I sit here taking deep breaths, swallowing, my chest tight, trying to write how I feel about what I’m about to tell you, but I find I don’t have words that truly convey the horror. That and the sense of standing on the precipice of change that will either truly liberate us as a species or destroy us altogether. I will say this: I’m ready to fight–to really, truly fight–and I’m wide open to ideas.
This week* RH Reality Check released the results of a study that confirmed a terrifying trend many of us have feared for some time: that women are being arrested and imprisoned for “crimes” such as having a miscarriage, delivering a stillborn child, planning to have an abortion, or declining a test recommended by their doctor.
Yes, you heard right. From RH Reality Check:
A woman in Oregon who did not comply with a doctor’s recommendation to have additional testing for gestational diabetes was subjected to involuntary civil commitment. During her detention, the additional testing was never performed.
And that’s not the worst thing. Not by far.
After a hearing that lasted less than a day, a court issued an order requiring a critically-ill pregnant woman in Washington, D.C. to undergo cesarean surgery over her objections. Neither she nor her baby survived.
People, it’s time to get serious. We’ve long known that in some people’s eyes, women are for sexing men and making babies, and now–in 20motherfucking13–it’s down to no birth control, no abortions, and you’d damned well better deliver a living child. I don’t know about you, but I feel as though I’m living in a work of dark future fiction. The world this trend implies is not the world I want for any woman on the planet, much less my daughter, my future granddaughters, or anyone I love.
What will we do to fight it? How far will we go? I know I’ll write my ass off, but that’s not enough anymore, is it? Because ANY level of complacency in the face of this information would be, for me personally, complicity.
And I will not comply.
*It turns out this report was published in January. I was apparently so upset I didn’t notice. Not sure it took until yesterday for the story to reach me, but I certainly was not aware of this, and from the reaction here and elsewhere, I get the impression others weren’t, either.
Here’s a link to the abstract of the study’s findings as published by Duke University Press Journal of Health Politics, Policy, and Law. The right-hand sidebar has a link to the full article.
Aaaand, it turns out the UN Human Rights Council just released their 2013 “Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” According to Social Justice Solutions, the main takeaway with regard to reproductive health is “the concept that limiting or entirely denying access to abortions or other reproductive rights is a form of torture.”
Meet Kristi Noem. Yesterday she distinguished herself as the only woman in Congress to vote against both the House and Senate versions of the Violence Against Women Act. While you ponder that, here’s a bit about her from Wikipedia:
Kristi Noem (born November 30, 1971) is the U.S. Representative for South Dakota’s at-large congressional district, serving since January 2011. She is a member of the Republican Party and has been elected to the Republican Leadership for the 112th Congress as one of its two freshman representatives. She previously represented the 6th District in the South Dakota House of Representatives for four years, serving as an Assistant Majority Leader during her final year. She is a farmer, rancher and small business owner by profession.
Many on her Facebook page (male and female–even some Republicans) are asking for an explanation, but I found no official statement on her page. Apparently this is not a cut and dried issue for her, as she has waffled on it before. According to a statement to press after the vote, she believes the VAWA will “muddy the waters with constitutionally questionable provisions that will likely only delay justice.”
Also, according to the Argus Leader, Noem has plans to…compensate? for voting against women by introducing new legislation in future:
Noem said she soon will introduce a bill to help victims of domestic abuse in Indian tribes. The measure will include a series of provisions, including improving coordination between U.S. and tribal law enforcement.
Yeah, sorry, but…no.
To see Ms. Noem among these white Republican men in this context is so bizarre to me. As one Facebook commenter said, “How could anyone with a uterus vote against VAWA?” But even more bizarre was seeing this from one female commenter:
And this, also from a woman:
I’m never surprised to see men bashing VAWA. To be clear, I’m never surprised to see men defending VAWA, either–it’s just that most VAWA opposition I’ve encountered comes directly from Men’s Rights Activists who claim that the Violence Against Women Act is a conspiracy by feminists to strip them of their parental rights and destroy the institution of the traditional American family. The rest has come from white, male politicians who honestly seem worried that they or one of their friends might find themselves subject to reservation justice, which when you think about it is pretty gross. But why else oppose protections for Native American women raped by men who are not members of the reservation they chose to perpetrate their crime (often repeatedly)?
