Sunday, March 16, 2014

Home

I have steadily been falling into a state of mental transition. I began to really feel it back in November. I turned 27, but instead of being focused on the number of years I have been alive and officially entering my late-20’s, I was focused on how my reality stood up to the goals I had made and held onto so strongly almost 10 years ago. What had I really done? Not much.

Then, following one major Google PageRank update, my business crashed and burned. I have spent over five years working on a website that has ultimately left me jaded and yet completely terrified of the idea of what would come with change. It is a little bizarre to have developed a kind of love/hate relationship with a project that I have worked so hard to create and maintain, but there it is. A part of me is still hopeful that I haven’t dedicated too much to something that I can’t help but hold onto, even if I shouldn’t.

When it comes to the work that I have chosen to do, I have always approached it with the belief that if it wasn’t succeeding, I simply wasn’t working hard enough. That is my “secret.” That is what has fueled my stay in the blogging and freelance writing world. Until, that is, it doesn’t succeed anyway. Until you can be just as motivated and inspired as you have ever been and it still just doesn’t work. Until then.

Someone mentioned to me on Twitter when I tweeted about feeling unaccomplished and let down by myself on my birthday, that as a Scorpio my “year of transition” is coming up next year. It is believed that my life, in some capacity, will go through some drastic change during my 28th year. I have never been one to believe in astrology or horoscopes, but the fact that I often dwell on this bit of astrological information at the very least has brought me some sense of comfort while navigating this increasingly unsteady path I’ve found myself on.

So I’m coming home.

Home is where you go when everything you have long had successfully balanced around you suddenly comes crashing down. When that one thing that changes in your life is also that one thing you had to count on being there. When you know something has got to give and so everything gives at once. Home is where you go when there is nowhere else for you to go, so I am here.

I don’t know what comes next. There is nowhere else for me to go, no other moves up my sleeve; nothing that makes sense right now, at least.

I had every intention of coming back here before now. I had plans for a big January comeback, and even followed through with everything that I wanted to get done on the back end of the site and rewriting the sidebar and pages. I followed through with everything but the actual writing and coming back part. I’m okay with this, though, coming back when I need to.

I used to write about everything, and I used to have bigger dreams of where my writing would take me. Maybe it still can, I don’t know. I hope so.

I don’t know what the future of Menstrual Poetry will look like, or what it will be from this point on. I’m not sure if I will go back to reactionary articles to politics and feminist issues, or if it will serve as more of a space for the confessional-style introspection anyone who has ever read this site before knows I can be so good at. Maybe it will be a little of both. We’ll see.

Posted in: Musings | 5 Comments
Friday, August 19, 2011

The West Memphis Three are Free: An Amazing Day Laced in Absolute Tragedy

WM3

I have not blogged here in over three months, but today is an amazing day. The West Memphis Three have been released from prison. This is both extraordinary and incredibly tragic, as they have served 18 years — half of their lives thus far — behind bars for a crime that they did not commit.

I slept in today. When I woke up, I took it easy; made coffee and took my time getting to my computer and settling in for the rest of the day to work — something I have not allowed myself to do in months. When I checked in on Facebook, I saw one single story pop up, declaring that Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley, Jr. were finally given the freedom that they have always been deserving of. I didn’t believe it. By the time I made it half-way through the first article, several others had been posted, assuring me that it was true. This really happened. It was astonishing, and exciting, and frustrating, and depressing.

I have been following the story of the West Memphis Three for the past ten years. When I first heard about their case and watched the documentary Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills, I was only 14 years old. Like countless other people who have heard about the West Memphis Three, have seen the facts of their case, and have long witnessed the corruption at work in an already incompetent and unjust justice system, I have developed a strong emotional connection to this case; and to the three teenagers — now men — who had so many years of their lives stolen from them.

After they were tried and found guilty for the murders of three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas, Damien Echols, who was 18 years old at the time, was sentenced to death and sat for 18 years on Arkansas’ death row; Jessie Misskelley, Jr., 17 years old at the time, was sentenced to life imprisonment plus an additional forty years; Jason Baldwin, 16 years old at the time, was sentenced to life imprisonment.

One of the factors that made me so emotional from the very first time I heard of this case is that I saw so much of my teenage self in them; a feeling that a great deal of other supporters have acknowledged as well.

When I was 13 and 14 years old, I was beyond fascinated with the Salem Witch Trials (still am) and I had begun learning about as many different religious beliefs and affiliations as I possibly could, including Wicca. It was this education of all things religion that predominantly led to my now strongly-held standing as an atheist. But at the time, up until I was 17 years old, I was a black clothes- and fishnets-wearing teenage girl with knee-high, ass-kicking black boots, arms that were filled with black jelly bracelets up to my elbows, and more black eyeliner on my face than what many probably have in their cosmetic collections. If these three teenage boys could face murder charges and be convicted mostly based on the fact that their community and justice system had labeled them the “town freaks,” surely I could have been faced with the same ordeal, had I been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

That these men are finally able to go home after 18 years is incredible, but how they were able to do so is disgraceful, both to the state of Arkansas and to the entire justice system.

