My Big Breasts and Me: Body Shaming Pretending to be a Documentary

I don’t own a TV and this weekend made my conviction to go TV-free through life that much stronger. My husband and I were staying the night in a hotel and indulged in a rare guilty pleasure: channel-hopping while waiting till the next crime series comes on and we can watch hot detectives make out who killed “the vic” by magnifying images by a kabillion in super high-tech labs. So there we were sprawled in a hotel bed in west England waiting to watch Laurence Fishburne witness a gruesome autopsy, when we came across a documentary called “My Big Breasts and Me.” It sounded . . . well . . . a little weird perhaps, but I guess we were hoping for some real analysis and facts since it said it was a documentary. So we stayed and watched and, by golly, there were fumes coming out of my ears for about 95% of the time I was watching the thing.

The “documentary” featured a bunch of “experts” (including a private plastic surgeon who performs breast reduction – conflict of interests, anyone?) who spent their air time telling women that their breasts are a problem that needs fixing and not that the (mostly) men who react inappropriately should change their behaviour. [Read more...]

Utah Joins the War on Contraception

Just weeks after California Representative Darrell Issa felt the need to call a special hearing to bemoan the oppression of the Catholic Church’s First Amendment rights–the freedom of religion–Utah Republicans are ready to legislate away another First Amendment right, their teachers’ right to free speech. The Utah House passed a bill, HB363, that would allow schools to ban sex ed and prohibits instruction in the use of contraception by a 45-28 vote. The bill now moves on to the state Senate.

But not to worry, the bill’s sponsor,  Rep. Bill Wright, R-Holden, “a dairyman“(!), has got the doublespeak down. Perhaps realizing that banning the discussion of contraception (under the guise of forbidding ”advocacy” of its use) might leave educators tongue-tied–and on the brink of a crime spree–if asked a direct question about contraception, he maintained that teachers could respond to students’ questions on the matter. How, exactly, he couldn’t say. The language of the bill states: “An instructor may respond to a spontaneous question as long as the response is consistent with the [bill's] provisions.”

Wright can be added to the ever-growing list of public officials who have gone on the record with their light-years-beyond-the-mainstream belief that birth control is a dodge, an “intellectually dishonest” way of “getting away with” sex. Boldly ignoring the biological truth that even married women aren’t able to get pregnant every day of their married life, he, along with Senator Santorum and the Catholic Church, have decided that sex is for procreation only and that the consequences of unprotected premarital sex aren’t grave enough already. (Apparently the threat of eternal damnation isn’t what it used to be.) Though Wright, like Santorum and the Church, professes to be protecting all of us from the consequences our mainstream “brainwashing” has left us unable to recognize without their intervention, everybody knows the wages of sexual sins are not distributed equally. To be sure, the Mormon influence in Utah may make it harder for an unmarried dad to shirk his parental responsibilities. Still, we all know who gets pregnant and who had to wear that scarlet letter.

There’s reason for hope though, even in this ultra-conservative state. Anyone who has visited Utah over the past thirty years can tell you how much influence the Mormon Church has lost over the state liquor laws. Where there once was no MTV, “16 and Pregnant” airs unmolested. And a Democratic lawmaker from Salt Lake City like Rep. Brian King can fight the self-appointed contraception police and go on the record saying that bills like HB363 make ”reasonable people think we have lost it up here on the Hill.”

If Catholics support life so much, where were they when Troy Davis died?

Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post comes from Saira Khan, a Pakistani-American woman who is vehemently pro-choice. She currently works in publishing but dedicates her free time to social commentary on her personal blog. Saira graduated from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts in English and hopes to pursue a Master’s in Journalism.

Over the past few weeks, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has made it very clear that they do not support the Obama Administration’s recent birth control mandate. Their main argument against it is that it violates their right to religious freedom. In regard to this notion, journalist Dante Atkins asks: “Where Were the Catholic Bishops when Troy Davis Died?,” referring to the recent execution of the man millions believe to have been wrongfully accused.

Anti-abortion Catholics and the bishops in question subscribe to the belief that all life is sacred. They don’t believe in birth control and most definitely don’t believe in abortions. More so, the Catholic Church officially opposes capital punishment. Atkins adds,

“This doctrine is in the same vein as those opposing abortion, birth control, and physician-assisted suicide: church doctrine dictates that life begins at conception and is a gift from God. Consequently, it is beyond the scope of any soul, no matter how high the earthly authority, to terminate a human life. It does not matter if it is legal, and it does not matter if the rationale is to relieve suffering: the taking of life is God’s department, not ours.”

[Read more...]

The 2012 French Presidential Election: Independence and Women’s Rights Threatened by Marine Le Pen

Image courtesy of

2012 is a crucial year for the future of the United States, but also for France. And France has its share of obscurantists, too. The country’s presidential elections are conducted differently from the U.S.: candidates are elected by members of their parties, and then multiple rounds of public voting determine the winner. The first round of voting will be held on April 22, 2012, and among the candidates is Marine Le Pen, the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the now-retired politician who founded the far-right “Front National” (National Front) party.

“Women have to be generous”

France is among countries that offer financial assistance to encourage pro-natalist policy; as of 201o, it had the second-highest fertility rate of all European Union countries.

