Feminist Conversations: An Interview With Lesbian Icon Ann Bannon

Ann Bannon, the queen of lesbian pulpFeminist Conversations is a regular feature here at Feminists For Choice. Ann Bannon, in my opinion, is the queen of lesbian pulp fiction. Her books in the Beebo Brinker series served as a roadmap for many lesbians in the 1950s and 1960s. I was introduced to Bannon’s work in a Women’s Studies class at ASU. Bannon’s novels helped me navigate my own coming out process. Needless to say, I was ecstatic when I was given the opportunity to interview her.

1. What was your initial inspiration for writing the Beebo Brinker novels?
I began by falling in “fascination” with the first original lesbian pulp novel, Spring Fire, by Vin Packer. It’s a story of two young women who meet in their college sorority house and fall in love—not a terribly original premise these days, but a dangerous and thrilling one then. The consequences of being outed in the 1950s were appalling, and I had been close enough to a similar disaster in my own sorority to empathize with the girls in Packer’s novel. I knew I wanted to write, and it turned out that this little pulp paperback I had found on a newsstand shelf was the creative trigger. [Read more...]

Emily Kane Talks About The Gender Trap

GenderTrapImageFeminist Conversations is a regular feature here at Feminists for Choice. Today we are talking to Emily Kane, Professor in Sociology and author of The Gender Trap: Parents and the Pitfalls of Raising Boys and Girls.

1. You have written extensively about gender and childhood. How did this interest come about?
My research had previously focused on how adults think about gender inequalities, and their interconnections with inequalities of race, class and sexuality, mostly in the contemporary United States but with a bit of international comparative work as well. My focus there was on inequalities in the adult world- in workplaces, the division of labor in households, etc. I’d been interested in what kinds of people are more likely to recognize gender inequalities as existing, how they evaluated those inequalities (i.e., whether they thought they were problematic or not), and what- if anything- they thought should be done about them. Then I had children, and that experience brought more of my attention into children’s worlds. As I spent time at day care centers and preschools, on playgrounds, in play groups, and as I visited children’s clothing and toy stores, as I read children’s books and watched children’s movies, I became more and more interested in how deeply gendered young children’s worlds were. And I become increasingly interested in how that early gendering helped build the foundation for gendered patterns in the adult world. [Read more...]

Carlos A. Ball Talks About His Book “The Right to Be Parents”

Feminist Conversations is a regular feature here at Feminists For Choice. Today I am very excited to introduce Professor Carlos A. Ball, author of The Right to Be Parents, From the Closet to the Courtroom and The Morality of Gay Rights. I asked Carlos a few questions about his latest book The Right to Be Parents.

1. What was your inspiration for writing The Right to Be Parents?

I wanted to bring attention to the committed and courageous LGBT parents who have turned to the courts to protect their relationships with their children. While the issue of same-sex marriage has received an immense amount of attention by the media and the public, there has been a quieter revolution going on in terms of getting many courts to recognize and protect the relationships between LGBT parents and their children. I had previously written a book about the amazing human stories behind some of the leading LGBT rights lawsuits, but none of those cases involved parents. So I wanted to dedicate an entire book to this important subject.

2. In The Right to Be Parents you include extremely powerful stories of both success and discrimination that really highlight the struggles for LGBT families. How did you go about choosing the various stories?

I chose the cases based on a combination of their legal importance and the extent to which materials about them are available to researchers like me. As time goes on, it becomes especially important to honor and recognize some of the pioneering LGBT parents who, in the 1970s and 1980s, fought for their children in the courts before there was any real social acceptance of LGBT people and their relationships. It is important to me that the stories of these parents not be lost to history. I hope that my book contributes in some small ways to that process.

3. Over time, LGBT individuals and couples have gained many judicial rights when it comes to parenthood, but discrimination is still rampant. What do you believe needs to be done to continue working towards greater rights and equality?

