Category > Youth of Color
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Apr 1, 2015
First things first, I don’t need to say it, you don’t need to read it, and no award shows or long speeches need to be given to acknowledge what we already know is true –Black girls rock and always have! Matter of a fact they do more than rock. Black girls are magic, resilient, powerful, genius, and they matter!
To me its more than the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, proclaiming that Black girls rock. It’s an entire society that tells them otherwise EVERY SINGLE DAY. As a feminist youth worker, my life’s work is invested in helping black girls and other girls of color achieve self-determined lives. I hear people everyday, black and white alike, offer their expectations on girls’ minds, bodies, and labor. Black girls struggle everyday to claim the beautiful site of pleasure and resistance that is girlhood, while simultaneously navigating patriarchal expectations of womanhood and femininity.
Nobody has time for that, but Black girls survive and thrive anyway.
Sexual scripts are attached to Black girl’s bodies in the most dangerous ways. When they courageously break the mold to express their sexuality in ways that they see fit, they are punished for it.
Black girls are silenced everyday in classrooms. They are suspended from schools across the country for violating white notions of femininity. They are the fastest growing group entering the juvenile justice system.
For some Black girls, their everyday lives are marked by systemic and interpersonal forms of violence. But they resist! They survive!
Black girls are (and always have been) on the front lines of our movement work for BOTH gender and racial justice.
For more reasons than I can ever explain in this post, Black girls do more than just rock. “Rocking” could mean they are cool, but for me it doesn’t encapsulate the fact that Black girls are the bravest, breathing creatures I know and love. In saying that they rock, I wish strongly that people in power would grow to also support policies that are inextricably linked to lives of Black girls. It is my hope that we can eliminate the respectability politics that stymie the creative genius of Black girls. I want a world that doesn’t only say they “rock”, but grants them freedom!
Black girls matter! They rock! And they must always be celebrated! Period.
Jan 31, 2015
Hey guys! This is Hamna Tariq from Pakistan. I\’ve recently noticed that the streets in my city are mostly crowded with males and hardly do I spot a woman nowadays. This has concerned me greatly as girls tend to stay home, hidden from society, to prevent them from being harassed. As a result, several women leave their jobs and their families become a target of poverty. In today’s society women are not even safe enough to walk to a nearby market alone. They are trapped within the four walls of their house so they remain ‘secure’.
Adolescent girls, who dream of success, are forced to do household chores or marry someone so other men are not able to harass them. This disrupts their education and they are not able to live their life the way they want. This caged oppressive life causes psychological problems for adolescent girls and not only do they have to carry the burden of maintaining a household but also endure the pain of childbirth and an age when they should be studying.
Two years ago, I had a girl in my class, Mishaal. We were good friends and had the same subjects. However, she was forced to leave school. Why? Because her ‘brother’ felt that by coming to school, she came in contact with males thus she should sit home and do what women are supposed to do; household chores and get married. She had to sacrifice her education and her dream of becoming a doctor because of a certain mindset inculcated in our society. But why does this mindset exist in the first place? This is because of the lack of laws and regulations ensuring women’s safety. It is believed that women are ‘supposed’ to be harassed when they leave their homes. Why else would they come out?
This trend of adolescent girls being barred from society is on the increase. There should be strong and adequately resourced child protection systems which do not only secure girls from all kinds of harassment but allows them to live their lives freely without fear. Thus, safety is a pertinent issue that needs to be addressed and hopefully by working together we can protect adolescent girls all around the world from violence and exploitation.
Jan 22, 2015
Today marks the 42nd anniversary of Roe V. Wade, a landmark moment for women across our country. People could, supposedly, seek legal and safe abortions, without fear. However, thanks to the Hyde Amendment, clinic protestors, and violent stigmas, this has not always held true for all people, especially people of color and people of low socio-economic status.
The Hyde Amendment has been in place since the mid 1970’s, being renewed every year. This amendment bans all federal money for abortion services, which translates to – federal health insurance for low income families and disabled folk such as Medicaid and Medicare, cannot cover any abortion services.
This is a barrier that affects our communities the most. My family, being one of mixed race and lower socio-economic status, has been consistently affected by this amendment throughout our generations. In order to better understand the struggles our women have been facing for the last 40 years, I decided to ask an expert of confronting, overcoming, and defeating struggle – my mother.
C- Tell me your story. What was it like when all of this was just happening and you were younger?
M- I was very lucky, when I was in high school, I could go to the city. You could get them, you didn’t have many protests, but I couldn’t imagine at that point having to walk through protests to, you know, try to make the right decision. Back then, we didn’t have the 24 hour thing; you went in, walked out. I do know several people who had the child and at that point, the family and everything was more invested in the child than they were, so in the first 6 months, two of them dumped the kids on their parents and split. The children had all sorts of problems because she didn’t want the kid and was partying her ass off trying to miscarry all because she didn’t have $400.
C- What about your story? How was it like for you?
M- I happened to be lucky where I came from. These things were available. The first time I had an abortion I was 17, my friend sent me to a back alley place in Harlem for only $150. It horrified me. So I went to my father and was able to get the money to do it right. I was really lucky.
C- So when it comes to women on Medicaid and Medicare not being able to access these services, women like yourself, how do you feel about it?
M- I think it’s unfair, I think people that need access to terminations are low-income and they’re the ones that have no access to it.
C- So how did the Hyde Amendment ultimately affect you and your community?
M- It made it difficult, I know people that had children cause they couldn’t afford the abortion. I mean, where’s the choice in that?
Forty years later, and our women and our people are still fighting for the right to choose. We cannot leave folk living in poverty, folk of color, and disabled folk out of these conversations. And the Hyde Amendment is doing just that.
If you want to keep the Hyde Amendment off of our more permanent law books, call/email your U.S. Senator and vocalize your thoughts on the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion bill.
Find Your Senator
Dec 30, 2014
I am an African American female who comes from a predominantly African American community. My choice in attending a Predominantly White Institution (PWI) over a Historically Black College/ University (HBCU), was unpopular with most of my fellow classmates in high school, counselors, and family members. It didn’t stop there. There is a long-standing battle between Black LSU students and Southern University students in my experience. They feel we, as Black LSU students, are sell-outs because we did not take our talents to an HBCU. Now, I have come to realize that not every person could survive in a PWI. I know that this would be especially hard for someone (like myself) coming from a predominantly black neighborhood, school and so much more. However, that is not my issue here today. Today my issue is the loss of voters that our previous senator did not receive. Issues that our previous senator was interested directly impacted the Black community. She cared about abortion, STD’s and STI’s, welfare, health care and more. Being that Baton Rouge has high rates of STD’s and STI’s, you would think that the students would at least go out and vote. In Louisiana, there was a run-off election between Mary Landrieu and Bill Cassidy. Bill Cassidy, who believes that race relations in America are great, won this election. Why is that? Why did Mary Landrieu lose so many of her voters in her run off election. I’ll tell you why. Many of her voters were busy doing other things such as participating in the Bayou Classic during the early run-off election and something else during the actual runoff election. Just to be clear, I am not blaming Southern students for the loss of Senator Mary. But I am disappointed in the numerous people that complain about the drawbacks of being African American who did not participate in the run-off election. It is sad to look around and see the ideals of Willie Lynch are still in play. Let us stop fighting and putting each other down. Moving forward we need to pull together to make a change. I know I am asking for a lot, but the least you could do is vote.
Dec 4, 2014
When we think of Ferguson, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, our general society thinks of the protesters, the “rioters” and the “thugs”. Institutional and systemic violence against our brown and Black brothers and sisters is an integral part of our conversations as activists and advocates, and it is an integral part of our conversations within the reproductive justice field.
Time after time again, the murder of Black folk by police officers is justified by Grand Jury after Grand Jury after Grand Jury. When parents send their children out into the world, the last person they should ever expect to harm their child should be the police. Instead, children of color are prepared and trained. They are taught how to be the most respectable, the most professional, the friendliest, the “whitest”.
As a child care provider in a wealthy neighborhood, I often am left to tend to white children. My first day back from work after the Grand Jury in Ferguson decided not to indict Darren Wilson, I had a young half Black/half White four year old girl come in. There were a couple other white three to six year olds, and there was immediately tension between the little girl and the other children. I overheard them all shouting, her telling them to address her by her name, and the others refusing to. I climbed into our play boat with her to calm her down, and she immediately divulged into what had happened. The other children had told her she was different because she was brown, and they were white. They had told her she was different. They told her they would keep their eyes on her. She was immediately upset, because her mother is white and she was scared to be different from her mother.
Our children are already being fed that they are inferior, more likely to be watched, not good enough. These are the children that will grow up to murder or be murdered. When we live in a world where children can’t reach age four without knowing the injustices of the world, without perpetuating the injustices of this world, it becomes a reproductive issue. Black women, women of color, they can’t even think about bringing children into this world without an overwhelming fear of them being murdered in the streets.
The system isn’t broken, it was built this way. And our children are the ones suffering. Women should not be forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, especially if it means bringing them into a world in which they will be unable to hang out outside, sleep in their bed, ride the train, or walk home at night. This is a reproductive justice issue. Our reproductive justice work will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit. The conversation that mass media has been having, has been bullshit. Let’s do better.
Nov 23, 2014
I’ve been listening to Beyoncé’s 7/11 all day, because this morning I woke up feeling free! I’ve already seen the narrative floating around saying that Bey is a little cray cray for this one, well I fundamentally disagree. Folks, this is Beyoncé’s performance of what it feels like to be a carefree Black girl and I am here for every minute of it. Here are 4 reasons why you should be too:
- Dancing in your underwear is so freeing…
We’ve all done it, and if you are going to come at me with she is on the Internet in only her underwear and being hypersexualized and all that then okay… but no. To date we’ve seen her in everything from thong underwear to leotards in every color imaginable so bye. Here we see Bey having fun, and most of time I feel like she is performing in front of a mirror instead of the camera. I definitely did a couple of sprints around my house in my undies today to embody such feelings.
- Sisterhood is sustained in the bathroom …
Weird, yes but that’s why you can’t #kickitwithus. I know that I have some of the most open, interesting, and powerful moments in the bathroom with girls I call my sistahs. I also remember many moments twerking in front of mirrors, giving and receiving expert commentary about exactly how to perfect the craft. Lastly, I definitely remember falling, eloquently of course, and laughing at myself. These “carefree” moments get me through my days of pursing justice in an unjust world.
- Saying #imfresherthanyou is basically speaking truth to power….
Convincing myself every day that I’m the fresher flyest thing on planet earth is necessary to my survival. It is basically how I deal with sexism, misogyny (which people have been sipping heavily for breakfast over Cosby), homophobia, racism, structural violence, gentrification, elitism and so much more. I tell myself some form of #imfresherthanyou everyday knowing and remembering that I AM NECESSARY.
- Because being a girl, black, and free is political and DANGEROUS (even for Bey)
On a daily basis black girls are expected to wear a strong face, be our “brother’s keepers”, march in these streets in solidarity for Black men and boys across the country, while simultaneously remaining silent as our bodies are violated, exploited and rendered invisible. Well I’ve put #myhandsup, and it’s not to say “don’t shoot”, but rather to acknowledge the freedom that I am unapologetically claiming 24 hours a day (like a 7/11). I’m acknowledging the freedom of the secret safe(r) spaces that I create in my home and communities for black girls everywhere to twerk, cry, flex, spin, kick it, laugh, and clap like we don’t care!
