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Friday, August 29, 2008

sarah palin: a woman candidate--not the same as a woman's candidate

The news is out. McCain picked Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin as his VP candidate today. A shrewd move, considering how suburban moms were, in large part, the swing votes who pushed W. into office during his reign. Obama represents change? Great, let's get a woman. Historic first-time run for an African-American presidential candidate? We'll see your diversity and raise you an XX (nevermind Geraldine Ferraro). Disgruntled Hilary Clinton backers up for grabs? Dazzle 'em with some vajayjay.

Karl Rove, the evil mastermind schemer behind all of the "seemed like a good idea at the time" Republican plots, summed it up on Foxs News this morning like this:

"It would be a clear sign from the McCain campaign that they were going to be making a very strong bid for the women whom they see up for grabs -- both the traditional, swing independent suburbanites and then the Hillary Clinton supporters who remain disillusioned."

Yea. For a moment I was dazzled by the vajayjay. It was sparkly, it was pretty...it looked like mine. Surely it has my best interests at heart. Vajayjays are on the same team, right?

Except Karl Rove, John McCain and his camp of advisors--and perhaps Gov. Palin as well--made the same crucial mistake they've made when it comes to truly representing women all along. Take note:

It might look like vajayjay. It might smell like vajayjay. But that doesn't mean it is vajayjay.

Sarah Palin is anti-choice. Sarah Palin 'believes' in creationism. Alaska is currently considering re-upping for Title V funds for abstinence-only sex 'education.' And Palin supports federal anti-gay marriage legislation.

So what this says to me is that McCain & Co. just think that I, and others like me, am not that smart. That folks that believed in Hilary believed in her just because she's a woman, not because she has staunchly support issues that support women's equality, access and health. That a vote for Obama now, who supports a host of progressive woman-friendly issues, would be less feminist than a vote for Gov. Palin. That unless someone looks like me, they can't speak to my issues. That all I am to them is a vajayjay. Well, one with a hell of a lot of voting power. Saw this video after my blog post, and couldn't help but add it in:

I'm not buying it. And neither should you.

Obama is my woman. And my man. Voting for him is, by far, the best thing that I could do for women--um, and everyone else.

Governor Palin? Just another dude with a gun.

[note: I do not mean to demean or besmirch or essentialize women or their genitalia in any way by my use of the word vajayjay. My three year old son knows anatomy, and will announce in the grocery store that Mama has a clitoris. I do. It's my genitalia referent of preference. But come on, the word vajayjay is funny. Read about its recent history in the NYTimes article by Stephanie Rosenbloom. ]

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Biological Clock or Just Society Getting on My Nerves?

I am only 28. Technically, 28 going on 29 since I’ve past the mid-way point of my birthday year – otherwise known as the Bonnie Calendar (similar to the Lunar and Solar calendars, but only slightly more important.) And as a woman in her so called prime, or perhaps even shy of it, mucking up my fun by child has remained nothing more than a far off, inane idea; an activity more suited to thirty something’s, the rich and refrigerated, or my parents luckier friends kids. But recently, for some bizarre reason, babies – even children for that matter – have become increasingly palatable, to the point where I’m actually considering some for myself. Babies feet are suddenly munchable (I’m not kidding on this one: the other day while on the bus, I saw some baby feet dangling from whatever sack their parent was lugging them around in and was this close to being arrested); their cooing is almost sweet to the ear; I even have delusions of looking cute while pregnant. So is this my proverbial “biological clock” kicking in, or is it just that society finally got to me, its barrage of “biological clock” like ideas taking their toll on my subconscious, convincing me that I’m a pre-pregnant Timex? Who really knows? I guess all I can do is wait, see and pray that my mother doesn’t really follow my career and read this blog.


I have a dream...

Yesterday was the day that Barack Obama became the first African-American ever nominated for president by a mainstream political party (with all due respect to the historic efforts of Shirley Chisholm and Rev. Jesse Jackson).

Yesterday was also the day that one of the world's most important gay and lesbian rights activists, Del Martin, died in San Francisco at the age of 87, just a few months after finally being able to marry her partner of 55 years, Phyllis Lyon.

I cried alot yesterday.

And tonight, the night that Barack Obama will accept the Democratic Party's nomination for President, the night that he will become the first large scale African-American Presidential candidate, is the 45th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech.

Del Martin was born in 1921, eight years before Dr. King. Like Dr. King, she grew up in a world where she was not able to exercise the rights that others around her could; like Dr. King, she experienced oppression and discrimination that was not based on the 'quality of her character.' And like Dr. King, she refused to be silenced, she refused to accept that just because this was how things were, this was how things should be. And like Dr. King, she led a movement, and a people, to fight for equality, respect and justice.

