Ross Douthat’s European Vacation

Earlier this week, the New York Times’s Ross Douthat wrote an op-ed about the “Texas abortion experiment.” While the conservative columnist acknowledged that Texas’s new law could make “first-trimester abortions harder to obtain,” he spent much of the piece downplaying the very real threats this law poses to women’s health and talking up similarly restrictive laws in Europe.

Douthat looks to the example of a number of European countries, including Ireland, for how the Texas law could play out. Yet he rejects comparisons between the United States and other certain countries that enact restrictive abortion laws. According to Douthat, concerns that “Women’s lives will be endangered, their health threatened, their economic opportunities substantially foreclosed” in America stem from similar outcomes in poorer and more conservative areas of the world and therefore are not appropriate sources to examine. He also adds that it is difficult to determine if “those bans actually hold back progress and development.”

Actually, it’s not that difficult. Studies have shown that when abortion is illegal, women still terminate their pregnancies—they just do so in unhygienic and dangerous conditions. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank whose work Douthat also links to in his column:

[Read more...]

North Dakota’s “Heartbeat Law” Temporarily Blocked

We’ve written before about North Dakota’s attempts to pass the most restrictive abortion law in the nation: a ban on abortions after a fetal heartbeat could be detected, which can be as early as the sixth week of pregnancy. The law was scheduled to take effect on August 1.

Yesterday, a federal judge temporarily blocked the law from going into effect. In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland wrote that:

“There is no question that (the North Dakota law) is in direct contradiction to a litany of United States Supreme Court cases addressing restraints on abortion … (It) is clearly an invalid and unconstitutional law based on the United States Supreme Court precedent in Roe v. Wade from 1973 … and the progeny of cases that have followed.”

Women, You Are Your Looks

Right now the Euro 2013 Games are underway, and women’s soccer is receiving loads of attention. The Swedish soccer team has already played a few games, and a sexist backlash of homophobic comments immediately followed the first match, where Sweden and Denmark tied.

According to The Local, post-match comments on Twitter focused not on the Swedish players’ competence, but rather on their attractiveness. Some comments included, “Women’s football is small breasts, lesbians and short hair” and “Swedish women’s football… lesbian whores is what you are.” Swedish handball coach Andreas Stockenberg also weighed in, writing that “When the Swedish squad in women’s football has dinner with their partners there are 40 women and 4 guys” and that “they can hardly trap a sandbag.” Stockenberg defended his comments by saying that the team received “far too much undeserved media attention.” [Read more...]

Sterilized Swedish Trans People Will Not Receive A Government Apology

We’ve previously discussed how trans people in Sweden were forced to undergo sterilization procedures before being allowed to transition, as well as a new law in which this discriminatory regulation was removed. In June, the  Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL) and many of the trans women and men who were sterilized sued the government for compensation.

The Local recently published an article about the controversy.  The trans community has asked the Swedish prime minister to apologize on behalf of all the women and men who were sterilized; according to Aleksa Lundberg, an actress and trans woman, the prime minister’s response has been that “the government can’t apologize every time a group wants an apology.” It is terrible that the prime minister will not apologize to the men and women who were treated so poorly  and robbed of a future involving biological children. He is not acknowledging the treatment these women and men faced, and is not treating their suffering as anything significant. [Read more...]

Are All Baby Pics on Facebook Appropriate?

When browsing Facebook and looking at friendss updates there is one thing that keeps creeping me out and that is the photos some people post of their children. As summer is here, many people post very cute photos of their children playing in the pool or taking a bath. I cannot keep from reacting every time I see photos of naked kids displayed online. I do not view children as sexual beings, but let us face the facts; there are certainly some people out there who do. I would be very cautious of the fact that the photos I post online are not in fact all that private and can be viewed by many more than just the people I have selected as my Facebook friends.

