may find that they, and others alike, will be more willing to approach you later about the issue. Look for common ground in some aspect of sexual health and go from there!
In the past few weeks that I have adopted these ideas, I have found that the people I talk to are a lot more receptive and the conversations I have are a lot more meaningful. Even though we as advocates often find ourselves in communities that are not supportive of our issues, this is the place where change happens. Being in this tough environment these last few months has reminded me about the importance of my work, and I see every new day as an opportunity to further our cause. CREATE is working on developing tools to support young people and their advocacy efforts in the community, so stay tuned!
Jan 17, 2014
So the other day I was talking to my mom about my goals for this year,
- Get awesome grades in school
- Pass all my college entrance exams
- Get into my dream school (which is Wellesley College in Boston)
- Work on becoming a healthier young person
After I told her my goals, she asked, “How do you plan on paying for everything?”
I replied, “I’m the money I earn at my job, and hopefully I earn scholarships, but also, with the help of you and my dad.”
Then she replied, “You know I’ll always help you, unless I find out your living with a girl.”
Once she said that I knew what she was talking about. I felt my heart sunk into my stomach and my head began to feel heavy on my shoulders. I calmly said, “Well, I’m not rooming with a guy mom!”
She gave me look that said “Don’t play dumb with me” but I ignored it. After a minute of silence she said, “I’ll always love you, I’ll always talk to you no matter what, but if you’re a lesbian, I’m not helping you with anything., you’re on your own.”
I quickly changed the subject because I just couldn’t deal with how uncomfortable I felt.
I try to make it not bother me but I can’t. Half of me wants to just not try to go to college and give up, but the other half is saying to keep going with the flow and eventually I’ll succeed. I don’t know what will happen in the future, but I’m being positive.
I believe I can make it, I believe I will succeed, and I believe one day, my mom will come around.
Now, my goal as a young activist is to convert other LGBTQA youth to believe in themselves and that all it takes to come out a winner is believing.
Jan 13, 2014
When I’m in feminist/activist spaces I’m always hesitant to voice my concerns on discourses on and about white feminism and white-savior complexes. As a radical feminist (I’ve decided I’m beyond progressive), I think that sometimes these notions are not fully explored. As a woman of color, raised by women of color, white women always belonged in that social-worker box for me (trust there is no shortage of white women there). In college these women took on a different role, they were the “bearers of knowledge,” they were my professors. However, learning about and from white women played a crucial role in my educational attainment and the cultivation of the activist I have become. Don’t get it twisted for 2.0 seconds, I will call a white feminist on her power and privilege in a second, but I believe that in this movement there is more work to do. Yes this means work for us women of color, and I’m starting by acknowledging the roles that white women have played in my life good or bad.
In college I was a part of a program called the Higher Educational Opportunity Program (HEOP), which was the crucial to my success and graduation from Syracuse University. This program financed my education but also provided the social-emotional support fundamental to my survival in the institution. My academic counselor, Marian, provided this support. When I first met Marian, I did not completely understand how our relationship would work. For starters she was a white woman. Secondly, I was expected to meet with her frequently and talk about stuff. Again, I did not see how this was going to work. To my surprise, I would grow to love her, and love her hard. I recently had a conversation about “chosen families.” Basically they are families that you are not born into but ones that you create who love and accept you as if you were family. I’ve built a chosen family, not by choice but out of survival. Lately, I’ve been interrogating my support systems and how they have helped me healed. Today, I explored my chosen-mother, who ironically has the same first name as my biological mom who passed away when I was one. Her name is Marian, and she is not only a support but also an integral part of my activist work.
As I stated before, I initially wasn’t hip to this relationship. That would change. For a while I developed a color-blind ideology with Marian, not because I wanted to assume a level playing field, but it made it easier for me to love her. Institutionally and personally, white women had been connected too much of the pain that I experienced growing up, whether intentionally or by solely being ABSENT and a figment of my imagination. So if I could see this person that I had come to know and love as “just like me,” I would not have to acknowledge this trauma. But in the same ways I did not want to acknowledge these differences, Marian did. She didn’t do it in ways like my peers, unbeknownst of their privilege, but in ways that said “my whiteness has colored my experiences and those of my colleagues in a ways much different than yours and that I MUST acknowledge.”
I never felt compelled to teach her about my oppression although I often did…..
In academic/activist spaces many of us feel that we need to tell white folks the 411, and we have learned that this can lead to secondary trauma, serious burn-out and a path to no where. I re-learn this lesson everyday. However, I never felt that I needed to “put Marian on” to the daily wrath of oppression that I was experiencing. First, she had heard it for years before I became her student and secondly her and other counselors made it their business to know about the challenges their students were facing. I was taken aback about the fact that Marian never used “disparity” language and flat out named the systems as they were: racist, sexist and classist. She also provided me with a space to be unrelenting and unapologetic about my past and present experiences. As a social worker in training, I can attest to the fact that I would lay on the biographical trauma that is my life real thick on a snowy Wednesday. She never silenced me and would even move her other appointments when I was in crisis.
She wasn’t interested in “saving me”….
As a white woman who is an academic counselor to “economically and academically” disadvantaged students it is easy to see how one could apply the white-savior trope to someone like her. Don’t, I’d straight up fight you. Perhaps the most important thing that I learned from HEOP, was how to save myself. It was first by learning that it was not my fault! That because I did not look like 80% of the incoming class, did not mean I did not belong there. In fact, it was her pushing and believing in me when I felt I could not believe in myself. She always held me accountable for my actions. I did not feel accountable to her because she was my “academic counselor” or a person in power; it was because of her love and her belief in my talents that gave me no other choice. Imagine a world where love and solidarity, make us hold each other accountable.
She understood that my education was more than coursework…
At some point in college I became a community activist and campus leader. These things became just as important as my Women’s Studies courses and my organic chemistry classes. At 19, a fellow classmate and myself, decided to build a grassroots organization for girls in Syracuse from the ground up. We had people that doubted us, one most embedded in my memory, a white woman in the community service field. Marian backed my project emotionally and financially. She connected me with community resources and found ways for me to use my education at Syracuse to support my social entrepreneurship. She helped me be the BOSS I was destined to be. She understood that the work I did on and off campus fed-me intellectually in ways that the classroom could not.
She pulled me by my the “bootstraps” til’ completion…
Lets be real…some of us do not make it unfortunately. Although I will have you know, HEOP students have a 6.5% higher graduation rate than the national average. There are a host of things that keep young people from completing their education. These include financial barriers, academic rigor, institutional and interpersonal oppression, and lack of support. I’d say while all are extremely important, it is almost impossible to get through college without support. For an orphan like me hailing from the then poverty stricken and violence-infested neighborhood of Bed-Stuy (now up & coming = read gentrifying) this could not be more true. However for me, the perils that would impede on my education became even more real while at college. In my sophomore year, I was diagnosed with a chronic illness, that caused me to visit the hospital over 20+ times. As much as I want to stand on a soapbox and tell students with chronic illnesses that you can do it because I did, I know that I did not get through this by myself. Without the unwavering support of friends, family, professors and Marian the completion of my degree would have not been fulfilled in the time it did. I say she pulled me by bootstraps, because it was just that. She pulled me by something I did not have, she pulled me from nothingness. She nursed me to back to emotional health when I had to accept taking an extra semester to finish what I had started. She forced me to put my pride aside, value my worth and be unapologetic about both my abilities and differently-abledness. She worked above and beyond her job description.
We all have different experiences, many of them traumatic; I try to stay away from twitter for that exact reason. But some of us have had positive experiences that may act as a glimmer of hope into a feminist future. I am a more fearless and unapologetic person because of her. When I am in a room of white women, I am unafraid. I hold white women accountable, because I know it is not impossible to be in solidarity with them, and even more to love them and them love me. In 2014, I am calling for a feminism that radically shifts the divisions and adjective-feminism (Transnational feminism, hip-hop feminism, Muslim feminism, etc.) that we know and embrace today. I am calling for the one that is affirming of our multiple identities, positions of power and experiences of oppression. I am calling for a feminism that allowed this Black girl from Bed-Stuy to learn to love a white woman, and call her my chosen-mother. However, this post isn’t about hope or solidarity, it is about my unwavering and unapologetic love for a woman, that because of all things wrong and oppressive in this world, I had to learn to love! And I do and will forever love her!
Jan 7, 2014
Drunk in Love = Safe in Love?
A few weeks ago, Beyonce quietly dropped an album (thanks for being awesome #QueenBey), and a hit single “Drunk in Love” is blaring from every angle. Corner stores, cars on the highway, my dentist’s office. You name it, and “Drunk in Love” is on everyone’s playlist. While the entire album is well received by her audience, “Drunk in Love” raises a bigger question about the role of sobriety in sexual encounters.
As a third-year college student in America’s biggest college town, I’ve seen and heard all the effects of alcohol in sexual encounters.
“It makes flirting easier.” “It makes cumming faster.” “It makes talking smoother.”
Easier. Faster. Smoother.
Things alcohol does to your hook-up/sex life (because not all hook-ups involve sex). Sounds good, right? But, then glance over at the role of alcohol in sexual violence and the role of alcohol in America’s rape culture, especially among young people. While there is no direct correlation between alcohol and sexual violence, is there a safe way to be drunk during sex and, of course, during love?
For Beyonce and Jay-Z, one of the most powerful couples in the entertainment industry, their marriage seems like something out of utopia: a child, money, love, fame, etc.
But most couples aren’t like this. In fact, how many women can say that they completely trust their partner when they are drunk? How many times are women left feeling comfortable in their vulnerability and sexuality with their partner?
That’s what struck the most in this song. Beyonce feels safe enough to trust Jay-Z when they’re both drunk. And that’s actually so rare. Society places so many preconceived notions of sex and alcohol, especially on the role of alcohol to get women drunk for sex. With sex comes vulnerability and trust, the trust to be with someone during your most intimate moments and the vulnerability to linger with your most intimate thoughts.
While “Drunk in Love” represents a part of a relationship rarely depicted in media, I would like to see other women feel more safe and secure in their relationships, sober or not.
Dec 30, 2013
Buffer zone laws are meant to serve the simple purpose of aiding legal protection to abortion access and vary state to state, even country to country. They are viewed as bordering provisions for anti-abortion speakers and protestors to not infringe on the safety and well-being of an abortion provider’s patients and staff. In a few weeks, the Massachusetts buffer zone law will be heard in the Supreme Court, with anti-abortion activists and abortion activists ready and waiting. Reporters have already covered both sides of the story, and everyone in the reproductive justice community in Massachusetts is keeping a close eye on this decision.
With the Supreme Court hearing on Jan. 15, I wonder how the verdict will turn out. While anti-abortion activists will claim freedom of speech and assembly, these freedoms are not justified with previous histories of aggression, violence, and libel nationwide.
For those who work at the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, this decision hits close to home. Nearly two decades ago, a shooter entered a Planned Parenthood in Brookline, Massachusetts, and killed two people and wounded five others. As a result, Planned Parenthood moved to a new location, but the memory of those who died and were affected by this tragic incident sparked a movement to further protect staff and patients in abortion-providing settings.
Fast forward to 2013, and as I walk into Planned Parenthood for my internship, I see signs of defaced babies and crowds of people distributing anti-abortion material. The amount of anti-abortion activism varies, but it’s enough to know that the anti-abortion movement is strong in Massachusetts.
Let’s see what the new year brings.
Dec 21, 2013
And read the report itself here.
Dec 20, 2013
I’ve been following the #twitterfeminism conversation since I read Meghan Murphy’s piece The Trouble with Twitter Feminism the other night. All day and night I’ve been sneaking Twitter time at work and staying up too late just to see what everyone has to say about the topic. It has been very inspiring to see the overwhelming amount of support that people have showed for Twitter feminism.
A great conversation ensued about the good and bad, but mostly good, of Twitter feminism, and the problematic aspects of Murphy’s blog post. There were conversations about the exclusion of PoC, WoC, LGBTQ folk, people with disabilities, sex workers, poor people, and many others from mainstream cishet white feminism, and about how Twitter feminism gives all of these people a voice and a platform.
There were side conversations about appropriation of a PoC’s (Ngọc Loan Trần) words in Murphy’s piece to prove her point. Something that the author was not okay with, and how Murphy has been pushing back against the idea of removing the quote from her piece. And of course, there was talk about how she misgendered the author in her piece (and then later apologized and edited the post.)
There were conversations about bullying, exclusion, appropriating, and other types of oppressive behaviors among Twitter feminism as a whole, but also even within the groups of marginalized voices on Twitter. Naturally, there were very interesting discussions, but there were also arguments and personal attacks. Wrong assumptions were made, insults were hurled, users were blocked, and things got personal for some people.
I found all of this fascinating. I love observing dialogues on Twitter as they allow me to hear perspectives that are different than my own. These perspectives help me grow as a critical thinker and as as someone who is committed to social justice. And a part of me that I’m not so proud of enjoys a little Twitter drama like I enjoy a good telenovela.
But notice how I said I love “observing” dialogues. That’s because I don’t usually offer my own opinions on things, especially if I have a dissenting opinion from the masses of Twitter feminists. I’ve seen people get vilified for presenting an opinion or asking a question that implies that they might have a different opinion.
And sure, people need to get called out, but is it really necessary to demonize them in the process? And yes, tone policing is not cool, anger is justified, but does that give one license to always be malicious to someone who gets something wrong? Just because feelings are justified, doesn’t mean actions always are. (I might be really mad at someone for cutting me in line, that doesn’t mean I get to punch them in the face.)
So for this and a few other reasons, I try not to say much on Twitter if I have even a slight inkling that someone will disagree with me and send a horde of Twitter users after me. (And perhaps part of my lack of participation has to do with my social anxiety, and my lack of time to actively participate in Twitter conversations between two jobs.) Is this my problem? Yes. Has just sitting back and listening been incredibly beneficial for me? Yes.
But aren’t we talking about amplifying marginalized voices here? If my voice, a queer woman of color’s voice, is silenced because I would rather not participate in the popularity contest and boxing ring that is Feminist Twitter, then what does that tell you? I wonder if there are other voices out there like mine who would rather not say something because of what they think might happen.
So while reading Murphy’s piece, I couldn’t help but agree with many (but not all) of the points she raised.
Now some of you reading this may automatically assume that I am a Meghan Murphy fan because of that last sentence. So in order to not be attacked as a Murphy supporter, as I expect that Twitter feminism might do, I must offer the following disclaimer.
I am not nor have I ever been a Meghan Murphy fan. We disagree on things such as sex work, and in fact, just the other day I was shaking my head while reading her piece in Vice about how the sex work industry is to blame for human trafficking, and how apparently no one can possibly choose to do sex work (!). She also uses the phrase “prostituted women” in her piece, which is of course very offensive. Many others have pointed out the problems with her politics. I think it’s possible to agree with certain things that people say or do, and to vehemently disagree with other things.
Here’s where Murphy and I agree:
- It’s easy to make things up about people on Twitter. This is a no-brainer. I mean, it’s the internet. And it’s very easy to use those made up things to vilify someone.