Most of the progress that I document in my book resulted from judicial rulings. I think it is very important, going forward, to also focus on what legislators and child welfare officials can do to prevent discrimination when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity in matters related to parenting. There is only so much that courts can do, which means that long-term solutions will have to be found elsewhere.

4. The notion that heterosexual couples are better suited to instill gender conforming values in a child is discussed in the book even though you mention that research states that sexual orientation does not matter. Why do you believe this idea still persists?

The idea that children need both a mother and a father (as opposed to simply parents who love and support them) in order to thrive remains a deeply ingrained one. The social science literature is actually quite clear that neither parental gender nor sexual orientation is associated with child well-being. But it takes time for that evidence to overcome the strong assumptions and stereotypes that many people have about what children need in order to thrive. At the end of the day, what matters most in promoting the welfare of children is that they have adults in their lives who are able to care for and nurture them. The gender and sexual orientation of those adults matters little.

5. Several states, such as Mississippi and Utah still have laws that prohibit LGBT individuals and couples from adopting. Do you believe that these laws will change anytime soon?

I think it is likely, unfortunately, that some of the more conservative states will retain their legal restrictions on LGBT parenting for some time. But I think those states are to some extent already outliers. Most states do not impose explicit restrictions on the ability of LGBT individuals to serve, for example, as adoptive and foster care parents. I am hopeful that, as with the issue of marriage, equality will eventually prevail in matters related to sexual orientation/gender identity and parenting.

Women and Spirituality: Debunking Myths About Mormonism

mesa-mormon-temple1Feminist Conversations is a regular series here at Feminists For Choice. We spotlight feminists to find out what feminism means to them. The last few weeks have focused on the connection between feminism and different forms of spirituality.

This week we’re talking to Margaret Turley, a Mormon and a retired nurse. Margaret is the author of Save the Child, a novel about about a young child who is diagnosed with cancer. She is also the co-founder of Writers Unite to Fight Cancer, a nonprofit that raises money for cancer research.

1. What does spirituality mean to you?
Spirituality means having a close, inspirational connection with our creator. For me that means I believe in God the Father, his Son Jesus Christ and in the Holy Ghost – the Godhead. My own spirituality waxes and wanes in different periods of my life. The more I pray, study scripture and gospel principles, the closer I feel to my Heavenly Father. Attending church helps to develop spirituality but I’ve met people whom I consider to be spiritual who proclaim no specific religion. When I am in nature I feel close to God and thank Him for the many beautiful things that lift my spirit. I have noticed that when I am healthy, I feel more spiritual. I suppose that is because my thoughts are not so fixed inward on my own problems and I have the energy to look out and up.

2. What does Mormonism mean to you?
I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or LDS for short. That means I am a Christian. Our church acknowledges Jesus Christ as the head of our Church. After the original apostles died, many of the plain and precious truths were lost. Many refer to us as Mormons because The Book of Mormon is one of our books of scripture. [Read more...]

Women and Spirituality: An Interview With Pastor Beverly Jane Phillips

good bevFeminist Conversations is a regular series here at Feminists For Choice. We spotlight feminists to find out what feminism means to them. Today I’m talking to Pastor Beverly Jane Phillips. Pastor Phillips was one of the first women in the Presbyterian Church (USA) to receive a Master of Divinity degree which she earned at San Francisco Theological Seminary in 1961. She was ordained to be the Hunger Action Enabler for Chicago Presbytery and later served as a regional organizer for Bread for the World in Illinois, Indiana and Missouri. Now retired, Phillips and her husband live in Arizona, where she writes books, Bible studies, and texts for the women’s retreats which she leads. You can read her blog at www.beverlyjanephillips.com.

1. What was your motivation to attend Divinity School?
My motivation to attend divinity school was an experience of God speaking to me very clearly and unmistakably. Each summer when I was in college I volunteered as a counselor at a church camp for junior high kids. I was planning to be a children’s librarian but church and my faith were high priorities for me. The summer after my junior year of college I was the counselor for a cabin full of junior high girls at a Presbyterian Church camp in the woods near Lexington, Nebraska.