But when I see women caught up in opposing their own rights and protections, I just feel sick. Who are these women, and how did someone convince them that VAWA was bad for them (or for anyone)? And more importantly, how do we counter this tendency?
A male commenter on MMAS recently said that women need to stand together and watch one another’s backs the way men do. I think he’s right in that women have been trained to see one another as competition for males and while some of us have risen above that and are embracing sisterhood, too many still don’t want to be seen as One of “Those” Girls. Men are competitive, too, but it’s just not the same, I think. When women buy into the cultural stereotypes that tell us that our sex is bitchy, naggy, and oh-so-crazy, but tolerable as long as we look cute and don’t make waves…well, what chance to we have? When women buy into conservative/MRA lies that tell them VAWA is a feminist plot or a way to complicate legal proceedings or persecute white men…how the hell do we counter that?
With the truth. Here’s some from the White House VAWA Fact Sheet:
VAWA has improved the criminal justice response to violence against women by:
- holding rapists accountable for their crimes by strengthening federal penalties for repeat sex offenders and creating a federal “rape shield law,” which is intended to prevent offenders from using victims’ past sexual conduct against them during a rape trial;
- mandating that victims, no matter their income levels, are not forced to bear the expense of their own rape exams or for service of a protection order;
- keeping victims safe by requiring that a victim’s protection order will be recognized and enforced in all state, tribal, and territorial jurisdictions within the United States;
- increasing rates of prosecution, conviction, and sentencing of offenders by helping communities develop dedicated law enforcement and prosecution units and domestic violence dockets;
- ensuring that police respond to crisis calls and judges understand the realities of domestic and sexual violence by training law enforcement officers, prosecutors, victim advocates and judges; VAWA funds train over 500,000 law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, and other personnel every year;
- providing additional tools for protecting women in Indian country by creating a new federal habitual offender crime and authorizing warrantless arrest authority for federal law enforcement officers who determine there is probable cause when responding to domestic violence cases.
VAWA also provides services for victims of domestic violence and their families. The National Domestic Violence Hotline answers 22,000 calls a month, and is the first call most victims make when they decide to seek help. And since VAWA passed in 1994, domestic violence is down nearly 70%. Programs VAWA created have resulted in greater awareness of what constitutes abuse, resulting in higher reporting rates, so more abuse victims are getting out and getting the help they need. Because of VAWA, more women understand that abuse is not “normal” and is never okay. And I’m sorry to report that making abuse a black-and-white issue is one of the things opponents of VAWA really dislike. Because some men believe they have the right to visit all manner of punishment on women so long as they don’t actually lay a hand on them, and they’d really rather we didn’t label their behavior as abusive. Well, sorry, dickheads. You lose.
As for women working against their own interests, all I can say is fight it wherever you find it, people. Women like Rep. Noem may be a lost cause (although I encourage you to let her know what you think), but too many are just asleep. And it’s time for a wake-up call.
I was so tense yesterday that I was unable to see into the future. Not in a psychic way (which would be really cool but also not), but in the way that we do all the time where we imagine what things will be like if this happens or that does. The future was like this dark spot in my vision because I couldn’t imagine what might happen to my country if things turned out the way I feared was all too possible, and I couldn’t quite dare to hope that everything would be ok.
But I did hope, because that was all I could do, and as day faded into evening I settled into a sort of faith that our president would carry the day. I felt almost cocky at times, but then I’d remember Toby Ziegler’s timeless warnings against tempting fate, and I’d take a deep breath and grit my teeth some more. At no time did I imagine what life would be like on the other side of the divide. The future was still a dark spot on the horizon.
When the final results broke, I didn’t dare to believe at first, and I went off verifying it everywhere I could as tears sprang up in my eyes. When the last domino fell, I collapsed into a heap of sobs, traumatized, my relief expressing itself in tears and snot all over my boyfriend’s shirt. And when the sobs subsided, the sighs took over. I must have sighed a hundred times as I let myself relax for the first time maybe all year.