- “Twitter doesn’t like nuance. Twitter likes statements. Preferably dramatic ones.” This is incredibly true. Everything is often so black and white on Twitter. Someone is either good activist or a problematic asshole. You can either love, worship, and defend Beyonce as a feminist like she’s your firstborn child, or you hate her and all successful black women. You can either praise Twitter feminism is wonderful, useful, and flawless, or you’re just a hater who is butthurt that marginalized voices have a platform.
- “We’re all showboating, trying be Most Right…We often succeed in being Most Right by proving that someone else is terrible. Winning by default or destruction is a popular Twitter strategy.” Come on, we’ve all seen this, sometimes in the form of call outs, sometimes during arguments. We’ve all seen people called names, demonized, or ruthlessly taken down on Twitter because of a comment or a blog they wrote. We’ve seen popular tweeps use their popularity and follower count attack others. Everyone is eager to show how smart they are or who much they know, even if it means humiliating others.
- Also, people on Twitter don’t argue about their ideas, they throw insults at each other and argue about who they are as a person. So instead of saying “That thing you said is problematic because…” people say “Shut up you fucking racist shithead. I hope your house burns down. Btw BLOCKED.” I don’t want to have a conversation with someone who disagrees with me if they’re going to resort to assumptions and personal attacks.
- Many people aren’t on Twitter. About half a billion people do use Twitter, and that’s a lot, and they represent people from all different walks of life. But it seems like a lot of people IRL don’t use Twitter at all or that much. Or they don’t use it for social justice. Think about people you know IRL; are they on Twitter as much as you are? I think it’s safe to say that many people are represented on Twitter, but those on Twitter may not be completely representative of the population.
- ”Twitter tends to amplify certain perspectives and voices and erase others — either because they aren’t there or because they’re too scared to speak up, lest they become the next target. Thinking about who is on Twitter and whose voices are loudest on Twitter is worthwhile.” This is very important. Because of the way Twitter is, people like myself are too afraid to participate in conversations, as I said earlier. People are more likely to listen to you if you’re established and have a high follower count. This makes perfect sense, and I have no issue with people being popular on Twitter. However, this means that when the popular tweep attacks a less popular tweep, the less popular tweep has to deal with the wrath of the popular tweep, their popular tweep friends, and all of their followers as well. Everyone jumps on the bandwagon to vilify this person for whatever they said or did, and suddenly they are the most evil person in the world and should never be forgiven.
- Twitter feminism is far from perfect, because we are human beings and as activists are far from perfect. Every single one of us has done problematic things. We have made mistakes. There was a time when we did not know as much as we know now about social justice. We’re all growing and learning. And so it really angers me when I see people being attacked if it’s because they aren’t as enlightened about social justice issues as some of us are. Also, the people attacking others for not being as enlightened are sometimes academics, who have had the privilege to get a masters degree in [insert social justice related field of study here], while others have not. While it is true that knowledge in this day and age is free, and can be found on Twitter, Tumblr, at the library, etc, it does take time to learn and become an expert in feminist theory or intersectionality. If you’re working multiple jobs or have kids or are otherwise busy, you might not have that time.
But it is great that Twitter provides a medium through which people like me who haven’t formally studied feminist issues in depth (though I have had the privilege of getting two Bachelors degrees) can learn and discuss these issues. There are many other great things about Twitter feminism.
If you read through the hashtag, many people have already adequately explained why hashtag feminism and Twitter feminism is very valuable, online and offline. There are some of my favorite examples of Twitter feminism and Twitter social justice from 2013.
- #TexasWomenForever (As much as I am not a fan of how the pro-choice movement continues to use trans exclusive language) this campaign raised thousands of dollars for people seeking abortions in Texas. That’s real money that is going to help real people.
- #StandWithWendy – Who can forget the filibuster of the year? And Leticia Van De Putte’s awesome quote, ““At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?”
- #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen – Mikki Kendall’s hashtag about the exclusion of WoC from mainstream feminism
- #FastTailedGirls – Hood Feminism’s hashtag about the sexualization of young black girls and victim blaming.
- And who can forget seeing powerful images of indigenous resistance in #Elsipogtog, how @MoreandAgain stopped Juror B37 from writing a book about the Zimmerman trial, #Justice4Trayvon and the @DreamDefenders, #FreeMarissa, #RenishaMcBride, and others.
These are just a few great examples of how Twitter is used to give a voice to marginalized groups of people who may not have been heard anywhere else, or who cannot, for one reason or another, do “on the ground” or “in real life” activism. But the way, the internet in some ways IS real life. The issues mentioned above are real, and the actions of people on Twitter have real consequences.
Also, Twitter has introduced me to brilliant activists, organizations, and writers like those mentioned above, and many others. It has opened my mind to so much. My views are constantly changing and gaining depth, and at times it is challenging for me, but I am grateful. In other words, I love Twitter feminism. And I would disagree with Murphy when she says that it isn’t productive and that it’s intellectually lazy.
I love #TwitterFeminism. I love it so much that I am willing to admit that it’s not perfect, and that we can do better. So let’s start doing better.
Dec 12, 2013
Examine My Depth:
Examine this depth because it hasn’t sprung from nowhere – my rage is not a fire hydrant that opens with a tap and strikes everyone close by.
My ache has been rooted and carefully harvested for centuries.
My rage is Mandela, King, Malcolm X, Corky Gonzales, Susan B. Anthony, and Dennis Goldberg.
Please tell me why my presence seems to be scrutinized by the public eye.
My misery lies within the hard cold walls of the daunting penitentiaries in which my people lie.
Open me up and dissect my pain. Tell me that my mother deserves better than minimum wage while working at a hotel – tell me that we didn’t cross el rio Bravo: monstrous and alive, ready to take our lives, only to live a white, superficial hell.
That my aunt wasn’t sexually assaulted on the border, only to find herself lost and lone in the land of the free, in fear of a deportation order.
Let me know that the “New Jim Crow” does not exist. I want to hear that Michelle Alexander is wrong when she says “Jarvious Cotton cannot vote….His great-grandfather was beaten to death by the Ku Klux Klan for attempting to vote. His grandfather was prevented from voting by Klan intimidation. His father was barred from voting by poll taxes and literacy tests. Today, Jarvious Cotton cannot vote because he, like many black men in the United States, has been labeled a felon and is currently on parole.”
Take a closer look at my disgust when I say that five Middle Eastern men had the police called on them at my university for looking like they did not belong: they were students.
They were no more than 18 year old humans.
Tell me that my father did not hold on to the rails of a train for 24 hours in order to be here – only to drive in fear of deportation. What good is the free land if we are closed off and barred in our box of a home in isolation?
I wish Alexander was wrong when she tells us “A black man was on his knees in the gutter, hands cuffed behind his back, as several police officers stood around him talking, joking, and ignoring his human existence.” – This or course, on Election Day: As we introduce the first black president of the United States
I yearn for the day when statements like these are not true – when black and brown people are not just labeled as a form of “resistance.”
Examine my anger. Look deep into my soul. Take a look at the land you’ve settled and grounded your beliefs on – notice that my angst was not born this morning, or last night, or a week ago, or 10 years ago. Notice that I have been destined to fail and crumble for centuries – see my pain and then take a look at the Anglo reign.
Examine this depth.
Once entering College, I found myself being the only queer youth of color in most if not all of my classes – and also found myself angry at people with privilege because they made sure to make me feel less than human every single day. However, I keep on doing advocacy work and telling people my story, in hopes of changing mindsets and perspectives.
I wrote this poem about youth of color, and people of color in general because we are often no more than a statistic: a reaction to the dominant culture – and we are often left out on conversations that deal with health care, LGBTQ issues, or sexual health.
Latin@ people of color matter.
Dec 10, 2013
[tumblr source: sarahlynne3713]
Dec 8, 2013
Do I need to trim, go bald or add some jewels? Who knew this would revolve around talk of the vagina. To shave or not to shave has been a popular topic of discussion surrounding the genitals. It’s in the media, there are articles on it, commercials for it telling us we should do it but none have answered the more important question, is it safe?
When someone shaves, waxes, tweezes or removes the hair around their genitals, much like when people shave their legs, microscopic wounds can be formed. These wounds provide an entry point for bacteria and viruses. The irritation combined with the warm and moist environment of the genitals creates a happy place for STD growth. This means that any kind of hair removal can provide an opportunity for contracting an STD.
This is not to scare you away because at the end of the day, it comes down to personal preference. Despite media’s attention or persuasions from friends or your partner, what you do with your pubic hair is your own business. If you choose to remove your genital hair, go to a professional to have it safely removed. If you opt to do it yourself, be careful not to nick yourself.
Always remember to practice safe sex each and every time you have sex because safe sex is the best sex!
Nov 28, 2013
I ran across an article about a couple that refused to leave their waiter a tip because of his sexual orientation. This is the note the couple left on the back of their receipt:
“Thank you for your service, it was excellent. That being said, we cannot in good conscience tip you, for your homosexual lifestyle is an affront to God. Faggots do not share in the wealth of God, and you will not share in ours. We hope you will see the tip your faggot choices made you lose out on, and plan accordingly. It is never too late for God’s love, but none shall be spared for fags. May God have mercy on you.”
This got me thinking, why are we so busy judging the lives of others when we can’t even handle our own? Why do we insist on telling people what to do, how to look like and how to live their lives when we get upset when people try the same with us? Most importantly, why are we so rude about it? There’s something to be said about those who can share their beliefs while still being respectful to persons who have a different opinion.
We are all different because we need each other’s diversity to thrive. We wouldn’t be who we are today without the people who’ve indirectly shaped us. Our lives are meaningful because everyone comes with different shapes, colors, sizes, sexual orientation, personalities and beliefs. The sooner we can come to this realization the sooner we can provide this world with peace. To those who have already recognized this, accepted it and or welcomed it… we can all learn something from you. This couple could have just as easily not left a tip, and kept their disrespectful and hurtful comment to themselves. Instead, they chose to be rude.
Moral of this rant: It’s cool to have your own opinion; it’s not cool to be offensive about it! At the end of the day we all inhabit this earth, and we all deserve RESPECT.
Don’t like gay marriage? Don’t get one.
Don’t like abortions? Don’t get one.
Don’t like drugs? Don’t do them.
Don’t like sex? Don’t have it.
Don’t like your rights taken away?
Don’t take anybody else’s.
Nov 27, 2013
Nov 25, 2013
Today (November 25, 2013) is as International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Earlier on in the year
MINISTER with responsibility for Information Sandrea Falconer says there is an urgent need for a broader national dialogue and engagement to tackle the issue of violence against women.
“Violence against women happens too often…I am sure everyone has had a friend or an acquaintance who has been a victim of intimate personal violence and it has to stop,” the minister emphasised, as she addressed the recent launch of the report Violence Against Women in Latin America and the Caribbean at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston.
She noted that not enough has been done to tackle the issue, but the Government has made some progress through the Bureau of Women’s Affairs and through programmes in the ministries of health, labour and social security and the Office of the Prime Minister.
The minister cited one such intervention as a high level multi-sectoral consultative committee commissioned by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller late last year to address violence and sexual crimes against women and children.
She said this committee, which she chairs, is charged with developing a holistic approach to tackling the problem by assessing and streamlining measures, recommendations and activities so that national action will be better co-ordinated, more comprehensive and effective in utilising limited resources.
The areas being focused on include public education, institutional strengthening, shelter services, and the promotion of sustainable livelihoods.
The Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) report has revealed that intimate partner and sexual violence against women is widespread in the 12 Latin American and Caribbean countries surveyed.
Done in collaboration with the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the report presents a comparative analysis of data from surveys conducted in 12 countries, including Jamaica.
For her part, PAHO/WHO Representative, Jamaica, Margareta Sköld, said it is hoped that the report will contribute to increasing knowledge about violence against women.
According to a PAHO fact sheet on the report, in the 12 Latin American and Caribbean countries studied, between 17 per cent and 53 per cent of women interviewed reported having suffered physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner. In seven of the countries, more than one in four women reported such violence.
In Jamaica, more than 8,000 women aged 15 to 44 were interviewed for the study. Of these, close to 20 per cent reported experiencing either physical or sexual partner violence at some point in their lives and almost half reported experiencing controlling behaviours by a partner.
In addition, the data revealed that only 31 per cent of Jamaican women who had experienced violence at the hands of a partner reported seeking institutional help to address the violence and 37 per cent said that they had never spoken to anyone about the violence they experienced.
Nov 25, 2013
(original image by The Stigma Project)
We are a grassroots organization that aims to lower the HIV infection rate and neutralize the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS through education and awareness via social media and advertising. The Stigma Project seeks to create an HIV neutral world, free of judgement and fear by working with both positive and negative individuals from all walks of life, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, race, or background.
Social media has rapidly become one of today’s largest mediums of news, culture, and education. We hope to embrace that with effective campaigns each season that bring awareness to the current state of HIV. Please, whether you’re HIV-positive, negative, or you don’t know (and should), we need your help. Ask your friends to join us in starting a revolution: an “HIV Neutral” revolution. Like us, Share us, Re-tweet us. The more people we reach, the more effective our project. The more successful our mission. YOU can make a difference.
The Stigma Project seeks to eliminate the stigma of HIV/AIDS on a global scale, through awareness, art, provocation, education and by inspiring a spirit of living “HIV Neutral.”
The Stigma Project seeks to create an “HIV Neutral” world, free of judgment, fear, discrimination and alienation by educating both positive and negative individuals from all walks of life about the constantly evolving state of the epidemic. We seek to reduce the HIV infection rate through knowledge, awareness, and effective marketing and advertising. Ultimately we see a future where the world is free of HIV/AIDS.
I’ve already posted this image before but without credit to the original poster, so here it is! I’ve also added information about this organization!
Nov 23, 2013
There is a popular proverb from H. G. Bohn’s, “Hand-Book of Proverbs,” (1855), “An idle brain is the devil’s workshop”. This proverb can be a metaphor to the increment of gender based violence (GBV) worldwide and mostly well recognized in the countries where unemployment rate is high. Moreover, if the rate is high and female empowerment is low, there are evidences that relates rise in GBV. There are domestic violence, murder for property, human trafficking, polygamy, rape, sexual abuse and harassment, forced pornography and many more cases. But what if these devil’s workshops get engaged to some other issue, mission or task that could cut off the rise in GBV? The current election fever in Nepal can be the answer.
After a long waiting, a constitution is about to be formed in Nepal. The election campaigns overcame even the brightness of major festivals like Dashain and Tihar. Majority of the youths all over the country were seen campaigning in favor of their respective parties and candidates through miking, rallies, door to door visits. Many are engaged counting votes, celebrating the victory and bargaining the loss. Whereas, people are occupied watching live updates about election and waiting for the final result to be announced no matter wherever they are. Now keeping all these situations aside, let us give a glance to recent reports on GBV in Nepal.
In Nepal, either in some corner or front page of every newspaper we find number of news on GBV cases daily. Also, according to the data mapping on GBV initiated by YUWA organization, it shows 2 to 3 GBV cases reported per day in average. But reviewing the data mapping reports of November, 2013, a dramatic decrement on GBV is seen, i.e. 1 GBV case in eight days. Similarly consulting “INSEConline”, which is the first human rights news portal in Nepal, GBV cases are hardly seen in the list during the month of election. This could be a bizarre hypothesis relating election and decrement in GBV. But it certainly can be interpreted as, if people are indulged to something or are mobilized, GBV somehow decreases. And yes, it directly points to the mobilization of youths.