There you go, those are my reasons, watch and find out yours!
Oct 30, 2014
On THAT Nicki Minaj song:
Since “Only” by Nicki Minaj dropped yesterday, I will admit, I have listened to it an obsessive amount of times. I credit this to my love for Queen Nicki, but some aren’t having that, since the song had three featured artists alongside her: Chris Brown, Lil Wayne, and Drake.
Nicki starts the song off by clearing the record of her relationships with said artists, and she – as always – puts people in their place. She owns her sexuality, and she lets them know she’s boss.
I could honestly go on about lines like this one;
“When I walk in, sit up straight, I don’t give a fuck if I was late.”
People have been protesting the overall obsession with this song because the infamous Chris Brown is featured on the chorus of this song.
In an ideal world, we wouldn’t take in any media that featured abusive, violent, and unapologetic men as such. It’s not an ideal world. I am not here for a world in which listening to a song and supporting Nicki Minaj – someone who is not a perfect person and whom has never claimed to be the perfect feminist/womynist – is endorsing a women beater.
We see white men committing the same atrocities (Woody Allen, Tom Cruise, Jared Leto, Charlie Sheen, Mel Gibson, Sean Penn, etc), but we do not see the same amount of continued outrage and demand that anyone who declares themselves a feminist boycott all works involving them.
As much as I don’t want to uphold a society in which these men can continue to be on top of their games, making money and profit, regardless of the violence they have dealt, I refuse to villainize Chris Brown. This might be an unpopular opinion, but I recognize there is anger to go around because Chris Brown is far from being the only one.
I refuse to villainize a Black woman who takes control of her sexuality, is on top of the game, and continues to speak realness in a world that isn’t always here for it simply because of an artist she featured in a chorus of a single.
Nicki is smarter than the world thinks she is. I show up for Onika. If you won’t, that’s your problem.
Oct 19, 2014
We’re all just human, right?
When you live in the US, from the time you are born, you often hear messages about our nation’s obsession with equality and justice.
America is a melting pot.
We all bleed red.
Freedom and justice for all.
We take pride in our country because it is so diverse, and because we have overcome challenges related to race. Lincoln freed the slaves, and Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks ended whatever racism was left over from that. We have come so far that even our president is Black, and white folks are scared of minorities rising to power.
Freedom. Equality. Justice. Tolerance. Diversity. America.
When you hear this rhetoric for your entire life, it’s difficult to think any other way. You start to internalize these beliefs because they feel right. It’s easier to believe that there is racial justice in our country because there is a black president in the White House, than to know that a black person is killed by a police officer or vigilantes every 28 hours. It’s more comfortable to see Oprah, Pharrell, and Tyler Perry’s success than to think about how the wealth of the average white person exceeds that of a black person by $80,000. It’s even less comfortable to think about the policies that were put into place by the US government that kept black people from accessing wealth. It feels better to believe in the great melting pot, than to recognize a history of genocide, slavery, eugenics, medical experiments, internment camps, and mass incarceration that have plagued people of color for centuries.
Several months ago, Pharrell received much criticism from the black public for talking to Oprah about what he calls the New Black. According to him, the New Black doesn’t blame other races for the problems that black people face, and he explains that he also doesn’t want to be given a handout based on his race. Recently, Raven-Symone received backlash for saying that she rejects labels, and would rather not be called African American. Instead, she says, “I’m an American, and that is a colorless person.” And last year, actress Zoe Saldana said in an interview that “people of color don’t exist.”
When young people such as Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown are being murdered because of their race, it is useless, and even counterproductive, to downplay the role that race has in our lives. When young people of color are being discriminated against because of their race, they aren’t able to choose to be colorless. The path to justice for youth of color is through confronting racial issues head on, and to do this we must recognize the importance of race.
As comfortable as it must be for the followers of the New Black to ignore racial oppression, pretending that racial justice exists, and that racial identity does not matter, does not make it so. The problem with the New Black is that it’s about colorblind racism, or using ignoring racial injustice under the guise of accepting racial differences. The New Black doesn’t do anything to improve race relations in our country. Because as much as we are all human, we are not yet all equal.
Oct 1, 2014
Why are youth of color targets? Or, portrayed as the “cause” of the issue?
Recently, I’ve read some information that threw me for a loop.
“Of the nearly 770,000 violent interracial crimes committed every year involving blacks and whites, blacks commit 85 percent and whites commit 15 percent.\”
“Blacks are an estimated 39 times more likely to commit a violent crime against a white than vice versa, and 136 times more likely to commit robbery.”
“Blacks are seven times more likely to be in prison than whites. Hispanics are three times more likely.\”
Puzzle me this, why exactly is this so?
Me being a person of color, I\’m afraid to walk out my own house. I will never portray my race as a perfect group. But this information, doesn\’t seem completely factual to me.
Sep 23, 2014
Today is the largest voter registration day of the year, National Voter Registration Day!
Let’s ensure that all our voices are represented in our democracy.
Young people have an incredible opportunity to make a huge impact on the political process. In 2012, 18-29 year-olds made up 21% of the voting eligible population in the US. That number will rise to 36% in 2016.
Our country is positioned to have laws that reflect your values and elected officials that share your lived experiences. So make sure your voice is heard by registering today.
If you are already registered to vote, you can take the next step towards ensuring your voice is heard this November by pledging to vote: Text “PLEDGE2VOTE” to 877-877
Or forward this email to a friend and make sure they are registered to vote
We live in a country positioned to have our laws and elected officials reflect our values. Let’s ensure ALL our voices are represented. Join millions of voters during this year’s elections, and register to vote this National Voter Registration Day at http://ow.ly/BPtYG
Sep 18, 2014
I’m posting this because we’re all getting too quiet. I’m afraid we’re becoming complacent and desensitized when young lives are being disregarded and taken.
Darren Wilson is still enjoying life at home with his family, walking about on the streets as he please without grasping that these are liberties that he stole from a young person.
But mainstream media is still focused on framing the discussion about how Mike Brown wasn’t an angel.
Sep 10, 2014
(fəˈsäd/) – A superficial appearance or illusion of something
We as individuals tend to just take negative and offensive slurs as not really serious because they may have a joking connotation about them. Instead we have a habit to put on this mask, a facade as to say, pretending we are happy but in reality we are hurting even more. Slurs said and repeated everyday such as “faggot” and “slut” are merely tools used by the weak to try to minimize the confidence of others. Even though things said may hit you hard, that does not mean they are true. As long as you are true to your self you will have negativity thrown your way, but as long as you hold your head high you won’t need to wear a mask of happiness over a face of sadness because you yourself will be happy. Truly truly happy.
-Nicholas Cole, 17
Sep 4, 2014
This summer, Minnesota passed a first-of-its-kind law improving the treatment of pregnant incarcerated women. In addition to extending an existing ban on the use of restraints during childbirth for up to three days postpartum, the law also allows incarcerated women to have a doula.
Doulas are trained birth attendants who provide physical and psychological support during pregnancy and birth. Doulas have gained popularity in recent years. Doulas of North America (DONA), just one of a handful of training organizations, now boasts 6,500 members; in 1994, there were only 750. As the community and movement has grown, doulas have worked to bring their model of care to many different arenas. As a trained doula, I’ve participated in groups such as the Doula Project in New York City, which brings doula support to people having miscarriages and abortions. Other groups focus on providing low-income women with this kind of care, and a number have also tailored their work to support incarcerated women.
This a great step towards providing care to incarcerated pregnant people.
Jun 13, 2014
Working to engage young men in sexual health is an exciting front. Kicking up the excitement level even higher are those behind the Hulu Original Series, East Los High. In addition to the captivating full season of entertainent. the ELH team offers viewers a chance to interact with characters further in mini episodes. Our favorite is Ask Paulie.
Ask Paulie is a sex and love advice webisode series, hosted by Paulie, one of the most beloved characters from Season 1 of East Los High. In the TV show, he wants to impress Soli, the editor of the school newspaper; so, he starts Ask Paulie as a way to show her that he’s not just the goofy class clown but also a smart guy. The questions from Ask Paulie are real questions from real East LA high school students, and the answers pull no punches. (more…)
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 30, 2014
So, Amazon is using some of its profits to help non-profits. Both my girlfriend and I have chosen Advocates for Youth.
I screen capped some basic info about this opportunity and posted the image below.
Apr 30, 2014
Last year Candies started the #NoTeenPreg hashtag in an effort to continue the work they do which they believe helps reduce unintended teenage pregnancies.
A group of former teen moms, now young moms, really felt that Candies mission is an important one but their messaging and ads were stigmatizing, rude, disrespectful, and not informative enough so #NoTeenShame was born.
We asked the founder of the Candies Foundation, Neil Cole, to meet with us as a group to discuss how we could work together to make better, non stigmatizing, and informative ad campaigns for their annual month of action in May. (May is is also Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Month) Despite numerous calls and 800+ petition signatures asking Mr. Cole to meet with the #NoTeenShame team Candies and Mr. Cole did not respond.
Mr. Cole did however, spend time writing a post on his Huffington Post Blog about why Candies is right and why essentially anyone who disagrees is wrong. We were upset but certainly not defeated.
This year #NoTeenShame has been meeting for about 5 months through weekly conference calls about what and how we will directly create a cultural shift in the way teenage and young families are discussed and how preventing teenage pregnancy does not have to include mentioning us, our peers, or our families especially if it is in a negative way.
We have a Tumblr, a very active hashtag; #noteenshame, and a very insightful one pager about our goals, history, and mission.
However, what #NoTeenShame has really showed me, as simply one of it’s core members, is that online advocacy that is born out of speaking up when something is wrong is powerful, purposeful, and can change the way people think about certain topics.
In April we launched- and successfully met our goal on- a Thunderclap campaign which asked supporters to sign on and tell the world that they support #NoTeenShame and our mission, we had an insightful and purposeful twitter chat hosted by Tara of The Young Mommy Life, we’ve had organizations reach out and show support and pledge their solidarity alongside with us.
As we get ready to enter one of the most stigmatizing months for teen and young parents we have the honor of knowing that we are on the right side of change and progress, that more people are beginning to think about how harmful ads they once thought were seemingly harmless really effect others, and that Neil Cole and many other organizations and foundations like his who use stigmatizing language are watching.
#NoTeenShame is about young people using technology to advance and change discussions on causes we hold most important and personal to us in an effort to implement change in policy and change in cultural perceptions.
Thank you for your support thus far and please continue to support us and ALL young families during May and everyday.
Apr 29, 2014
Bill O’Reilly believes that Beyonce does not deserve to be on the cover of Time magazine because she causes young women in the black community to have unintended pregnancies…. Seriously, he said that.
As a young black Latina who had her daughter at 15, I don’t even know where to start with his ridiculous claim. I can however promise you that Beyonce and her music were the LAST things that led to my being pregnant at 15 years old. Terrible sexual health education classes in my conservative southern school; poverty; lack of access to affordable birth control options; and low self esteem are a few of the things that led to my unintended teenage pregnancy – but certainly not Beyonce.