That was way too close, people. In an alternate universe, Alternate Rosie woke up to President Romney this morning, and some poor Weimaraner found out he was getting strapped to the roof of a limousine for a trip to the White House. In that universe, Alternate Rosie is writing a blog post about how to combat the upcoming troop-surge in the War on Women. In this one, we showed Mourdock and Akin and Ryan and Romney the door, and with any luck we’ll see a return to some semblance of sanity among the GOP. In this universe, we won the most important election of my lifetime. And the relief I feel today is only exceeded by my optimism for the future.
We’ve still got plenty to do in this universe before people like me can stop ranting on the Internet about gender equality and rape culture and the patriarchy. But in this universe, the President of the US is a feminist. I pity Alternate Rosie, but I’m glad it’s her and not me.
Back to work.
This will be a rant. You have been warned.
When I saw this flag, I had one of those YES moments. It sums up so much using so little real estate, and yet, it reminds us that it represents the tip of the iceberg because it stands for a nation that still accepts sexism as normal. That is not to say we like it, or that we support extremist efforts to roll back women’s rights. But in a society that treats women as less in so many subtle ways, it’s difficult to avoid becoming a participant in the abuse.
Some well-meaning folks who believe they are feminist allies unfortunately aren’t self-aware enough to learn from criticism that tells them their behavior is part of the problem, so they perpetuate that behavior amongst their well-meaning, feminist-ally circles and make things worse. (Poster-child for Progressive Sexism: Bill Maher.) And even the best of us (and I’m far from that) find–when we’re honest–that we contribute now and then. In a climate like that, how much easier must it be for the true misogynists, the powerful men who fear powerful women, to propagate their ideologies?
It’s just a few wingnuts, some people say. Well, I call bullshit. When you’ve got Pat Robertson on national tv telling husbands to move to Saudi Arabia so they can beat their wives, when judges set rapists free and blame victims or claim that silence=consent, when advertising LITERALLY reduces women to their parts, when women can’t walk the streets and feel safe, when girls and women experience multiple assaults throughout their lifetimes and it’s not even uncommon…well, I just don’t see how anyone can deny that there is a deeper problem than a few extreme right-wing politicians and religious fanatics (not to be redundant).
What are we going to do about it? Here’s one suggestion:
And as long as we’re solving the country’s (and the world’s!) problems using only viral Internet images, here’s another:
As I wrote last night, I participated in Occupy Seattle, and I continue to occupy in my own ways (this blog among them). I met a lot of different kinds of people, and some of them had extreme ideas that I understood but wasn’t really ready to buy into. Among these were the Anarchists. Now, to start with, I want to clarify that when I say “the Anarchists” I am not lumping anyone together with anyone else, I’m just saying that I met people who self-identified as Anarchists. And I want to make sure you understand that the people who dressed in black and broke windows were almost certainly different “Anarchists” from the ones I’m going to talk about (if the vandals self-identified as Anarchists at all). Like Feminism or any other group, Anarchism doesn’t operate as a unit. There are many shades and definitions. And all that said, I’d have to say that I’m not an Anarchist. Yet.
But that doesn’t matter at all, because people are being imprisoned for the crime of not speaking. In Leah-Lynn Plante’s case, the official charge is “civil contempt,” meaning she didn’t cooperate with the Grand Jury convened to get to the bottom of all her Anarchist literature, artwork, clothing, and beliefs.
Natasha Lennard writes in Salon:
“Writing for Truth-Out in August about the Northwest grand juries and those resisting cooperation, I noted that grand juries “are among the blackest boxes in the federal judiciary system.” The closed-door procedures are rare instances in which an individual loses the right to remain silent. As was the case with the Northwest grand juries resistors, the grand jury can grant a subpoenaed individual personal immunity; Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination are therefore protected, but silence is not. In these instances, refusal to speak can be considered civil contempt. Non-cooperators can be jailed for the 18-month length of the grand jury.”
Watch Leah’s video explaining her position and her readiness to go to prison:
You might not agree with her ideals or her lifestyle, but Leah-Lynn Plante’s only crime is refusal to cooperate with an investigation into those ideals by government she doesn’t recognize as operating in the her best interests or those of her fellow citizens–i.e., Leah is currently imprisoned for remaining silent and will very likely remain incarcerated for the next 18 months. Commenters on various websites miss the point when they ask, “Why not cooperate if you have nothing to hide?” Perhaps it will crystallize when a Grand Jury convenes to investigate their DVD collection.