Unemployment is regarded as one of the major risk factors of GBV. In Nepal, unemployment rate was 42% in 2004, whereas it increased to 46% in 2008 according to CIA World Factbook. Thus, higher the number of unemployed people, GBV will rise up. Further justifying this statement, human trafficking is an example which is one of the alternatives for the idle heads. And reminding the fact, human trafficking is still high in Nepal. This is indeed a serious problem. Therefore, the country should realize that it’s time for action in finding ways for mobilizing these idle heads to the right track, showing better alternatives rather than digging in for more justifications.
Nov 19, 2013
Living in Jamaica I’ve always wondered why we care about how others lived their lives, why does it matter if that girl is a lesbian? or why does it matter if that boy you use to be friends with is gay? but then it dawned on me, Jamaicans are just a bunch of nosy people who poke their noses into the lives of others to distract themselves from the reality of their own sad and shameless lives which only God and their neighbors could tell you about.
the average Jamaican is communal and makes it his or hers duty to know all your business, some do this out of love and some do this out of just plain envy and grudge hoping to use it against you but hurting someone because they choose to love the guy or girl they love is just wrong.
Nov 16, 2013
[originally posted on ThinkProgress by Alyssa Rosenberg]
[TW: racial slurs, movie spoilers, rape]
This post discusses plot details of 12 Years A Slave in depth.
“Forgive me,” Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) tells his wife Anne (Kelsey Scott) when he returns to Saratoga and to freedom after more than a decade of enslavement in Southern states. “There is nothing to forgive,” Anne tells him. And of course, Solomon is in no way responsible for being kidnapped into servitude and for being out of his touch with his family for twelve years, except for the errors of judgement he made in trusting the men who deceived and sold him. But the exchange between the reunited spouses reveals, in plain language, what makes Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave so strikingly different from many of the movies about slavery, race, and the South in recent years. 12 Years A Slave is concerned with Solomon’s character arc, rather than the moral development of a white woman like Skeeter Phelan (Emma Stone), the misfit socialite who becomes a reporter and goes to work for a publisher in The Help, or Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), the bounty hunter-turned-hater-of-slavery in Django Unchained. And the movie treats whiteness not as a neutral thing, but as a complex construct that, in its intersections with class and gender, creates a landscape more unstable and risky than any Palmetto swamp.
Unlike Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis), the housekeeper in The Help, who goes from quiet acceptance of her lot to speaking her mind, or Django (Jamie Foxx), who begins Django Unchained in irons and ends it galloping off towards freedom with his wife, Solomon spends much of 12 Years A Slave traveling an opposite trajectory. At the beginning of the film, his freedom has granted him the privilege of being trusting when two men, Brown (Scoot McNairy) and Hamilton (Taran Killam) offer him a job playing his violin at an exorbitant salary with a circus. “Your generosity is extraordinary,” Solomon tells them over a rich dinner in Washington, DC, where he’s traveled for what he believes will be a two-week engagement. Even after he wakes up in irons, Solomon refuses to believe that Brown and Hamilton have betrayed him, protesting that “They were not kidnappers, they were artists.” And even more tellingly, he believes that some sort of justice is within reach. “I promise you, upon my liberation, I will have satisfaction for this wrong,” Solomon declares to one of his jailers.
For much of the next twelve years, Solomon spends his time being disabused of the notion that fellow artists are trustworthy, that his talent will save him, and that decency and fellow-feeling trumps race. And he comes into uncomfortably close acquaintance with he’ll do to survive, and to be free again.
Solomon’s education takes place in three acts, the first, and swiftest in a form of violent gaslighting designed to swiftly transition him from thinking of himself as a free man to accepting an identity as a slave. “You ain’t no free man. And you ain’t from Saratoga, you’re from Georgia…You ain’t nothing but a runaway nigger,” his jailer in Washington, DC tells Solomon as he beats his new identity into him. “You’re a slave. Your’e a Georgia slave.” That man’s partner teaches Solomon the other part of the essential lesson of servitude, that he’s meant to be surprised by any generosity show him, rather than feeling entitled to it. “Got no gratitude?” the man tells him, when he comes to offer Solomon a replacement for the shirt that’s been shredded and irreparably bloodied by his beating. And when Solomon arrives at his destination, the custody of a slaver named Freeman (Paul Giamatti), he’s punished when he doesn’t answer to the new name bestowed on him, Platt. “You fit the description. Why didn’t you answer when called?” Freeman demands of Solomon, making sure that his latest commodity will behave as expected before he’s sold off.
If Solomon becomes convinced of the value of docility to his survival in the first stage of his journey South, it’s in his second that he learns that his talents and intelligence need to be deployed carefully, and the extent to which race trumps class for Southern whites. The man who purchases him is a plantation owner named Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) who fancies himself a benevolent owner. Ford’s first attracted to Solomon in Freeman’s establishment when the slaver tells Ford that “This is a nigger of considerable talent,” and Ford hears Solomon’s playing. That respect extends beyond Solomon’s music. Ford is willing to accept Solmon’s advice on transporting lumber through the swamps around his estate. Tibeats (Paul Dano), a foreman who’s taken an instant dislike to Solomon on the grounds that he doesn’t know his place, asks Solomon “Are you an engineer or a nigger?” when Solomon volunteers his experience working on a canal crew as proof of his plan. “I’ll admit to being impressed even if you won’t,” Ford tells Tibeats and Solomon, giving Solomon a chance to prove his idea viable.
But Eliza (Adepero Oduye), who like Solmon was kidnapped in Washington, and has been sold to Ford along with him but away from her children, sees what Solomon cannot in these gestures of respect. “Ford is your opportunity?” she asks Solomon, recognizing that Solomon’s displays of his talents only make him more valuable to Ford, rather than convincing Ford of his humanity. Solomon’s first inkling of this comes when Ford gives him a violin, telling Solomon “I hope it brings us both much joy over the years,” envisioning a placid, and permanent, coexistence with the slave he’s come to enjoy.
Even if Solmon accepts that might be his lot, he fails to recognize that the means by which he expresses his usefulness may someday erode the risks Ford is willing to take for him. His error is in continuing to challenge Tibeats, treating the white man as if he’s foolish, telling him “I simply ask that you use all your senses before rendering judgement,” and when Tibeats criticizes his work, declaring “If there’s something wrong, it’s wrong with the instructions.” When their repeated confrontations finally become violent, Solomon acts as if his skills outrank the whiteness of Tibeats’ skin, beating him rather than allowing himself to be physically abused. When Tibeats declares after the fight that “You will not live to see another day…I will have flesh and I will have all of it,” it’s another layer of the instruction that Solomon first received when he was kidnapped: he’s in a place where reason matters very little, and race and class are everything.
In one of the most intellectually complex and visually harrowing sequences in12 Years A Slave, Tibeats rounds up a lynch mob, only to be interrupted by Ford’s overseer, who informs Tibeats that “You have no claim to his life.” This doesn’t, of course, mean that Solmon’s life is his own. And to remind him of it, the overseer leave Solomon hanging just low enough that he can relieve the pressure on his neck by pointing his toes in decidedly unstable mud. The slaves around him, better-trained in the art of self-preservation, largely go about their work as Solomon languishes there. Children play near the tree from which he’s hung. Mrs. Ford watches Solomon struggle, then strolls away from her viewpoint on the porch. A woman sneaks him a drink of water, but she can only ease his comfort, not relieve him of it. The one person who can do that is Ford, who ultimately cuts Solomon down with a machete. But that assertion of ownership comes paired with an acknowledgement that Solomon himself has transgressed so far in his beating of Tibeats that Ford cannot–or will not–assert his class privilege over the poorer man’s racist outrage in order to save a slave, even one he’s grown fond of. “You are an exceptional nigger, Platt,” Ford tells Solomon as he prepares to sell him to Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender). “But I fear no good can come of it.”
It’s on Epps’ plantation that Solomon learns submission and compromise, which, paradoxically, are the qualities that will allow him to save his own life at the end of the film. On the Epps plantation, Solomon’s skills are turned against him. Far from being able to win Epps’ respect with any knowledge he might possess, Solomon proves poor at the one thing Epps wants of him, picking cotton. His musical skills, once a source of consolation, become part of Epps’ macabre entertainments, as Epps forces Solomon to play for grotesque dances he forces his slaves to hold in the middle of the night.
And amidst the brutality of the Epps plantation, Solomon learns to do what the people who saw him being hanged and did nothing did on that day: to ignore what he sees, and to keep quiet. When he contemplates running away when Mrs. Epps (Sarah Paulson) orders him to run her errands at a store, his flight through the woods brings Solomon upon a lynching party. Solomon effectively promises the white men in the group that he will forget what he saw. He tells Mrs. Epps that “No m’am. [He encountered] No trouble,” on his route, erasing the experience from his official account of the trip. And Solomon and Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o), a slave Epps describes as “Queen of the Fields,” and who Epps rapes regularly, warning his wife that “I will rid myself of you before I do away with her,” are lectured on the value of patience and submission in Christian terms by Mistress Shaw (Alfre Woodward), a slave who accepted the role of mistress to another white man. “Where once I served, I have others serving me,” Mistress Shaw counsels the two younger people. “In good time, the Lord’ll manage ‘em all…The sorrow of the pharaohs is no match for what awaits the plantation class.”
This education saves Solomon when he is caught in a dangerous ploy, trying to convince a former overseer-turned-cotton-picker named Armsby (Garret Dillahunt) to deliver a letter to his family. “Well, Platt. I understand I got a learned nigger writes letters, tries to get white fellows to mail ‘em,” a drunk Epps tells Solomon, clearly eager to use this knowledge against a slave who’s irritated him, but not quite given him the excuse Epps needs to dispatch him by violence. Solmon, by this point, knows enough to play Epps’ class suspicions against Armsby. “He made the story out of whole cloth because he wants a situation,” Solomon insists, and Epps believes him.
But submission also means that Solomon is pulled deeper into complicity with Epps’ cruelties, nowhere more so than in the case of Patsey. At one point, Patsey begs Solomon to kill her and to make her body disappear, telling him “I ain’t got no comfort in this life. If I can’t buy mercy from you, I’ll beg it.” But Solomon declines, even as he becomes witness to her escalating suffering. When he returns from a stint on another plantation, where he was allowed to play his violin and earn money for himself, Solmon sees all the blood vessels in one of Patsey’s eyes broken, whether as the result of abuse from Mrs. Epps, or as an assertion of authority from Epps himself. Later, when Patsey is not available to Epps on a Sunday, a day she’s traditionally been free to go visiting, his wrath is dreadful. And it escalates when she explains that she was visiting Mistress Shaw to get some soap because Mrs. Epps has denied it to her. “500 pounds of cotton a day, more than any man. And for that I will be clean. That’s all I ask,” Patsey begs for her dignity. And Epps, telling her “You’re doing this to yourself, Pats,” orders Solomon to whip her, and then to whip her harder when he makes a show of the beating rather than administering it properly.
And when Mr. Parker (Rob Steinberg), Solomon’s white friend, comes to Epps’ plantation with evidence of Solomon’s freedom, 12 Years A Slave makes wrenchingly clear that Solomon’s freedom depends on his willingness to simply accept it and go. “Get away from him, Pats,” Epps warns Patsey as she insists on saying goodbye to Solomon. The price of her minor act of dignity is likely to be severe, and during her whipping and the treatment of her flayed back afterwards, we’ve seen what that cost looks like. And the price of Solomon’s freedom is his willingness to turn his back on her, as he looked away from her injured eye, as he refused to risk Epps’ wrath or his soul to kill her before she suffered more.
None of this is to say that the decisions Solomon makes are wrong, or to argue that he should have martyred himself on Epps’ plantation and died forgotten, rather than living to tell his story and to become an abolitionist activist, a chapter of his life that’s left out of the film. But 12 Years A Slave is a remarkable film because it examines the ways in which slavery coarsened the moral sensibilities not just of the white people who practiced it, but of the black people who were held in bondage. And unlike Aibileen Clark, who is a saint, or Django, who is an action hero, Solomon can be damaged by slavery, he can do terrible things to survive, and the movie extends to him the privilege of never sacrificing his claim on our immense admiration and respect. When Solomon tells his family “I apologize for my appearance, but I have had a difficult time these past several years,” he is speaking not only physically and emotionally, but with a veiled honesty about the terrible compromises he has made to return home to them. In between 12 Years A Slave and Fruitvale Station, Ryan Coogler’s remarkable debut film about the last day in the life of Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan), who was shot to death on a BART platform in 20009, 2013 may prove a waster-shed year for cinema in the long-overdue assertion that black men don’t need to earn the value of their lives or their dignity, that they simply possess them.
12 Years A Slave is also admirably corrective for sidelining the moral development or degradation of the white people in Solomon’s journey. This is not to say that the characters are poorly sketched. With the exception of a badly miscast Brad Pitt as Bass, a white Canadian who eventually delivers news of Solomon’s fate to his friends and family in Saratoga, McQueen has gotten remarkably rich psychological portraits from his cast. Fassbender seems likely to be a strong Best Supporting Actor contender for his performance of the louche, self-loathing Epps. And it’ll be a shame if his work overshadows Sarah Paulson’s enraged, humiliated plantation wife.
But for once, we have a film about the South where the highest concern is not whether Skeeter Phelan turns on her racist friends and finds fulfillment in the world of publishing, leaving the black women who gave her the material for her first book behind in Mississippi, or whether Dr. King Schultz acts in accordance with his newly-awakened conscience and dies in a blaze of spectacularly impractical glory that puts Django and his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) in greater danger than a show of deference to violent planter Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) might have done. To 12 Years A Slave, whether individual white people are good or bad, compromised or virtuous, cowardly or courageous is simply less important than their collective impact on black men like Solomon Northup, who must navigate their whims and class prejudices to survive. Really, what does the small kindness of a Mr. Ford matter when men like Epps live and bear lashes? 12 Years A Slave dismisses the moral myopia that governs movies like The Help and Django Unchained, which reduce the experiences of black people down to the importance those experiences play in white people’s moral educations.
Those learning experiences are not unnecessary to social progress. But the movies have often given the impression that this is a one-sided process, in which white people of good will must learn to recognize the ills that they have unconsciously done and benefitted from, and find some small way to renounce them. 12 Years a Slave is a powerful corrective in its illustration that racism in America is a matter of mutual, continual and detrimental education, in which all parties learn to read privilege and respond to their position relative to it, rather a monolithic and impersonal institution.
Excellent review, analysis, and description of this film I watched a couple weeks ago by Alyssa Rosenberg. Though I would have ventured more in depth about Ford’s character and how even though he is much kinder than your typical slave owner, he is still a slave owner and in the film it was clear that his compliments and actions were still dehumanizing. He represented another face of racism and oppression. And that would be it, because I choose not to speak on a character whose role was only less than ten minutes.
And I say this as a response to the overwhelming amount of praises for Benedict Cumberbatch who played as Master Ford. Admittedly, Benedict Cumberbatch did very well in his less than ten minutes on the screen. Of course with personal perspective, I did not find it spectacular. Not even close.