WM3 2011

In order for the West Memphis Three to be released from prison today, they were forced into accepting an Alford plea deal, in which they all pleaded guilty while also being able to continue to claim their innocence. For their guilty pleas, they were sentenced to 18 years with credit for time served, as well as a Suspended Imposition of Sentence for 10 years. It is also stipulated that if they “re-offend,” they can be sent back to prison for 21 years.

It is crucial to note, in light of discovering that they were forced to plead guilty, that in July 2011, the DNA evidence from the murder scene was finally tested, concluding that the West Memphis Three are not and never have been guilty of the murders of those three 8-year-old boys. After serving 18 years in prison for a crime that there is now proof that they did not commit, the state of Arkansas would only give them the freedom that they are entitled to as long as the state could protect itself from one of the most high profile acts of injustice they have committed. What the state of Arkansas did is outrageously disgusting and an obscene abuse of power.

In response to the plea deal that they accepted, a press conference was conducted with the West Memphis Three (video below); here is what Jason Baldwin had to say about taking the plea deal:

“This was not justice. In the beginning we told nothing but the truth — that we were innocent and they sent us to prison for the rest of our lives for it. We had to come here and the only thing the state would do for us is say, ‘Hey we will let you go only if you admit guilt,’ and that is not justice any way you look at it. They’re not out there trying to find who really murdered those boys, and I did not want to take the deal from the get-go. However, they are trying to kill Damien, and sometimes you just got to bite the gun to save somebody.”

A portion of Damien Echols’ statement is below, you can read it in its entirety here.

“I have now spent half my life on death row. It is a torturous environment that no human being should have to endure, and it needed to end. I am innocent, as are Jason and Jessie, but I made this decision because I did not want to spend another day of my life behind those bars. I want to live and to continue to fight for our innocence. Sometimes justice is neither pretty nor is it perfect, but it was important to take this opportunity to be free.

I am not alone as there are tens of thousand of men and women in this country who have been wrongfully convicted, forced into a false confession, sentenced to death or a lifetime in prison. I am hopeful that one day they too will be able stand with their friends and family to declare their innocence.”

That last part is incredibly important. The West Memphis Three were lucky. They have an incredible amount of supporters and people who have dedicated so much of themselves to doing whatever they could to ensure that these three men would see the freedom that they deserved; including an entire film crew who have worked tirelessly for years to put out two documentaries about their case that have reached countless people and supporters. Without the notoriety that these men received at the hands of their many high profile supporters, they could very well still be in prison, and Damien Echols would likely have been executed years ago.

They were lucky, and yet there are so many people living right behind bars and on death row right now serving sentences for crimes that they did not commit. So, with that in mind, please check out The Innocence Project, a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted people through DNA testing, and who strive to reform the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice.

Here is the press conference video, conducted with Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, Jr. after their release from prison today:

Posted in: Musings | 14 Comments
Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Blog for International Women’s Day 2011

Blog for International Womens Day 2011 International Women’s Day is exactly one week from today — Tuesday, March 8th. This is a day that first began in 1975 during International Women’s Year and was announced by the United Nations as a day to celebrate achievements and struggles of women all around the world.

Women have accomplished absolutely amazing things throughout history and we continue to do the same today. Without the diligent, kick ass, and inspiring activism of women, we as a collective people would not be who we are today and our worlds — no matter how seemingly different in culture from one location to the next — would not be what it is today. And there is so much more to do.

There are countless women’s rights activists, feminists, womanists, humanists, and socially-conscious people who participate in celebrating International Women’s Day every year. There are currently upwards of 1500 events taking place all over the world this year alone posted on the official International Women’s Day website.

Bloggers have also come to celebrate this day through their blogs, such as the series of interviews the super amazing and fantastic Renee Martin of Womanist Musings conducted with bloggers who make up a good portion of the society and culture blogosphere in 2009. Then again, I could be biased since I was one of the women she interviewed, which you can still read here.

Gender Across Borders is urging more bloggers to step up and celebrate International Women’s Day with their second annual Blog for International Women’s Day event (Blog for IWD for short).

Each year there is a running theme associated with International Women’s Day; this year’s theme is “Equal access to education, training, and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women.” Going along the vein of this theme, Gender Across Borders is asking bloggers to think about any of the following questions in regards to the U.N.’s theme for International Women’s Day:

  • What does it mean to have equal access to education, training and science and technology for women, and how do we get there?
  • Describe a particular organization or moment in history that helped to mobilize a meaningful change in equal access to education, training, and science and technology for women.