Her groundbreaking activism began in 1953, when she and her lover Phyllis moved in together in San Francisco's Castro district. It is not an overstatement to say that Del and Phyllis are in large part responsible for many of the rights that queers today have gained--campaigning on a national level for non-discrimination policies against gays and lesbians, starting the lesbian activist group Daughters of Bilitis in 1955 (!!), and spearheading the movement to get the American Psychiatric Association to stop labeling homosexuality as a mental disorder. And Del and Phyllis were among the first same-sex couples legally married in California this past June. A sweet victory, almost too long in coming.

It is no coincidence that Mr. Obama chose to accept the nomination on this most symbolic of nights. Surely he will reference Dr. King, and he will talk of all that the incredible struggles of civil rights activists has accomplished. Surely he will speak of all the work that has yet to be done. And of course he will point to Dr King as one of the people who has made his very nomination possible.

And I will remember, even if it goes unspoken tonight, the great work that Del Martin has accomplished, the legacy she has left, and all of the work that still needs to be done. And that just because a black man can be President, and just because gays and lesbians can marry, that doesn't mean that the struggle is over, that the fighting is done, that the oppression has ended.

And I will know that, even if Del Martin is not recognized tonight in Denver for her amazing history of activism, like Dr. King, she will be looked back upon as one of the people who fought proudly--even when no one else was fighting, even when no one thought it mattered--and won.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Oh yes, it's Ladies Night...Oh what a night!

So...have you been watching or listening to the Democratic National Convention? I've been catching parts of it, and I'll admit that the theatrics and the well-scripted speeches made my heart swell and my eyes brim with tears. Hope and change are powerful messages after these past eight, very dark years in American history. And as much as I became frustrated with Hillary over the past few months, she won me over with her talk of universal health care and furthering women's rights and gay rights when she spoke on the Tuesday evening as part of "Women's Night" at the DNC...or what I prefer to think of as Ladies Night for those disco ladies and sophisticated mamas out there!

Leaving disco for the dance floor where it belongs (or blasting from my stereo while I'm cleaning house - I swear it makes it more fun), I think it is important for the DNC to recognize the women leaders in the party and to reflect on how far we've come and how much more work needs to be done since the first Women's Rights Convention held in Seneca Falls, NY, 160 years ago. What really struck me about"Women's Night" during an election year when a woman's right to reproductive choice and freedom is once again under attack (see posting July 23, 2008) was one particular speaker, Senator Bob Casey, Jr., of Pennsylvania.

You see, Senator Casey used this opportunity to illustrate how his presence at the convention was a testament to Barak Obama's compassion and understanding for those with differing views on some of the issues. I think we can all agree that we need a leader who has the ability to bring different sides together rather than using polarizing issues to rip the country apart for the sake of getting votes, that he is "a uniter not a divider" to borrow from our most articulate leader of all times. The problem is that Senator Casey speaking on "Women's Night" used his opposition to abortion rights to illustrate this point. I don't know about you, but I find his position just slightly anti-woman. Hmmm, maybe it's just me...

" Oh yes it's ladies night
And the feeling's right
Oh yes it's ladies night
Oh what a night (oh what a night)

Girls, y'all got one
A night that's special everywhere
From New York to Hollywood
It's ladies night and girl
the feeling's good"
- Kool & the Gang

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

meet you at the nexus: queer rights, reproductive justice and sexual literacy

The California Supreme Court ruled this morning that doctors cannot discriminate against their patients based on their religious views about sexual orientation. The groundbreaking case was brought by lesbian Guadalupe Benitez, who was seeking insemination help from a fertility clinic in San Diego. The Christian doctors refused her treatment on the grounds that they did not believe in homosexuality. (The tooth fairy, Easter Bunny and Santa Claus were also denied services under the same 'non-belief' clause.)

This is a huge case in California (and beyond) for several reasons. First, the obvious, which is that health care access should be a right to all of our citizens. Read Pamela Merritt's awesome post this morning on RH Reality Check about provider ignorance and the effects it has on lesbian access to healthcare if you want the full story. The typical access barrier dykes face is often cluenesses more than overt discrimination, but that kind of oppression is all the more insidious. And many queer folks actively avoid health care because of it. Want proof? See our interview with trans-activist Ethan Suniewick.

Second, this case makes the connection between the queer community and the reproductive justice community--a connection that, unfortunately, has been tenuous at times. As our friends at Causes in Common know, LGBTQQI folks have a vested interest in reproductive justice--and our concerns around access to fertility treatment, adoption rights and abortion are magnified by oppression and discrimination.