I see no reason to extend more than a few kind words for Benedict Cumberbatch’s role when the movie was not even about a somewhat kind, but very cowardly and oppressive white slave owner.
Chiwetel Ejiofor (Solomon) and Lupita Nyong’O (Patsey) were the real stars of the movie.
Nov 6, 2013
Yes, there were a few elections yesterday across the country yesterday. Some of the results wouldn’t necessary impact our work, per se, but they may be helpful to know for some of us (especially since a lot happened near our geographic region).
So here’s a brief snapshot of what happened:
One of the main takeaways is that Tea Party-backed candidates are losing steam – and Republicans are more actively separating themselves from the movement. They’re realizing they have to focus on a more moderate Republican base and this could be a hopeful sign as we move into 2014 elections.
Virginia – BIG WIN
Terry McAuliffe (D) defeated Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to become the next Governor. This was a very close and battleground race, especially for supporters of progressive ideas and/or women’s reproductive health. One of the huge battles was about Obamacare, one in which McAuliffe fully embraced and Cuccinelli fully opposed.
- Where he stands on a few of our issues: Medicaid expansion a major part of his plan; supports LGBT rights; pro-choice and actively attacked Cuccinelli about his anti-choice anti-abortion crusade; said he’d work toward “protecting VA women’s access to BC, preventative health care, and safe and legal abortion” – took a pledge to stand like a “brick wall” when women’s rights come under attack. This is a huge win for our issues and our work, especially since VA was a leading state in abortion regulations and restrictive legislation the past few years.
More Virginia: Sen. Ralph Northam (D) won Lieutenant Governor; Attorney General race is heading for a recount with Sen. Mark Obenshain (R) and Sen. Mark Herring (D) being neck in neck.
New York City – Bill de Blasio (D) won NYC Mayorial race
- Where he stands on a few of our issues: has said he would pass legislation that would ban racial profiling and carry out the changes to “stop and frisk” (also dropping the city’s appeal of the ruling); on record supporting birth control and EC in city schools; has not addressed parental consent (which is required); strong supporter of Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Act; supports expanding bike lanes and putting more $$ into encouraging cycling (okay, not “our” issues, but pretty cool)
New Jersey – Chris Christie (R) won re-election for Governor
- Where he stands on a few of our issues: has cut funding for family planning centers (including PP), repeatedly vetoed bills that would restore the money, saying low-income women could get birth control and health screenings at other clinics; opposes gay marriage; vetoed pay equal pay legislation calling them “senseless bureaucracy”
- This victory is seen as a step towards a possible residential GOP race
- Voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative that will raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 an hour and amends the state Constitution to tie future increases to inflation.
Alabama – Former State Senator (R) Bradley Byrne defeated Tea Party Candidate Dean Young in a Congressional GOP primary runoff. While it’s only a Primary – important to note that the Byrne is seen as an “Establishment” republican which means the Tea Party is losing steam (in one of the most Conservative areas of AL). The Business sector backed Byrne and we are seeing that regular conservatives are becoming more favorable than Tea Partiers in even hyper conservative environments.
Other areas of interest:
- 16 and 17 yr olds in Takoma Park voted for the first time! In May, Takoma Park City Council voted to become the first city in the United States to lower its voting age from 18 to 16.
- Illinois: MARRIAGE EQUALITY! Both Chambers voted for the same sex marriage bill and the Governor has pledged to sign it (date not specified). YAY!
- Hawaii: Marriage Equality is on its way to the full House for a vote (after 55 hours of testimony in House committees) – after being passed out of the Senate
- Washington: Seattle is on its way to confirming former state Sen. Murray, the city’s first-ever gay mayor! Murray led the campaign in Washington for same sex marriage last year.
Also, Voters defeated a measure to have manufacturers label GMO foods [okay. So not OUR issues, but it was of interest to me.. :)]
Questions? Comments? Let me know!
Nov 4, 2013
Here at Advocates for Youth, my job is to focus on engaging young men in sexual and reproductive health. This means highlighting the young men already doing excellent work to influence their peers and it also means helping others improve their work with this demographic. It’s hard to explain exactly what so many different guys are experiencing as they come of age in America today – the pressures, the inconsistent messaging about who we’re supposed to be and how, or the insecurities we might feel but are rarely able to voice. (more…)
Nov 4, 2013
Oct 30, 2013
Seeing Capitol Hill for the first time is something I will never forget.
Just a little over a month ago, I was walking the hallways of the Cannon House building, on my way to my first meeting of the day. Lobby day on The Hill, another amazing opportunity granted to me by Advocates for Youth. I’d lobbied before, but I’d only ever lobbied my state senators and assembly-people. Needless to say, I was nervous. The day before at the training, I was feeling overly confident until I saw that we would also have meetings with some people I thought would be less in favor of the bill I was so desperately lobbying for- the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act, a comprehensive sex education bill.
When I saw our first meeting slot, though, I felt comforted. Representative Dina Titus is a household name in my family, and she is someone I have known of very fondly. My mentor, and close friend, Annette Magnus had worked in Rep. Titus’s office in the past, and she has always spoken very highly of her. It also helped lessen the tension when I saw that Rep. Titus has a 100% approval rating of Planned Parenthood, something I expected, as she is quite the progressive, liberal woman!
Upon arrival to her office, I saw a big Nevada State doormat, the only doormat I saw in the entirety of Capitol Hill. A little piece of home was smack in the middle of a Capitol Building’s hallway, and trust me, it is hard to miss. I soon met Katie Cassling, the staffer that was meeting with me for Rep. Titus. I sat down along with Katie, another fellow ‘lobbier,’ and Julia Reticker-Flynn, a wonderful Advocates staff member. Ms. Cassling was wonderful from the get-go. I had gone over and over what I planned to say the night before, and I had already said a lot of it before since I had recently lobbied for comprehensive sex-education on the state level.
Ms. Cassling listened very thoughtfully when I told her of the sex-education I had received (and all that I had not.) I spoke from the heart and from a very personal level when I told her of my struggles entering an abstinence-only-until-marriage sex-education class as a rape and sexual assault survivor. I continued to tell her of the battle we had fought very valiantly for comprehensive sex-education in our home state and sadly lost. I think one of my most proud moments of the meeting was when I was able to hand over a stack of petitions in support that I had personally collected. I flipped through the pages with her, and she seemed very impressed. It was overall a pleasant experience, and she gave me constant affirmation that Rep. Titus supported such things. She ended the meeting with the remark that it was highly unlikely for Rep. Titus to say no to the bill! This lifted my confidence, and I was floating on air for the rest of the day.
Lobbying is an adventure for me, and it is a constant challenge on making that connection with the person you are speaking with. You only have a certain amount of time to communicate your message. I am always up for a challenge.
Overall, the meeting with Rep. Titus’s office was an experience I will not soon forget. It was a pleasant, safe environment, and I am incredibly happy to hear that Rep. Dina Titus co-sponsored the bill! Representative Dina Titus took into account what her constituents wanted, and it is a wonderful thing to feel heard. She is the first one to sign on to the bill from Nevada, and it feels amazing to have had a hand in that.
Oct 27, 2013
I made a quick list of films about abortion and reproductive/sexual justice issues and posted it on STFU, Pro-Lifers.
Oct 24, 2013
My sister, at the age of 18, got married to a citizen and became a citizen in less than three years. After she got all her documents, she asked for my parents. It took 3 years for them to become permanent residents; their citizenship should be coming next year. My parents asked for me, but we haven’t heard a response, so we applied for the dream act, and lucky I got it.
Now, the point of this post isn’t the story of my families immigration struggle, it’s about how even though I now have a status in America (the dream act), I still feel powerless because I am closeted lesbian to my parents. If I ever decided to come out to them, they would kick me out the house and tell me to never talk to them until I become “normal”.
I need them to get my papers so I can be able to apply for college, create a profession for myself, and live in peace (not having fear of deportation), but I won’t get them if my parents find out I’m a lesbian. I depend on them too much, and it’s truly unfair that my dreams can’t happen unless I stay in the closet. I can’t get my license, I can’t work, and I can’t apply for colleges or scholarships. It devastates me. I wish I could apply for my papers on my own. I’ll do anything for them! Ill save up the money and do all the work if it means I can get my papers and be who I am and most importantly, be happy.
As of right now, I’m dealing with the hurt of hiding myself until I get my papers. Once I receive them, I’ll finally be able to go to the college of my dreams and pursue my goals being who I am and my parents not being able to stop me. I say that’s my American dream.
Oct 24, 2013
“A new report, compiled by Guttmacher, finds that in 2008, 2 of 3 unplanned pregnancies resulted in births that were publicly funded, and the combined cost of all those births was $12.5 billion.”
Oct 11, 2013
Malala Yousafzai, along with her father, are education activists in Pakistan striving to end educational inequality despite the institutional oppressions put in place. When the story of Malala’s assassination attempt by the Taliban made news about a year ago, this was the next the shot heard around the world. Hundreds of journalists and bloggers wrote about her involvement in girl’s education and the role of the Taliban. Fundraisers and sponsorships emerged for South Asian education development for girls, making this a prime example of consumer capitalism on a structural issue of educational inequality in Pakistan (1). Fortunately, this girl survived and made a steady recovery. She has wowed the world with her resilience, and for that, I am honored, especially from the lens of another South Asian Muslim woman.
However, her success doesn’t come with scrutiny. I’m not surprised that she gained so much fame as a result of a vicious attack by Pakistani Muslim extremist men. I’m no stranger to the way the media covered the story and perceptions of Pakistani Muslim men in general, and nothing will be the same post 9/11 for Arab, Middle Eastern, South Asian, or Muslim (AMEMSA) men (2). They are always deemed as “barbaric, savage, and backwards,” words frequently used to describe them and other men of color and the atrocities they do without a mention of the harm inflicted on women of color bodies by white men via imperialism, colonialism, and sexual violence (3, 4).
Yet, my hope for Malala is that the Western gaze will not impede her goals with their “peaceful” interventions or continue to deem the Global South as a hindrance to gender equality. I hope she can overcome the oppressions instilled in these countries by the Western world and current policies affecting women of color bodies (3, 5). As Malala said on the Today Show with Jon Stewart, “we don’t understand the importance of anything unless it’s snatched from our hands.” (6) Now is the time to understand the complexities of social oppression and its influences on the security of women of color everywhere.
Oct 8, 2013
THE CRYING CHILD……., When I hear the cries of a child my step fails me my thoughts become disoriented all I hear is the child’s voice in my soul, screaming that something is wrong and pleading for help, please help me my mouth will soon deliver me from the turmoil inside of me as I ask ‘child what is wrong’, still my body and soul won’t let go, till I do something to stop the crying child.
It is our responsibilities to make sure that children in our environment are being taken care of, by this doing you can put a smile on the face of a crying child. Very small number of people can have quite a BIG effect so what can u do to stop a crying child?
Oct 8, 2013
Often times when I’m doing the work I’m doing, whether it’s going to retreats, screening films promoting comprehensive sex ed, or simply going to rallies in order to support issues that I care about, others ask me why I do the things I do. Whenever I get blank stares or confused faces when I ask people to support comprehensive sex ed, female reproductive rights, or anti bullying laws I myself am confused and a little lost as to how to handle these situations. To me, being an activist or advocate for these issues concerning young people is part of who I am. More importantly, it’s my responsibility as a young woman living in today’s society.
Now I realize that’s a philosophical approach, one that not everyone shares, but isn’t it kind of like being on the right side of history? Have you ever seen those pictures of people during the Civil Rights Movement? You know, the ones where the Little Rock 9 are attempting to integrate the schools and those horrible women are screaming in the background all over the death of “separate but equal”? Remember the Woolworth Counter pictures, where students black and white practiced civil disobedience in order to integrate lunch counters in the Jim Crow south? Every day, I ask myself where would I have been back in that time. Inaction is a dangerous thing…would I have watched these people have their rights stolen and not do anything to help them? I want to be on the right side of history.
I want the future to be different. I want it to hold pictures of me marching next to LGBTQ youth in support of them as individuals and human beings. I want to stand for love and be able to see people regardless of their gender or orientation be able to be with the person that they love. I want women to feel safe and protected in our society because one day I want my daughter to be able to have sexual agency and desire without being shamed and called a “slut” or “whore”. I want teenagers to be comfortable enough with their sexuality and responsible enough to make the right decisions, so they don’t have to raise children while they are children themselves. I want teenagers to be treated like adults, so that they can start acting like adults. I want the discourse in this country to change from shame, condemnation, and fear to something more positive and hopeful. I want us to have hope in young people because we’re the ones that make the world what it is. We are the past, the present, and the future and we are the ones that have historically marched, bled and died for what we believe in.
Oct 7, 2013
(reposted from The Nation, originally posted by Katha Pollitt)
How could something so basic be in such short supply? Diapers are expensive—up to $100 a month—particularly for women who don’t have transportation and must rely on bodegas and local convenience stores. Some women reported spending 6 percent of their total income on paper nappies. And before you say, “Let them use cloth,” Marie Antoinette, bear in mind that diaper services are expensive, few poor women have their own washing machines, most laundromats don’t permit customers to launder dirty diapers and most daycare programs don’t allow cloth diapers. Like fresh fruit and vegetables, humanely raised meat and dairy products, and organic baby food, cloth diapers are the province of the well-off.
Despite this clear need, however, diapers are not covered by the food stamp program (SNAP) or by the Women, Infants, and Children feeding program. The government apparently finds them unnecessary, like other hygiene products (toilet paper, menstrual supplies, toothpaste, even soap), which are also, unlike food, subject to sales tax. Never mind that babies can’t choose not to pee and poo and did not select their parents. Never mind, too, that those grandmothers who are the hardest hit caregivers are performing a crucial social task—and saving the taxpayer millions—by keeping those kids out of foster care.
Food, it’s true, is even more basic than diapers. But some people believe low-income children don’t really need that either. If House Republicans have their way, 4 to 6 million SNAP recipients may soon find themselves bounced from the rolls. This, at a time when the Department of Agriculture tells us that 17.6 million households regularly go hungry, up from 12 million ten years ago. Proving yet again that there really is a difference between the parties, Republicans want to cut the food stamp budget by $40 billion over the next ten years.
Oct 7, 2013
Urban Retreat 2013 was truly an experience beyond any tier. Never have I ever been surrounded by so many like-minded individuals–as much of an oxymoron as that might sound. We were all individuals because we all had our own story to share. We came from many different walks of life and parts of the world. All of us had to overcome some type of unique trauma and oppression that we were facing in our own separate lives. But we celebrated our diversity. And we were all there in unison trying to contribute to the vision we shared for the world.
I might have been a tiny bit apprehensive about making the trip to Washington, D.C. at first. I wasn’t really enthusiastic about being away from my girlfriend. It was a place I had never been to on my own. I would be surrounded by strangers. But these strangers quickly became my friends. And these friends were all activists and advocates for social progress in their own communities from all over the world, so I had a lot to learn from them. And I found, to my surprise, that I had things I could share with them as well. Together we received training to become more effective activists and leaders. And after the inspiring trainings and workshops, we headed to Capitol Hill together to share our stories and insight with our representatives. It was a self-affirming and inspiring experience.