For example, if I post a photo and one of my friends comments on it, all their friends can possibly see the photo and the number of people who the photo becomes available to increases dramatically. Photos can also easily be copied and saved by any person who can view it.

Obviously parents just want to share the wonderful moments they have with their children with friends and family but I believe that parents have a responsibility to their children and to the safety of their children. Children themselves certainly cannot consent to these pictures but parents should be more careful of what they post. I have seen plenty of photos that are in fact very cute and harmless but that I still react to and deem unsuitable for Facebook. Again, not because they show naked children but because some people enjoy looking at photos of naked children.

I have not heard, but I certainly can be wrong, discussions about what is suitable in regards to posting photos of one’s children on Facebook. Facebook do have a clause stating something like the fact that explicit nudity is not welcome on Facebook and I think that this should extend to photos of children. It is of course the parent’s rights and responsibilities to chose what they post online but I also believe that there is great naivety about what can and cannot be seen and the privacy of one’s photos and one’s profile. What do you think?

Women As Out Of Control Breeders

A recent article in the Sacramento Bee discussed the forced sterilization of female inmates in a California prison after the Center for Investigative Reporting found that at least 148 women received tubal litigations which violated prison rules.

Females thought likely to return to prison were the targets of coercion, according to former inmates. Also, when discussing the payment he received for performing the tubal ligation, the institution’s OB-GYN, Dr. James Heinrich stated that: “Over a 10-year period, that isn’t a huge amount of money compared to what you save in welfare paying for these unwanted children – as they procreated more.”

I have heard plenty of comments accusing women of breeding wildly and irresponsibly. Statements such as the one by Heinrich confirms such believes and in many cases, for example when discussing abortion and reproductive choices and rights, women are accused of becoming pregnant and by extension are expected to carry the responsibility of pregnancy all on their own while the men involved, and the responsibilities they carry, are not even mentioned. It is so rarely discussed that the father of a child is just as responsible as the mother of a child. It should not have to be mentioned, but unfortunately it does. [Read more...]

A Working Mother Asks: Can We Please Talk About Working Parents Instead?

Another week, another spate of stories and “debates” about motherhood and working mothers and the right age to become a mother and on and on until oh my god, is there nothing else to talk about besides the ovaries and uterus of The American Woman? What about—just for funsies—the testicles of The American Man? After all, in a whole lot of cases, women are getting pregnant by their male partners. What say The American Man about the best age to become a father, or the ideal career path that fathers should take, or the struggle between financial security and a stable family?

I understand quite well that for many years—nay, decades—women have had a unique set of issues to contend with if they wished to have both children and a career. I also understand that while those issues have shifted over the years, there are still specific challenges to being a mother that earns a paycheck, whether she works outside the house or from home. But focusing just on the challenges and questions encountered by one gender perpetuates the notion that only this one gender needs to meet these challenges and ask these questions.

[Read more...]

Ireland’s Push to Legalize Abortion Continues

As Texas and North Carolina move towards sharply restricting abortion access, a country infamous for its own restrictive abortion laws is inching towards liberalization. Last week, Irish lawmakers passed a bill that would allow abortions to be performed to save a woman’s life. This vote moves the government closer to following a 1992 Supreme Court decision, which found that abortion should be legal if doctors feel it is necessary to protect a woman’s health, including if she threatens to commit suicide; however, six previous governments refused to pass a law in support of this ruling.

[Read more...]

Masterchef Australia’s New ‘Boys vs Girls’ Season is Cheap Sexism for Ratings

I don’t mind tucking into cooking reality television shows with my dinner every night. After a long day, it’s sometimes comforting to watch people sweat over stoves, bicker about biscuits and quake with fear at a mean judge’s raised eyebrow. So I rapidly became incensed as I watched the trailer for Masterchef Australia’s new season, where teams will be split into Men vs. Women.