It was the tradition that on the last night of camp we would all gather around a big campfire to sing songs and hear a sermon by the director of the camp. In his sermon that night the director said, “Anyone can be a minister.” I have no idea what the rest of his message was about because those words were God speaking to me. It had only been two years that the Presbyterian Church denomination I belonged to would ordain women. [Read more...]

The Connection Between Catholicism and Feminism

Feminist Conversations is a regular series here at Feminists For Choice. We spotlight feminists to find out what feminism means to them. Today I’m talking to Meghan Smith, who integrates Catholic for Choice’s US policy activities and advocacy throughout the country by fostering relationships with collegial organizations and compiling legislative and policy analyses. She develops educational materials outlining CFC’s unique perspective on issues of reproductive health and right,s and engages in other efforts supporting CFC’s mission at the state level. Ms. Smith holds a bachelor of arts degree in English and Creative Writing from Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts.

1. When was Catholics for Choice founded, and what was the motivation for starting the organization?
Catholics for Choice is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. CFC was founded in 1973, the same year as the Roe v Wade decision, to serve as a voice for the majority of Catholics, who believe that our faith tradition supports every woman’s moral agency and right to follow her own conscience when making decisions about her reproductive health. We’ve a long and storied history, but, as a global movement, Catholics for Choice has worked internationally and throughout the United States to raise the voices of Catholics who disagree with the Vatican and who support access to safe, legal reproductive healthcare services for themselves and their neighbors.

2. What are some of the stereotypes that you feel people have about the Catholic Church’s position on abortion? Why do you feel those stereotypes exist?
It is certainly true that some people think that the opinions of the Catholic hierarchy represent the opinions of all Catholics. However, that is not the case at all. There are more than one billion Catholics around the world and almost 70 million here in the United States. The Catholic Church includes all of us, not just our bishops and the Vatican—who interpret Catholic teachings very narrowly. When it comes to reproductive health, people on both sides of the issue sometimes wrongly assume that all Catholics are anti-choice, or that you cannot be a pro-choice Catholic. In truth, the majority of Catholics are pro-choice not in spite of our faith, but because of it. Catholic women use birth control and have abortions at rates similar to women from other religions and no religion, and Catholics as a whole support access to those services for ourselves and our neighbors.
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Bernadette Barton Talks About “Pray the Gay Away”

Feminist Conversations is a regular feature here at Feminists For Choice. Today we have the pleasure of talking to Bernadette Barton, author of Stripped: Inside the Lives of Exotic Dancers (2006) and Pray the Gay Away: The Extraordinary Lives of Bible Belt Gays (2012). Today we are focusing on Pray the Gay Away and homosexuality in the Bible Belt area.

1. What inspired you to write Pray the Gay Away?
I write about what I call the “abomination incident” in the introduction to Pray the Gay Away. A neighbor told me being gay was an abomination after I came out to him. Although this kind of testifying is relatively commonplace in the Bible Belt, I had never before encountered a stranger who felt entitled to judge me as sinful, and tell me so, based on my sexual orientation. I grew up in Massachusetts in a politically progressive family and was unaccustomed to this kind of interaction. So, even though I had lived in Kentucky for 11 years by this point, I had not experienced much homophobia. My experience as a graduate student at the University of Kentucky, surrounded largely by lesbians, led me to believe that this sort of homophobia had ended.

I was both surprised and troubled by this encounter – the abomination incident – in 2003. Shortly thereafter began the 2004 presidential election season with an anti-gay marriage amendment on the Kentucky ballot. At this point, the homophobic discourse in the public sphere amped up considerably. Marrying a same-sex partner was compared to marrying a dog, horse, child and cousin. Homosexuality was constructed as polluting and contagious. And yard sign and bumper stickers displayed people’s public attitudes about gay people, many of which were in opposition to gay rights.