If you plan to participate in Blog for International Women’s Day, add your blog to Gender Across Border’s link roundup of participating blogs and spread the word on Twitter using hashtag #BlogforIWD.

Posted in: Musings | 5 Comments
Monday, February 21, 2011

It is Unacceptable to Allow Government to Play Politics with the Lives of Women

I Stand with Planned Parenthood I have been trying to write this post all weekend, although it seems so much longer than that. It feels as if I have been sitting here in front of this computer, fingers poised over the keyboard, ready to unleash my disgust and sadness over the House passing the Pence Amendment for no less than a week. Perhaps because it’s all I can really think about and because regardless of the amount of time I let my thoughts simmer and tell myself that if I get a good night’s rest I’ll be able to come back to this computer and suddenly all of my thoughts will make sense and come out in perfectly eloquent paragraphs that I was unable to string together the night before or the night before, I’m still just as scatterbrained, still just as upset and still just as enraged as I was on Friday afternoon when news of the amendment passing in the House flooded Twitter and the blogosphere.

I have been known to get disheartened and downright angry over a number of political moves that have been made in the name of the American people. I have been told for far too long that I take politics too seriously and that I feel too much. I have never been able to understand that line of thinking. How is it possible for someone to take the state of their country and the rights being given and taken away from the people of that country too seriously? Apathy for politics, for the rights of the people and for what state representatives are saying in Washington in the names of their constituents scares me. Frankly, apathy is what makes representatives who author, sponsor, cosponsor and vote “yes” on highly offensive, discriminatory and dehumanizing bills announce that they are truly representing the people whom they have been elected to work for. If your representatives do not hear your objecting voice, they believe they have free reign to trample all over your rights. That is exactly what the majority of the new, Republican-led Congress is doing with the introductions of H.R. 3, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act”, H.R. 358, the “Protect Life Act”, and the House passing of the Pence Amendment.

The Pence Amendment is a direct attack on Planned Parenthood and subsequently, on the health and lives of American women, the vast majority of them low-income. Passing in the House with a vote of 240 to 185, this amendment not only aims to completely defund Planned Parenthood, but would also eliminate the entire Title X program; the only federal grant program dedicated solely to providing comprehensive family planning and preventative health services.

This is not about abortion, regardless of how much the majority of the House would like you to believe it is. No funds from Title X are ever used for abortion services; none. So why the elaborate stories of the sanctity of human life from the supposed “pro-life” politicians of the house? Deception, clear and simple. Hiding amendments under “hot button issues” such as abortion is sadly, politics as usual. The Pence Amendment is not about defunding abortion and it is by no means a victory for the “sanctity of human life”; it is quite literally just the opposite. Title X funds are used for cancer screenings, STI tests, mammograms, HIV testing and diagnosis, sex education, contraception, and pregnancy screening and counseling. Last year, approximately 5 million people benefited from the services funded by Title X. Without Title X, millions of American people would lose affordable access to these health care services.

I have read a lot of blogs, websites and comments about the passing of the Pence Amendment and a lot of people’s thoughts resonated with me. One comment on Feministe’s post, in particular, really stood out to me: “240 people — 240 national elected officials — have just demonstrated that they hate me (and others who’ve depended on PP) and don’t think we’re deserving of sexual and reproductive health care.” That is essentially what the passing of this bill and the future votes on other discriminatory, anti-womens-lives bills that will continue to be put to a public vote boils down to. The majority of the House has spoken loudly and clearly that they hate those 5 million people who have depended on the care and services that they received at Planned Parenthood. Myself included.

I first walked into my local Planned Parenthood seeking reproductive health care services when I was 15. Unlike many teens in the same position I was in at the time, I was not alone. I had a great pillar of support in my decision to take control over my sexual health; my aunt. Beginning in my adolescence, I was raised by a single father with the help and unwavering support of my grandmother and aunt. I knew I had three people in my life who loved me unconditionally, but when it came to the topic of sex, which I was consensually having, and my interest in obtaining additional information and tools to protect my health, I knew that my aunt was the person in my family who I could go to with this request without feeling as if she was going to reprimand me. I wasn’t interested in the “you shouldn’t be having sex” talk; that talk hardly ever works with teens and it wouldn’t have worked with me, either. Instead, my aunt could relate to me on this level and helped me make the responsible decision to take control over my sexual health and presented me with the steps in order to put that decision into action. For that reason, and so many others, I will always be thankful to my aunt for her willingness to see me as a responsible teenager who was in need of her guidance as I took this monumental step in treating my sexual health with respect. More teens in exactly that same position should be so lucky.

The fact of the matter, however, is that a lot of teens do not have that adult in their lives who are capable of putting aside any judgment, ideology, or reprimanding tone of voice and just be there for the teens in their lives who need them. It is judgment and ideology that teens see throughout their upbringing that leads them to not reach out to those adults in their lives when they need guidance, support and tools, especially when it comes to their sex lives.

