Archive for June 2010
In the not-too-distant past, American women were typically relegated to being support staff in their own lives. The sexual revolution and the advent of widely-accessible birth control and safe, legal abortion had an immense impact on the American woman, and whether or not you see that as a good thing depends largely on whether you consider yourself a liberal or a conservative.

The rift could not be more apparent when you look at social phenomena like the widely-publicized Duggar family. The Duggars are essentially living the ultra-conservative "good life," with lots of contraceptive-free sex subsequently resulting in 19 children (so far). The older kids are "assigned" a younger sibling to look after, and mom stays home to supervise.

Never mind that most people don't have the will or the wealth to handle over a dozen children and a $3000/month grocery bill. The question isn't what you want for your life, or even if you can afford that life you don't want. If you're good to God, God provides.

If you don't believe in the prosperity gospel (essentially: the rich are rich because God likes them), or don't believe the fundamentalist Christian interpretation of a deity, the idea of dropping all your little plans for your own life and donning a financial blindfold might seem a bit rash. Which is probably why 98% of U.S. women who've had sex have, at some point, used contraceptives.

The point I'm getting at is NOT that the Duggers are bad people, or that they shouldn't be able to live the lifestyle they've chosen (as long as their children are sufficiently cared for), but that it's not a life many of us would choose. Virtually every vocal pro-choicer has been called "selfish" for their beliefs about contraception and abortion, which essentially amount to the belief that women should be at the helm of their own lives, deciding if, when, and with whom they want to become parents.

Let's be frank: refusing to be a doormat in the face of someone else's perceived ideological authority isn't selfish. Personal liberty is at the heart of every precious freedom we have. I refuse to ignore the incredible sense of entitlement that necessarily accompanies the belief that you know how other people should live their lives and form their families.

I'm not a perfect person. I can be selfish far more often than I'd like to be. But my belief in personal liberty for all human beings, including my belief in freedom of choice, is one of the least selfish things about me.
By Triptrain with 0 comments
Rape on the Reservation
Vanguard (a documentary series) recently did an episode on sexual abuse in Native American communities, with a focus on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. According to the filmmakers, Native Americans make up only 9% of the state's population, but account for 40% of its sexual assault cases. One in three Native American women will be raped in her lifetime.

(Click here to watch the full episode - "Rape on the Reservation" - on Hulu.)

Here's a transcript of the conversations between the reporter and several high school students in Rosebud:

Male Student: My dad broke his woman's jaw before within just two seconds, he just reached sideways, just a quick snap, and she was done. And uh, she didn't even go to the cops. She was scared. But um, seeing that I guess made me realize on... how I can have control over my house. You know, the rough way. The man way, I guess. That's the way my dad put it. Be a man. Hit somebody.
Reporter: Do you see any problem in hitting, beating women?

Male Student: I don't wanna say it's OK, but if you're gonna have dominant power in your relationship, then yeah.

Reporter: And how do you guys feel when you hear that?

Female Student: Well I don't think it's okay, but like, no one can stop them.

According to NOW:

When we consider race, we see that African-American women face higher rates of domestic violence than white women, and American-Indian women are victimized at a rate more than double that of women of other races.

The Vanguard episode addresses some of the barriers that Native American women face when trying to seek justice after their assault: victim-blaming, stigma, racism, and fear of retribution from the perpetrator's family being just a few.

Male Student: Say uh, if I had raped somebody and then she wanted to go forward and press charges on me, and I got tossed in jail. See, my brother gets pissed off and goes knocking on her door - he's gonna hit her. Damn right, she gets hit. And then say he goes to jail for hitting her, well I've got another brother. And after that brother, I've got another friend. After that friend, he's got an older brother.
By Triptrain with 0 comments
Reality-Based Abortion Prevention
Blogged by Amanda at Pandagon via RH Reality Check, the National Association of Evangelicals has extended some degree of support for contraception as a means of reducing abortion rates.

It's a small victory (contraception was mentioned just once in the press release), but it may be an important one. The propagation of abstinence-only "education" has taken its toll, and many forms of birth control are still cost-prohibitive for many Americans. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, preventative services will soon be offered for free by many insurers, and Planned Parenthood is pushing hard (if quietly) to make sure that birth control makes the list.

To me, this seems like common sense. Birth control prevents pregnancy, which is in fact a medical condition. The problem is that most conservatives believe, either in actuality or for the sake of argument, that pregnancy is not a medical condition. This allows them to make the case that neither birth control nor abortion fit the bill for "health care," which subsequently results in female reproductive care getting held back while improvements are made elsewhere*. We've seen this before, and sadly, I think we're going to see a lot more of it.

Which is why small victories, like the NAE offering a token of support for contraception, matter. Admitting that contraception access is a good thing is a subtle way of admitting that unwanted pregnancy - not just abortion - is a bad thing. It's a step toward reality-based abortion prevention: the sort that works by helping women prevent pregnancies they don't want, rather than finding ways to manipulate them after they've become pregnant. Parental consent, waiting periods, and unreasonable counseling requirements all fall into the latter category, and they're all still condoned by the NAE. However frustrating they may be, small steps are sometimes the only way forward.

* An example of the delegitimization of women's reproductive care: an opinion piece in the Washington Examiner yesterday titled "Obamacare: Get ready to pay for young slackers’ sex-lives."
By Triptrain with 0 comments