I even got to meet Janet Mock! We talked and had dinner. She even tweeted me and followed me on Twitter!
It’s thanks to Urban Retreat that I’ve gained new tools, resources, and concepts that would empower me and inspire me to be more involved in activism and advocacy for social justice. And it’s thanks to Urban Retreat that I’ve gained a new family with YouthResource. Today I woke up this morning and found myself in my own bed in Michigan. I wasn’t in Washington, D.C. with my fellow advocates anymore. The realization was bittersweet. But I know I’ll see these faces soon enough with stories to share.
Sep 25, 2013
Texas woman drives four hours to Planned Parenthood after being shamed for hickey
Reposted from: Raw Story, written by David Edwards
A Texas woman who was shamed by her doctor for having a hickey and wanting birth control says she is now forced to drive four hours to a Planned Parenthood clinic for health care due to the state’s new anti-abortion laws.
Athena Mason told KUT that her first visit to the doctor as a student at Texas A&M was awkward.
“I had a hickey and the doctor was just like, you shouldn’t be doing that,” she recalled. “I’m like, ‘It’s a hickey, it’s nothing major.’ But I got a big lecture. [He said] my boyfriend was abusive and all of these things. And then I asked for birth control. I did not hear the end of that. So I said never mind, I’ll go somewhere else.”
Mason started using the Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan. But that facility is one of four women’s health service providers that closed in August after the state passed new regulations restricting abortions.
So Mason now drives four hours to the Planned Parenthood clinic in Austin for health care.
In 1998, Cadence King was diagnosed with pre-cancerous cells on her cervix and became a patient at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan. She had returned for regular checkups in the years since, but she has missed visits in recent weeks because the clinic closed.
King is now struggling to find a new health care provider. Her only options are driving three hours to Beaumont or waiting four months for the next opening with the one Bryan clinic that’s willing to take her case.
Sep 10, 2013
Being at the retreat this weekend felt surreal. It was a magical place where everyone there agreed with me on social issues and no one was afraid to talk about sex, LGBTQ topics, or reproductive rights. I was living (temporarily) in a place where I needed no filter — where I was treated as an equal, rather than a student.
Well we’re back to reality now.
This morning, as I drove to school behind someone with a Romney-Ryan bumper sticker, I realized that I was no longer in magical liberal-land. I had been pushed back into a reality where we didn’t all agree with each other. I’m appreciative of the fact that we don’t all agree, but it was reassuring being surrounded by people who are on the same page as you are. As my hiatus concludes, I remember what it is like to live in the real world… and how much more fun debates are when the other person doesn’t agree with everything you’ve said.
Sep 8, 2013
The definition of an advocate is a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy. The definition of being passionate is having strong feelings or beliefs for something. I am an Ohio advocate because I encompass both traits and now have an outlet in which I can help implement policy change that reflects what I support and believe in.
There is a huge inequality issue not only on the federal level but also on the state and local level. There needs to be a regulated comprehensive sex education program implemented in Ohio, there needs to be an end of making the LGBTQ community second class citizens and the bullying and dehumanizing of students in schools everywhere needs to be put to a stop. Through Ohio advocates, I now have the tools, support and voice to help change the black and white values and patterns of society.
I am an advocate for all people, regardless of size, age, race, sexual orientation or gender. I am passionate and hopeful for the equality of all people in the state and country. My name is Hannah, and this is why I am an Ohio advocate.
Sep 8, 2013
I believe in speaking your truth. I believe in speaking your truth when it’s unpopular and/or uncomfortable. I believe in speaking your truth when it will make your life harder. I believe in speaking your truth always, no matter the potential consequences.
Throughout my life, I have never been drawn to conflict. I will bend over backwards to make a losing situation into a win-win scenario. This has worked well for me; it made me friends and allowed me to feel at ease in many drastically different social situations. Allow me to clarify: this had worked well for me until very recently. The summer between my sophomore and junior years of high school I began hanging out with new people. These guys made me feel welcome and loved; it was as if I had just gotten five overprotective, older brothers over night. They made me feel comfortable and safe, despite my being the only girl there. Everything was great until one of them called another one a faggot for doing something stupid. When I heard that word it was as if battery acid was being poured into my stomach. This word appalled me. I chose not to speak up for fear of alienating myself in this new group of people, and I dwelled on this choice for the rest of the night. The use of that word, my least favorite word in the entire English language, made me lose respect for these guys that I loved. And even worse, it made me lose respect for myself because I didn’t voice my discomfort.
The next time it happened a little bit differently. Instead of using the word faggot someone said that something was gay, implying that it was stupid. The use of the word gay in a derogatory fashion was nearly as bad as using faggot. I remembered how I had felt the night before when that terrible f-word was used and how much respect I had lost for myself. This time, I spoke up. I told them that using that kind of language was supremely homophobic and hateful, even if they didn’t mean it that way. They were taken aback at first and didn’t really take me seriously, but at that point, the ice was broken. I was now able to bring it up again and again every time they said something similar to the first two instances. I kept letting them know how much it bothered me, and they really tried to change the way they spoke. Now they are more aware of how they speak in the world and around me. I was able to gain back my respect for them, and also for myself.
This experience opened my eyes to two things; the first being that I have to stand up for the things that I believe in, because I can’t count on anyone else to do it. And the second, that though it might be risky or uncomfortable, you must always, without fail, speak your truth.
Sep 1, 2013
Just yesterday on a Friday afternoon, I posted the petition to make The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act a reality on my reproductive justice blog. It’s not much, but it’s already gained a little less than 900 notes on Tumblr. Popular blogs like ST*U, Sexists and F*ck Yeah, Sex Education just gave the petition a signal boost and I’ve seen a lot of #vision4sexed hashtags on Twitter, so we’ll be sure to see more feedback before September 10. And the youth activists have been out and about getting physical signatures, which is something I’m doing once school is back in session. Some people are reblogging it with their own commentary to emphasize the importance of it, and sometimes it’s all in caps so you know it’s a pretty big deal. Especially with our current culture’s views on sexuality and education. No one should have to suffer another abstinence only class in which our youth, especially girls, are compared to used up candy wrappers and dirty pieces of tape if they’re sexually active. If you haven’t already and you support comprehensive sex education, definitely sign the petition and share it!
The petition page lets you know exactly what you’re saying when you’re leaving behind a signature:
I support the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act, a sex education vision that outlines what young people truly need. The bill not only authorizes funding for comprehensive sex education directed towards adolescents and college students, but also prioritizes teacher training so that our nation’s educators have the tools they need to be effective in the classroom.
Let’s work to realize our vision of young people receiving the sex education they need in order to lead healthy lives and have healthy relationships. We owe it to them to provide them honest sexual health education. With the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act we can start bringing our vision for sex ed to life!
My vision for sex education includes letting our youth know that it’s never okay to shame others for being sexually active or abstinent by choice. My vision for sex education also includes teaching our youth the signs of an abusive relationship, whether it’s emotional, physical, or both. I’d love for there to be discussions that include the LGBTQ community because often they are erased from the topic, leaving many without resources. I find it to be very dangerous to let our youth go through life without the tools they need to have healthy lives. Comprehensive sex education just makes perfect sense to me. What’s your vision for sex ed?
Aug 30, 2013
We’re thrilled to announce that the second year of Advocates’ Youth Fundraising Advisory Board has begun! Y-FAB is a select group of twenty young people from across the country ranging from students to mid-level professionals interested in learning about fundraising and putting their skills to work raising needed funds for Advocates for Youth. The YFABers have a goal of raising $10,000 by May 2013 along with gaining skills in online appeals, hosting local events and learning how to ‘think’ like a fundraiser. Last year, Y-FAB raised $10,500, recruited more than 130 new donors and members held a Zumba-thon, Sushi-A-Thon, 1 in 3 these are our stories book discussion, a sex ed trivia night and other fundraisers in cities nationwide.
YFABers are divided into teams with a dedicated member of Advocates’ board leading each team to provide mentoring and support. This year’s Team Leaders are: Hillary Lovick, Karlo Barrios Marcelo, Sarah Higdon-Sudow, Robin Brand, and Linara Davidson. Congrats to those individuals selected to join Y-FAB this year: Kathleen Adams, Lindsay Ayers, Emily Blease, Erin Carhart, Phoebe Chastain, Nicole Chisolm, Ramey Connelly, Ignacio Cruz, Kelsey DeForest, Elizabeth Gallagher, Milla Impola, Meron Keberab, Emily Kitchen, Athena Matyear, Januari McKay, Molly McShane, Eric Santiago, E. Anise Simon, Jahmila Vincent, and Ryan Walker.
Based on the significant interest in the Y-FAB program, Advocates launched another peer to peer fundraising program this year called Friend Raisers. This program allows those individuals not selected into Y-FAB this year to gain fundraising skills from webinars offered across the year in addition to mentorship provided by three Y-FAB alums from the prior year, Ashley Hartman, Jocelyn Schur, and Yasi Mazloomdoost. The Team Leaders for this program’s 15 participants are : Oluwaseyi Adeyinka, Desiree Botica, Nicole Clark, Cassandra Corrado, MJ Cranston, Nicole Enslow, Sarah Jordan, Quenay Joseph, Jessalyn Lance, Heather Lipkovich, Angel Loutsch, Steven Richmond, Anthony Sis, Laurie Truesdell, and Joannes Paulus Yimbesalu.
If you’re interested in supporting Y-FAB by lending your fundraising expertise or supporting the program with a donation or challenge gift, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
Aug 27, 2013
I am two. Two of these three categories I fit neatly into. I don’t believe I self-identify as either, but I have been called a Liberal and Democrat more times than I can count. Today, I would realize that while “I’m fighting the good fight” I am also not White. I’ve always known this mattered but never as much as I did today. I believe that we as a country should produce more milk, because we are all about homogenization. Just listen you’ll hear: The Left, Those Liberals, the Democrats think as if we represent some homogenous group of people. While we obviously agree on most things, there is this common assumption that our identities (race, sexual orientation, class, gender, age, etc) have no effect on how we may view “the issues” differently. More importantly there’s also a paucity in the discourse around who gets to speak on these issues.
As a millennial, I can tell you that people are polling and reporting on us everyday. But how many of this reporting is coming from the mouths of actual millennials? Today, I had the opportunity to join 13 other millennials on a national conservative talk show to speak about “the issues”—from the economy to the legalization of gay marriage. I was very hesitant about doing this show initially because I belonged to the groups mentioned above. Upon reaching the set, I would find that there would be six other liberal democrats joining me. I breathed a sigh of relief. When the show began, questions were thrown at us, which we were all more than eager to answer. My initial nervousness had left and I was prepared to tell 9 million people exactly how I felt about “the issues.”
Sadly, this was not the case. While I did get to comment on two or three things, I found that at times my hand had been raised for minutes at a time, with no microphone offered inviting me to speak. The democrats definitely held it down, though. Those who did not mind cutting other people off, getting out of their seat for the microphone, and speaking without one, definitely got heard. Again, sadly I knew better. Despite the fact that many of the things being said I would have definitely concurred with, there was no entry point (or at least microphone) for me.
I love ‘politicking’! I’ve lobbied in the House and Senate; worked as a congressional health policy fellow; spoke at congressional briefings and I advocate for policy changes on the ground everyday. I would say I’m no newcomer to this. But today was a harsh reality, that although I can do all these things, and that the Dream9 can self-deport and lead hunger strikes in dentition centers to bring attention to the injustices of the immigration system in America; that young people of color can march into their Ivy League and predominately white institution’s with their hoods high for justice for Trayvon, that even though we packed the courtroom until Stop & Frisk was ruled unconstitutional, we must realize that even amongst us liberal-social justice seeking millennials, there are a few voices that still speak for us.
I sat sandwiched between two kind, brilliant, over-enthusiastic millennials who had so much to say that they took no minute to realize that perhaps we should allow the voices of those most marginalized to speak. The same folks who had immigration and racial politics on lock though. While I will never wait for anyone to make room for my voice, I also know that I would quickly become a YouTube sensation if I snatched a microphone out of a white girl’s hand. So I sat thinking about this some what dichotomous relationship forming between my identity and my politics.
When I finally answered a question, it was about race. Coincidence? The question asked, “Do you think Americans are racist?” And while I had a host of things I could have said, I was reflecting on the last forty five minutes. I responded that I while didn’t think that all Americans were racist, I do feel that people fail to recognize privilege, all privilege. Able-bodied, cis-gendered, heterosexual, class, age, and of course given the situation –white privilege. I was sitting in my feelings about literally be silenced in two ways. By a group of your peers who while they stand in solidarity with you, make little to no room for you at the table. Silenced, by a media institution who still relies heavily on controlling images like the Angry Black Woman despite your academic accomplishments, and the fact that your views parallel those of your peers.
I speak on this as a millennial of color, in the trenches everyday fighting for the rights of young people—all young people. I assert that we all must make room. We live in a society that still places our existence and knowledge in the future, we are the now. As we are marginalized by our age we must also see that there are intersections within our identities that place us in positions of power. We must check those, respect those, and correct those who have yet to see it that way. I believe that all the young people on today’s show, liberal and conservative are all brilliant and powerful. Let’s be powerful together, in voice, love and solidarity. Let us make room!
Aug 25, 2013
I’ve always reposted things a certain way, kind of like how you do it on Tumblr and general blogging sites and basically any other media outlets, with a source link at the bottom or just simply a link with their name. Being a youth who spends a lot of time on the Internet, that’s just what I’ve always known and seen.
I’ve always thought it was sufficient, obvious, and self-explanatory. Simple, really.
But there were complaints, specifically on the OITNB post I re-posted from Because I am a Woman. I love that blog and just wanted to share that particular post. I definitely had no intentions to claim the work as my own, and I thought with the obvious source link those intentions were clear.
Apologies to everyone. I’ll be more considerate in the future.
Aug 21, 2013
“We are ready to start the fire again,” said state Rep. Christina Hagan at the press conference, which was filled with reporters as well as members of the Duggar family, reality television stars who have become some of the new faces of the evangelical anti-choice movement.
Speaking in favor of the ban was Michelle Duggar, matriarch of the 19 Kids and Counting family. With 17 of her 19 children in tow, Duggar spoke against the “baby holocaust” occurring in the United States, a talking point she also used at a Texas press event roughly a month ago: “There is a baby holocaust taking place, where doctors and nurses are paid to take the lives of innocent, unborn children. … If we do not speak up and do something to stop this holocaust, the blood of these little ones will be on our hands.”
Michelle’s oldest son, Josh, was recently named executive director of FRC Action, the political arm of the right-wing Christian group Family Research Council, an avid heartbeat ban supporter.
Aug 21, 2013
Prison Birth: Exploring Prison Justice Through Orange is the New Black
(Re-posted from Because I Am Woman an AH-MAZING sex-positivity, sex-ed, feminism, reproductive justice, birth justice, intersectionality, and activism blog. Check them out, and THANK YOU for letting us post this piece here.)