I’m not an Anarchist, but I believe a person should be charged with a crime before an army of police invades their house and takes their stuff. I believe that a person should be found guilty of a crime before the government imprisons them. And I believe that Leah-Lynne Plante has the right to remain silent.
I’ll leave you with this famous quote from Martin Niemöller (1892–1984):
First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.
Is it any wonder that we have right-wing politicians in every state trying to roll back women’s rights when a prominent “Christian” waxes nostalgic on national television about the days when a man could beat his wife and jokes that the husband of a wife who won’t behave should become a Muslim so he can beat her? (Hint: rhetorical question.)
Before I go any further, I’m not okay with abuse no matter who perpetrates it. If this woman is verbally and/or physically abusing her husband, then yes, he ought to do something. I don’t know the whole story, but as Michael says, his wife doesn’t respect him as head of the house, and it has crossed my mind that his problems start there and go downhill.
“Please tell me what I can do,” Michael begs of his spiritual leader. Who very thoughtfully answers,
“Well, you could become a Muslim and you could beat her.”
His (female) co-hose titters in the background as Robertson continues, musing that “I don’t think we condone wife-beating these days but something has got to be done.” His co-host asks why the woman wouldn’t want to talk with her husband about their problems, and Robertson explains.
“She’s a rebellious child and she doesn’t want to submit to any authority. And she probably had temper-tantrums when she was a kid, and…you know, the little girl, ‘I hate you, I hate you…’ …she doesn’t understand authority, when she was growing up nobody made her behave, and now you’ve got a 13-year-old in a 30-year-old woman’s body, and she is acting like a child. Now what do you do with that? You can’t divorce her, according to scripture, so I say…” and here Robertson looks straight at the camera…
“Move to Saudi Arabia.”
Watch the whole ugly mess here:
Truth: Sandra Fluke and I and a lot of other women want birth control to be covered by health insurance (the same way Viagra is).
Why is this so hard to understand?
I’m in a long-term relationship (i.e., living in sin), but for the sake of argument, let’s say I’m married. And let’s pretend I still have a uterus. And let’s imagine that my husband has an erectile dysfunction issue, or just likes the way Viagra keeps him standing tall, I don’t know, but his doctor prescribes it and insurance covers it. And let’s say I don’t want to get pregnant right now because I’m in my late 40s and it’s just not a good idea at my age. It might actually be bad for me or the baby. But I want to have sex. I want to have a loving sexual relationship with my husband without getting pregnant. And he’s got this raging Viagra boner, after all.
So, here’s my question:
Why should my husband’s desire for an erection trump my desire to PROTECT MY BODY from an unwanted pregnancy when it comes to health insurance coverage?
It’s just not that complicated, people. It’s about health. It’s about the individual responsibility conservatives claim to value so highly. It’s about our bodies and our right to choose when and whether to carry a child within them.
Tell your friends.
A number of critics here and elsewhere have argued that my logic is flawed for a number of reasons. That may well be true, but not for the reasons they state, I don’t think. I’m going to address those now.
Argument: Viagra is used to treat medical conditions unrelated to sex.
Have you watched Ms. Fluke’s testimony? Two-thirds of it is about women with serious reproductive health issues who rely on birth control medication to treat them and the consequences when they don’t get their medication because the insurance they pay for (unsubsidized by their college) won’t cover it.
Argument: Viagra is not covered by most health insurance programs.
I don’t have numbers for the country at large, but I did find this story which speaks directly to the issue of Viagra vs. birth control and the Catholic church, which as commenter Craig pointed out below was behind the original thrust of Ms. Fluke’s campaign. (Pun intended.)
Argument: Viagra is way more expensive than birth control.
Maybe that’s so, but as commenter Mike pointed out, “birth control is far less expensive to the medical system than pregnancy and childbirth.” Not really a black-and-white thing.
Argument: The choice to have sex without becoming pregnant is not a health issue.