Thankfully, Planned Parenthood is there for those teens and for the women and men who also walk into their health care clinics every day looking for knowledge, support, tools and guidance. If the Pence Amendment were to pass, Planned Parenthood would be unable to help most of those same people who walk into their clinics and that is completely and utterly devastating.

I have always gone to Planned Parenthood for all of my reproductive health care needs. There are several different reasons for this, but the most prominent of the reasons is that I have never been able to afford to go anywhere else. That doesn’t mean that if I were able to afford to go somewhere else that I would stop going to Planned Parenthood. I wouldn’t. I would instead feel fantastic about being able to fully pay for the services that I have received, but even though I cannot, I have not once ever been judged or turned away by Planned Parenthood because of my inability to fully pay for the services that I have needed.

It is easy for people who have never needed Planned Parenthood to not only oppose them, but hate them. The people who voted “yes” on the Pence Amendment and those who support the passing of this amendment, do not just hate Planned Parenthood; they are telling every single person who has ever needed health care services that they couldn’t afford that they don’t deserve to be healthy because they are poor.  They are telling these people–they are telling me–that I do not matter and that they want me dead. That is not “pro-life” by any stretch of the imagination.

That is what really must be understood about this entire amendment and its passing. The passing of the Pence Amendment is the people in government–people who were elected to represent their constituents–using life-saving health care services as talking points and playing politics with real human lives. Lives that matter. Lives that mean something. Lives that deserve to be lived.

Speak out about this amendment. Just because it passed in the House does not mean it is destined to pass in the Senate. Call and write your Representatives and urge them to reconsider their stance on the Pence Amendment if they support it or thank them for standing up for the reproductive health and rights of women if they voted “no”. If you’re on Twitter, tweet with the hashtag #SaveTitleX and stand with Planned Parenthood.

Posted in: Musings | 11 Comments
Tuesday, February 15, 2011

New Congress: From Redefining Rape to a Lethal Conscience Clause

House Republicans (and some Democrats) have initiated an all-out war on women since taking office. People who ran for this office on the platform that they were fed up with the downward spiral of the economy and who sold false stories of compassion for the jobless to the American people used these issues as a ploy to gain access into the House. From where I’m standing, these politicians do not care about the economy or the lack of jobs in this country; instead, their “top priority” has been to police the bodies of women.

Earlier this month, news spread and subsequent outrage arose from the introduction of H.R. 3, deceivingly-titled the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act”, sponsored by Chris Smith, the vehemently anti-choice Representative of New Jersey and co-sponsored by 68.5% of the new Congress. The hottest topic of debate concerning this bill was how it proposed to redefine rape, claiming that the only rape victims who would be given federal funding for abortion would be victims who could prove their rape was “forcible.” Days later, the “forcible rape” amendment was taken out of H.R. 3 and with that decision, many thought we had something to celebrate; that the voices of those who had dedicated their time and efforts to raise awareness of this bill by blogging, tweeting as part of the #DearJohn Twitter protest, writing letters and calling their Representatives had made a significant difference. Maybe they had. Maybe we had. Then again, maybe removing the most radical language from this bill, which just so happened to be one of the only parts of this bill that people had been paying attention to, was just politics as usual.

Without the forcible rape amendment, this legislation is still just as devastating and misogynist. If passed, it could restrict incest victims over the age of 18 from receiving federal funds when in need of an abortion and remove the exception for women’s health, allowing federal funds to cover the costs of an abortion if, and only if, a physician certifies that continuing that pregnancy would kill that woman. If a pregnant woman would become terribly ill if she were to continue that pregnancy, well, that doesn’t mean she would die and therefore an abortion would not be covered. This legislation would also require that the government continue funding agencies and programs that, in addition to not performing abortions, do not refer women to other health care facilities, agencies and programs that do; because of the GOP’s constant attack on all of women’s reproductive health choices, this bill could very likely also affect access and funding for emergency contraception and birth control. This bill would also cut tax benefits to organizations and individuals who select an insurance policy that covers abortion.

Transcript for this video is after the jump.

As of February 8th, committee hearings have been held in regards to H.R. 3 in the House Judiciary. It will surely move through the house and come up for vote in the House and Senate.

But GOP leaders are not stopping with H.R. 3; the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act does not shamelessly and deliberately trample on the basic, fundamental rights of women enough.

No On 358

Enter H.R. 358, another ill-titled bill that deserves a freakin’ award when it comes to deceptive, anti-choice politics; and I’m just talking about the title of this bill. H.R. 358 is entitled the “Protect Life Act” and is sponsored by Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-PA) and is co-sponsored by 121 other members of the House, including a few Democrats. Wait for the facepalm-inducing action.

The Protect Life Act aims to encourage and allow physicians and entire hospitals to refuse to perform an abortion even if a woman would die without one. If a woman is having a risky pregnancy and is in imminent danger of losing her life, her doctor or the hospital in which she seeks immediate emergency care from could lawfully put the future-life of her fetus above her own life.

