Welcome to New York, Sandy!

As New York hunkers down for Hurricane Sandy, I want to let her know how we treat women up here–even powerful, independent women who don’t cross their legs, redirect their gale force winds off-shore, or otherwise behave like the little ladies so popular with our male Republican candidates these days.

1) We respect a woman’s right to control her reproductive destiny: New York legalized abortion before Roe vs. Wade became the law of the land.

2) While many of the country’s legislators are dreaming up new ways to demean women, we have New York State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins introducing the Reproductive Health Act, with eighteen co-sponsors. Its purpose: to provide a fundamental right to choose contraception and the right of a female to determine the course of a pregnancy; to authorize abortion prior to viability; and to decriminalize abortion.  [Read more...]

Action Alert: Strike Out Rape Culture, NYC!

There’s nothing to pull me out from my maternity break like a little rape culture. Check out this gem I found on NOW-NYC’s Not Cool Tumblr:


This Bowlmor Lanes advertisement is currently posted throughout New York City subways and reads, “Getting jumped in an alley has never been this much fun.”

Really?! Not that it needs to be said, but ENOUGH WITH THE RAPE CULTURE, ALREADY! And frankly, not only is it offensive as a woman and a rape survivor, it’s offensive as a consumer. Do the asshats at Bowlmor think so little of New Yorkers that they believe this rape-y campaign will draw us to their over-priced lanes like moths to a flame?

Bowlmor Lanes and NYC’s Metro Transit Authority (MTA) need to hear from us. They need to know that perpetuating rape culture and making light of sexual assault is unacceptable. Take action! Tell the MTA to remove the ad and call out Bowlmor CEO Tom Shannon on this disgrace: tshannon@bowlmor.com, 212-777-2214.


This post originally appeared on sherights. Cross-posted with permission.

Feminist Conversations: Maureen Shaw

Editor’s Note: Feminist Conversations is a regular feature here at Feminists for Choice, where we talk to feminist activists about what feminism means to them. This month we’re spotlighting the Feminists for Choice writers, as part of our Season of Gratitude. I’m so lucky to work with such amazing writers, all of whom volunteer their time and talent. Maureen Shaw is from New York City. In addition to our site, Maureen blogs at sherights.com.

1. When did you first call yourself a feminist? What inspired that decision?
I don’t remember a defining moment of first identifying as a feminist. Being a feminist is completely natural for me, and has been for as long as I can remember. I should credit my mom for this. Despite never being an outspoken feminist herself, she used to read me a book as a child called “Girls Can Do Anything Boys Can Do” (or something like that!). I grew up understanding that my gender has no bearing on what I can achieve!

2. When did you start sherights, and what was the motivation for starting the blog?
I wrapped up my Master’s thesis at the end of 2010 and suddenly felt at a loss — I went from researching & writing 8+ hours a day to nothing. It was a glorious nothing for a week or so, but it got old quickly. I love to write and I’m extremely passionate about women’s rights, so starting a blog — especially with so much down time — seemed like a natural next step. And so sherights was born!

3. When did you first get involved in the pro-choice movement? And how has your involvement evolved over the years?
Throughout my college years, I was an armchair pro-choicer. Meaning, I totally supported a woman’s right to choose…from my dorm room. [Read more...]

Sex in the City

Sex is all over the news up here in New York City, and not just because the newly-wedded Kardashian is divorcing. Between the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ recent recommendation that 11- and 12-year-old boys be vaccinated against the Human Papalloma Virus (HPV) and the reaction to the city’s mandatory sex ed program set to begin this spring, even a reasonably polite, mild-mannered adult like myself can be forgiven for thinking about the sex lives of strangers. Even if they’re underage strangers. Hopefully.

Not for the first time, I’m wondering how people manage to do the whole parenting thing. As a licensed therapist once told me, cultures have taboos for a reason. And let’s face it, how many taboos do we have left besides those having to do with S-E-X? I have serious doubts as to how many adults can really have an adult conversation about sex with other adults. So, to put it mildly, I do not envy anyone having to have “the talk” with their kids. But part of parenting—and part of being an adult in a mostly-functioning society—is to put the well-being of the most vulnerable above our own feelings, icky as they may be. [Read more...]

Vatican Family Values

As my people like to say, there is chutzpah, and then there is chutzpah. And if you are Michele Bachmann there is even chitzpah. 

But this needs a bigger word. Probably in Italian. With an issimo on the end.