Ok, here’s where we’re going to have words. Let’s talk a bit about pregnancy and childbirth, shall we? I’ll just give you a quick rundown based on experience and let the readers chime in on anything I might have missed.
1. Oh, hey, I’m pregnant! I wake up every morning and vomit my guts out while diarrhea sprays out the other end with every heave. I can’t eat until after 4pm or more vomiting and stuff!
2. Check it out: my ankles are swelling, and if I’m not careful, I could develop preeclampsia and toxemia or a blood clot and die!
3. Lucky me! Pregnancy carries the risk that I might develop gestational diabetes which will increase my risk of developing regular diabetes later in life! And there are lots of other things that can go wrong in my body as well. (Good thing I’m not over 35*, or there would be even more things to worry about, and a higher risk of them happening!)
4. Oh, great, there’s this thing called toxoplasmosis I can get from my cat. It can kill me. Whoopee!
And that’s not even going into just how uncomfortable–and even painful–pregnancy can be. For nine months of your life. But I survived it! Now it’s time to deliver.
1. OHMYFUCKINGGOD THE PAIN.
2. There are so many things that could go wrong, and I could die, but I’m in good hands and I’m not thinking about that because THE PAIN THE FUCKING PAIN OH GOD.
3. My water won’t break on its own. The doc has to reach his hand up inside my vagina and prick the membrane, at which time the water WHOOSHES out and the pain…oh, I only thought it hurt before. I’m so fucking scared. I want to go home. As they wheel me down the hall from labor to delivery, I piss myself.
4. My vagina isn’t quite big enough for the baby to pass without the delicate skin between my vagina and anus ripping as it is doing now, so the doctor uses a scalpel to slice that skin open and increase the size of my vaginal opening. There is blood. Lots and lots of blood. And then, my daughter is born.
What part of this does not sound like a health issue to you? What part of this does not sound like something a person should be able to CHOOSE?
That’s all I’ve got for now. Love ya.
*I’m over 35 now, but I wasn’t when I was pregnant. ;)
Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.
In our inaugural “Dear Rosie” article, we’re taking on the oh-so-controversial topic of gun control in the U.S. People keep saying that talking about gun control right now amounts to “politicizing” the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado. I call BS. When something bad happens people talk about how they feel about it and the circumstances surrounding it, and about solving the societal problems that caused it, and the only time you’re going to hear that accusation is when the accused has said something the accuser doesn’t agree with politically. Guess what? Some things are political issues, and they’re also life issues, and we’re going to talk about them, and we’re not going to agree all the time. So, without further ado, here’s your first Dear Rosie:
Why are you “gun control” nuts trying to take away my guns? Don’t you know that the 2nd amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees my right to bear arms? If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns! Guns don’t kill people–people kill people! What if we need to rise up against the government? If I had been at [insert horrific gun-related tragedy here] I would have used my gun to stop it! Also, I like to hunt. You probably want to take that away too, don’t you? Why do you hate FREEDOM??
Fictional Paranoid Gun-Owner
It might surprise you to learn that, dirty tree-hugging hippy though I am, I don’t necessarily think guns should be illegal. I mean, first of all, we do have that 2nd amendment thing to contend with, and no matter now long we argue, we’re not going to agree on whether the founders wanted us to have AK-47s. Once when I was working on a mystery novel, I went to a gun range and fired a Walther PP just so I’d know what it felt like. It was fun! And when I was a kid, I went out in a field and fired a big gun that used this ammo and nearly knocked me on my ass. That was less fun. But I understand that shooting is a sport, and it’s part of the culture in some parts of the country, and that some people like to hunt for sport and even in order to feed their families. And guns are a huge part of U.S. history. I don’t believe it’s realistic to expect that guns will be outlawed in this country. I think this poster makes a pretty good case (excerpt below; full post at Reddit):
“You seem like a fair minded person. You don’t like guns. I don’t like alcohol. If you can tell me one argument for banning guns that does not apply equally to banning alcohol, I’ll throw all my guns in the river tonight. Otherwise, we’ll just have to both agree that it’s a matter of personal choice and let each other be.”
“Guns kill people.” Response: Alcohol kills more people.