This is not just a war on women’s rights. This is a war on women’s lives. And Joseph Pitts had the audacity to title this lawful killing of women bill the Protect Life Act. It is very clear that the lives of women are not the lives in which the new Congress aims to protect. To them, the lives of women are disposable and the future-lives of the fetuses in which these politicians, physicians and anti-choice populace who are in agreement with these misogynist bills will become disposable once they are born; especially if they are born female.

I have always had a problem with conscience clauses, which is essentially what this legislation is. Conscience clauses give employees the freedom to not fulfill the duties that are required of them, that they were hired to do, and hide it under morality. If a person has a moral objection to a particular job, then why would that person study, train and become employed in that field? It is really a common sense approach I have here: If you cannot do your job, you should not be allowed to continue working in that field. For instance, if you are a pharmacist and you refuse to sell emergency contraception to a person who needs that medication, then you should be fired. There should not be more to it than that.

This bill is very literally giving elected officials free reign to allow physicians to kill people. So, what do we say to these elected officials? To quote Sady Doyle, “We should tell Congress that we hear they are planning to kill us, and are pretty upset about it, because we want to live.”

For a transcript of the video above, Read more

Posted in: Musings | 3 Comments
Tuesday, February 1, 2011

How to Make Your Voice Heard and Stop the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act

No On 3 To learn about what the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act is and how it will change how federal funds are used to pay for abortions in cases of rape and incest while completely neglecting the health of a pregnant woman unless her life is in imminent danger, read here.

Activism is extremely important, especially when legislation like the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act is introduced and has a high probability of passing. Then, activism becomes crucial and it’s your right to stand up, speak loudly and demand to be heard.

There are many ways you can get involved in stopping the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, including online activism as well as contacting your Representative directly.

#DearJohn Twitter Protest

If you are on Twitter start following and contributing to the #DearJohn Twitter protest. Fabulous feminist and pro-choice folks who are really staying on top of this bill and the protest are Sady Doyle (who also created the #DearJohn campaign), Amanda Marcotte, Shelby Knox and Steph Herold. And, you know, myself, but that really goes without saying, doesn’t it? Oh well, shameless Twitter plug for me!

You can also tweet at John Boehner (@SpeakerBoehner) as well as the co-sponsors of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act who are on Twitter by looking them up here. Remember, if you are engaging via Twitter, keep your inquiries and tweets directed at representatives productive without offending or insulting.

Contact Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey and Co-Sponsors

The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act is sponsored by Chris Smith. He authored this bill and should rightfully know how we feel about it and about his position on stripping rape survivors and women of their reproductive rights. You can find his office mailing addresses, phone numbers and fax numbers here.

You can find the list of all 173 co-sponsors of this bill as well as information on how to contact them here.

Contact Your Representative

You have the undeniable right to contact your representative and voice your position on this bill. You can easily find out exactly who your representative is and what their contact information is here.

To quote Sady Doyle on contacting your rep:

Look that person up on Wikipedia, to get a sense of who they are, if you don’t already know. Then, CALL THEM. Be polite; be professional; do not threaten or use violent or abusive language under any circumstances. Explain to them that their constituents don’t support this bill, explain how and why it’s a bad bill, and let them know that if they support or fail to oppose this bill, they can expect that to impact them in a very bad way when it comes to the matter of keeping their jobs. We hired them; we can fire them. We want to flood them with calls, today and tomorrow. We need to stand up and be counted. And we can. But we need to make sure they don’t just see us talking on the Internet. We need to make sure they hear our voices, one by one by one.

If you’re like myself, you really, really want to get involved and contact your representative but because you’re socially awkward and have a hard time with that whole talking to people thing, especially about something you get very emotionally charged about, this can prove to be quite difficult and you may not come off as professional and respectful as you should. Sady Doyle, the lifesaver of activism that she is, worked out a script she used when calling the short list of Democrats who have co-sponsored H.R. 3 and posted it for others to use. If your Representative is not a Democrat, this script is still a really good start to working out what, exactly you want to say.

Hi, I’d like to leave a comment for the Congressman in regards to a bill that was recently introduced.

[They’ll say okay: It’s their job to be open to comments from the public, remember.]

The bill is HR3, which is an extremist anti-choice measure that would strip rights from rape survivors and people who need abortions in an unprecedented way. Even under the Hyde amendment, there were exemptions for survivors of rape and incest, and they received federal funding; this strips that back by saying that only people who are “forcibly raped” will be covered. And 70% of rapes aren’t “forcible.” Not only that, but it makes it much harder for insurance companies to cover people who need abortions, regardless of why they need them, and it strengthens “conscience” restrictions, which means that doctors can refuse to provide reproductive medical care to anyone at any time, if they can claim that their conscience was involved. [Representative] is one of the very few Democrats who has co-sponsored this bill. I’m very disappointed in him. Most Democrats don’t support these extremist anti-choice restrictions, and most Democratic voters won’t be willing to overlook this when it comes to the polls. I’d appreciate it if you could pass that comment on to the Congressman.