Don’t get me wrong. I like my Vatican predictable. So I wasn’t surprised when the Catholic Church came out to condemn the new mandatory sex ed classes in New York City. That’s what the Church does. Like the sun rises each morning and sets each night, the Church condemns.

Likewise, I’m not surprised that the Church didn’t pass up the opportunity to kick the condemnation up a notch. New York is only the biggest city in the world. Why not needle “the State” and “public institutions in the West” for their “magical trust in the effectiveness of sex education?” [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...]

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...]

Two Women in Love Equals One Happy Family

Kristen Henderson and Sarah Ellis are the authors of Times Two: Two Women in Love and the Happy Family They Made. They recently spoke with Feminists for Choice about their book, their family, and same-sex marriage.

What inspired you to write Times Two?
We thought it was a great opportunity to show that our family isn’t so different from any other family. I think the more stories out there like ours will help shift public perception and hopefully break down barriers for everyone.

You were both pregnant at the same time, and describe the experience as “producing double the hormones, double the morning sickness, double the cravings, and have double the ups and downs.” Can you talk a little bit more about what it was like to go through pregnancy together?
The one thing that you can count on with Kristen and me is that we are so different. Kristen is rock n’ roll and I’m your good corporate citizen. That same opposition riddled our pregnancy. We collectively had pretty much all the side effects listed in the pregnancy books: heartburn, carpel tunnel, hemorrhoids, migraines, etc., but we didn’t share any of them. If I had heartburn, Kristen had carpel tunnel. We also had different opinions on epidurals, finding out the babies’ genders, and how to decorate the nursery. Some days our dual pregnancies felt like an episode of The Odd Couple. It made for some hilarious moments in our pregnancies. [Read more...]

Friday News Roundup

It’s been a busy week, what with a new Congress being sworn in and all.  If you need a break from news coverage of John Boehner weeping like a baby, here are some pro-choice news items for you.

Naomi Woolf Wants “Sex Crime Accusers” to be Named Publicly – The Daily Femme
Home Birth Common Ground? – RH Reality Check
Everything You Wanted to Know About Abortion Hosting, But Were Afraid to Ask – Abortioneers
New York Archbishop Denounces Abortion – New York Times
Kentucky Senate Passes “Informed Consent” Abortion Bill – Courier Journal

Hell Yeah, I’m a Feminist!

Feminist Conversations is a weekly series at Feminists For Choice.  We spotlight activists from across the interwebs to find out what feminism means to them.  Alison Turkos is a recent college graduate majoring in English writing and minoring in Women’s Studies. She is a Development & Events intern with NARAL Pro Choice NY, she volunteers as a clinic escort, and she is currently attempting to enjoy all the feminist fun that New York City has to offer.  We met up last month at the Feminists for Choice Tweetup.  Here’s what she had to say about feminism and choice.

1.  How did you get involved with NOW?
I became involved with NOW completely by chance. While attending the “Women and Power” conference at the OMEGA Institute I met a few young women who were/are involved with the NOW NY State Young Feminist Task Force. After sharing stories, goals, and ideas they invited me to attend a gathering back in the city that the task force was holding after the conference. It was completely unplanned and all due to fabulous networking.

2.  NOW has sometimes gotten a reputation for being irrelevant to younger women, but what has your experience been like?
I have been involved with the organization for a VERY short amount of time, but so far, my experience has been amazing. The Task Force is a fantastic group of diverse individuals who all lead amazingly interesting lives, and come together for one common purpose: FEMINISM!

3.  When did you first decide to call yourself a feminist?  And what contributed to that decision?
I grew up in a very Feminist household, but my parents never used the term “Feminist.” Gender roles have never existed in my house. I have two working parents, a mom who mowed the lawn, and a dad who is a master in the kitchen. My parents’ marriage is an entirely equal partnership, so I grew up surrounded by Feminism and Feminist values, but there was never the “Feminist” label attached.

Like many other Feminists, I experienced my “click” moment when I was in college. I took a classes titled “Women in Contemporary American Culture,” and on the first day of class the professor asked “who here is a Feminist?” I didn’t raise my hand because I hadn’t had much exposure to the word and it’s meaning, but after she explained what she believed Feminism to be, I raised and my hand and declared to the entire class “hell yeah, I’m a Feminist,” and ever since that day I’ve identified as a Feminist.

4.  What does feminism mean to you? [Read more...]