Orange is the New Black has been getting a lot of press lately, and it is certainly well deserved. The dark comedy features a dynamic and multi-faceted cast of women and gives a first-hand look into many of the realities women in prison face that are often left out of the conversation in mainstream culture and other prison related media. The visibility of the series has opened up many vital conversations on topics such as birthing, healthcare for trans people, mental health, privilege, sexuality and even the prison industrial complex itself. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, I will be exploring these issues (and more) through the lens of the Orange is the New Black.
First up, we will be taking a good hard look at birthing in prison. Although birth has been an increasingly popular topic in reproductive justice and feminism in recent years, people experiencing it in prison aren’t often considered as part of the equation. In Orange is the New Black we are introduced to what birthing in prison might look like for people who are incarcerated when one inmate, Ruiz, is about to give birth during episode 8. Over the course of the episode, (although only a minor plot point), we see Ruiz go into labor and be told by a pharmacy tech that she may not go to a hospital until her contractions are extremely close together. When the time finally comes, Ruiz is taken away only to return at the end of the episode silently wheeled back into a room of women without her child. As the room of women turn to look at her, the silence that fills the room provides viewers with a shared sense of loss and sadness for the new mother, one that is likely in prison for a minor crime, who has already been taken from her child.
What we saw in this episode is only the beginning of what pregnancy and birth actually look like for many in prison. According to The Prison Birth Project, “In prison, 4-7% of women are pregnant, the same percentage as in the wider population; 85% are mothers, and 25% were pregnant upon arrest or gave birth in the previous year.” This demonstrates that reproductive health and pregnancy are clearly an issue for those incarcerated, and an issue that cannot be ignored in the reproductive justice movement. There is a need for education, advocacy, and support amongst these populations.
The reality of giving birth for many prisoners is also much worse than what we saw on Orange is the New Black. Many in prison are denied the medical care they need (pre and post-natal), and many more give birth still shackled in prison instead of in a hospital. Although advocates in many states have been pushing for change, only 16 states have passed legislation to outlaw the barbaric shackling of prisoners birthing and in labor. In their report “Mothers Behind Bars”by the National Women’s Law Center and the Rebecca Project for Human Rights, the organizations gave almost half of all states a failing grade for their treatment of pregnant and birthing people, and point out that there is no national standards for treatment and care of those who experience pregnancy behind bars.
Fortunately, there are people and organizations out there organizing around these issues. The Prison Birth Project and Birth Behind Bars both act as advocates in their respective areas and bring doulas into prisons to aid in birth and pregnancy. You can support them by volunteering your time, money and support, as well as by continuing to spread the word on these issues.
As for Orange is the New Black, we can likely count on this not being the last pregnancy and/or birth we see in the series. Since the pregnancy of Daya by a prison guard is a much bigger plot point in the show, it is my hope that we see a more well-rounded and realistic depiction of what this experience looks like for inmates in the second season.
Aug 20, 2013
One year ago, then-Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) uttered his infamous “legitimate rape” comment when explaining his opposition to abortion even in the case of rape. The comment gave the public a rare peek into the extreme views Akin and other like-minded conservatives have on reproductive rights and how fundamentally misinformed they are on matters of basic biology.
The comment was the beginning of the end of Akin’s Senate run. But while it may have cost him an election, it hasn’t stopped Republicans across the country from trying to legislate legal abortion out of existence. On Friday, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) quantified those efforts in a new report, Shut That Whole Thing Down: A Survey of Abortion Restrictions Even in Cases of Rape. The report looks at abortion legislation in the states and Congress from the first half of 2013 and finds that:
86 percent (235) of the 273 provisions that politicians introduced in state legislatures to restrict a woman’s access to abortion apply to a woman whose pregnancy resulted from rape.
71 percent (27) of the 38 state provisions restricting women’s access to abortion enacted by the states apply to a woman whose pregnancy resulted from rape.
72 percent (18) of the 25 bills introduced in Congress to restrict a woman’s access to abortion apply to a woman whose pregnancy resulted from rape.
Aug 19, 2013
can we stop referring to all sex that could possibly result in pregnancy as “heterosexual reproduction” now
Aug 14, 2013
New laws banning abortion after 20 weeks are based on pseudoscience — and real research proves it conclusively.
This article originally appeared on Salon.com.
Since Nebraska first jump-started the trend back in 2010, close to a dozen state legislatures across the country have passed laws banning abortion at 20 weeks. Most of these restrictions are given grave-sounding titles like the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” or some near-identical riff on the words “fetal,” “pain” and “protection.” All of them, no matter what they’re called, rest on the stated premise that a fetus can experience pain at 20 weeks, and that this is a sufficient justification to ban all abortions after this gestational stage.
But “fetal pain” in the popular discourse is a nebulous concept, one that lawmakers like Jodie Laubenberg, Trent Franks and others haven’t much bothered to define or help ground in available medical evidence.
Probably because there really isn’t any. The limited research used to support such claims has been refuted as pseudoscience by both the Journal of the American Medical Association and the British Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (Not to mention smaller studies from researchers at Harvard University, University College London and elsewhere.)
“We know a lot about embryology [in the field]. The way that a fetus grows and develops hasn’t changed and never will,” Dr. Anne Davis, a second-trimester abortion provider, associate professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center, and consulting medical director at Physicians for Reproductive Health, told Salon. “And what we know in terms of the brain and the nervous system in a fetus is that the part of the brain that perceives pain is not connected to the part of the body that receives pain signals until about 26 weeks from the last menstrual period, which is about 24 weeks from conception.”
Because the neural structures necessary to feel pain have not yet developed, any observable responses to stimuli at this gestational stage — like the fetal “flinching” during an amniocentesis — are reflexive, not experiential. Which is to say, the fetus at 20 weeks can’t actually feel anything at all. Which is to say, the fundamental justification for these laws is a really big, really popular lie.
Aug 8, 2013
Every August 12, the world celebrates International Youth Day. This year’s theme is “Youth Migration: Moving Development Forward.” As advocates dedicated to advancing the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of young people, you might be asking, what’s migration got to do with SRHR? Well, just about everything.
Nearly half of the world’s population—more than 3 billion people—is under the age of 25. Furthermore, young people under the age of 29 make up half of all global migrants. During the process of migration, young women and girls tend to be more vulnerable to human rights violations, particularly SRHR violations, including violence, exploitation, and sexual coercion. Moreover, migrant women and young people are also at increased risk of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections due to inadequate access to health services, including sexual and reproductive health services. As a result, ensuring that young migrants have access to SRHR information and services as well as the full protection and promotion of their human rights is absolutely critical.
As the largest donor of foreign assistance, the United States government plays a unique role in delivering global health programs around the world. That’s why this Monday at 9:30am EST, the State Department’s Special Advisor for Global Youth Issues, Zeenat Rahman, will be hosting a Google Hangout with other US government officials to discuss this year’s International Youth Day theme. As the US government’s lead spokesperson on youth issues, Ms. Rahman is a key stakeholder in ensuring that the US prioritizes youth policies and programs throughout the government’s work. To date, the Office of Global Youth Issues has focused almost exclusively on youth employment and civic engagement. While vitally important priorities, what is so often overlooked is how adolescent and youth SRHR contributes to one’s ability to seek and maintain employment and meaningfully engage in the democratic process. Regardless of where we live, we all have the right to speak up and hold our government officials accountable for providing young people with ALL the resources they need to lead healthy and successful lives, including rights-based, comprehensive, integrated, and youth-friendly information and services.
So, what can you do to celebrate International Youth Day? TONS! Here’s just a sampling of ideas. Get creative! And share your ideas and enthusiasm with your friends and colleagues.
- Participate in the State Department’s Google Hangout on Monday at 9:30am EST and submit a question (or 2 or 3!) via Twitter using #IYD2013 asking what the US is currently doing to support young people’s SRHR needs, your ideas for how and why they should be doing more, etc.
- Watch the United Nations’ celebration of International Youth Day live Monday from 10:00-13:30 EST.
- Use the sample tweets and Facebook status updates below to raise awareness among your peers and followers about the importance of young people’s SRHR.
- Host a community event, forum, or campaign in support of young people’s SRHR.
- Engage with coalitions or organizations working in your community to advance young people’s rights and well-being.
- Request a meeting with community leaders and/or decision-makers to inform them about the importance of investing in young people and ensuring that they have the information and services to lead healthy lives.
- Blog on Advocates’ youth activist website, www.amplifyyourvoice.org, and write about why you think International Youth Day is important, how you and your peers are making a difference in your community, or what you think policymakers and leaders need to be doing to support young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights in your country.
Twitter Targets: Use these twitter handles, as appropriate, to send tweets from the list below
- UN Youth Envoy – @AhmadAlhendawi
- UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon- @secgen
- US Mission to the UN – @USUN
- Secretary of State Kerry – @JohnKerry; @StateDept
- US Ambassador to UN, Samantha Power – @AmbassadorPower
- Your own country’s UN representatives
- Your own country’s Foreign Minister
Sample Twitter Messages:
- Gov’ts must include youth in design, monitoring & evaluation of youth development programs #IYD2013
- We must engage boys & men to help girls & women promote gender equality #IYD2013
- Invest in the whole girl w/ approaches that address sexual and reproductive health, education, livelihoods, and civic engagement #IYD2013
- Gov’ts must implement comprehensive sexuality education programs and policies for adolescents and youth #IYD2013
- Gov’ts must increase funding 4 family planning 4 married and unmarried adolescent girls #IYD2013
- Sexual & #reprorights are #humanrights: #post2015 agenda must include access to contraception, abortion & safe maternity care #IYD2013
- Empowering women and girls is key to achieving peace & security in #post2015 agenda #IYD2013
- More than ½ world’s population is under 25; young people must drive #Post2015 agenda #IYD2013
- Gov’ts must prioritize support 4 adolescents so we can prevent #childmarriage, maternal mortality, #GBV #IYD2013
- Girls who stay in school have better sexual and repro health outcomes. #Education is a human right. #IYD2013
- Development programs must address violence against adolescent girls, including intimate partner violence #GBV #VAWG #IPV #IYD2013
Sample Facebook Posts:
- Today is International Youth Day. The implementation of human-rights based policies and programs are important to ensure integrated and youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services are free from coercion, discrimination, and violence. http://icpdbeyond2014.org/uploads/browser/files/bali_global_youth_forum_declaration.pdf
- Today is International Youth Day. Youth are disproportionately impacted by the HIV epidemic, accounting for 41% of all new HIV infections worldwide. Reaching young people with evidence-based HIV prevention approaches before and after they are sexually active ensures their right to health and prevents HIV infections today and for the next generation.
Aug 8, 2013
I was at work and passed by a women’s eye health sign. Being the health freak I am, I thought to myself, when was the last time I had my eyes checked? I preach STD testing regularly but the rest of the body is important too! Eye, heart and brain just to name a few. You should be checked out regularly and maintain a healthy status. Healthy dieting, exercise and even some traveling to relax is a great way to start. Living a healthy lifestyle makes you feel great, and people who feel great take the necessary steps to protect themselves! Practicing safe sex is a simple, easy way to do that.
If you think about it, getting your eyes checked will ensure you can read the expiration date on condoms! Safe sex is the best so love your body and protect yourself! Text SEXT to 74574 to learn more condoms and free distribution sites in your area!
Aug 2, 2013
Originally posted at Choice USA: Choice Words:
India just banned the use/exploitation of dolphins as entertainment, as they are now considered “non-human persons”. Blackfish, a documentary about the psychological realities other animals face when confined in captivity, has just opened in theaters (at the distress of SeaWorld). Bird brain mapping has recently revealed that birds are “remarkably intelligent in a similar way to mammals such as humans and monkeys,” but ‘bird brain’ is still an insult. And the U.S. State Department and President Obama have decided to push ahead with building the Keystone XL Pipeline’s southern half amongst numerous questionable building practices, even though the previous Keystone I Pipeline has leaked fourteen different times. But isn’t this the Choice USA blog? What does this have to do with reproductive justice? Everything.
Having grown up with cats my whole life and having a vegetarian mother, I guess you could sayI was predisposed: at age 10 I chose to become a vegetarian and at age 19 I chose to begin living a vegan lifestyle. Somewhere in between there I also became a sexual health peer educator and have dedicated all of my time and effort to the reproductive justice movement ever since— including my eating habits.
I, like many of you, am pro-choice because I believe in each individual’s autonomy concerning their own body, lifestyle, and choices. I am pro-choice because I challenge any attempt to infringe on each individual’s freedom to control their own bodies and minds. I am pro-choice because it is not my place to coerce or use another being’s body as a means to any reproductive end she did not choose. And I am vegan for the exact same reasons.
Aug 1, 2013
I really hate when people respond to others with “first world problems.” I know that to some, it’s a great and easy way of addressing the privilege of living in a “first world” country. But the meme, despite its emergence being seemingly well intentioned at first, is really just seeping with ethnocentrism. Ethnocentrism in its simplest definition is the judging of another’s culture using one’s own standards. It’s not something you’d expect from a culturally competent person. The usage of this meme expresses people’s inability to see others as actual people who are more complicated than what our white savior complex induced perspectives would have us believe.
To make it really simple: it’s racist.
When the ever popular hashtag first appeared on Twitter maybe in the late 2009, early 2010–even then I had a bad feeling about it. I know “first world/third world” indicates if a country is industrialized and developed or not. But even those terms just come off as problematic and ethnocentric for reasons I won’t take the time to get into. It’s the language we have though, however questionable the origins of those particular words may be. And I don’t really know what I can do about that except talk about it and hope that you understand.
Yes, my accidental lagging out of my online match of The Last of Us and my tea latte being a little too hot this morning might seem really trivial. But hey, guess what? Things like that happen to my cousins in Vietnam and other developing countries too. I’m not pretending or ignoring that other countries don’t have terrible issues like civil wars, riots in the streets, famine, etc. But those countries don’t need pity. And they certainly don’t need people buying Toms. They need people, especially people in the United States and other supposedly wealthy white-dominated countries, to stop making everyone from “third world” countries into a faceless,
one-dimensional, and monolithic group of suffering and despair. And one of the really easy ways of what you can do to avoid doing that is to stop responding to people’s issues as “first world problems.”
My voice isn’t alone in this. Feel free to check out the following links:
What’s Wrong with #FirstWorldProblems? – Alexis C. Madrigal
The White Savior Industrial Complex – Teju Cole
Aug 1, 2013
So, I’m going off to college in a few days. Its a scary feat. My mother has been layering my mind with a myriad of worst case scenarios as she is by nature the ultimate pessimist. I am the eternal optimist.. so therefore we are often at ends.
However, I have come to realize that when people think of college, well at least what we gather from movies… is that its going to be a never ending party… which involves primarily a string of random hook ups with guys .. alcohol and drugs. Also from what we can see in movies is that this never ending party often doesn’t end well. Some one always ends up making a fool of themselves. It makes me wonder why would any want to get that drunk?
These thoughts have led me to formulate my three commandments for college:
1.) No Sex
2.) No Drugs
3.) No alcohol
In that order…
I tell my self everyday that I’m going to college to be the best and nothing but the best.. As such I will not have time to make such petty things get in the way. After all.. there are responsible ways of having fun!
Jul 31, 2013
When we hear about politicians making unqualified and uneducated statements about abortion and reproductive/sexual health, we just shake our heads, asking ourselves and our peers, “How does someone like that get into office?”