Third, the findings of the Court are critical in light of what the DHHS is trying to do on a federal level in terms of access to contraception. As I blogged about a few weeks ago, the DHHS wants to 'relabel' certain kinds of contraception as abortion, so that health providers who object to them on religious or moral principles don't have to talk about, prescribe, or provide them to women who want them. DHHS is essentially saying that someone else's religious or moral beliefs should take precedence over your own right to choose how to best take care of your body, health and sexuality.

If our friends in reproductive justice aren't paying attention, they should be: the Benitez case establishes--in California, anyway--that individual access to care shouldn't be impeded on religious grounds. "This isn't just a win for me personally and for other lesbian women," said Guadalupe Benitez. "Anyone could be the next target if doctors are allowed to pick and choose their patients based on religious views about other groups of people."

I think that says it all.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Historic News! Having children is the anti-abortion thing to do.

So the Democratic Party has come up with new wording for its "abortion plank." I would be happy with it... except. Except what the Washington Post today called the "left-leaning opponents of abortion rights" are happy with it, too.

Okay. If I made new year's resolutions (and if I made them in say, August), then one of mine would be to stop seeing everything in such a polarized fashion. Do I want to find common ground with progressive Christian folks who write blogs called God's Politics , don't believe in abortion but do promote social justice (though I'm struggling to see how those two stances co-exist)? Theoretically, sure. Are they making it hard for me? Yeah.

First, here's what the 2004 language was:

Because we believe in the privacy and equality of women, we stand proudly for a woman's right to choose, consistent with Roe v. Wade, and regardless of her ability to pay. We stand firmly against Republican efforts to undermine that right. At the same time, we strongly support family planning and adoption incentives. Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.

Now, here's the new language:
The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v Wade and a woman's right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.The Democratic Party also strongly supports access to affordable family planning services and comprehensive age-appropriate sex education which empower people to make informed choices and live healthy lives. We also recognize that such health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions. The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman's decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre and post natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs.

So it's great that the Democratic Party is still supporting a woman's right to choose, and I am so glad they kept the phrase about ability to pay--access is of course one of the crucial ways that abortion rights have been undermined historically. Yay for them for including language that addresses the links between "comprehensive" sex ed and healthy outcomes. Though I bet they are still only talking about sex ed for teens that addresses contraception--not truly comprehensive, is it? How about sex ed for everybody that addresses pleasure, respect, body integrity, choice?

In a conference call to the media yesterday (the link I had has been taken down, hmm. Wonder why?), a bunch of liberal Christians, including Rev. Tony Campolo, member on the Democratic Platform Committee, Rev. Joel Hunter, Senior Pastor, Northland Church (Orlando, FL), author of A New Kind of Conservative and former President of the Christian Coalition, Douglas Kmiec, Chair & Professor of Law at Pepperdine University, and the former Dean of the The Catholic University Law School, and Rev. Jim Wallis, Founder and CEO of Sojourners, the largest network of progressive Christians in the United States (and author of the aforementioned God's Politics blog), hailed the language as an anti-abortion victory.

Wallis said, "It's never been as explicitly stated that the Democratic Party supports a woman's decision to have their child, and offers her practical support to have her child. It's an historic step forward."

Let me just say that, as a mother of a three-year-old child, that I agree--The Democratic Party should be building into every part of its agenda support for parents and families to raise their children--free health insurance, extended family leave, free childcare, better schools, indoor playgrounds, drop-your-kid-off-when-they're-having-their-fiftieth-tantrum-of-the-day centers, an answers-to-why-questions hotline, etc. And that, by the way, has nothing to do with abortion. Could increased minimum wage, better maternity leave, daycare funding and access to contraception for low-income women have the side benefit of reducing abortion, as Campolo posits here? Maybe. Is that the reason we need those policies (at a bare minimum)? Hell no.

But come on, is it really historic and anti-abortion to say that the Democratic Party supports a woman's decision to have their child? Is that how polarized things have become? As a parent, a supporter of a woman's right to choose (to choose, everything--when, how I have a child, with whom, whether or not I call my kid Apple, and so on...), I feel so uncomfortable with a group trying to find common ground co-opting and framing language that supports the choice of having a child as being somehow anti-abortion. Or positing that the only reason that a woman (or family in all of its definitions) needs economic assistance is to stop her from having an abortion.

I do like the idea of finding common ground, dammit. It's one not-made New Year's Resolution in August I want to stick with. (Plus, no coffee after 4pm. Well, a mocha is okay.) But to find common ground we have to acknowledge, in the end, that choice, economic freedom, the right to healthcare extend beyond our ability to churn out babies, and that our churning out those tantrum-throwing, why-asking, ridiculously-named babies might, just, be a pro-choice decision, too.

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