Abortion in Advertising

I read a ridiculously high number of fashion magazines for someone that doesn’t wear makeup and considers a new pair of Levi’s a major splurge. But what caught my eye while flipping through the latest batch of glossies was the advertisement for Kenneth Cole that appears to the right of this post.

Ads seeking to make a social or political statement are nothing new. In the 1980s and 1990s, the clothing company Benetton used striking and often controversial images in its advertisements. From the famous image of AIDS activist David Kirby on his deathbed surrounded by family; to a picture of a white child, hair in blond ringlets, grinning next to a black child, hair in devil’s horns; to an array of multi-colored condoms, Benetton made a point of tackling the hot-button social issues of those decades.

Though Kenneth Cole’s new abortion-themed ad is part of the company’s recently launchedWhere Do You Stand” campaign, which also addresses gun control, gay marriage, and war, this isn’t the first time that the fashion company has combined advertising with social awareness. A handbag ad from 1997 includes the words “It is a woman’s right to choose. After all, she’s the one carrying it”; other ads from that decade focused on AIDS, homelessness and, perhaps most amusingly, Dan Quayle. [Read more...]

Judge Blocks Texas Forced Sonogram Bill, Texas Women See Glimmer of Hope

NOTE: This is an update to fabulous Feminists For Choice blogger Maureen’s post. You can read it here.

I’m sure you read the horrific news coming out of Texas over the last few months. Our governor (and GOP presidential candidate) Rick Perry signed a bill requiring women seeking abortions to view a sonogram of their fetus. And that’s not even the bad part – these women would be forced to watch the sonogram with their physician describing the images to them and listen to an audio of the fetus’ heartbeat.

Yeah. Pretty terrible stuff, right? Luckily for Texas women (and children) though, the Texas Independent has reported that U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks has blocked the bill and struck down 2 of its more egregious provisions. In response to a petition from the Center for Reproductive Rights petition, Judge Sparks found that provisions of the bill violated the free speech rights of both patient and physician.  [Read more...]

Going Off Birth Control Pills: My Story

We all know the benefits of birth control pills: they’re safe, effective, regulate your period (hello, cramps and flow!), help fight acne, and when taken properly, prevent pregnancy. Your hormones are under control, the sun is shining and birds are chirping your favorite song.

But what happens when you go OFF hormonal birth control pills (BCPs)? This is something rarely discussed – or at least, discussed much less than what to expect when you go ON BCPs. So, let me share my story with you.

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In Search of Feminist Parenting Skills

My niece recently joined our family. This little girl is almost 5 months old, and I have the honor of spending a lot of time with her, since I babysit her on a regular basis. Watching her grow and learn every day has been something else. I typically don’t like babies or small children – so you know my niece must be pretty special (imho) if she’s won over my sour heart.

In Feminism is for Everybody, bell hooks argues that:

One of the primary difficulties feminist thinkers faced when confronting sexism within families was that more often than not female parents were the transmitters of sexist thinking . . . most people assume that a woman raising children alone, especially sons, will fail to teach a male child how to become a patriarchal male. This is simply not the case.

In Women’s Studies classes past, the topic of parenting mostly revolved around criticizing the color pink and calling toy stores out for the way they divide up their aisles. Those critiques are legitimate, as is the criticism from hooks, but what I need now is practical advice for how to be a good feminist care giver (or parent) – not poop to throw around in a poop fight. (Notice my language is getting somewhat cleaner now that I have to monitor what I say with a baby in the house?) [Read more...]

The CPC in My Old Backyard

Image courtesy of cpcwatch.org

I grew up in the crazy-liberal town of Ann Arbor, Michigan and got my undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan. So it’s fair to say that I know the city pretty well, and I thought I knew what I’d see when I went back to visit my parents last week. And sure enough, there were the usual assortment of indie stores and cafes and university buildings … but there was also a crisis pregnancy clinic smack in the middle of downtown, two blocks from the center of campus.

When I spotted the purple-and-white signboard for ArborWoman resting on the sidewalk, its graceful script advertising free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, I turned to my mother. “I will bet you money that’s a CPC,” I said, committing the center’s website to memory so I could look up its website when we got home. And sure enough, once I clicked onto the clinic’s web page about “post-abortion syndrome,” my suspicions were confirmed.

CPC supporters defend their clinics by claiming that they are just providing assistance and options for pregnant women. Yet it is undeniable that crisis pregnancy clinics spread misinformation to people that, quite reasonably, come in expecting help. There is no scientific evidence that abortion causes mental health problems, for instance, yet ArborWoman lists “suicidal thoughts” and “suicide attempts,” along with a host of other mental health issues, as symptoms that women may experience after an abortion. Legislators are starting to pay attention to CPCs’ deceptive practices: Austin and Baltimore have passed laws requiring the CPCs disclose what services they actually provide; New York and San Francisco are considering similar regulations. [Read more...]