Not to diminish your faith in humanity, but less than a couple weeks ago, Brian Nieves, a Republican state senator of Missouri, commented in a Facebook argument to a pro-choice priest, “‘Life of the Mother?’ Your own argument proves it is a matter of convenience!” State senator Brian Nieves later denied that he said this. But the denial wouldn’t do him any good since his comments have been screencapped and the comment is still on the Facebook page.
There are people who treat this like it’s an isolated incident. Like it’s nothing to worry about, but you’d have to imagine the kind of culture it takes to condition people to be able to say these things. You don’t even have to imagine because that’s the culture we’re living in. It’s not just one old, white male politician. It’s several. And they’re not necessarily always white men.
Brace yourself. This is pretty triggering.
“These Planned Parenthood women, the Code Pink women, and all of these women have been neutering American men and bringing us to the point of this incredible weakness…We are not going to have our men become subservient.”
— Florida Rep. Allen West expresses a clear understanding of how oppression and privilege works.
“In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out.”
— Texas state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, discussing why there shouldn’t be a rape or incest exception in bills restricting reproductive health care because clearly she understands how health care works.
“I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something God intended to happen.” —Richard Mourdock, an Indiana state senator candidate who fortunately did not win.
“Understand though, that when we talk about exceptions, we talk about rape, incest, health of a woman, life of a woman. Life of the woman is not an exception.”
—Joe Walsh, former Illinois congressman revealing just how “pro-life” he really is.
“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
—Missouri Representative Todd Akin basically sharing how much he doesn’t know about a female body in one terrible sentence.
“The facts show that people who are raped —who are truly raped—the juices don’t flow, the body functions don’t work and they don’t get pregnant. Medical authorities agree that this is a rarity, if ever.”
—former North Carolina Rep. Henry Aldridge using imaginary doctors as his sources.
“As long as it’s inevitable, you might as well lie back and enjoy it.”
—Clayton Williams regarding rape, he was a former Texas Republican gubernatorial contender and a past fundraiser for John McCain.
This is one of the many reasons why I’m in total support of Advocates for Youth. The politicians I’ve listed are the kind of people who have been supporting legislation that not only hurts people who need abortions, but rape victims and teens in desperate need of comprehensive sex education. It hurts people who need access to contraception, affordable health care, and everything else a person would need to live a quality life. And it’s not going to stop until we change the culture and institutions that allows it to happen. So, we advocate for the youth. We have a responsibility to them to ensure that they have their rights and are to be respected.
Jul 30, 2013
Hello World ,
Here is the latest statistics that I encountered on the internet about teenage sexuality. I thought I would share it with you
Facts on American Teens’ Sexual and Reproductive Health
•Fewer than 2% of adolescents have had sex by the time they reach their 12th birthday. But adolescence is a time of rapid change. Only 6% of teens have had sex by age 15, compared with one-third of those aged 16, nearly half (48%) of those aged 17, 61% of 18-year-olds and 71% of 19-year-olds. There is little difference by gender in the timing of first sex.
•On average, young people have sex for the first time at about age 17,  but they do not marry until their mid-20s. This means that young adults may be at increased risk for unintended pregnancy and STIs for nearly a decade or longer.
•Teens are waiting longer to have sex than they did in the recent past. In 2006–2008, some 11% of never-married females aged 15–19 and 14% of never-married males in that age-group had had sex before age 15, compared with 19% and 21%, respectively, in 1995.
•In 2006–2010, the most common reason that sexually inexperienced teens gave for not having had sex was that it was “against religion or morals” (38% among females and 31% among males). The second and third most common reasons for females were “don’t want to get pregnant” and “haven’t found the right person yet.”
•Among sexually experienced teens, 70% of females and 56% of males report that their first sexual experience was with a steady partner, while 16% of females and 28% of males report first having sex with someone they had just met or who was just a friend.
•Teen sex is increasingly likely to be described as voluntary. In 2006–2010, first sex was described as “unwanted” by 11% of young women aged 18–24 who had had sex before age 20, compared with13% in 2002. For young men in the same age-group, the share reporting first sex as unwanted decreased from 10% to 5%.[4,5]
•Teens in the United States and Europe have similar levels of sexual activity. However, European teens are more likely than U.S. teens to use contraceptives generally and to use the most effective methods; they therefore have substantially lower pregnancy rates.
• Three percent of males and 8% of females aged 18–19 in 2006–2008 reported their sexual orientation as homosexual or bisexual. During the same period, 12% of females aged 18–19 reported same-sex behaviors (any sexual experience, including oral sex), compared with 4% of males in the same age-group (includes any oral or anal sex).
Jul 22, 2013
Jul 22, 2013
California’s teen pregnancy rate has dropped nearly 60 percent as a result of expanded sex education programs, according to a report released by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) on Wednesday.
The report –- which was based on data collected until 2011 — revealed that the California teen pregnancy rate reached a 20-year low that year. While in 1991, there were 70.9 births for every 1,000 teens aged 15-19, in 2011 this number decreased to 28 births per 1,000 teens.
Teen pregnancy rates fell across all ethnic groups, according to the report. The Hispanic teen birth rate dropped from 73.6 in 2001 to 42.7 in 2011 –- although Hispanics continue to be the group with the highest teen birth rate. Teen pregnancy rates for African-Americans, Whites and Asian-Americans also decreased significantly.
Several factors contributed to the falling pregnancy rates, the department said in a press release. One factor was the state’s school sex education program, which law requires to be comprehensive and medically accurate. The report also credits community-based education programs that provide sexual health information to teens and their parents.
“We do believe that our programs are behind these numbers,” Karen Ramstrom, the chief of the program standards branch at the California Department of Public Health’s maternal child and adolescent health division, told the Los Angeles Times.
“California’s innovative strategies and community partnerships aimed at lowering teen pregnancy are helping young women and men make responsible choices,” Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the CDPH, said in a press release. “We must not be complacent; we must continue to promote teen pregnancy prevention programs and strategies in all communities.”
As Think Progress noted, California’s teen birth rate decreases are part of a national trend. The national teen birth rate dropped nearly 50 percent between 1991 and 2011, NBC’s Today Health reported.
Jul 22, 2013
Latin America is home to five of the seven countries in the world in which abortion is banned in all instances, even when the life of the woman is at risk: Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic, with the Vatican City and Malta outside the region.
Jul 19, 2013
On the same day that Texas Governor Rick Perry signed a controversial abortion omnibus bill into law, Republican legislators in the state introduced yet another anti-abortion measure, this time looking to ban abortions after 6 weeks. And while it seems very unlikely at this point that the bill will make it through the state’s legislative process by July 31, the end of the current special legislative session in Texas, the timing is still drawing a decent bit of attention.
There’s only one state in the U.S. with an abortion ban after 6 weeks: North Dakota. And that law is being challenged in the courts as unconstitutional. The 6-week bans, like the one proposed in Texas, rely upon the detection of a fetal heartbeat by a doctor. Arguing that a fetal heartbeat is “a key medical predictor that an unborn child will reach live birth,” the Texas bill, HB59, would require doctors to determine whether a fetal heartbeat exists before legally performing an abortion. Fetal heartbeats typically register at around 6 weeks, meaning that the bill would effectively make that the cut off for the procedure.
Jul 15, 2013
The National population commission celebrated the world population day today and the theme this year was ‘ADOLESCENT PREGNANCY’ which took place at Rock view Hotel. I was excited at the fact that issues on adolescent pregnancy was discussed even though there were not much adolescents there, but today, I got to realize that parents hold a very important and vital role in the lives of their children, not only in the aspect of education, feeding, financing or clothing but also in the aspect of parent – child communication. This shouldn’t occur with just the girls but also with the boys because the boys also have a very important role to play in the lives of their own children in future. The role of a father when it comes to parent – child relationship is very important. A research was made that 99% of boys that live a criminal life did not have a “father figure” in their lives while growing up. Parents should be able to have free discussions with their children probably during leisure times to know what is really going on in their lives, parents should be able to visit their children in school and help them out in whatever difficulty they have, they should also make sure that they give their children the right information on their sexual reproductive health because if they do not take up their responsibility someone else would do it and lead then in the wrong path. Let us all join hands together and say no to ADOLESCENT PREGNANCY
Jul 12, 2013
Texas Lawmaker Says Sex Ed Makes Teens ‘Hot and Bothered’ Leads to Sex and Babies
The Texas house recently passed an extreme bill that could force most of the state’s abortion clinics to close. Many of the debates over the bill were heated, but one of the more interesting ones started last Tuesday night after a house committee vote was over and three members of the committee had a conversation that was audio-taped by a reporter for theHouston Chronicle. In that conversation, Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin) pointed out to two of her Republican colleagues, Reps. Steve Toth (The Woodlands) and Bill Zedler (Arlington), that sex education that includes information about contraception can help prevent unintended pregnancies, and therefore can reduce the number of abortions that are performed. Toth was quick to disagree about the merits of sex education.
Jul 12, 2013
Jul 10, 2013
Jul 9, 2013
of fear and rage and
in incredulity: What happened to democracy? I am
in sweat. I can’t watch. There is no
ground. We cannot let this
unnoticed as more
Repeat history and we are
repeat history and we are
“Freedom” as real as plastic tubes shoved down our noses.
“Stop. Stop it. Please! STOP!”
“Force Fed” by Briana Dixon
I watched a video three times today. In this video Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) was shackled to a chair and attempted to demonstrate the force feedings occurring in Guantanamo. He was supposed to have two tubes forced through his nose to his stomach, but had to stop because the pain was too unbearable. I did not watch this video three times because I’m a sadist. Nor because I didn’t want to scream, yell, cry and throw up every time I saw it. I watched it three times because the first time I had to cut it off the moment he started squirming, the second time I had to mute it and the third time I listened to it, but kept my eyes closed the entire time. I still have not watched and heard the video simultaneously and I don’t know if I will ever be able to.
I’m going to super-summarize the Gitmo hunger strike and subsequent force-feeding very quickly. I am not an expert on this issue and this is not anywhere close to being comprehensive:
- Reportedly over half of the prisoners in Gitmo have been cleared to leave, but have been kept imprisoned in order to make sure they are not returning to terrorist-friendly countries. This is so America can be sure that they don’t become a later threat to Americans.
- The hunger strikes in Guantanamo started as a last ditch effort to protest their imprisonment. Around 106 of the 166 prisoners are currently participating in the strike.
- Force-feeding allegedly only occurs when the patient has undergone dangerous weight loss. 45 of the hunger strikers are undergoing force-feeding.
- The majority of the medical community has long since declared force-feeding unethical. However, medical personal involved with Guantanamo have stated that force-feedings is the most humane way to keep them alive.
- Ramadan has arrived and many were petitioning the US government to grant a reprieve from these practices in the name of religious freedom. Hence, the officers have compromised, promising to only force-feed prisoners after sunset and before sunrise “unless an emergency demands otherwise”.
I tried to stay neutral in the summary and that is now over. If you are going to be upset by a very bias and angry reaction to this situation, tough cookies, because here it is:
Guantanamo Bay is one of the worst prisons in the entire world and at least half of its prisoners have been cleared to be released. That should be enough to close it down, once and for all. These people, who should be free and living their lives, have been stripped of everything. The only thing left to them is their body and so it is with their bodies they attempted to protest the gross injustices they have undergone. To have THAT ripped away from them is…unimaginable. It is unforgivable.
It is nothing new.
Hundreds of years ago, millions of brown bodies were thrown into some of the worse prisons in all of history: Slave ships. The Middle Passage dragged peoples from their homes without trial, without due process, without just cause. In desperation, some of these individuals began to starve themselves to death. When slavers saw their merchandise being endangered by these efforts, they began to force-feed slaves that engaged in this rebellion. They did this because a slave’s body did not belong to the slave: It belonged to the slaver. These men, half of whom have been cleared of any “crime”, many of whom have never seen a trail, do not belong to themselves: They belong to the American government.
Force-feeding is aggravated assault. It has been declared unethical by almost the entirety of the medical community. It is incredibly painful and people have died from the procedure. During Ramadan it is even more dangerous, not only because these prisoners may be forced to consume food against their religion*, but also because after the procedure, these individuals are placed in something called a “dry room”. In this room they are deprived of liquids so they don’t vomit the food back up. They must stay in this room for at least a couple of hours. This means those practicing Ramadan will not only deny themselves liquids during the day, in accordance with their religious practices, but they also won’t be permitted to drink at night to ensure they don’t vomit the food THEY WERE FORCED TO EAT.
We find ourselves in a “post-racial” society that is once again rationalizing slave-master mentalities. Once, America justified this mass dehumanization of brown peoples because of greed. Now, America does it because of fear of terrorism**. The result is the same: Innocent people, who would rather starve themselves than continue to endure their torture, are being denied even that.
America has this sick obsession with controlling people’s bodies, especially the bodies of Brown Peoples. We are not allowed to have access to comprehensive sex education so we can make educated decisions about our reproductive health. We are not allowed to have a choice in whether we have an abortion, even when it is our future and the future of our families that will be most affected. We are not allowed to defend ourselves against armed persons literally stalking us for no credible reason without our subsequent murder being contested as “an act of self-defense”. We are not allowed to protest political injustice, gross governmental cruelty, and inhumane treatment with the only thing that has been left to us: Us.***
Because we do not, and have not, belonged to ourselves in centuries and personally, I’m sick of asking how long we have to wait before we finally do. No. More.
“Stop. Stop it. Please! STOP!”
* I trust few promises that have an “unless” attached to it
** Not terrorism itself, just the fear of it. Note the difference.
*** Brown people are not the only ones who face these injustices, but they face them on a significantly greater scale.
Jul 4, 2013
Hello World ,
So I’m just getting over this crush (.. I think it was much more serious than that.. it was more like an intense one-sided mental love affair). He was 8 years older than me.. nice body.. caring attitude and an amazing smile :). I was totally smitten.
It had gotten to the point where I was picturing us married, and began theorizing suitable names to call our 3 kids. I began picking out good neighbourhoods to live in and suitable churches to attend and decided on what good schools to send our kids to.
This mental love affair continued to the point where one night he hugged me and said “your like a little sister to me”. “Why?” I asked…. he responded “Well.. im like 10 years older than you (lies) … actually being with you would be wrong” .
Why is age such a significant barrier to entry in teenage years? I still think when it comes to relationships, age can be considered just a number. What do you think? Have you ever experienced anything similar?
Jul 4, 2013
I had the privilege today of having a lunch meeting, along with some other students from the Ardenne High School with Mr. Peter A. Townsend, chairman of the National Democratic Movement (NDM), an “underdog” political party in the Jamaican landscape. There I had the privilege of presenting a copy of the Jamaica Youth Declaration relating to Small Island Developing States (SIDs) to him wherein one of the key components is the provision of “Social Protection” for all the vulnerable groups in our society including sexual minorities and individuals with disabilities.
Mr. Townsend presented to us over lunch very compelling perspectives as it relates to political reformation in Jamaica. He painted the possibility of a new political party wherein Youth would lead and adults would follow.
Now I am very cautious about politicians and their speeches. I am usually on ends to prevent being duped. However Mr. Townsend puts forward the image of a very frank and open individual which is a pleasant and welcomed difference from individuals usually associated with politics in Jamaica.