While O’Reilly is making ridiculous claims about the black americans and unintended pregnancies being attributable to a very married, committed, and self employed black women, Beyonce, I wonder when he will address the lack ofcomprehensive sex education being taught in public and private schools across America? When will he address the fact that low wages keep many parents out of the home for hours on in, working for wages so low that they can barely afford to pay the rent – let alone spend real and quality time with their children? I wonder when/ if he will take a look at policies in place that keep access to affordable birth control options to all persons, free of coercion, an option?
It simply doesn’t work or add up to be anti- birth control, anti livable wages, anti Beyonce and paint yourself as the voice of reason for a group of people you know very little about.
Mr. O’Reilly I leave you with this, teenage pregnancy rates are the lowest they have been in DECADES across all ethnic groups.
This decline seems to coincidentally line up with that fact that Beyonce’s first single album was released in 2003, and since then teenage pregnancy rates have continued to drop.
If we want to play the game of false equivalencies and correlation being causation, I will take a note out of the Brookings Institute “findings” and say that it is not the show Teen Mom but is in fact Beyonce and her jezebel music you speak of that have led to the decrease in teenage pregnancy.
There you have it folks, Beyonce is the cause of the decline in unintended pregnancies. (see how ridiculous that sounds?)
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 15, 2014
“I\’m standing my ground on the right to #birthcontrol! #no527 #nopersonhoodsc @TellThemSC.”
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 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”.
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 25, 2014
In the words of ROCK STAR youth activist Kirin Gupta, ““What is at stake today is an issue of sexism, classism, and oppression. It is the control exercised by money and power of a few who are twisting our country’s freedom of religion to deny basic freedoms to young, often already marginalized bodies. These choices are ours—not our schools, not our bosses, not anyone else’s.”
Today’s Supreme Court hearing on contraception and religious liberty was a big deal and we could not be more proud of the response from our friends, allies, co-workers, partner orgs, and youth activists all around the country. Our voices have been heard, and we are watching!
Visit #DearSCOTUS for a comprehensive look at all the went down today, but here are a few pics too!
Mar 4, 2014
For the month of February, besides attending a Jack and Jill health fair in Fort. Lauderdale, I began my ‘Contraception Awareness Campaign.’ This project is an endeavor that will last for about 8 weeks at my attempt to get 200 people on my campus to learn something new about contraception. My goal is to peer educate at least 25 people every week while I table at my college. (I will provide information like how to get contraception, the proper way to store them, comparative analysis between brands including breaking myths, as well as educating the importance of contraception in preventing pregnancy). In my first week, there were approximately 40-80 people in attendance and we collected 40 sign ups. The focus was ‘How well do you know your STI’s?’ Although many people came up and played our game, it took an engineering major to win the $25 It’s sugar gift card give-away! Also around Valentine’s Day, I took part in hosting a love Workshop on my campus in order to educate the students on healthy relationships and contraception use. My passion for educating my peers on this controversial topic comes from recognizing the important role contraceptives play in people’s futures. As an incredible philosopher once said “Neglect of an effective birth control policy is a never-failing source of poverty which, in turn, is the parent of revolution and crime.” —ARISTOTLE, Politics.
Feb 17, 2014
I recently had the privilege of receiving a scholarship to attend the last day of the inaugural “Time to THRIVE: HRC Foundation’s Inaugural National Conference Promoting Safety, Inclusion and Well-Being for LGBTQ Youth…Everywhere” here in Las Vegas, Nevada. The experience was one that serves as a reminder that our movement is nothing without our youth, a reminder that I hope the organizers keep with them as they plan next year’s conference.
They had made a plea for about 100 local youth to attend their last day which their ‘Youth Day’. I, of course, applied. I was excited to go and attend workshops that would help me widen my tool kit to serve fellow youth. Little did I know, youth were given TWO workshops to attend. The two workshops that youth were expected to go to were The Trevor Project’s Lifeguard Workshop for Youth and How To Have An Awesome GSA. Those were limiting for myself and the group of people that I attended with from our local LGBTQ Center. I’m a rebel, so I wandered off and attended the workshops that were geared towards adults and not at all inclusive of youth. While I went to other workshops, I quickly noticed that there seemed to be a lack of youth representation and voices in these workshops that were TALKING about how to better serve youth. I went in search of a people of color (POC) space after I attended my first workshop which was made up of almost entirely older white males. The POC workshop I found was hosted by an HRC employee that I am very fond of, and I found the most powerful and substantial number of young queer people of color in that room than I had the entire day I had been there.
Throughout the day, I was grateful I got the chance to have this experience. However, I couldn’t help feeling incredibly tokenized. We were the obligatory youth that they carted in on the last day of the conference, rather than having our voices present the entire time. If you are having a conference on how to better include, protect, and empower LGBTQ youth, you need to INCLUDE LGBTQ youth. While I know the conference was geared towards youth-serving professionals, we must not forget the youth-serving youth whom are out there doing the heavy work, not only for themselves, but for the youth that surround them.
I know that this is the first Time To Thrive, and I write this blog out of respect for the progress that this conference has and will hopefully continue to make. I hope that next year, the organizers will do a better job at including the local community and its youth for the entire conference, not just a divisive and condescending ‘youth day’. We cannot discredit or underestimate the amount of power that our youth and POC have. If we want to promote safety and inclusion of our young LGBTQ people, we need to include them in the process. Our collective movement is a better movement when we work hand-in-hand.
Feb 15, 2014
Valentine’s Day. People seem to have this belief that you need a special someone in your life to validate you with candy and heart shaped stuff or it makes you hyper aware that you are lonely and single.
As women, we are especially prone to thinking we are supposed to feel like we are crazy in love or bitter, while eating a carton of ice cream on our couch feeling sorry for ourselves.
I’m not sure where these expectations of ourselves have evolved from, but I’m here to tell you the best news!!!
Why not love yourself today???
Earlier today, I wrote on my Facebook, something personal:
“Last Valentine’s Day, I didn’t love myself at all. This year, I love myself almost too much! <3 you Bree Bree!”
I think self-love is a beautiful thing. It’s taken me quite some time to realize that I’m awesome! Before, I felt really lonely, I was insecure, weak, doubtful of myself and my abilities and I absolutely hated looking in the mirror. I also relied heavily on someone else to tell me they loved me in order to feel worthwhile and validated.
Looking back at who I used to be and how I used to think of myself is not a great feeling, but I must acknowledge my old way of thinking in order to embrace my new, much happier thoughts!
These past few months, I have learned to be my own best friend, my own love and support system and to me, that’s the best gift I could give myself, ever! I don’t need to feel bad for being single. I surely don’t feel alone. Looking at myself and seeing how far I have succeeded in overcoming depression, self-hate, and sadness is so validating!!!
So, if you have a special partner or you’re flying solo this Valentine’s Day, I highly encourage you to reflect on self-love. Treat yourself to something nice. Why rely on someone else to give you flowers and chocolate when you can do the same for yourself? Why should we feel bad about rewarding and loving who we are?
Love yourself this Valentine’s Day! As a matter of fact, make a vow to love yourself everyday after that, too!!!
As Rupaul always says, “If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”
Can I seriously get an amen???
Feb 10, 2014
A week ago, I was fortunate enough to attend Creating Change 2014, organized by the Gay and Lesbian Task Force in Houston, Texas. Although this was my second time attending this conference, my excitement was surprisingly higher than last year’s, thanks to this year’s keynote speaker being Laverne Cox. I have become a huge fan of Cox the moment I saw her on Netflix’s Orange is the New Black (if you haven’t seen it yet, you’re missing out big time). Ever since, I started following her on social media and kept up with all of her appearances on TV and in other media outlets. The qualities I admire the most about Cox are her high level of intelligence, exceptional eloquence and fierce poise. I was so lucky to listen to her live during Creating Change’s opening plenary where she delivered a speech that was out of this world. She did not leave a single issue facing the transgender community without mentioning it, especially when it comes to transgender women of color, whom she represents so well. I especially loved the point she raised, saying, “The conversation about trans people in mainstream media has centered on transition and surgery.” Cox explained that limiting our trans conversations to transition and surgery objectifies trans women and does not leave us room to discuss the myriad of pressing issues that face the trans community today. This is exactly what happened on CNN with Piers Morgan a few days ago when he interviewed Janet Mock, who is another incredible trans activist. Instead of focusing on Mock’s newly released memoire “Redefining Realness,” Morgan bombarded her with questions about her physical transition and romance life. The next day, Mock came to his show again to explain how his show attempted to sensationalize her story instead of focusing on the real issues at hand. In her speech at Creating Change, Laverne Cox talked in length about the many injustices trans people, especially trans women of color, face nowadays, including violence, discrimination in the workplace and lack of healthcare access. In Cox’s words, “Healthcare for trans people is a necessity. It is not elective, it is not cosmetic, it is life-saving… But we are more than our bodies.” I remember the entire audience standing up and clapping after she articulated these powerful words.
I truly loved how this year’s Creating Change gave more space for the conference attendees to discuss the issues facing transgender people and learn more about this marginalized community. I personally attended the screening of “TransVisible: Bamby Salcedo’s Story,” which is a documentary film about Los Angeles-based trans Latina activist Bamby Salcedo. The film is very touching and eye opening to the serious struggles of trans women of color. I also attended a workshop entitled “Transgender People Unite Against Hate and Violence” in which Bamby was one of the panelists. The panel was very informative about the various forms of violence that transgender people experience, not only on the streets and in the workplace, but also at home and from the police. This workshop made me realize that there is not enough data available to us in order to reflect trans people’s struggles, thus making trans activism especially hard. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, “of the 25 documented anti-LGBTQ homicides in 2012, 53.8% of the victims were transgender women. [Moreover], transgender people were 1.67 times as likely to experience threats and intimidation, 3.32 times as likely to experience police violence, and transgender people of color were 2.46 times as likely to experience physical violence by the police.” The reality is very sad for trans people, especially trans women of color. But I am so happy that Creating Changed highlighted this community’s struggles and made room for us to share solutions and success stories. There is a lot more we can do, but visibility is a great step in the right direction.
Feb 8, 2014
Today is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Instead of writing statistical facts about HIV/AIDS in the Black community, I will share a personal story of overcoming my fear of getting tested.
I became sexually active during my junior year of college. I read everything I could about sex and contraceptives before my encounter with my first partner. The consequences of possibly getting pregnant, contracting an STI or HIV was a risk I definitely reduced by using condoms and birth control.
So why was I so fearful of getting tested for HIV several months later?
At this point, I was heavily involved in sexual health groups on campus and was a member of the great Young Women of Color Leadership Council (shameless plug). I was an educator, and an advocate for sexual health, but I couldn’t bring it to myself to commit to getting tested.
I felt like a hypocrite.
While promoting National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on campus three years ago, I told myself to stop living in fear and to get tested. I was nervous all day. I sat in class thinking all about my sexual health and history. Sure, I had been tested for STI’s like gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis at my school’s health center, but I felt so sure that I couldn’t possibly be HIV positive…
And that’s where the issue lies. The idea that I was so sure, so confident, so affirming of my status, that I had delayed getting tested. In reality, I had no clue. I made myself believe that being HIV positive couldn’t happen to me!
Later that evening, I walked into the testing site and performed a rapid HIV test. Although it said rapid, it felt like forever to hear the results. The man I sat with was extremely consoling and helpful. We chatted about sexual health and the work we do in our communities. His passion and support helped me through the wait.
At last, I got my results. I was negative. A lot of things ran through my mind: relief, happiness, tears of joy, but also guilt.