[They’ll say yes.]

Great. Thank you so much for your time.

I also came across a really awesome letter written by a young woman in high school to representative about this bill. Check it out here and write your own!

Posted in: Musings | 4 Comments
Tuesday, February 1, 2011

What You Should Know About H.R. 3: The “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act”

No On 3 Yesterday, like most Mondays, began with the best of work-related intentions. But, again like most Mondays, I veered off and something else totally took up the majority of my day. Instead of diving head-first into a black hole of Netflix, playing video games, or actually working on my other site (also known as my more-than full-time job), I got sucked into Twitter in a big, bad way.

Within about an hour of opening my eyes, picking up my computer and starting in on my workday, I saw the Twitter hashtag #DearJohn repeatedly appear in my timeline.

Created by Sady Doyle, who was also behind the #mooreandme protest and is nothing short of a hashtag activism superhero, #DearJohn was created as a response to the newly-introduced H.R. 3 bill — the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.

This terribly problematic bill is sponsored by Chris Smith, a vehemently anti-choice Representative of New Jersey, and co-sponsored by 68.5% of the new (Republican-led) Congress. With numbers like these, this is not simply a bill that has been introduced with little to no support as a politician’s pipe dream of stripping women of their right to a safe and legal abortion. John Boehner, the new Speaker of the House and mouthpiece of the new Congress, has dubbed this bill “top priority.” This is something that could very well become a reality. Who knew Margaret Atwood was writing of what could become of the future of women in America when she penned The Handmaid’s Tale.

The wording of the title of this bill is a lesson in classic anti-choice tactics. It is deceptive. “No taxpayer funding for abortion” says to people who identify as pro-life, as well as those who aren’t necessarily against abortion, but have anti-choice leaning views about it, that if this bill was to go into effect their hard-earned tax dollars would not go towards funding abortions. Anti-choice and anti-choice leaning folks agree with this sentiment, though certain federal funds have not gone towards funding abortions for women who could not otherwise afford one since the 1970s when the Hyde Amendment was enacted. The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act really does is so much more, and worse, than that. It goes far enough where if you have any compassion for women and most notably, rape victims, you should wholeheartedly oppose this bill at all costs.

Here is a breakdown of what the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act will do:

  • Redefine rape
    The federal law, as it is seen and goes into effect today, does not use federal tax dollars to cover abortion unless it is an unwanted pregnancy resulting in rape or incest, or if the pregnant woman’s health or life is at risk. Under the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, the rape exception would only cover “forcible” rape. Ironically enough, the word “forcible” is not defined in the bill. What this means is that if a minor child who is, say, 13 years old, is coerced into a sexual relationship with a man who is not a minor, let’s just say he’s 40, and that girl becomes pregnant as a result of that rape, well, that rape doesn’t count. If a woman is drugged and then raped, that rape doesn’t count. If a woman is unconscious and is rapes, that rape doesn’t count. If a woman is mentally disabled and cannot consent to sexual activity and is raped, that rape doesn’t count.
  • Put an age restriction on incest
    If a woman is raped by her father, brother, uncle, grandfather or a member of their family, and she is 18 years old, she cannot use federal funds in order to obtain her abortion. Also, let’s say a 17-year-old girl is raped by her father and she is just shy of her eighteenth birthday. If she was raped when she was 17, but is seeking an abortion when she is 18, would she be eligible? I suppose that’s up to the Rep. Chris Smith and John Boehner Official Rape Panel to decide.
  • Remove the exception for women’s health
    This bill will allow federal funds to cover abortion if — and only if — a physician certifies that the pregnancy will kill her. If continuing her pregnancy will damage her organs in some way or she will become terribly ill, having to live on medications, dialysis, in a wheelchair or what-have-you for the rest of her life, she will not get coverage because that isn’t life-threatening.
  • Require government to continue funding agencies and programs that discriminate against women and endanger women’s health
    Currently, it is law that doctors and nurses do not have to provide elective abortion services, nor are health care facilities required to offer abortion services. Under the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, these facilities are given free reign to discriminate when it comes to a woman’s reproductive health care by in addition to not providing abortions, also refusing to refer women to other health care facilities, agencies and programs that do and the government cannot withdraw funds. Due to the GOP’s constant attack on all of women’s reproductive health choices, abortion is being regularly redefined to include emergency contraception and even birth control, which could also be affected by this bill.
  • Cut tax benefits to organizations and/or individuals who select an insurance policy that covers abortion
    Today, most private health insurers cover abortion services. Under the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, tax subsidies that are given to small business owners and individuals who purchase insurance that covers abortion would be cut. This bill would, in fact, ensure that all private insurance companies stop covering abortion services, even when abortions are medically necessary.