It became forcefully clear to me that homophobic attitudes and actions were alive, and integral to many people’s understanding of their social worlds. Since I had found my relatively small encounters with stranger homophobia so disturbing, I began to wonder how such attitudes affected gay people who grew up in the region. I was relatively lucky not to negotiate bigoted beliefs directed against my person-ness until I was in my mid-20s. What would it be like, I imagined, to process this kind of condemnation while one’s identity was still forming? Thus, Pray the Gay Away was conceived, and I formally interviewed 59 people from the Bible Belt and have had informal conversations with over 200 others. [Read more...]

Women’s Spirituality: Discovering Wicca

wiccan-love-spells3Feminist Conversations is a regular series here at Feminists For Choice. We spotlight feminists to find out what feminism means to them. We’ve interviewed a variety of feminists in the series. In the next few weeks, I will be speaking to feminists from different modes of spirituality.

Today I’m talking to Lora Jackson Legare, an archaeologist and author who was first drawn to anthropology by an interest in religion and spirituality and how people express their spirituality in different cultures through time. She has been a practicing Wiccan since 1986 and high priestess of her coven since 2007.

1. What does spirituality mean to you?
Spirituality is our need to connect with the “ground of our existence,” as Joseph Campbell would say. Defining the ground of our existence is different for each of us, just as our connection with it is different.

2. How did you develop you own sense of spirituality? Have you always been a Wiccan?
Developing my own spirituality has been a very long process. I was raised in a very liberal Christian denomination (Disciples of Christ), and my father was a minister who was a civil right activist in the 60s. He encouraged me to ask questions. But most of my Christian elders preferred that questions were not asked. Questions like, why is God only seen as a man; Why not a woman; Why are women naturally sinful; Why can I be nothing more than a helpmate to a man, and never really his equal in the eyes of this God? I could not do that. I began to search and explored many different religions. I found Wicca in 1986.
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Jane About Thisismyabortion.com

Feminist Conversations is a regular feature here at Feminists For Choice. Today we are talking to Jane, founder of the website thisismyabortion.com. On the site, Jane shares pictures of her abortion and the website has received many comments from women all over the world.

1. How did the project come about?
This project came about after I had an abortion. The day I went in for my procedure, I was bombarded by anti-choice fanatics outside the clinic displaying bloody images of dead babies. It was horrific. I was determined to know what my abortion would look like. I decided to take pictures with my phone of the abortion after the procedure was over. It took some time for me to decide to publish these photos and make a project out of it.

2.What was your main goal when deciding to show pictures of your abortion? Was it mostly personal or also political?
The main goal for me was educational. I felt vastly manipulated by the anti-choice protesters outside that clinic that day. They took advantage of my fragile state in an unscrupulous calculated manner. It was, and is, blatant propaganda to fulfill an anti-choice agenda. [Read more...]

Melinda Tankard Reist on the Harms of Pornography

Feminist Conversations is a regular feature here at Feminists for Choice. Today we are talking to Melinda Tankard Reist, co-editor of Big Porn Inc: Exposing the harms of the global pornography industry. Melinda is also the co-founder of Collective Shout: for a world free of sexploitation.

How did you become interested in researching pornography?

There were a few things that came together around the same time. Women started telling me their stories of being hurt and harmed by a partner’s compulsive porn use. In my talks in schools, teen girls shared with me the pressure they felt to provide a porn-style performance, to act, essentially, as a sexual service station for men and boys. They were expected to provide naked images of themselves, to provide sexual services. As well, the sex industry was dominating and colonising every public space and was rarely brought to account. I began to talk to my publishers about what I was hearing. Spinifex had published an earlier book in 2004 titled Not for Sale: feminists resisting prostitution and pornography edited by Christine Stark and Rebecca Whisnant. It was a powerful book. But so much had happened since then, especially with the internet being used to globalize and spread pornography. We felt that a new book on pornography was needed. It also seemed to be a natural progression from my previous book Getting Real: challenging the sexualization of girls, published by Spinifex in 2009. [Read more...]