As a cultural trope, it as old as time. Masterchef itself, as a franchise ever in pursuit of ratings, has to change constantly in order to maintain viewer interest. There’s the Juniors series, where children who look too small to handle knives whip up complicated dishes. There has also been a Professionals series, solely designed to break the spirits of people who already cook for a living. Celebrity Masterchef is a yearly opportunity for the washed-up to invigorate their careers.

So it’s almost not surprising that the brain boxes at Shine Australia have cooked up this fresh hell.
But what’s next? Masterchef Cats vs. Dogs?

Splitting teams along gender lines is bad enough, but Masterchef Boys vs. Girls is here to perpetuate gender stereotypes. The trailer linked above is blatant – pastel pink and powder blue dominate the set and the male and female contestants taunt each other with sex-specific insults.
Man: “Physically, we’re better in the kitchen.”

Woman: “Women are better at presentation; we’re used to grooming ourselves.”

All that was missing was a ‘Get back in the kitchen!’ or ‘Make me a sammich, bitch!’ I assume that eventually someone will actually say those things. And we’re meant to take it as a joke, because jokes are meant to be funny, and gosh, lighten up!   [Read more...]

I Believe in Wendy

Texas governor Rick Perry may have called another special session to pass the anti-abortion legislation Senator Wendy Davis successfully blocked last week, Stand with Texas womenbut that’s no reason to stop celebrating the senator’s filibuster.  She didn’t just show us that one woman could make a difference from within, even when the insider rules are ridiculous. (No leaning? No brace-touching?) She showed us how one woman making a difference from within is always already much more than “just one woman” without conceding an ounce of her own authority.

It was a living, breathing performance of a decidedly feminist construction of power.

Senator Davis did all the speaking because that was what the law required.  But while she was up there, she read the words of women who had sent her their abortion stories to fulfill her procedural obligation to stay on topic. She filibustered for 11 hours, but when the lieutenant governor went ahead and called the vote anyway, women in the gallery started chanting, making it impossible for him to get the votes on record. In both cases, Davis became, almost literally, in a whole French theorist sense, a woman who was not one. She was many.

I can’t think of a better way to use a rule that was quite obviously designed to keep any but the strongest-bladdered, hardiest-lunged individuals from speaking.

I don’t think it was an accident that Governor Perry decided to talk about Senator Davis’ personal history at the National Right to Life convention the next day. Or rather, I do, at least in the sense that I don’t think it required much calculation on his part. There’s no need when the sexism is ingrained. Senator Wendy Davis, leader of the “angry mob” the lieutenant governor groused may be a nuisance, but she’s a nuisance who has to be reckoned with. Wendy Davis the poor single mother, daughter of single woman herself, is categorically deficient by virtue of having a vagina. Of course his remarks went over like gangbusters at the Right to Life conference. Women have served as object lessons for that lot since Eve gummed up the works in Eden.

The good news for the rest of us is that Wendy Davis is still speaking, and she understands what assumptions are dressed up in Perry’s seemingly complimentary narrative. Turns out Davis is long past being shamed by her femininity or hoodwinked into giving credence to antiquated notions of nice little ladyhood. In fact, Davis’ response to Perry’s comments uses his own macho swaggering ideal of personal freedom against him by casting it as a virtue that transcends gender.

“It demonstrated that they just don’t understand how very personal these issues are,” she explains. “My story, my personal story, is my story. I have the ability to make choices and I had opportunities that I was able to take advantage of in my life. Other women of course should be able to define their own destinies and this idea that the heavy hand of government should somehow come in and tell her how to do that is deeply resented in [a] state like Texas. It’s deeply resented everywhere, but if you know anything about Texas, we hold very strongly to our traditions and our values where personal liberties are concerned.”

I don’t doubt that Perry has a brilliant staffer who will come up with an effective rebuttal. I don’t even doubt that that staffer is a woman. But during this week where we celebrate our nation’s independence, I’m grooving on Senator Davis’ message. “Anti-choice isn’t just anti-American, America, it’s anti-Texan!”