This bill has given me some serious Whoopi Goldberg on the topic of Roman Polanski “rape rape” flashbacks. I am highly uncomfortable with — and downright refuse to allow — a group of men to sit around and dictate to women and girls of this country what, exactly, constitutes real rape. Rape that matters. Rape that counts.

The reason why I was so provoked to speak up on Twitter, on Facebook and on this blog, and gladly give up a day’s work, is because this bill is a blatant, shameless attack on women and girls who are already marginalized and stigmatized in this country. More than half of the rapes that occur in this country go unreported. The reason for this is because there is already too much in the way of rape survivors who report their attacks. In rape cases, it isn’t the rapist who is ever on trial, it’s the victim. It is the victim who is asked:

“What were you wearing?”
“How much alcohol did you consume?”
“How many people have you had sexual relationships with?”
“How frequently do you go out partying?”
“Did you previously know the man you’re accusing of raping you?”
“Have you ever been sexually active with that man before that night?”
“Were you flirting with that man or giving him mixed signals to make him think you enjoyed his advances?”
“How many times did you say no?”
“Did you try to fight him off of you?”

And the list goes on and on.

Rape cases, as they are prosecuted in this country, are fed to a jury as a woman filing charges after experiencing “buyer’s remorse” and it is an ugly, misogynistic process. Until we stop putting the victim on trial and actually start giving rape and sexual assault survivors the justice they so rightly deserve, we will not see an increase in people reporting their attacks.

Another reason why I feel so strongly about doing whatever I can to spread the word about this bill and how downright wrong, unjust, and shameful for women and girls is because this bill could have affected me. As a survivor of childhood sexual assault and multiple rape, this bill could have limited my rights to reproductive health care and services that I could have needed as a result of my attacks. Who are Chris Smith, John Boehner, any of the 68.5% of Boehner’s caucus, or anyone who actually supports this attack on the female gender, to tell me that my attacks weren’t real; that the extreme, traumatic and mental-illness-inducing violations of my being, when I was a child and again when I was a teenager, didn’t matter or didn’t count?

They can’t. No one can. We won’t let them.

For information on how to make your voice heard and stop the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act read here.

Posted in: Musings | 4 Comments
Friday, January 28, 2011

While Reading “Gotta Have It: 69 Stories of Sudden Sex”: I Hope Godzilla is a Euphemism. Oh, Wait…

Gotta Have It 69 Stories of Sudden Sex I recently received a copy of Rachel Kramer Bussel’s newest anthology, Gotta Have It: 69 Stories of Sudden Sex. It’s damn near perfect for me, a lover of sexuality, of sudden sex, and reading about it. Not to mention that each story is 1200 words or less and for someone who has very limited time in their daily life to sit back and enjoy a good book, I love being able to read two or three short stories in the amount of time it takes a fresh pot of coffee to brew.

Yesterday I started reading Salome Wilde’s contribution, “Too Wondrous to Measure” and at just the third line I got a little confused, as if I had missed some very pertinent information that the storyline relied on. The two words that tripped me up were claw and tip. Claw tip. By the seventh line it was all cleared up. Godzilla had entered the picture and I could do nothing but wonder, and perhaps halfheartedly hope, that Godzilla was what we were calling an unnamed, mysterious lover who happened to be, well, too wondrous to measure, if you will.

By the third paragraph we get into the Godzilla movies–the original movie is the only one that depicted him correctly, by the way–and with a turn of the page I read the sentence, After a few mishaps requiring stitches and a bit of psychotherapy, turning me on and getting me off was relatively simple to achieve. Immediate thought? Not a euphemism. Definitely not a euphemism.

An erotic story written from the perspective of a woman in love with and fucking Godzilla is certainly interesting and by far the last thing I would have thought I would read in this book. It took me by complete surprise, hence my absolute need to share it with all of you. However, by the time I got to the second-to-last paragraph and learned that this woman thought she was pregnant and had been having odd dreams of (and I quote) “little lizards skittering across my bed and newts in my bathtub,” I had about all I could take of the Godzilla fantasy of Salome Wilde.

All things considered, this story left a lasting impression, and for that, Salome Wilde, you win.

Posted in: Musings | 1 Comment
Saturday, December 25, 2010

Steve Martin’s Song About the Lack of Atheist Songs

Last night, Amanda Marcotte tweeted a link to a fantastic video of Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers performing an original song, “Atheists Don’t Have No Songs.”

I retweeted the link and posted the video on my Facebook, but I also wanted to post it here because I think the majority of people who read this site would find it equally as fantastic. Awesome enough, the song itself is actually pretty good.

So give the video a watch, lyrics are after the jump. You’re welcome.

