What Does Feminism Mean?

Last Saturday, I posed the question “what does it mean to be pro-choice?”  Today I want to ask you all what feminism means to you.

I first started calling myself a feminist when I was fifteen.  This was back in 1995, and it was my sophomore year of high school.  In 1995, Hillary Clinton spoke before the Beijing Women’s Conference and boldly declared that women’s rights are human rights.  I remember thinking, “uh, yeah they are.”  And I bravely stepped where no one in my family had stepped before – the feminist movement.

Back then, I defined feminism as equality.  I used to think that equality and feminism were “the radical notion that women are people.”  I still think that, but my interpretation of feminism has expanded, although the definition is still the same. [Read more...]

Chilly Day to Table for Choice

I woke up to frozen pipes this morning. Believe it or not, it was only 19 degrees in Tucson today. What a chilly day to be headed out to table for choice on the U of A campus!

This week, the U of A has been the host to abortion protesters from a group called Justice for All. The group travels around the country visiting college campuses to speak out against abortion. Their mission is “to make abortion unthinkable.” They do this by putting up graphic photos of aborted fetuses. But they also do try to engage visitors in conversations about abortion.

I was tabling with the Community Action Team from Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, as well as the U of A chapter of VOX. We gave out information about Planned Parenthood’s health services, and asked folks to sign our petition for no-cost birth control. Many people thanked us for being there, and a few promised to get involved on campus.

This was actually one of my more positive experiences with anti-choice protesters. When I’ve done clinic escorting, I’ve had to sit and listen to people yell horrible things at me and the patients going into the clinic. And I’ve also been told how stupid I am for supporting a woman’s right to choose. Today’s protesters were actually very polite. One of them came over to the Planned Parenthood table to engage us in a friendly debate. I was really impressed, even though we ended the conversation with the agreement to disagree.

I’m happy to be back home, despite the frozen pipes. As civilized as the debate was today, I’d rather curl up with a mug of cocoa and cuddle my dog than sit outside in the cold.  Thanks to all the pro-choice volunteers who signed up to table today, I was only outside for a few hours.   Now if I could just figure out how to thaw my pipes . . .

Prochoice and Antiabortion Advocates Square Off

Following the annual March for Life in Washington, DC, Russia Today featured a segment about the continued debate over abortion in the United States. Following the segment, RT hosted a debate between pro-choice and anti-choice advocates. I represented Feminists for Choice, and Anna Franzonello represented Americans United for Life.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bg19QxxH9-4[/youtube]

We debated several aspects of the abortion debate, including whether the Supreme Court was the best mechanism for legalizing abortion, or whether states should have been given the opportunity to make the decision themselves. We discussed taxpayer funding for abortion, and also explained why we attended the March for Life. It was my first television appearance so naturally I was incredibly nervous, but I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. The show’s host was great, and the Ms. Franzonello was a good co-panelist.

Michael Steele Interview on Rachel Maddow

I had heard and read much about Michael Steele, but had not actually heard him speak the interview on Rachel Maddow last week.  And I think I’m beginning to understand why the Republicans were so harsh on him–I actually like him and appreciate his candor, even if I disagree with many of his political positions.  I think Michael Steel may hold the dream pro-choice/pro-life position. Well, he would if he would stick to his guns. Last night he, so poignantly, said in regard to abortion you have to look at the entire situation. You have to understand where people are coming from and respect their choices and respect the law.  Steele advocates for pro-life, but clearly made the distinction between a hard nosed linear position on the issue and a 360 understanding and respect for women.  If you missed the interview you can watch it here.

I think Michael Steele’s position is the ultimate goal for the conservative position on abortion. Its not about convincing people that abortion is good or right or always medically necessary, its about respecting women and showing understanding and compassion for the whole picture, not just one narrow view point. This goes for both sides of the issues. Those who do not hold the religious opinion and opposition to abortion still need to respect those with whom they disagree.