I felt guilty that someone might go in there and not hear the same results I did. I also felt guilty that I spoke on such a mighty pedestal and pressured my peers to get tested for HIV when I was afraid myself.
The day I got tested was a learning lesson for me. As young people, we often feel that we are invincible. Regardless of my knowledge about sexual health, it’s my duty first to make sure that I know my status. I felt like I couldn’t get HIV, but in reality, it was a possibility.
Be confident in knowing your status through getting tested every 6 months. Do not hesitate to ask your partner if they’ve been tested either. DO NOT allow anyone to make you feel bad about questioning their sexual health history. Include condom use along with other forms of contraceptives.
I can confidently share this advice because I am following it myself.
It’s time for us to stop living in the unknown.
Peace and love,
Feb 6, 2014
Piers Morgan continues to believe he’s in the right. This is his response to Janet Mock’s calling him out for the way he sensationalized her story and experiences.
Instead of really discussing her lived reality as a woman of color, especially as a trans woman of color, he obsesses over her past relationships and anatomy.
He told her: “…you used to be yourself a man.”
The on-screen captions of the discussion is ridiculous.
From a Buzzfeed article, Janet Mock says:
“My book is not about Aaron or my relationship, but that’s the most sensational thing they want to pull out,” she said. “They’re not talking about my advocacy or anything like that, it’s just about this most sensationalized … meme of discussion of trans women’s lives: ‘We’re not real women, so therefore if we’re in relationships with men we’re deceiving them.’ So, it just feeds into those same kinds of myths and fears that they spread around, which leads to further violence of trans women’s bodies and identities.”
The on-screen line that she “was a boy until age 18” reflected “bad judgment” and “reductive thinking about gender,” she said.
“What they’re saying is, ‘Only until I got the surgery, then I was a woman,’” she said.
But, she said, the interview — for better and worse — is part of want she chose to do by “going out of the bubble” and being public with her story.
“This is my first mainstream television show, was that moment, with Piers Morgan, and you see what they did to my story. Compared to a moment if I’m on Melissa Harris-Perry, which is slightly different, a more sensitive and safe space. But I go onto Piers Morgan, and all of my followers and everyone are like, ‘What is this?’” she said. But, she noted, “It’s also more representative of the ignorance that there is about trans people’s lives. We’re out of the safe bubble of social justice.”
On that same Buzzfeed article, you’ll see many of the responses Piers Morgan vomited on Twitter.
One example being: “As for all the enraged transgender supporters, look at how STUPID you’re being. I’m on your side, you dimwits. @janetmock”
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 22, 2014
(reposted from USAToday, David Jackson, click for original and full post – Image of President Obama: Charles Dharapak – AP)
President Obama has put out his annual statement on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, praising the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that struck down anti-abortion laws.
“We reaffirm our steadfast commitment to protecting a woman’s access to safe, affordable health care and her constitutional right to privacy, including the right to reproductive freedom,” Obama said in a statement.
The president said he also wants to re-affirm commitments to “reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, support maternal and child health, and continue to build safe and healthy communities for all our children.”
Jan 17, 2014
Just recently, I made a trip to the gynecologist to get a refill of my preferred birth control. I have the privilege of having insurance that requires no copay for appointments as such, and I had the privilege of getting into this doctor’s office within a month of calling. For my low-income neighborhood (see: health disparities), that was pretty quick. I was hoping for a quick appointment as well – sit down, update the doctor, get my prescription, and be on my way.
I haven’t been to this doctor in almost a year, but she had performed a pap smear and pelvic exam last visit. I also had no real changes between then and now. An added tidbit of information, I also just got a pelvic exam in the emergency room three months ago (unrelated, was nothing serious). I let the nurse know this, and I also informed her that I haven’t had any symptoms or real trouble. The doctor comes in, talks to me for a bit, and then instructs me to strip. The dreaded pelvic exam. The dreaded pelvic exam that I had just three months ago. When I protested and asked why she was doing a pelvic exam, I was told it is required to prescribe birth control. However, I had just been to the health district where they prescribed me birth control without me even taking my clothes off. I’d also like to note that my gynecologist did not ONCE ask me if I was sexually active, had been having unprotected sex, or if I’d like to get tested for HIV/STI’s, while the health district spent a good amount of time making sure they were fully aware of all my risk factors, and I was aware of the resources available to me.
I am seventeen, was in the office without a parent, and I did as instructed, not that I had much opportunity to do anything else. While still in the office, I decided to Google if pelvic exams are really required for birth control, contrary to my previous experience at the health district, only to find a massive online community outraged at the unnecessary pelvic exams women across the country are being forced into if they want a birth control prescription. According to a 2010 study, 1/3rd of of doctors and advanced nurses required pelvic exams before they would administer or prescribe hormonal birth control. Regardless of the fact thatguidelines, studies, and experts have stated that pelvic exams are unnecessary.
Unnecessary pelvic exams are hindering in so many different ways. If a woman goes into her gynecologist to try to get a birth control prescription and is met with the unexpected price of a pelvic exam (around $350 in my experiences), this can keep the woman from obtaining birth control. My vagina, my rules, right? The simplest saying that carries the most weight, right? The simplest saying that is often betrayed by health care providers, particularly in marginalized communities. Minority groups and marginalized communities will not always have the means to pay for a pelvic exam. This puts women at risk of unintended and teen pregnancy, a problem that disproportionately affects communities of color. People of color are more likely to live in poverty which results in a probability that they would not be able to afford an unnecessary pelvic exam just so they can get birth control.
When it comes to effective birth control, we must do everything in our power to make it as easily attainable as possible. The fact is, pelvic exams often scare the young women I have encountered out of going to their doctors for birth control. I am still shocked by the fact that my gynecologist required a pelvic exam when I had just been prescribed birth control via the health district with NO pelvic exam necessary. These are the barriers that stand in the way of our young women and their reproductive health and choice. Women that do want birth control are often afraid or unable to obtain it because of things like mandated pelvic exams that raise appointments costs exponentially and leave women feeling like they have no choice but to lay back and allow it. I couldn’t help but feel slightly violated after my gynecology appointment, but more than violated, I was angry. I am angry that other people with vaginas are being forced to have unnecessary, highly invasive, uncomfortable exams that they can’t afford just to exercise their right to obtain birth control.
As with any issue, we need to speak up, speak loud, and speak truth. My body is not something for private doctor offices to turn a profit on. My body is not a vessel for your unnecessary medical treatments performed in keeping with tradition. I refuse to be quiet about this. Birth control should be accessible to all, without fear. I am speaking out, and I am not speaking alone.
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 9, 2014
And I know I’m not the only one that picked up on this trend.
In the past year, progress has been made in the media industry in regards to recognizing black women. Many black actresses have been cast as leads in varying television series, such as Nicole Beharie in Sleepy Hollow, Gabrielle Union in Being Mary Jane, and we mustn’t forget the overwhelming success of black writer Shonda Rhimes’ show, Scandal, starring the incredibly talented Kerry Washington. I just recently even learned about Tika Sumpter’s leading role on Tyler Perry’s The Haves and the Have Nots. We also get to look forward to the debut of comedian Sasheer Zamata, who has recently joined the cast of NBC’s Saturday Night Live, after almost seven years without a black woman on the team. As a young woman whose adolescence saw very little black women in leading roles on TV, I was tickled pink by all this good news.
Sadly, a not-so-noteworthy theme amongst some of these television shows has caught my eye. Sumpter, Union, and Washington all play very intelligent, independent, and gorgeous women who happen to be involved with married men. So much so that a lot of the storyline is based around these interactions. For two of these series, the men are older white men with a lot of clout. While I am all for interracial dating, this was not exactly what I had in mind.
So what gives? Are we glorifying infidelity? Is it okay suddenly because it is a black woman and a white man, not a black man and a white woman? Is a black woman’s sexuality inseparable from adultery? Are these women actually enjoying their taboo relationships? These are all things to dwell on. We can be successful, gorgeous, and brilliant… and still a secret plaything to some cheating husband. And we might actually be okay with that. Sure, it makes for a gripping story, but you cannot ignore the message being portrayed here. Don’t black women deserve happy, healthy relationships as well? I would love to see some of these characters pursuing them.
I will talk about the magical birth control they are on in another post.
Jan 3, 2014
Why 2014 Could Be A Huge Turning Point For Reproductive Rights
[Original image and post found on ThinkProgress, writer: Tara Culp-Ressler]
Roe v. Wade will mark its 41st birthday later this month, amid ever-increasing assaults on reproductive rights across the nation. According to the latest report from the Guttmacher Institute, states have imposed a staggering 205 abortion restrictions between 2011 and 2013. That legislation has attacked access to abortion from all angles — targeting providers and clinics, driving up the cost of abortion for the women who need it, making women travel farther and wait longer to get medical care, and outright banning the procedure. Since 2000, the number of states that Guttmacher defines as being “hostile” to abortion rights has spiked from 13 to 27.
That’s left abortion rights advocates on the other side, working hard to stem the tide of anti-choice attacks. Constantly warding off restrictive legislation hasn’t left much space for proactive policies to expand women’s reproductive freedom, like expanding access to maternity care or making family planning services more accessible to low-income women. Most of the headlines about abortion issues are bleak.
But there may be a shift on the horizon.
Jan 1, 2014
The Righteous Retreat that was going to be held at Nottoway Plantation, a place full of triggering thoughts and connections to slavery used to host a feminist singer-songwriter event, was thankfully canceled by Ani DiFranco. What has transpired this last few weeks was another display of racism from white feminists failing to check their privilege. It was a clear obliviousness of the essential need for intersectionality. Since the official announcement of the venue, justifiable outrage from women of color feminists were heard but were also dismissed with the usual claims that lacked understanding and critical thinking: “You’re perpetuating racism!/We can reclaim this piece of history!” Women of color feminists, specifically black feminists and women, were told to “get over it. Slavery’s done with.”
The venue for the Righteous Retreat and Twitter gave birth to another great satirical hashtag, #AniDiFrancoRetreatIdeas, where many progressive individuals shared their witty and snarky jabs at such a clueless slip up.
Call outs were found in the comments of the Facebook event page, and as a response to the criticism, there was one person in particular named Mandi Harrington who took the extra step to maintain supremacy and dismiss the words of black women. She created a black woman persona, stealing some black woman’s photo and created her own name to defend her comments. But what she thought was a vernacular black women used was actually her own racist projections.
And what has been Ani Difranco’s response to all of this? Well, it was certainly a long one–almost too long for what should have been a simple and succinct, “I’m sorry. I messed up.” What should have been an apology ended up being explanation without any responsibility or blame from her part and feeling more grieved by this lost opportunity rather than true empathy for those who have been truly hurt from this incident. Her full explanation can be read here.
Dec 31, 2013
After Michigan House and Senate’s shameful support of a law that would force burial and cremation costs on those who sought abortions, they decided the next step would be to establish a “rape insurance” for people who have the ability to get pregnant earlier this month. The bill is infamously known as Michigan’s Rape Insurance bill, the actual name being The Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act. It places a ban on private insurance companies from covering abortion. This forces women into buying extra coverage for their abortion care on top of their paid plans. What’s more is that this legislation has no exceptions for rape or incest. And the coverage can’t be purchased during a pregnancy, it has to be bought prior to one–because those who have the ability to become pregnant are in a constant state of being pre-pregnant.