Read more

Posted in: Musings | 2 Comments
Monday, December 13, 2010

Salvation Army Refuses to Distribute Harry Potter and Twilight Toys and Other Things You Should Know About the Christian Organization

Salvation Army The Salvation Army and their bell ringers and big red kettles have been out in front of popular stores and malls since immediately after Thanksgiving, as they are every year, collecting funds that are assumed to go to people in need during the holiday season. Additionally, they have also been collecting toys at malls, schools, police stations, and other locations and again, these toys are assumed to go to underprivileged children for the holidays. Except for the toys the organization deems “inappropriate.” Those toys are stocked in warehouses and left undonated, only to collect dust and then disposed of, as reported by the Toronto Sun who recently uncovered that the Salvation Army refuses to distribute Harry Potter and Twilight toys.

A man in Calgary who admired the amount of toys collected by the Salvation Army had volunteered to sift through a southeast warehouse that housed unused donated items. This volunteer learned that toys depicting Harry Potter and Twilight were left undonated due to the themes of wizardry, vampires, and werewolves that are “incompatible” with the Christian beliefs the organization holds. The volunteer said he was told by Salvation Army officials that these toys are “disposed of” and are not given to other charities, which Capt. Pam Goodyear refuted in an interview with the Toronto Sun, saying that the toys are given to other agencies and are “distributed in another manner where parents can choose.” An odd statement to make when she then was unable to provide even the name of one of these “other agencies.” Not surprisingly at all, the Calgary volunteer asked an official what was to be done with a donated plastic M-16, in which he was told, “That’s for the 10-year-olds.”

So to recap, toys that are linked to stories, figments of their author’s imagination (with added Mormon ideology mixed in for fun in Twilight’s case), are ungodly and immoral enough to be banned from being given to underprivileged children during the holiday season. Yet plastic depictions of very real weapons used in war in which countless innocent people are left for dead are just fine and dandy. That is some stellar logic!

I know of several people who buy brand new toys every year just to put them in collection boxes of the Salvation Army’s toy drives. Considering the popularity of Harry Potter and Twilight over the recent years, I would be willing to bet that several people have bought these toys for the sole purpose of donating them only to, unbeknownst to them, have their money completely wasted by this “charity” organization by the decision to dispose of these toys.

This isn’t the only thing the Salvation Army has done to make people question the authenticity of the word “charity” in conjunction with their name. No, they have been doing some pretty horrific and utterly sickening things for quite some time now, including getting into bed with politics.

Another issue that is “incompatible” with Christian beliefs are the rights of GLBTQ people. Among the Salvation Army’s list of invested interests, along with quite literally throwing away money by disposing of donated toys they don’t agree with for one reason or another, is actively denying GLBTQ people help, support, and rights.

The Bilerico Project wrote about how the Salvation Army insisted that they and their partner break up and leave the “sinful homosexual lifestyle” in order to receive assistance while homeless. When they refused, the Salvation Army turned these two homeless people away and they were left to sleep on the streets.

In 2001 it was found out that the Bush Administration had made a “firm commitment” to the Salvation Army that would have allowed them to disobey state and local laws that prohibit discrimination against gay people when administering programs with federal funds. When this secret deal was made public, that firm commitment didn’t hold up very well and the Salvation Army was held to the same law everyone else was, as it should be.

Not wanting to grant domestic partner benefits to their staff, in 2004 the Salvation Army threatened to close soup kitchens, homeless shelters, foster care programs, and HIV services in New York City if they were to be expected to follow the law that insists city contractors must extend benefits to domestic partners.

You can find out more about the Salvation Army’s list of anti-gay stances in the video below:

When I mentioned on Twitter that I was writing a post about the Salvation Army, a friend of mine tweeted back with a link to a post he wrote about how he was personally attacked by the Initiative Against Sexual Trafficking, a branch of the Salvation Army.

maymay talks openly, honestly, and intelligently about sex and is the creator of Kink On Tap. In his own words, he works to “[empower] sex-positive activists and educators to put together low-cost, high-value, fast-paced, user-generated sexuality conferences called KinkForAll unconferences.” These conferences (or unconferences) operate on the belief that sexuality affects all aspects of life. They are open to anyone who has an interest in learning or contributing to an open and safe discussion about sexuality. The Initiative Against Sexual Trafficking, which is a tremendously misleading title when you really just begin to dig into the ideology that surrounds this group, sent out an email to their mailing list subscribers painting maymay as a child molester, a sex slaver, and a “nightmarish creature.” They described the KinkForAll unconferences and thus sex-positivity as a whole as “slimy, putrid, decaying, nasty, trash.” This is seriously wrong.

So when you’re walking in or out of a store and a Salvation Army bell ringer starts calling after you and asking you to donate, feel good about declining and walking away, knowing that your money is not being used to forward a bigoted and shamelessly discriminatory agenda.

Posted in: Musings | 1 Comment