And there needs to be that third option in the debate–for people who are personally against abortion but understand that life is difficult and complicated and cannot be ruled by a narrow perspective. These are the people that need to be heard. Not the extremists who attempt to advocate for the unborn by murdering the mother. I make the argument again and again, what I call the for-life position, if you are truly interested in lowering the abortion rate, then you don’t advocate for more restrictive abortion laws because they only lead to the increase of illegal and medically unsafe procedures that unnecessarily endangers the lives of more women. To truly work to lower the abortion rate, then advocate for more access to reproductive care, comprehensive sex education and contraceptives like candy–available everywhere.

Fierce Feminist Takes Campus Activism to New Heights

Feminist Conversations is a weekly column at Feminists For Choice, where we talk to feminists from across the interwebs to find out what feminism means to them. Today we are speaking with Feminists for Choice writer Andrew Jenkins. AJ is a full time student at CSU Long Beach double majoring in Communications and Women’s & Gender Studies. He is vice president of the Speech & Debate team and Director of the first Choice USA chapter at CSU Long Beach. AJ is currently interning in the public affairs department at Planned Parenthood Los Angeles and is also in the middle of a yearlong fellowship with Young People For. AJ is also the Communications Director at Textbooks4change, a student-led fundraising program that enables college students to raise money for progressive causes through textbooks purchases.

1.  When did you first call yourself a feminist, and what influenced that decision?
Although I have always held very strong feminist values at my core, I didn’t really start calling myself a feminist until I was a freshman in college. To be honest, I didn’t even know that feminism existed prior to that. Growing up in such a conservative community removed me from all things progressive, let alone feminist. Despite the values instilled in me from a very early age, I didn’t have a feminist language and worldview quite yet. That changed when I left for college. After years of internalizing my queer sexuality, I finally decided to come out of the closet when I arrived in Long Beach. This experience, both internal and external, is what really brought me to feminism. I began to see connections between my own personal experiences of homophobia and the exploitation that women face on a daily basis. This pushed me to look deeper into what social and political structures shape human relations and it is precisely this journey that brought me to feminism and gender studies.

Once there, I finally had a language to describe a feeling and a sense of self that I had always had.

With that being said, I have to credit my mother for really showing me, through her actions, struggles, and triumphs, what feminism really means. Her balancing of motherhood and professional adventures really showed me what women are capable of. Her successes, despite all of the odds against her (ie: single motherhood, wage discrimination, a history of domestic violence) are what really informed my feminist politics. [Read more...]

Why is the Arizona GOP Refusing to Debate?

Arizona’s Republican Party seems to have a problem. After Jan Brewer’s pitiful performance in her one and only debate against Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry Goddard, more and more GOP candidates are refusing to debate their opponents. Last week Senator Al Melvin announced that he will not be debating Cheryl Cage for the District 26 senate seat. And this week rumors have surfaced that Senator Frank Antenori will not be debating the Democratic contender Todd Camenisch for the District 30 seat. Terry Goddard has invited Jan Brewer to participate in more debates, which would give her an opportunity to redeem herself, but she consistently declines.

As Cris Collinsworth suggested during last night’s Colts-Giants mashup, “it’s time to put on your big boy pants.” The Republicans need to stop running away from the issues and debate their opponents. I realize that debate and civil discourse are a foreign concept in this country, but you should debate your opponent in an election so that the voters know what they’re voting for when they cast their ballots. Maybe these incumbents don’t want voters to know that they’re lying liars with their pants on fire. Or maybe they realize that when you don’t value education, you sound like an idiot when you speak in public. But whatever the reason, they need to own up to their legislative records and give the voters an explanation. It’s time to debate.

If you live in Arizona, you should call Brewer, Antenori, and Melvin and demand that they debate, even if you don’t live in their district. I love to be a thorn in somebody’s side, so you know I’m going to be calling their offices every day. I want answers about restrictions on women’s access to health care, in addition to all of the other nonsense, like cutting funding for education and supporting SB1070. A debate is the perfect opportunity to get it all out on the table. Maybe that’s the real reason they aren’t debating – they don’t want voters to know the truth.