The Guttmacher Institute’s research in payment for abortion shows that almost 70% of women pay out of their own pockets for this medical procedure, and almost 52% of those women found it difficult to pay. So, what’s to become of that 52%? What’s to become of those who already can’t pay for the treatment they need? We already live in a system that routinely and unapologetically ignore the needs of the people. It’s not just a limiting of our right to the health care we need. It’s one more step to further marginalizing those who are already feeling the burden of an oppressive, unfree economy.
Not all are sitting idly while outside groups and politicians pushed for this. Michigan Senator Gretchen Whitmer shared her own thoughts in a Huffington Post blog:
“I shared my story of being sexually assaulted because even if it wouldn’t give my Republican colleagues pause to reconsider the vote they were about to take, I at least wanted them to, for the first time, have to directly consider the consequences of their actions and see that those being hurt by it aren’t anonymous faces, but friends, family and, yes, even their colleagues on the Senate floor.
What’s too easily dismissed in these types of discussions is that this issue is not simply about pro-choice or pro-life, it is about interfering with contracts between women and our health care providers. This new law forbids private insurance companies from covering abortions unless a woman buys additional and preemptive coverage, even in the case of rape, incest, or even medically necessary dilation and curettage (D & C) procedures for planned pregnancies that went wrong.
This measure is extreme, ignorant and insultingly misogynistic. I’m disgusted to say that it is now the law of the land in Michigan, but how it became law is just as offensive as the law itself.
Right to Life of Michigan, an extremist special-interest group with significant financial backing from a select few secretive donors, has pushed for this law twice before. Both times they failed, as two different Republican Governors stood up to them and vetoed it. In fact, in explaining his veto of this measure earlier this year, Governor Rick Snyder, someone I don’t often agree with, rightly stated, “I don’t believe it is appropriate to tell a woman who becomes pregnant due to a rape that she needed to select elective insurance coverage.”
But instead of admitting defeat, Right to Life took their crusade even further. They exploited an obscure loophole in Michigan’s Constitution that allowed them to bypass the governor’s veto entirely, as well as the will of the people, by securing the signatures of only four percent of Michigan’s population to bring a so-called “citizens’ initiative” before the legislature and then flexed their political muscle over the Republican majority, forcing them to immediately vote it into law.”
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 29, 2013
I did not envision myself to be someone who finds so much enjoyment out of preparing a homemade dinner for when a significant other comes home from work. But more than that, I’m finding happiness with my cooking. Part of my journey to reconnect with my culture is making the meals that are inspired by my ancestors. It’s not enough to re-learn the language and symbols and meanings that were mostly erased in my assimilation to the white culture I sought because of internalized racism. I want to know the taste of my parents’ country and history.
Tonight’s dinner is banh cuon (Vietnamese steamed rice crepes) with pan seared salmon, all lightly dressed with a homemade sweet soy sauce.
I originally posted this on my personal Tumblr blog: hannahology.
I’m contemplating doing a Vietnamese food blog as a way of recording my journey towards a reconnection with my culture. For now, just re-learning everything I’ve lost is the main goal. Positive and healing thoughts and actions with a yummy bonus.
Dec 29, 2013
We are People of Color. We didn’t choose to be, but we love our cultures. Because of our skin, we have added struggles. In our safe spaces, we have every right to feel welcomed and not tokenized, harassed or ignored. We ask for you to listen to us when we speak about racism because we are being effected by it daily. This video is a compilation of things actually said to POC involved in activism and social justice.
We want to be heard, listen to us.
Dec 29, 2013
In my early adolescence, I spent a lot of time at rehearsals. Dance rehearsals, vocal rehearsals, theatre rehearsals, the list goes on. I spent most of my preteen and teenage years in dance studios and on stages, being picked at and prodded. So, of course, when I watched the video “Pretty Hurts” on Beyoncé’s new self-titled visual album (short freak-out- YES!! PERFFFF), I related on a seriously deep level.
The entire song and video, “Pretty Hurts” is a take-down of beauty standards our society has and how they can be detrimental to our women. The ‘perfect’ woman is often seen as having straight blonde hair, tall, slim, fair, and dainty. This is Eurocentric, and these standards and expectations can lead to assimilation, self-hatred, and just nasty stuff.
In my own personal experience, I never really looked much like my friends. I was always the first one to be pointed out, and I was often addressed by physical characteristics rather than my name. I wasn’t white, I wasn’t tall, I wasn’t petite, the list goes on.
Being in an entertainment industry, I was often reminded of this. I lost out on roles that again and again went to the more stereotypical ‘pretty’ girl. I remember I was in a winter musical; I got an old costume that used to be one of my friend’s, and when I tried it on, it didn’t even fit over my bum. My theatre instructor told me I needed to eat a little less and shed some pounds, because I needed to fit into that skirt like my friend did before the show date.
In the video for “Pretty Hurts”, Beyoncé portrays a pageant woman (as she was in the past) that struggles throughout the video with trying to fit the script of ‘pretty’ by taking pills, exercising excessively, getting botox, and vomiting in a bathroom. The entire video she is trying to fit into a set of beauty standards that are suffocating her, quite literally, and then she still loses (to one of her more fair-skinned counterparts, may I note). We see her wreck a room of her trophies and crowns, scream and break her level-headed demeanor, and basically lose her sh#$. It’s only after this at the very end of the video that we see her wash off all of the makeup, take out her hair, look in the mirror, and give the most authentic smile of the video yet.
When I was younger, I tried everything to look ‘pretty’. I wanted to look more like my friends that got the lead roles; I wanted to fit in when I went out with them. So, one summer, I decided to do everything I could to become more fair-skinned. I didn’t go out during the day unless absolutely necessary (covered in pounds of sunblock and clothing), I covered myself in lighter colored foundations and powders, I did everything within reach of my little thirteen-year-old hands. I became depressed, I developed an eating disorder, and I truly hated myself. I was told again and again that I would never make it in the industry, could never be a ballerina because I was too dark and too fat, could never be a singer because my nose drew too much attention. Only when I pulled myself out of that environment and took a long couple of months to myself (and counseling) did I realize that beautiful is not just one thing. It can’t be.
Beyoncé does a wonderful job of ripping these notions to shreds while admitting her own struggle with trying to adhere to them. I saw myself in so many different parts of this video and song, it felt like she read my diary. This song is a beautifully written critique of the unrealistic Eurocentric beauty standards that are ever present in entertainment industries and elsewhere. Queen Bey ends the song with this phrase, “When you’re alone all by yourself and you’re lying in your bed, reflection stares right into you; Are you happy with yourself?”
Beyoncé is unafraid, strong, flawed, and she is starting dialogue and leading us in the right direction.
Yes, Beyoncé. I’m happy with myself – most days – but I wasn’t always. It’s a struggle, and it will continue to be, but the more artists in the spotlight that are diverse and beautiful in everything they do and are (just like you), the easier it will get.
Dec 27, 2013
I am a pretty big fan of sitting at home with food and shows to binge on. And East Los High caught my full and undivided attention. I’m not normally into soapy teen dramas, but the problems teens face everyday, especially teens of color in neighborhoods like East Los, were real.
While many find sex and the details of it to still be taboo to discuss, teens are left without the rights and respect to get the knowledge they need to better protect themselves. I found it so refreshing to find a series that is easily relatable, stimulating, and educational. Oh, and guess what? Characters in the show can actually say the word “abortion.” There wasn’t a Voldemort treatment of an actual medical procedure that one out of three women in the United States will experience in their lifetime. Even better, several choices and paths that follow unprotected sex are explored and tidbits of helpful sexual health facts and info are casually placed into the dialogue. There’s even brief but impactful conversations on masculinity and gender roles in regards to safe sex throughout the show.
I had a Hulu Plus account and was fortunately able to view the “Hulu exclusive” series, but anyone can watch the full episodes on the East Los High website. It’s a good and fairly accessible teen drama with lots of examples and lessons to share. There are little whispers about a second season to appear, and I am excitedly waiting. Not everyone shared my enthusiasm for the show though. An online “news” article from Life Site News expressed an opinion:
Planned Parenthood’s has its guns aimed squarely at Hispanic teens, as it continues its latest foray into eugenic targeting via an unbelievably salacious novella featuring an all-Latino/Latina cast…
What kind of public service is done by the airing of this trashy novella directed to Hispanic teens? And just what is the “moral” of Episode 1? Finish the dance with your boyfriend before dashing to the car to have sex with someone else? Watch out when you have sex in a car because someone may be videotaping you? Being voted Winter Queen will make you extremely popular on the hookup circuit?
How can anyone even use the word “moral” in connection with this series?
There are some other significant things that this writer neglects to mention besides the awesome sexual health info and examples found throughout the series. East Los High is the first English language show with an all Latino cast. And what is even better is that the cast defies the mainstream roles that Latino people are often forced into. For something like this to be left out in this diatribe is quite telling of the kind of perspective the writer has, especially with the condescending and twisted but very nonexistent link between the show and fictitious eugenic attempts.
Miriam Perez, a past contributor on Racialicious, Feministing, and RHRealityCheck, has written on this topic of anti-choice movements making it seem like they care about women of color. Her post was originally found on RHRealityCheck, but I pulled it off Racialicious. From the succinct and eloquent post Worried About Women of Color? Thanks, But No Thanks, Anti-Choicers. We’ve Got It Covered:
At first glance, it’s nice to see the anti-choice community pretending to care about communities of color. But within a few minutes, the skepticism sets in. What’s really behind these tactics, coming from a group that is majority white, middle-class and Christian? In the end, we know this isn’t actually about women of color and their well-being. It’s a sensationalist attempt to pit women of color against the reproductive rights movement. Classic divide and conquer…
We’ve fought back against governmental policies like welfare family caps and limits on access to certain types of contraception over others. We’ve fought with the reproductive rights community to get them to care about these issues and how they affect our communities—and we’ve won.
We’re fighting for access to contraception, to abortion, to options for childbirth and parenting. And now we’ll fight the racist and paternalistic logic behind the eugenics arguments being made by anti-choicers.
Life Site News has urged concerned citizens to call Hulu’s corporate headquarters at 310-571-4700 to remove the series and to make sure a second season contract cannot be extended. Please use the number to the opposite.
(This has also been posted on my blogs FanTalk and STFU, Pro-Lifers.)
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 7, 2013
This week I had the opportunity to conduct an educational training on pregnancy prevention for local high school students in my community. The teen summit had over 400 students in attendance. I co-facilitated the presentation with an educator from Planned Parenthood. I was extremely nervous at the first session while I presented. A million thoughts went through my head; were they listening, was I saying it right, did they understand, etc. This was my first experience at peer educating so I wanted to be perfect. There were three sessions in total. By the second session I felt more relaxed and comfortable. It was a great feeling to see the students interact and yearn for more information. I felt accomplished when a few students stayed after the presentation to ask more questions. This experience has shown me that peer education is something I’d like to continue doing.
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 24, 2013
Time after time have I seen lawmakers pass bills that affect me as an LGBT self-identified youth of color, without taking my opinion into consideration, which is why I have become an advocate for social justice. I grew up in what one would call the “ghetto,” and I didn’t actually realize the conditions I was living in until my parents decided to move homes. In retrospect, I now realize that I was living in a community of mostly undocumented families like my own. Furthermore, I took notice of the fact that most of us didn’t actually visit the doctor: not because we didn’t want to, but because we had no access to reliable healthcare. So, it was up to the yerberias (herbal stores) and whatever pills grandma could bring from Mexico on her visits to keep my family and me “healthy.” However, I know there must be a safer, more equitable way for the United States to provide healthcare to undocumented citizens, and there is: the inclusion of healthcare access in immigration reform policies.