Judge Throws Out Bloomberg Pregnancy Discrimination Case

A large pregnancy discrimination case with national implications was just decided in Manhattan federal court. And the outcome is not good.

A bit of background: in 2007, 79 women joined a class-action law suit against Bloomberg L.P., the financial services and media company founded by NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The suit, originally filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, argued that that the company engaged in a pattern of discrimination, including demotions and pay cuts, against pregnant women who took maternity leave. The lawsuit also alleged that pregnant women and new mothers were excluded from management meetings and subjected to stereotyping about their abilities to do their jobs because of their family and caregiver responsibilities.

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Defending The Help

Like millions of other women, I read The Help for a book group. I enjoyed the book and appreciated that it led to a spirited discussion of its strengths and weaknesses among the women in my group. But in the year and a half since I read the book, I didn’t really give The Help a second thought. And then the film adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s book, also called The Help, came out, and quickly racked up both impressive box office receipts and a slew of controversy.

While each critique is different, the main objections appear to present a sanitized, stereotyped view of race relations; that it glosses over a particularly turbulent and dangerous part of the Civil Rights movement; that both the book and movie focus on white experiences and, indeed, that the book was written by a white woman; and that the highest-profile, female-driven movie of the year only depicts black women as maids.

I’ve undoubtedly left out other accusations, but you get the idea: for a movie that’s just a little over two hours, it sure carries a heavy burden of expectations. In part, this can be explained by the fact that the film is based on a best-selling novel, and its casting and filming was pretty heavily covered in the press (well, the entertainment press, at least). But there’s also the fact that female ensemble movies are few and far between, particularly ones that have black women in lead roles. Reading all the criticisms of the film, it’s hard not to think that people are projecting their own hopes of what they want a movie about black women in the 1960s South to look like, and that it’s the inability to meet these expectations that’s driving the backlash. But to expect any one movie, particularly one made by a mainstream Hollywood studio, to be all things to all people is unrealistic.  [Read more...]

Sex Ed is New in New York?

I like to think I’m the kind of New Yorker Michele Bachmann sees when she closes her eyes and dreams presidentially. So when I heard that New York City was requiring public schools to teach sex-education classes to students from sixth grade through high school, the news to me was that it was news. This is the city that never sleeps, after all. We were talking secession long before Rick Perry made it fashionable, and we have the “Don’t Blame Me, I Voted for Kerry” buttons to show for it.

My boiling blood returned to room temperature when I learned the majority of public school students in the city had been receiving sex education for years. The real news was that the city was  hoping to exert more influence over the curriculum by making the classes compulsory. To a New Yorker like me, that’s a no-brainer. In the absence of such content controls, students could attend a high school where they could (literally) get their hands on a condom without ever learning how—or why—to use one. (High schools in New York have been distributing condoms for over 20 years.)

I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that most every American teen that’s seen a condom application demonstration up close and personal has wished sex educators might find a better less mortifying way. But let’s face it, beyond the very practical life-saving purpose the demo serves, there may be no better visual to convey one of the less popular facts of life: sex can be very unsexy.  And not just because you may have to wrestle with an unruly condom. [Read more...]

How to be Pro-Choice in 8 (and a half) Simple Steps

I recently read an interesting discussion on Jezebel about how individuals could support the pro-choice movement. There were some great ideas, but as several commentors mentioned, they wished they could think of more things.  So – with apologies to Fellini – here are 8 ½ ideas:

1. Ask your gynecologist if she or he performs abortions.  As one awesome provider put it, “How would men react if they found out that their primary care doctors didn’t do prostate exams … and you gotta go and have somebody shove their finger up your ass who they’ve never met before? You think men would go along with it?”

 2. Look beyond Planned Parenthood.  This isn’t a knock on the incredible work that Planned Parenthood clinics do.  It’s just a reminder that while they’re often the best-funded game in town, they’re not the only one. Independent clinics can use volunteers and clinic escorts, too!

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SlutWalk Comes to Washington, D.C.

Image courtesy of www.slutwalkdc.org

Full disclosure: I really meant to listen to the speeches at SlutWalk D.C. The crowd was in high spirits, the speakers enthusiastic, and the weather beautiful … until all of a sudden the temperature dropped, the clouds gathered low overhead, and the thunder boomed at a eerily well-timed pause during the first speech. So I cursed myself for not owning an umbrella and biked home, spurred on by thoughts of dry clothes.

The walk itself was just as impressive as the downpour that followed. I’m horrible at estimating crowd size, but the chants of the marchers could be heard from two (very long) blocks away and the signs, outfits, and sheer numbers were enough to both draw double- and triple-takes and warrant an escort by the D.C. police. My personal favorite signs were “My dress is not a yes” and “Ask permission to gain admission,” as well as the very direct “Tube tops don’t cause rape, rapists do.”

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