I look forward to working with him in this new youth led movement. I will keep you all updated.
Jul 3, 2013
The countries in the Caribbean are generally classified as Small Island Developing States (SIDs for short). This title, which now is used to describe over 50 countries in the world, was adopted due to the recognition of the fact that these countries have idiosyncratic characteristics which have to be kept at the fore-front of our minds when addressing the issue of sustainable development.
These characteristics have been detailed as, but is not limited to, the following :
1.) Small Size
3.) Climate change and sea level rise
4.) Natural and environmental disasters
These generally geographic commonalities have implications on both the social and economic tangents of social development- as sustainable development can be seen as a unity of these 3 core principles, i.e working towards attaining economic systems which are beneficial to the individuals within a society within the context of a preserved and healthy environment.
Recently in Kingston Jamaica from June 27 to July 1, 2013 a Regional SIDs Youth Consultation was held where youth from approximately 13 Caribbean countries spoke on behalf of Caribbean youth to compose a youth declaration which called upon the Governments, Private sector and Civil Society organizations within the region to assist youth in attaining the following in the post 2014 SIDs agenda:
1.) Quality Education
2.) Good governance
3.) Quality Health Care
4.) A coordinated and sustainable approach towards climate change
5.) Social Protection
It should be noted that the social protection aspect of the declaration includes the following:
-> Taking action against discrimination and persecution of vulnerable and minority groups including but not limited to sexual minorities, people with disabilities, HIV+ persons, children, youth, and the elderly.
->Providing equal opportunity for meaningful employment for all citizens particularly vulnerable and minority groups, in an effort to provide income security, transition from informal employment, alleviate poverty and facilitate future growth and opportunities.
-> Including minority and vulnerable groups, CSOs and NGOs in the decision making process for developing social protection programs.
-> Reducing the risk of citizens becoming victims of crime, by forging a robust system of protection and empowerment for the Caribbean youth including but not limited to those in conflict with the law, out of school, disabled, homeless, living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.
More updates about the SIDs regional youth consultation coming soon.
Check out http://www.sidsnet.org/about-sids for more info about SIDs
Jul 2, 2013
AP: Ireland’s lawmakers voted 138-24 to back a bill legalizing abortions in life-threatening cases. The proposed law faces final passage next week.
Prime Minister Enda Kenny easily prevailed as he sought all-party endorsement of his government’s Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill.
Ireland, almost uniquely in Europe, officially bans abortion in all circumstances. But the Supreme Court in 1992 ruled that terminations should be legal if doctors deem one essential to safeguard the life of the woman — including from her own suicide threats.
Photo: This Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012 file photo shows abortion rights protesters holding pictures of Savita Halappanavar as they march through central Dublin, demanding that Ireland’s government ensures that abortions can be performed to save a woman’s life. (Shawn Pogatchnik / AP file)
Jul 1, 2013
Have you ever asked yourself why?
Why do we do the things we do? Is it because we don’t want to be left out? Is it because we’re trying to live the life of someone else? Are we afraid to be ourselves? Is conforming to the norm the new trend?
If everyone acts different wouldn’t that make us all the same?
Jul 1, 2013
So the other day I was having a conversation with my one of my mother’s friends, and I asked her did she learn about Sex Ed in school or from her family or word of mouth? She she said she didn’t know anything about sex education until she was 21. So I asked why so late? how come she didn’t know earlier? Her answer to my question was, “what do you mean so late?, in my opinion, you are too young to know anything about sex!”
At that point I decided to end the conversation with her, because I realized it was going to lead into a big argument.
Comments like that really blow my mind, I couldn’t believe she thought the proper age for young adults to learn about Sex Ed was 20 or older! This shows how much the older generation values Sex Ed being taught in the schools.
Nevertheless, despite how she feels, I believe there should be an age limit to when I person should start learning about sexual education, but I do believe in AGE-APPROPRIATE information.
Jul 1, 2013
I decided to break the law to provide a necessary medical service because women were dying at the hands of butchers and incompetent quacks, and there was no one there to help them. The law was barbarous, cruel and unjust. I had been in a concentration camp, and I knew what suffering was. If I can ease suffering, I feel perfectly justified in doing so.
-Dr. Henry Morgentaler, a Canadian doctor who was arrested four times for performing abortions, but whose arrests eventually led to the 1988 Canadian Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the country.
He died this week at the age of 90. Good obit in the NY Times.
Jul 1, 2013
Apart from the ol’ stork story, when a child asks “where do babies come from?” there is usually one explanation: a man and a woman love each other very much (sometimes this story is embellished with the necessity to be married) and they give each other a “very special hug” (sex, to the layperson) and they make a baby.
Of course, this is an incredibly normative and problematic narrative. Yes, of course people still make children this way, but there are so many of us who were not conceived this way or don’t plan on creating their family this way. People living lives of love and happiness and choosing who and what dictates family and not relying normative values is amazing, but when your family is still “non-normative” it might not be as easy to explain to your children how the came to be.
Inspired by his trans* friend who tried to explain to his 4-year-old son how he was born, author and sex educator Cory Silverberg created What Makes a Baby?
The book is gender-neutral and seeks to address the creation of all families, including those with adopted children, surrogate children, and children who were born to cisgendered, heterosexual parents.
Image from the What Makes a Baby? book trailer.
Jul 1, 2013
I posted a couple things here about Wendy Davis’ insanely awesome marathon filibuster to stop SB5, which is a bill from Texas that would close the majority of the clinics in the state that not only provide abortion services, but contraception and general health care. And she wasn’t alone. Hundreds of local supporters stood by her and when the bill was thought to be stopped, the capitol building erupted with cheers.
The lawmakers had to vote on this bill before it hit midnight. But thanks to Senator Wendy Davis, Senator Leticia Van De Putte, and hundreds of reproductive justice advocates, lawmakers fortunately did not get the chance to meet that deadline. Republican lawmakers tried to argue that the bill was voted and passed on time despite clear evidence revealing that the vote ended on June 26 when it was supposed to be June 25. They later took it back and admitted that the vote occurred after midnight and the bill was dead. All Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst could say about it was: “…it’s been fun.” Because taking away people’s rights to health care is so much fun.
The bill was thought to be stopped and everyone in the social justice club was happy. But Texas Governor Rick Perry called for a special session to try to bring SB5 back. This would make all the efforts of the Texans who went to stop this in vain. Governor Rick Perry’s Facebook, Twitter, office website, office address, and phone information has been spreading so that people can voice their opinions. Hopefully the voices of the constituents will be heard.
While the Internet social justice atmosphere exploded at the news of Texan Republicans’ shady tactics, for good reason, Ohio has passed some terrible anti-choice legislation of their own. Ohio lawmakers didn’t even bring it up for debate. They slyly passed the bill last minute the other night. Activists are sharing Ohio Governor John Kaisch’s phone number (614-728-7576) in hopes that he line-vetoes the measure. If he doesn’t, Planned Parenthood and rape crisis centers lose their funding in that state, and those funds will be going to Crisis Pregnancy Centers. And you know what Crisis Pregnancy Centers are like. People will have to will 24 hours before receiving their emergency contraception. Forced ultrasounds will be legalized, and the unwilling patient would still have to pay for it. This measure would even redefine pregnancy, throwing out the actual medical definition, so that using emergency contraception would be considered abortion.
We have our work cut out for us.
Jun 30, 2013
We come in all different colors, shapes, and sizes. We are mothers, daughters, sisters, and cousins. We also have the important job of giving birth and taking care of the child. We are no longer in the cave ages. Women can do more then satisfy males sexual appetite and cook. I am proud to be a woman, but there are moments when I question my rights. I salute Senator Wendy Davis for speaking up for all women. I understand ABORTIONS carries a negative name but there is more to an abortion then the eye can see. It is a very challeging decision to make and it comes easy for no woman. Women do not have to use the resources but they should be available. We have advanced. I know I am preaching to the choir but let’s all continue to fight for what is right.
Jun 30, 2013
This is one of the hardest things for me to write about, but I feel as if I need to express my feelings. Being Bi-sexual is one of the hardest things in the world. You have all these different voices speaking to you saying that you not only like this boy but also like this girl. Many people in the gay community do not accept the bi-sexuals saying that we are not “gay” enough and the straight community doesn’t accept you because you aren’t “straight” enough. I like the idea of getting the best of both worlds but I really wish that I could pick between one or the other, but I want to be proud of being bi-sexual. My mother doesn’t accept the fact that I feel the way that I do saying that finding myself does not involve finding my sexuality and I find that beyond ridiculous She says that she doesn’t believe that I am truly gay that I am only trying to fit into a crowd. What crowd? Gays are ostracized everywhere in this WORLD. If anybody can give me some advice and/or feedback, it would be greatly appreciated. I’m at such a confusing time in my life.
Jun 28, 2013
I am a 39 yr old male and I am here for friends. I like to help young adults develop socially and emotionally. I am a good listener and try to give good advice back. I can be reached at: email@example.com. Warning I will listen but not give feed back on sexual matters. With any other questions I will advise the best I can.
Jun 26, 2013
From Huffington Post:
The Texas anti-abortion bill, which threatened to close nearly all of the abortion clinics in the state and prompted an 11-hour filibuster by state Sen. Wendy Davis (D), is dead, The Austin American-Statesman reported.
Lawmakers had to vote on Senate Bill 5 before the special session’s end at 12 a.m. local time. However, more than 400 protesters halted the proceedings 15 minutes before the roll call could be completed with what they called “a people’s filibuster,”The Associated Press reported.
The crowd of demonstrators in the capitol cried “Shame! Shame!” when Davis’ filibuster was halted by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who ruled that her discussion of mandatory ultrasound testing was off-topic. Then the protesters roared after state Sen. Leticia Van De Putte asked, “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?”
Their cries continued to echo inside the chamber — and over a livestream watched by thousands around the world — until after the midnight deadline passed.
Although some Republican lawmakers later claimed the bill had passed in time, Democrats denied that the vote was completed before the clock ran out on the session.
A time stamp showing the vote completed after midnight was the deciding factor. “This will not become law,” Sen. John Whitmire (D), told The Austin American-Statesman.
In response, the crowd of protesters gathered in the capitol cheered and began singing “The Eyes Of Texas,” the alma mater of the University of Texas at Austin.
According to The Texas Tribune, Dewhurst was less than pleased by the evening’s turn of events. After ruling that the time on SB 5 had expired, he told reporters that “an unruly mob using Occupy Wall Street tactics” had derailed legislation that was designed to protect women and babies.
The legislation would have prohibited abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, regulated first-trimester abortion clinics as ambulatory surgical centers and restricted access to medication abortions. Had it passed, nearly all of the clinics in the state would have been shuttered.
Dewhurst also hinted that Gov. Rick Perry may call another special session to get the bill passed, saying: “It’s over. It’s been fun. But see you soon.”
Despite a long day of filibustering, Davis was upbeat when she greeted the crowd of supporters, who applauded the senator and chanted her name.
“Today was democracy in action,” Davis said. “You all are the voices we were speaking for from the floor.”
Jun 26, 2013
From Tumblr blogger kat1712:
(edited for language)
Senator Wendy Davis is a f*cking badass.
There’s this bill that they are trying to pass in Texas that would make it illegal to get any abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and would make it very difficult for abortion centers to continue doing what they do. Governor Rick Perry has already said that if the bill makes it to his desk, he will sign it. And Wendy Davis said f*ck no that is not happening.
So she’s filibustering it. That means she asked to talk on the subject at 11:18 this morning, and if she can continue talking about abortion until 11:59 tonight, the bill won’t reach Governor Perry, and they would have to start all over with the bill next time they meet- 2 years from now.
But Wendy has to keep talking. She can’t pause for even a minute, not for food or a sip of water or to go to the bathroom or sit down. She can’t even lean up against anything, or she’s out. So she’s wearing motherf*cking PINK NIKE TENNIS SHOES in the middle of the state senate.
She also has to continue talking about the topic. She sent out tweets an other messages last night asking for anyone and everyone’s abortion story, and received a sh*t load of answers. Her staff is still collecting them, and she’s reading them aloud to the senate. Not only is she making this bill impossible to pass, she may just change some minds while she’s at it.
This is history, guys. Wendy Davis is a motherf*cking badass, and we are watching it happen.
Jun 22, 2013
“The lifetime ban on blood donation for men who have sex with men is discriminatory and not based on sound science,” AMA board member William Kobler said in a statement. “This new policy urges a federal policy change to ensure blood donation bans or deferrals are applied to donors according to their individual level of risk and are not based on sexual orientation alone.”
The AMA’s stance on amending the lifetime ban on gay men donating blood in the U.S. falls in line with recent policy changes in other countries. Earlier this year Canadian Blood Services approved achange in policy that would allow gay men to donate blood if they have abstained from having sex with another man for five years prior to their donation. Additionally, other countries such as Australia and the U.K., require only a one-year window of deferral for sexually active gay men, while South Africa requires only a six-month period.
Jun 21, 2013
For decades, most Crisis Pregnancy Centers have been lying to women, evading questions, and disguising their institutions as health care facilities. They receive federal funding to shame women into believing lies- “abortion causes breast cancer”, “it will make you infertile”, “condoms do not protect against STIs”, etc. They do not have a doctor at these facilities, and are not under HIPAA regulations of non-disclosure of medical records. They are against all contraception forms. They will harass a woman until she is in tears, and then send her on her way with a Christian religious token, and a promise from her that she will keep her child, they will only provide “help” if she agrees to go to Bible Study. This is not health care. Title X funding should be revoked.
Jun 21, 2013
“CPCs have a long history of engaging in deceptive advertising. For example, some CPCs intentionally choose their name to mislead women into believing that they offer a wide range of services, including family planning and abortion care. The Family Research Council investigated what names would be most likely to appeal to women, particularly pro-choice women, in a 1998 report. Women’s Resource Center, which gives the impression of a full range of services, was deemed to have the most strategic value in reaching women “at risk for abortion.” The report also showed that women faced with an unplanned pregnancy were most likely to look in the Yellow Pages under the words “Pregnancy,” “Medical,” “Women’s Centers” and “Clinics.” Accordingly, CPCs often are advertised under these categories, as well as “Abortion Alternatives,” and “Women’s Organizations.” CPCs also advertise through posters, signs, and billboards that contain messages like, “Free Pregnancy Test,” or “Pregnant? Scared? We Can Help! Call 1-800 #.” Women report, however, that when they call these numbers the CPC representatives evade questions about whether they provide abortions, and urge the women to make an appointment to meet with a ‘counselor’ to talk in person.”
Jun 21, 2013
Jun 21, 2013
“ It is no mistake, and it is not mere happenstance, that Lifetime refused to allow me to make a show for them about complex, nuanced Latinas, yet greenlit a show about Latinas as sexy domestic servants. It isn’t a matter of me being too sensitive and lacking a sense of humor, and it isn’t a matter of me not liking maids. It is about the way the Latina maid stereotype beautifully cleaves to the time-honored imperialistic way this country has dealt with its Spanish-speaking neighbors in the Americas. My vision of us – as autonomous human beings – is simply too threatening to be considered realistic.”