The United States is at a point in time in which addressing social policy issues, including Immigration, is both urgent and inevitable. In all honesty, I don’t see why it is an issue in the first place, because the United States ultimately is not the property of a white man of European descent, but rather of those native to this land. However now, in the 21st century I like many others, believe that the land is property of the people: all people, regardless of their racial descent. Nonetheless, here we are, advocating and preaching for the equality of all people. Advocates follow comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level with attentive eyes and hopeful minds, without considering that proposed legislation does not include increasing access to healthcare for undocumented citizens who will be most affected by the bill.
As a nation, we tend to look past deeper issues which are well engraved into our society: it’s not only a lack of access to health services but to sexual health services that negatively affects undocumented citizens. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers data which expresses the discrepancies among Latino communities. Pregnancies among Latina teenagers are still higher than those of any other group of people, and have been for years and years. What is truly unsettling and gut wrenching for me is that the lack of resources and healthcare options not only affects Latino communities, but many other undocumented citizens as well. This includes citizens from Eastern Africa, Asia, South America, the Middle East and more.
Here’s my question: How can legislators and people in power expect the progression of all communities within in our country to flourish when undocumented citizens are offered false and incomplete promises? These citizens will not receive healthcare, a safe facility to go to if we contract an STI or become pregnant, and most importantly, will still not be given equal access to essential opportunities. Any attempts to mend the issue of immigration cannot be done without addressing the inclusion of access to healthcare for undocumented citizens. As a nation, we cannot expect the undocumented community to graduate, pursue higher education and succeed, if we will not provide all communities with quality, equitable access to health care. The answer is simple: include access to holistic and equitable healthcare in our country’s immigration reform policies that will not only provide opportunities, but will encompass what a comprehensive immigration reform is: not just a license and job permit but quality education, pathway to citizenship, comfortable living conditions, and access to healthcare.
To conclude, yes it is true that the lawmakers of the United States seem to be moving in the right direction, but as for the undocumented community, we cannot settle for less. We cannot settle for just a license and job permit because we are worthy of equal opportunities just as any other citizen. We are eligible for pathway to citizenship, education, jobs, and healthcare. The cycles of marginalization within undocumented families will stop when the nation addresses both immigration and healthcare in an all-encompassing reformative policy
Nov 21, 2013
Reposted by the author from an original post on the Harvard College Women’s Center blog.
After a brief hiatus from the music industry, artist Lily Allen is back on the scene with a critique of her peers in her new music video “Hard Out Here.” In the video, Allen is obviously trying to satirize the standard “Robin-Thicke-and-Miley-Cyrus” approach to Top 40. The video begins with Allen lying on a surgery table, about to undergo liposuction. Her manager is standing by, equipped with his Blackberry, informing her of the nighttime TV hosts who’ve turned her down. He looks down at her body on the operating table with disgust, muttering, “How could someone let themselves get like this?” Allen responds pragmatically, “Uh, I had two babies…”
In this scene, I’m totally on board with Allen–women’s bodies are policed in the media in ways that are unfair and irrational. When a woman like Allen has a body that has undergone pregnancy and birth twice, why is this not celebrated (and instead, criticized)?
The pop culture site Idolator claims that Allen “saves pop music” with this music video. A Yahoo article praises her for satirizing so much of the blatant body-shaming and sexism that exists in the music industry (“Go Lily!”). But the question is, does she go deep enough in her critique?
As the video progressed, I began to take issue with some of Allen’s props and lyrics. I’m going to give Allen and her management team the benefit of the doubt, assuming for the purpose of my own critique that these choices were made with the best intentions. Despite these intentions, however, in her attempt to satirize, Allen still managed to alienate.
The video cuts to black women twerking (a la Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop”), an obvious parody of the use of black women as props in pop music videos. This is where I started to feel a bit uncomfortable. While Allen may not have intended to dehumanize and objectify the women of color twerking in her video, she succeeded in doing so anyways–using these women’s bodies as twerk spectacle only serves to further isolate them and fetishize them as “Others” who don’t deserve to be named or identified, who are not on the same level as the white women singing in front of them. It’s hypocritical, but not necessarily in an ironic or satirical way–to me, Allen’s piece reads as mimicry of racist tropes in pop music that do not need to be perpetuated, even “ironically” or with good intent. As Keli Goff from The Root explains, “If Allen really wanted to make a statement about sexism, sexual exploitation and racial exploitation in the music industry, then a real satire might have included a bunch of scantily clad white males writhing around as alcohol is poured over them. Instead of satire, Allen merely perpetuated the status quo.”
Allen’s lyrics can also be read as implicitly racist; is she criticizing black hip hop culture when she says, “I won’t be bragging ’bout my cars or talking ’bout my chains / Don’t need to shake my ass for you ’cause I’ve got a brain?” These kinds of subtle jabs have hit a nerve with black feminists, as evidenced by the controversy surrounding Lorde’s song “Royals.”
I sat down to watch this after seeing it on PolicyMic with the headline, “Lily Allen’s ‘Hard Out Here’ Video Will Make Feminists Proud.” As a feminist of color, I wouldn’t say that my reaction was one of pride, but rather, one of discomfort. It’s catchy, but confusing. Her director wasn’t even willing to call the video a critique, which indicates some misguidedness or some unclear objectives. I respect Allen for her decision to critique some of the oppression and injustice that is found in the music industry (“Inequality promises that it’s here to stay / Always trust the injustice ’cause it’s not going away”), but I’m unwilling to just accept it at face value without raising concerns of race and privilege. It’s “hard out here” for some of us, but maybe not as hard for you, Lily Allen.
Nov 16, 2013
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 16, 2013
As young people we cannot sit back and wait for other people to make decisions on matters that essentially affect us. We have to be part of the decision making process. We have to be active, be heard and take a clear stance. The decisions made today are going to be our consequences to deal with later.
It is our right to be heard. We cannot accept being sidelined and treated like we know nothing, like what we have to say is of no significance.
I want to live in a world where what I say is heard. A world where the colour of my skin and my gender are not the standards by which I am judged, where my actions and my work speak for themselves.
I know that all this can only happen if I stand up, speak out and take action. Our future starts now, not tomorrow.
Today is ours.
Nov 6, 2013
#BlackTwitter has long been a facet of social media that many have found incredibly interesting. It seems to be mainly associated with the remarkable ability black users have to create interesting, entertaining and trending conversation on the platform. It’s latest project, #DonLemonOn, shows all the signs of other extremely popular #BlackTwitter hashtags: It’s funny, snarky, disarmingly enlightening, and users have made creating the best tweets a highly competitive game of wits.
It all started when Don Lemon commented on the highly controversial stop-and-frisk policy, partially defending the law by connecting it to lowered crime rates in New York, a myth that has been debunked before (see http://www.nyclu.org/node/1598 Tip: I found this with Google by typing in stop and frisk and crime rates to see if maybe Lemon’s claim could be substantiated. I like to call this investigative research.) Still, the idea persists in many spaces that stop-and-frisk is a necessary evil to keep the streets safe. Don Lemon summed up this redirect with a simple question: “Would you rather be politically correct or safe and alive?”
The problem with this false dichotomy, beyond it being a false dichotomy, is that it reinforces this idea that the persecution of minorities, in particular minority men, is necessary for the “safety” of the general population. It is this kind of problematic thinking that led to the murder of Trayvon Martin. It is this kind of problematic thinking that leads to African Americans being persecuted for marijuana possession at four times the rate of their Caucasian counterparts. Though I’m sure he had hoped to be “nuanced” in his evaluation, Don Lemon, and those who think like him, fail to understand the hypocrisy in their statements: How can attacking innocent American citizens be justified by trying to protect innocent American citizens?
Simple. It can’t.
What is particularly disconcerting about Lemon is that he is an African American man and one could argue that the vehemence of the backlash is precisely because of this fact. I would agree. If a white man on Fox News had made Lemon’s statement, they would get no hashtag, just a sigh and slight rolling of eyes. The difference is, by virtue of being an educated, well-spoken black man, many uninformed viewers could be convinced that Lemon’s endorsement of this inherently racist policy for the sake of the “greater good” is reasonable. The people of #BlackTwitter know that, in this way, Lemon is setting himself up as the “reasonable black folks” voice. When we assert our real concerns with laws that persecute us, Don Lemon could be held as the opposition. “Don Lemon gets it,” we’d be told. “Don Lemon understands that America isn’t racist, but cautious.” Don Lemon, by virtue of being on CNN and being a black man, has the potential to render racially conscious African Americans irrational.
Or he would have if not for the power of hashtags.
What #DonLemonOn does, in addition to entertaining people everywhere, is reveal why false dichotomies are ridiculous. It demands we not simplify our issues with hypocritical statements that ignore the complexities of the issues. It challenges those of us with considerable media power to beware of what we say. In a way only #BlackTwitter could pull off, it informs the world, with a conglomerate of 144 character sound-bites, that those who actively seek out the complexities of the problem are not the irrational ones.
I’m sure Don Lemon was simply attempting to pose a question that encouraged us to think about how much we value our safety. He even qualifies his argument with the acknowledgement that people are indeed persecuted by the law and that, in itself, is not okay. But this thoughtfulness gets lost when it is paired with justifications for the laws continuance. Instead (whether or not that is his intent) his inquiry changes. Instead he really asks those who would be negatively affected by stop-and-frisk measures a much more complicated question: If we have to choose between liberty and death, are we REALLY going to choose liberty?
#BlackTwitter answers him with #DomLemoOn. It says, with its trademark tongue-in-cheek flair:
We’ll take both. Thanks.
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 27, 2013
(Originally created and posted on Tumblr by Dimitri – deadlyprincex)
(located outside the “unisex” bathrooms)[texted image reads: “Everyone needs to use bathrooms, but only some of us have to enter into complicated political and architectural negotiations in order to use them. The fact is, bathrooms are easier to access for some of us than for others, and the people who never think about where and how they can pee have a lot of control over how using restrooms feels for the rest of us. […] Who has the privilege of always knowing that any given bathroom will meet one’s needs? Everyone needs to use the bathroom, but not all of us can.”
— “Calling All Restroom Revolutionaries” by Simone Chess, Alison Kafer, Jessi Quizar, and Mattie Udora Richardson (members of PISSAR – People in Search of Safe and Accessible Restrooms)]
Oct 24, 2013
The Disney Princess franchise is enormous; it would be difficult to find someone in the United States who does not know at least half of the princesses who comprise it, their entire back stories, and whether or not they are really princesses (I’m looking at you, Mulan and Pocahontas). As one of the most high-profile fictional groups of women in media aimed at little girls, the disney princesses possess an influence far beyond that of any other collection of fairy tales. There has been much discussion about these beloved characters and their impact on growing children for decades, particularly concerning Disney’s lack of princesses of color. We live in a society that consistently tells girls and women of color that they are less important than their white and/or male counterparts, but Disney is purportedly taking steps away from its white supremacist beginnings. With the addition of Tiana, the first (and only) black princess, Disney seemed to be making great amounts of racial progress. However, like most institutions and organizations in the United States, Disney has a long way to go.