“Yeah, but guns are used in crime.” Response: So is alcohol. Aside from the obvious drunk driving and addiction related crimes, what % of people who commit crime do you think drunk? Ask a cop how many domestic violence situations involve alcohol.
“But guns are used in terrible murders. Alcohol only causes accidents or health-related deaths.” Response: This is an even stronger argument for banning alcohol. If you banned guns, at least some of those murders would still get committed. If you banned alcohol, NONE of the alcohol related accidental deaths would happen. (i.e. the definition of an accident is that its unintended, unlike murder).
“They tried to ban booze and it didn’t work.” Response: Try to ban guns in the USA. You see what happens. No country with hundreds of millions of firearms in circulation and porous borders has ever successfully banned guns (or anything for that matter: see war on drugs.)
“But drinking is fun and a social activity.” Response: Let’s go shooting on Saturday. Empty a few mags from an AK-47 and then tell me it’s not fun.
You can dice words and split hairs all day long, but as far as I can tell, most of what he says is dead on. Personally, I don’t get why people need to own assault weapons, but if you buy that we might need to form a militia and kick-ass on the government, I guess we’ve got to be able to compete. Fine. Here’s my thing: I say “gun control,” Fictional Paranoid Gun-Owner, and you hear “gun pried from my cold-dead fingers after I tried to shoot you for trying to take my gun but apparently you got off the first shot so I’m dead.” And I know a lot of very rich folks want to make sure people buy guns, and so they help make certain people feel like they’re going to need guns (and that their right to have them is under imminent threat). They watched their profits rise in response to 9/11 and they made damned sure in 2008 the message got out that gun rights would be history if Barack Obama became president. And in 2011 when Jared Lee Loughner shot Gabrielle Giffords, the cries filled the air: Hurry! Get your guns before the lefties change the laws! And now it’s election time again, and another mentally ill person with a stockpile of weapons has ripped a community apart, and guess what? Investors are already salivating.
So, what do I mean when I say “gun control”? I mean that guys like Loughner and Holmes who are clearly not competent to use guns responsibly should not be able to do this without raising a flag and inviting some scrutiny:
Suspected Aurora Shooter Amassed Huge Arsenal Online With No Background Checks
From Huffington Post:
“Authorities say all of Holmes’ purchases were legal — and there is no official system to track whether people are stockpiling vast amounts of firepower.”
We make laws to regulate other dangerous items and substances. Like alcohol. And cars! Which, while they’re not designed to kill people, do it all the time in the hands of irresponsible and unlucky people. So we make laws and we put the irresponsible ones in jail and we make ads about how people shouldn’t drive drunk, but heaven forbid we should say that maybe, possibly, a person ought to have a full background check to purchase a gun and that there ought to be systems in place that throw up red flags when any one person seems to be “amassing an arsenal” (because that’s not worrisome for any reason at all). I mean, shouldn’t the FBI spend some time, you know, observing that person to see whether they might be planning to murder a bunch of people with all those guns? You can’t even stock up on Sudafed anymore without a SWAT team showing up at your house, but guns are apparently not as dangerous as cold medicine. Come on, FPGO, I’m not saying that everyone who owns more than one gun is going to become a mass murderer, but at the point where you have to use the words “arsenal” or “stockpile” maybe we should just have a look, huh? Evaluate their mental state, perhaps? Just a thought. Oh, and while you’re fantasizing about what you would have done if you’d been in that audience carrying your legally concealed weapon, you might want to have a gander at this very intelligent article by a guy who knows more than most people about combat situations.
FPGO, if you take nothing else away from my response to your fictional letter, take this: “Gun control” doesn’t mean we want to take away your guns. Sure, some people are dead-set against them, but as I said, they’re fighting what is very likely a losing battle. Some of us, on the other hand, just want to know that there are laws and checks and balances to protect the public, and that includes better gun laws as well as taking a serious look the availability (or lack thereof) of mental health services. We should all be in favor of making the world a safer place.
I’ll leave you with this quote, which sums it up poignantly for me:
“Maybe I’m a dreamer, but I wish mental health care were as easy to get as, say, a gun.”
Me too, Andy. Me too.