New Study Will Look at Effects of Emergency Contraception

plan b emergency contraceptionDr. Heather Prescott, a Professor of History at Central Connecticut State University, is working on a book about the history of emergency contraception (aka “ec,” or “plan B”). Dr. Prescott’s book will describe the history of emergency contraception from the 1960s until the present and place this story within the larger context of women’s health activism in the second half of the twentieth century.

A major focus of the book will be the role women patients played in the dissemination of this technology. This project will show women not only as test subjects for this new method of birth control but also as active health care consumers. By providing a historical account of the development of emergency contraception, this study will help illuminate recent debates regarding over-the-counter status for this drug in the United States. It will also provide a model for how to move beyond the venture capital model that drives much of the research and development of new pharmaceuticals in the United States.

Dr. Prescott needs your help. If you have used emergency contraception, please take some time to complete Dr. Prescott’s survey. She is particularly interested in hearing from women who utilized emergency contraception in the 1960′s, 1970′s, and 1980′s, since most of her respondents have experienced emergency contraception in the past two decades. However, all women are encouraged to participate. The survey will not collect any personally identifying information, like your name or IP address.

For more information, please e-mail Dr. Prescott directly.

Rachel Maddow Takes on The Wing Nuts on Health Care

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The wing nuts have been making death threats against Democratic senators because they’re run out of logical arguments. Not that the debate has ever been logical – I mean, death panels . . . yeah, that’s totally beyond the realms of logic. But effigies and handguns is so far into Cuckoo Land it’s a little unbelievable.

Rachel Maddow is so on point by drawing the connections between the health care debate and anti-abortion terrorism. Dr. Hern clearly states that the violent rhetoric that people use is an important first step before anti-abortion protesters even get to the point of blowing up clinics or assassinating doctors. Anyone who tells you that you don’t have to worry about the wing nuts because they’re just talking is seriously delusional. Where do you think Paul Hill and Scott Roeder got the idea to kill an abortion provider? From the wing nuts spouting off at the mouth in front of the clinic. [Read more...]

The Ethical Debate Behind Abortion

I had the pleasure, this past weekend, of attending a philosophy conference devoted entirely to Ethics. There were three keynote speakers, two of whom are among the most widely published on the issue of abortion (and the third was no slouch either!). The two I refer to were Don Marquis and Judith Jarvis Thompson. JJT published, “A Defense of Abortion” in 1971 and Marquis published, “Why Abortion is Immoral” in 1989.

Both are philosophical articles but both are easily accessible to the educated reader. I recommend both to everyone involved with this issue, it’s always good to remember that we cannot rely only on emotions, intuitions, or traditions in this debate… we must have arguments! Neither paper is perfect, but we don’t need to agree with every word to get a lot out of reading them.

Joan Walsh v. Bill O’reilly: A Debate on Choice & Dr. Tiller

Joan WalshA really interesting crossfire over Dr. Tiller

Check this out. It’s a pretty heated discussion between Joan Walsh & Bill O’reilly over abortion, choice, and the recent death of Dr. Tiller. I figured it was worth sharing seeing as Joan did a fabulous job keeping her cool around such an arrogant anti-choice advocate!

I’m curious when Bill O’reilly is going to stop intimidating people into seeing his point of view and actually have a productive dialogue about important issues. It just irks me every time I watch him. He fuels such hateful rhetoric that, in my honest opinion, perpetuates right-wing extremism where advocates of hate harrass and commit acts of violence against those whom they disagree with. In fact, Bill O’reilly likes to continuously call out the ‘left’ for being ignorant tyrants, yet as Joan Walsh eloquently points out, it has been followers of Bill O’reilly’s ugly and divisive rhetoric that have ACTUALLY gone out and committed violent crimes.

Another interesting thing that I think this debate highlighted is the obsession with making a debate about choice into a debate about life. Bill himself spent the entirety of the conversation asking the same redundant question of whether or not a late term fetus should receive constitutional rights. He attempted to make her look like a fool for even thinking about moving the conversation from surface level banter to something of substance. Heaven forbid we discuss women’s rights when talking about abortion. I didn’t know that women’s perspectives on their own bodies and integrity was such a taboo subject when debating about abortion. Bill O’reilly just gets more ridiculous every time I hear him open his mouth.
[Read more...]