Who actually qualifies as a Disney Princess? The official lineup consists of Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan, Tiana, Rapunzel, and Merida. Two more princesses, Anna and Elsa the Snow Queen (from Frozen, which will be released in November), are both white and will be added in 2014. While Disney princesses of color do exist, we must consider the nature of their existence. Representation simply isn’t enough; we need quality representation. For example, Jasmine is little more than a prop in Aladdin; her name is mentioned in the script less than half as many times as Aladdin’s. Pocahontas’ relationship with John Smith, her father, and Kokoum are gross misrepresentations of cultural reality in favor of assuaging white guilt. Tiana spends the majority of The Princess and the Frog as a frog! Are these really acceptable portrayals of women of color?
The effect that these representations have on women and girls is both palpable and detrimental. The well-known doll study by Drs. Kenneth and Mamie Clark (used during the Brown v Board of Education case that ended legal segregation) showed that negative portrayals of people of color led children of color to believe that they were subhuman, unintelligent, dirty, and prone to criminal behaviors. These negative images can lead to low grades in school, higher rates of depression, and increased likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors; in other words, girls of color learn that they are not valuable members of society when they (or their potential role models) are portrayed in ways that are substandard when compared to their white counterparts.
There is an extreme lack of women of color in the media, especially when looking at media aimed at children—only 7% of childrens’ books feature characters of color, let alone girls. Where are children to find positive role models outside of their homes? My own family members tried very hard to construct a world for me that showed black women in positive light—I played with black dolls, I was given books such as Nzingha: Warrior Queen of Matamba, Angola, Africa, 1595, and I watched movies like Ruby Bridges (which, interestingly enough, is a Disney production). It is increasingly easy for children of color to see themselves doing good things and becoming good people; but what about white children? When they don’t see fully-developed people of color in their own media, they begin to form negative stereotypes and conclusions about children of color, just as children of color did (and still do) about themselves. In order to raise children into racially-inclusive adults, they need to see all races portrayed in complex and in-depth ways. There are plenty of stories about princesses of color that parents of color can give to their children; the question is, will white parents do the same? Disney has the ability to contribute positive images to our society and they have made a good start, but I strongly suggest that they do more. Disney has the power to become a driving force behind a racially-inclusive society, especially for our little girls—hopefully they don’t lose that momentum in the coming years.
Oct 14, 2013
So today is the second Monday in October, more commonly known as Columbus Day. To be honest, I almost forgot because Rutgers didn’t give us the day off, which is really the only thing that counts in my mind.
With every passing Columbus Day, I notice more and more people realizing the fact that Christopher Columbus was actually a horrible person and shouldn’t be credited with anything, and that’s wonderful. I’m all for being critical of historical figures, especially when those historical figures were responsible for the rapes, murders, and torture of marginalized groups. This year, however, I’ve seen a push started by this article from The Oatmeal to stop calling it Columbus Day and switch to Bartolome Day, being that Columbus was The Worst Person Ever and Bartolome de las Casas was a pretty alright dude who eventually realized that slavery was wrong and then dedicated his life to advocating for the rights of native peoples.
My problem with this doesn’t come from a criticism of de las Casas, rather from the fact that we keep excluding the people whom the “discovery” of the “New World” directly affected. Namely, the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Matthew Inman (the guy who runs The Oatmeal) succeeded his essay by saying
“I know that the discovery of the New World means a lot of different things to a lot of different cultures. I like the sound of Bartolomé Day. If you don’t like that, call it Indigenous People’s Day. Or perhaps Chris-Columbus-was-a-turd Day. I’d even settle for just calling it MONDAY.”
but the problem with this is not that Bartolome Day sounds any worse; it’s that it takes the focus of the “discovery” of the Americas and shifts it to another slave-owning White dude instead of celebrating and remembering the people who really discovered them and suffered deeply because of it.
I’m really happy that people are finally coming around to the idea that Christopher Columbus is not a person to be celebrated, but I urge you all to consider thinking of this day as an Indigenous Peoples’ Day rather than shifting focus to a reformed conquistador.
Oct 11, 2013
It’s the day before a long weekend, and like every other college student, I’m swamped with work before actually getting to enjoy this weekend. Papers, presentations, homework, the whole spectrum. Glancing outside of academia, I realize that I’ve gotten newsletters, invites to dinners and community discussions, and emails about this special Friday. I’ve heard of this event before, but never decided to recognize it because I never understood its influence on this heteronormative society.
National Coming Out Day is more than just “coming out.” It’s remembrance for those before us, with us, and after us. Those who will never have a safe chance to be “out” to their families for fear of their own safety and those who will try to be “out” and hope for the best. Those who have suffered violence for being “out” and those who still look over their shoulder every time to never become a statistic. Those who are out already and struggle to maintain a steady job and place to live because of the institutional systems designed to keep them in the struggle for basic living needs.
Add in race, religion, income, and gender expression, and you’ve got a multitude of factors adding to the issue of “coming out” and portrayal of expected sexuality. For instance, as a young South Asian woman, my sexuality was determined before my birth: either a domesticated sexless housewife or a kama sutra bountiful goddess (even though I’m not Hindu). No middle ground. No options for anything other than cis-heterosexual men. Just hypersexualized to the bindi or sexless to the sari.
As I got older and still question my sexuality, I began reading into queer theory and popular queer names. Most of my options were left the same: few South Asian and other women of color queer “big names,” but tons of white queers. Even national organizations mainly focused on white queer bodies and rarely had queer people of color, let alone queer women of color.
I let this slide as I thought that most women of color were not queer, yet I realized my thinking was flawed. Looking at the histories of other people of color, queerness flourished. Gender neutral pronouns exist outside of English, and third genders exist in South Asia, Indonesia, and Samoa. Gender non-conforming roles exist in Two-Spirit Native American communities and among Nandi female husbands in Kenya. So why was I taught none of this in class and all of this on my own?
On National Coming Out Day, know that it’s still limited to mainstream bodies. Know that this day is not meant to serve as the only time to “come out,” but rather to spark an interesting conversation because you’re not alone in this. Queerness has existed and resisted for centuries, so share your story when you are ready.
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
Volunteer Training with One Royal Oak, discussing possible issues that may come up while phone banking.
Hype about DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) has died down and our LGBT community sort of gained the right to marriage. Notable “activist” efforts like statuses being made, profile pictures on Facebook being changed, and arguing with not so progressive relatives went on for days until the Supreme Court ruling over DOMA. But since the SCOTUS ruling, there’s been silence and the false notion instilled in a surprising majority that we’ve finally achieved all that we needed to. Discrimination against LGBT folks is over because we can marry in some states and a lot of straight, cis people changed their photos into equality signs!
Our community is still facing several inequities which are more dire than not being able to walk down the aisle. What about making sure our brothers and sisters have a job and a place to live? Only 20 states offer some protection for LGBT people in housing. In 29 states, a person can still be fired without warning simply for being gay. And in 34 states a person can be fired for being trans*. Aren’t these the issues we should be engaging our friends and family with? What’s being done about it while we’re waiting to see what happens with ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) for who knows how long?
Before anyone asks what I’m personally doing about this, I can tell people right now that I’ve joined up with a non-profit, political campaign called One Royal Oak. Our mission is to pass a non-discrimination ordinance in Royal Oak, Michigan which would ban discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations “on the basis of actual OR perceived race, national origin, religion, color, sex, age, height, weight, pregnancy condition, marital status, physical and mental limitations, source of income, family responsibilities, educational
association, sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV status.”
So far I’ve taken part in the volunteer training. I participated in phone banking, trying to gather donations for the cause. I’m constantly trying to make my friends and family understand the importance of this situation. I believe in equality, so I’ll do what I can to help. It’s just one city, but every little step counts. And One Royal Oak isn’t alone in their efforts for equality in the United States. Seek out ways to help our community either by volunteering or simply donating to activist groups like One Royal Oak, whether it’s on a local or federal level.
I’m more than happy that I have the right to marry my girlfriend thanks to the SCOTUS ruling. But between not walking down the aisle and not sleeping on the streets, I would choose the latter. There are many obstacles in finding a job and a place to live, our identity–who we choose to love and who we are–shouldn’t be one of them.
Sep 25, 2013
Documenting the Social and Economic Benefits of Family Planning
Reposted from: Guttmacher Institute, written by Adam Sonfield
Public health experts have long emphasized the benefits to maternal and child health of helping women and couples avoid unintended pregnancy and better time and space the pregnancies they have. Notably, numerous U.S. and international studies have found a causal link between closely spaced pregnancies and three key birth outcome measures: low birth weight, preterm birth and small size for gestational age.1 And a large body of literature highlights an association between unintended pregnancy and delayed initiation of prenatal care, as women are more likely to realize early that they are pregnant if they were trying to become pregnant.
Yet, although the preventive health benefits of unintended pregnancy prevention are clear and persuasive—and, indeed, provided the impetus for the new federal requirement that most private health plans cover contraception without copays or deductibles (see “The Case for Insurance Coverage of Contraceptive Services and Supplies Without Cost-sharing,” Winter 2011)—the primary reasons American women give for why they use and value contraception are social and economic. Women know that controlling whether and when to have children has positive benefits for their lives. A pair of recent Guttmacher Institute analyses explore their motivations and the benefits they accrue from acting on them. READ MORE
Sep 25, 2013
Koch Bros. Give Millions to Anti-Choice Efforts in the States
Reposted from: RHRealityCheck, written by Adele M. Stan
To hear the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch tell it, they’re all about business; they don’t give a whit about those messy, so-called “social issues” like abortion, contraception, or same-sex marriage. The billions they dump into the political coffers of the right, they’ll tell you, are to further what they call “free enterprise” (translate: killing unions and regulations on business) and, more generally, “freedom” (by which they generally mean freedom from things they don’t like, such as regulations and unions).
But a blockbuster report published Thursday by Politico reporters Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei shows otherwise. How else to explain why Freedom Partners, a shadowy group that Politico refers to as the “Kochs’ secret bank” gave $8.2 million to the virulently anti-LGBT, anti-abortion Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee (CWALAC), which lobbies for such bills as the recently passed law in Texas that will effectively ban all abortion 20 weeks after fertilization, and includes unnecessary and onerous regulations on abortion clinics that are designed to compel many to close their doors.
Sep 12, 2013
It’s another year! yes! Another year to get good grades, meet new people, become active and definitely have fun!
Truth be told , the life of a child is extremely difficult.
- Balancing social life
- Being a “goody too shoes” so your teachers don’t tell your parents otherwise.
- Maintaining competitive grade averages
- And, ultimately being You throughout it all
This is just really too much..However, being a youngster myself, I know we can manage it all. We’re adaptable, dynamic. and simply awesome!
This is our big year at school ! …Atleast we hope is it (giggles).
…Thus, this is just a short post to encourage you to be spontaneous and thrilling. To be focused and intellectual. to be the cool kid you are!