In her interview, Le Pen spoke about many issues relevant to women’s lives. About abortion, she said that “if the financial situation requires it [...] it will be considered to not refund abortion, except in cases of rape [...] women have to be generous by thinking about all the elderly and precarious who today, in France, refuse to be treated by lack of means.” By “not refund,” Le Pen is referring to changing the current system, by which individuals are allowed to receive a refund for health fees. This system is based upon solidarity, with individuals contributing to healthcare costs through payroll taxes. Thus, abortion detractors argue that abortion is not a medical issue, just a consequence of a choice and that the rest of the population shouldn’t have to pay for that.

[Read more...]

Pro-Choice News Roundup

Abortion Wars: The REAL People Behind the Restrictions. RH Reality Check.

France Drops “Mademoiselle” Officially. New York Times.

VA Considering New Abortion Bill After More Controversial Bill is Pulled. Kaiser Health News.

Arizona GOP debate audience boos birth control. Feministing.

A Day in the Life of a Clinic Escort

Editors’ Note: Today’s guest post comes to us from Miranda Pennington, a clinic escort from New York City who is in her first year of a Creative Nonfiction MFA at Columbia University. You can follow Miranda on Twitter, and check out her blog.

Saturday Morning, 26 Bleecker Street

What could they have said to her?

What could convince a young, pregnant Latina woman walking up to the doors of Planned Parenthood for a scheduled abortion to change her mind, to walk away with two bikers and the novice nun they pulled away from the rosary procession hailing Mary around the corner?

Was it a persuasive promise of affordable counseling, prenatal care, parenting classes, postpartum checkups, and birth control?

No, wait, that’s what Planned Parenthood offers. [Read more...]

Free To Bully You and Me

I almost feel sorry for Darrell Issa, the California Congressman no one heard of before last Thursday’s meeting of the House Oversight Committee.

Not sorry enough to resist piling on the flaming ashes of his dignity. Not sorry enough to stop fighting his party’s ludicrous waste of my tax dollars agenda. (If the GOP has taught me anything, it’s that my money is mine in perpetuity—before, after and especially during the time any of it goes to visit Uncle Sammy.) And certainly not sorry enough to forgive the far right for inventing my least favorite Republican party game: Stick the Nose (and the ultrasound wand) in the Vagina.

But still … I feel for the man.

After more than a decade in office, Issa finally gets the juice to order himself up his very own Norma Desmond moment—a starring role in televised hearings that people without press passes will actually watch. Who knew he was nowhere near ready for his close-up?

These days even the lowliest intern in Washington knows that politics is all about optics. And however much the backlash over the all-male first panel seems like evidence to the contrary, so do Issa’s staffers. Someone saw to it that Issa had a female staff member sitting next to him, sure to appear on camera every time he leaned in to the mike. (If heads roll over this, why do I feel like hers will be the first to go?) Someone also made sure that the all-male line-up was neither all-white nor all-Christian. So care was taken. No one is pleading ignorance aforethought–no matter how much it seems like the wise thing to do.

The unfortunate truth is that the optics were exactly what the Issa camp ordered–a multicultural, multidenominational parade of patriarchal power, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the frat pack chatted up Coke bottles and pubic hair with Anita Hill.

What surprises me is that the Issa camp doesn’t seem to have seen the power–or expected that others would. I suppose to their minds–and eyes, apparently–the clergy were simply victims of an intrusive, religious freedom-denying state. (The panel’s title, remember, was the unsubtle “Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?”)

The problem for us and them is that they did it with a straight face.

[Read more...]

Santorum Fails Prenatal Testing

Image courtesy of

Rick Santorum is at it again. The presidential candidate, who already thinks that birth control is “harmful to women” and believes states should have the right to ban birth control, now has his sights set on … prenatal testing.

During an interview on Face the Nation, Santorum criticized President Obama’s healthcare law for requiring insurance companies to cover specific prenatal tests. According to Santorum, since some tests are used to detect genetic abnormalities, they can “encourage” abortions. Therefore, his logic follows, having insurance companies cover the costs of these tests “is a bit loaded.” While Santorum singled out amniocenteses as a test that insurance shouldn’t cover, he said he had no problem with sonograms – even though it is possible for those images to show birth defects or other abnormalities. But I’m guessing in Santorum-land, sonograms are only important when forced on women that want abortions – or trying to make his stance on women’s health issues seem less batshit crazy than it actually is.

[Read more...]

Why the Lowered Expectations for Fathers?

Both a recent U.S. Census Bureau report and an ongoing media campaign around fatherhood have raised some interesting questions about the way that society views a father’s responsibilities. In its “Who’s Minding the Kids?” report, the bureau assumes that when both parents are present at home, the mother is the “designated parent.” If the mother is away from the home, say at work or school, and the father is watching his offspring, the bureau classifies that as “care” – but the reverse is not considered true when the father’s the one who’s away. In other words, if the mother is home watching her children, she’s just considered a parent. When the father does it, that’s looked at as something more akin to child care, not parenting.

[Read more...]

Pro-Choice News Roundup

Contraceptive Hearing Gets Ugly. CNN.

South Dakota Tried to Make a Bad Abortion Law Worse. Care2.

Virgina Ultrasound Bill: Republican Lawmaker Calls Abortion “Lifestyle Convenience.” Huffington Post.

Orrin Hatch claims abortion is “95 Percent” of what Planned Parenthood Does. Daily Kos.

Washington House OKs bill trying abortion with maternity care. Seattle PI.