Dare to express your **human exceptionalism**
Sep 1, 2013
Most people who occupy the social justice corners of the Internet are sure to have heard of the Edmonton police department’s anti-rape campaign. What makes the campaign so great is the focus on the offenders to not rape rather than telling the victims to not get raped with messages like, “It’s not sex when she’s passed out. Sex with someone unable to consent = sexual assault. Don’t be that guy.” SAVEdmonton even includes men as potential rape victims and broadens the crime outside a heteronormative perspective. From their own page on what makes this so different from other anti-rape campaigns:
Typically, sexual assault awareness campaigns target potential victims by urging women to restrict their behavior. Research is telling us that targeting the behavior of victims is not only ineffective, but also contributes to and increases self-blame in survivors. Instead, the SAVE campaigns targets potential offenders – ultimately the ones who hold the power and responsibility to end sexual assault. By addressing sexual assault without victim-blaming, we intend to mark Edmonton on the map as a model for other cities. (reposted from SAVEdmonton.com)
Edmonton’s posters with messages of ending victim blaming and targeting perpetrators was successful in its intention to decrease the rate of sexual assaults. But it seems like not everyone is supportive of the campaign and its success. An unauthorized campaign took SAVEdmonton’s original posters and made parody versions.
(image reposted from The Edmonton Journal)
What makes these parody posters so problematic is the perpetuation of the myth of false reporting or allegations, which our current culture is already strongly promoting. These parody posters not only silences actual and potential victims, but blames them for the assaults against them which completely contradicts the original campaign’s message.
Here are the actual posters from SAVEdmonton:
With the current messages that’s fed to our youth on a daily basis, it’s really important to think of the messages SAVEdmonton has to share with the world. It doesn’t promote a rape culture and actively seeks to create a change by preventing sexual assault. SAVEdmonton is truly a model anti-rape campaign.
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 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 24, 2013
First- Ever Legal Abortion,
And It Saved A Dying Woman’s
(Re-posted from ThinkProgress)
The first legal abortion in an Irish hospital has been carried out in Dublin, the Irish Times confirmed on Friday. It represents the first pregnancy termination under Ireland’s historic new abortion law, which slightly relaxed the country’s total ban to allow for legal abortions in cases when it’s necessary to preserve a woman’s life.
Before Ireland’s prime minister approved the new law in July, the country’s abortion laws had not been updated since 1867. Now, there are 25 Irish hospitals that are authorized to perform legal abortions in life-threatening cases without worrying about legal repercussions.
The National Maternity Hospital in Dublin carried out the pregnancy termination for a dying woman whose membrane had ruptured for more than 24 hours. She ran a high risk of sepsis, and her 18-week twin fetuses had no chance of survival outside of the womb. Doctors said her case bore many similarities to that of Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old woman who died after being denied an emergency abortion in an Irish Catholic hospital last year. Halappanavar developed sepsis after she began to miscarry, but doctors wouldn’t terminate her doomed pregnancy until the fetal heartbeat had officially stopped three days later — and by that time, it was too late.
The Irish Times reports that in contrast to Halappanavar, the woman who received a legal abortion this month “has made a good recovery after receiving antibiotic treatment and undergoing the termination a number of weeks ago.”
Ireland’s new abortion law was spurred by Halappanavar’s tragic death, which sparked a global controversy. Reproductive rights activists vowed that an individual would “never again” be denied the life-saving medical care that could avert this type of tragedy. But even though Ireland has slightly relaxed its stringent abortion law to successfully avert another Savita, a handful of other conservative Catholic countries still impose total bans on the procedure. Following Halpannavar’s death, similar controversies have unfolded in El Salvador and Chile.
The Guttmacher Institute’s research has found that harsh bans on abortion don’t actually lower abortion rates. Instead, they simply encourage women to risk their lives to end a pregnancy illegally. An estimated 47,000 women around the world die each year from unsafe abortions — and that figure doesn’t include women like Halpannavar who die from pregnancy-related complications that an abortion could have averted.
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
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 14, 2013
North Carolina House Republicans have, without notice, inserted sweeping changes to the state’s abortion rules into a motorcycle safety law. Effectively, they’ve reintroduced the abortion bill that Governor Pat McCrory had threatened to veto.
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
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 my fellow females of colour. I was thinking that its about time that I write a post to give you all a shout out.
Have you realized that there is a natural hair revolution going on. I have never seen so much afro’s, knot outs and flat twist outs since the 199o’s. Yes my female frenz ^_^ afro’s are now back in style.
Personally, I am ecstatic! I have and will always be #teamnatural. I think its exciting that coloured females are embracing and loving they way they were created and are thinking they are beautiful regardless of their skin tone or curl pattern.
But I have also been noticing a back lash from some of the males out there. They are saying they miss their girl friends with straight hair. (I don’t see why my hair should be your issue.. take it or leave it I say) . Here is a video I saw on fb about the issue. Yes its hilarious.. but .. also kind of mean :/
But my fellow kinky hair females.. regardless of whatever any one says.. your hair shows your heritage. Embrace it! Love it!! Flaunt the kinks in your hair
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 22, 2013
All too often our stories are told for us. Last week, I had the honor of presenting to members of congress, their staff and other people in the reproductive health and rights field during a congressional briefing with Black Women’s Health Imperative. I took this opportunity to use my voice as an African American young person to tell anyone listening that we Millennials are not only invested in creating change but we are committed to making sure our generation can lead healthy lives. Read what I had to say!
As a member of Advocates for Youth’s Young Women of Color Leadership Council, I have been organizing and advocating around the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people for the last 5 years. I am dedicated to this work not only because I believe that young people like me deserve the right to lead healthy, self-determined lives, but also because I know first-hand what it is like to navigate this world without access to accurate and honest education and services.
At 23 I can say that I never received any type of formal sexual education from any educational institution I attended. The first time I was tested for HIV happened completely by accident. One day during my junior year in high school I wandered into a mobile testing unit in hopes of receiving a free metrocard. That would be the first day I would find out about HIV and other STIs. The woman conducting my test asked me if I was nervous and I proceeded to tell her no and then asked her would I have a reason to be. She began to explain sexually transmitted infections and diseases to me. Thus giving my first “sex education class” in the back of a mobile testing unit. Although my results that day revealed that I was not HIV positive, I remember feeling like someone had robbed me. I felt cheated. Lied to. I could not fathom at that time how learning about preventing diseases that could potentially make you sick and claim your life were not as important as math and science. The even more depressing part is that even when I went to college many of my peers were still uneducated about their sexual health, and how prevent HIV, STIs and unplanned pregnancies. I began wondering whether we all needed to wander aimlessly into a mobile testing truck to learn about saving our lives.
As leader of a campus organization that provided sexual health information specifically geared toward Black and Latino students at Syracuse, it became more and more clear to me that I was not the only person who had been robbed. Some of our campus events attracted over 200 young people interested in learning about what they could do to lead sexually healthy lives. Many of these young people expressed that they felt that this is something that should be taught in school, by the administration. They were not alone.
Not only do African American Millennials believe that comprehensive sexuality education should be available to young people in high school, overwhelming majority, over 90% believe that it should include information about preventing HIV/AIDS and other STDS, unplanned pregnancy prevention, and abstinence. Over 80% also believe that comprehensive sex education programs in high school should cover information about pregnancy options including abortion.
Many of the young people I worked with in college constantly spoke about the barriers, many financial, to accessing contraception and abortion services. Research shows that over 90% of African American Millennials believe that contraception needs to be available and affordable to help young people stay healthy. 75% of African American Millennials believe that regardless of how they feel personally, abortion should remain legal and that women should be able to get safe abortions.
There is still much to be done to ensure that young people like myself have access to medically accurate and culturally competent information regarding their sexual health, and we young people across the country are working diligently and organizing to make it happen.. While the media and other people are committed to portraying my generation as apathetic and removed from this type of work, I can insure you that those statements are indeed false. In fact, according to research conducted by the Reproductive Justice Communications Group and Advocates for Youth, over 7 in 10 of African American millennials say they are interested in improving young people’s access to sexual health services such as contraception and testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. 7 in 10 expressed interest in getting personally involved in promoting honest and accurate sex education programs in their communities. Another 6 in 10 are personally interested in making sure that safe abortion is available and accessible in their community. We African American Millennials are interested and committed to helping our friends, our families and our communities access services and information to live healthy, autonomous lives.
Here’s video of my remarks at the briefing!
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 18, 2013
Well Heaven forbid that an old black man should mourn the death of a black child. This woman got so angry about it, she climbed onto the stage and attacked him.
As one commenter aptly put it, “Let me guess, you guys are going to justify it by saying, “She was standing her ground! He looked suspicious and threatening?””.
Two Ugandan transgender activists, Cleo Quentaro and Kim Mukasatalk to the Mail & Guardian about the struggle and challenges of daily life of transgender individuals living in Uganda.
Quentaro speaks about the politics of identity shaming where, as a transwoman, “dressing up” (being trans is not simply an act of ‘dressing up’, I am using her words to illustrate her point) as a woman is seen in our patriarchal society as an act of degradation of the male self and ego.
‘For a man to dress up as a woman, with the patriarchy that’s associated with our culture back home, it’s like degrading yourself to a woman…’ - Cleo Quentaro
Colour me not-surprised. This is the world we live in.
A list of many other unarmed black men who were killed by a cop or vigilante and received no justice. Each name is followed by a summary of the case.
I honestly don’t know what to make of this. It’s shocking and infuriating to see the utter lack of remorse. You killed a child and you don’t even wish it had never happened? A homeless man robs a bank, only takes $100, returns the rest and is sentenced to 15 years in prison and yet Zimmerman got of with nothing?
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 10, 2013
Parents who had sent their kids to the Blue Ridge Outdoor Education Center were surprised to hear stories about an Underground Railroad reenactment which the parents were never informed about.
There are a few things a lot of people don’t know about the movie adaptations of superheroes and fictional characters…such as the fact that Khan from Star Trek, as much as JJ Abrams would like you to believe, is not white. Also, there is a black Green Lantern *GASP* “You lie!”. The linked post addresses some instances of whitewashing. Don’ worry. It’s not your fault that you don’t know these things…just like you don’t know Blade is from the Marvel Comics Universe. No one makes movie for nerds. It’s all about the box-office dollars.
Until I saw this post, I really never thought about it. Tokenism is very rampant even in futuristic movies. It begs the question, “What exactly was done to get rid of all the non-white people? Was there another mass genocide? Tumblr arguments are the best. Especially when the people who have NO BUSINESS ARGUING IN THE FIRST PLACE, get shut down.
I watched the trailer/preview and now I look at her in a different way. I’ve always understood that part of her allure was her indignation and fearlessness, but I never understood what fueled that.
I wish I were joking about this.
Jul 8, 2013
When I mention the term taboo I DO mean the game in which you guess the word someone on your team is explaining. I mean taboo as in is a vehement prohibition of an action based on the belief that such behavior is either too sacred or too accursed for ordinary individuals to undertake, under threat of supernatural punishment as explained by Wikipedia(you know you refer to that site). Parents today are just not taking the initiative to teach their kids or even answer questions.Everything starts at home. The schools does not enforce sexual education like they should hence why advocates does the work they do. I hearing all kinds of things that are just plain crazy and I have to correct the young people and send to different resource. If different organizations are providing the resources then parents should back the kids it’s only right. I want education for all dispite the topic. If only I can educate the world.Sex shouldn’t be taboo instead it’s should be talked about. I am positive parents don’t want students learning from the wrong person.
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
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
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 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.”
Jun 15, 2013
“Together we can end HIV stigma, but we need to be able to TALK ABOUT IT. Share this graphic to continue the conversation and encourage your network of friends to speak up!”