Lesley Gore’s 1964 hit “You Don’t Own Me,” sadly, is still very timely 48 (!) years later, especially in this election year that has seen unprecedented attacks on women, reproductive autonomy, and gender equity.
My first lesson came when I was reading my student evaluations after a particularly rough semester. It felt like nothing I did worked. The students complained about every lesson, every assignment. I surveyed the class to try to find out what was wrong and adjust, but it seemed like nothing helped. Even though I was mentally preparing for the worst, I never could have properly prepared myself for what I read in my evaluations. After filling out the multiple choice questions, students are invited to leave positive and negative comments on the back. I received many negative comments grumbling about the “ultra-harsh” grading policy (to be expected from classes made up of mostly college freshman), but I was shocked to read this review: “I don’t understand what her deal is. Just because she’s a teacher doesn’t mean she has all this POWER. She needs to chill.” And under positive comments? “Nice body.”
It had been an exhausting and disastrous semester, and all I got out of it was a comment about my body. I read these evaluations at the start of the summer session and began to panic about history repeating. The feeling got worse after I talked to some of the other instructors, particularly my male colleagues. The teacher who uses what he calls “public humiliation” (unprepared students must read poetry aloud until he is satisfied) to keep his students in check received no comments like mine. A male faculty member received, under positive comments, “You’re such an asshole – I love it!”
We need to acknowledge that we cannot know what it’s like to be an oppressed racial minority. Cannot. The end. Period. We don’t know because we’re queer, because we’re disabled, because we’re Jewish, because we were the nerdy kid in school. These things may have hurt us severely, but we need to stop playing Oppression Olympics and acknowledge that when we’re talking about race we Do. Not. Know. No more metaphors.
We need to accept that when a person of color tells us we’ve fucked up, the answer is not to get defensive. When we get that instinct to say “geez, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it that way at all,” it’s time to stop right now. It doesn’t matter how you meant it. It really doesn’t. Someone doesn’t have to have racism in their heart to do something racist. And doing something racist doesn’t make you an evil person who can never do good again, should never be an activist, should run off and hide in a hole somewhere. It means you did something hurtful, you made a big mistake, and you need to own that mistake. You need to say “I’m sorry.” Full stop. I’m sorry. And if the person who called you out is generous enough to take time to explain what you did wrong, you need to have a seat and listen.
Painted crosses and mass-printed “Women Do Regret Abortion” signs belonging to anti-choice extremists clutter the sidewalk of North State Street in the Fondren region of Jackson, Mississippi, where Jackson Women’s Health Organization (JWHO) operates as the state’s sole abortion clinic.
“Some [protesters] hang out in lawn chairs. Some bark at cars and passersby,” says Deirdra Harris Glover, a Jackson resident and founder of the grassroots organization Pro Choice Mississippi. “Most only have eyes for the clinic, its staff and its clients.”
Later this month, Republican State Sen. Marty Golden’s office is holding a career-development event for women in his southern Brooklyn district teaching them “Posture, Deportment and the Feminine Presence.” That’s according to a taxpayer-funded mailing being sent out in Golden’s district, which an offended reader passed along. The taxpayer-funded event – presented by a “certified protocol consultant” – is part of a series teaching women in Brooklyn “what’s new in the 21st century as it relates to business etiquette and social protocol.” More details are also available on Golden’s Senate website, including the fact that women in attendance will be taught to, “Sit, stand and walk like a model,” how to, “Walk up and down a stair elegantly” and “Differences in American and Continental rules governing handshakes and introductions.”
Golden says his classes are meant to help young women get jobs, therefore you are paying for it. (Tipped by Duncan Osborne)
UPDATE: JMG reader Colin tips us that after widespread internet ridicule, the feminine elegance class has been canceled. Annoyed feminists say they will go forwardwith their planned protest against him anyway.
We were discussing homosexuality because of an allusion to it in the book we were reading, and several boys made comments such as, “That’s disgusting.” We got into the debate and eventually a boy admitted that he was terrified/disgusted when he was once sharing a taxi and the other male passenger made a pass at him. The lightbulb went off. “Oh,” I said. “I get it. See, you are afraid, because for the first time in your life you have found yourself a victim of unwanted sexual advances by someone who has the physical ability to use force against you.” The boy nodded and shuddered visibly.“But,” I continued. “As a woman, you learn to live with that from the time you are fourteen, and it never stops. We live with that fear every day of our lives. Every man walking through the parking garage the same time you are is either just a harmless stranger or a potential rapist. Every time.” The girls in the room nodded, agreeing. The boys seemed genuinely shocked. “So think about that the next time you hit on a girl. Maybe, like you in the taxi, she doesn’t actually want you to.”
The American nuns who were harshly condemned by the Vatican in April as failing to uphold Catholic doctrine finally responded on Friday in their own strong terms, saying the Vatican’s assessment was based on “unsubstantiated accusations” and a “flawed process,” and has caused scandal, pain and polarization in the Roman Catholic Church.
The nuns issued a statement after six weeks of virtual silence, during which their religious communities across the country mulled over the Vatican’s startling pronouncement, and Catholics across the country rallied to support the nuns. The Vatican had announced it would dispatch three American bishops to lead a complete makeover of the sisters’ principal organization, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents about 80 percent of the nation’s 57,000 nuns.
After three days of discussion and prayer in Washington this week, the 21 national board members of the group decided they could not accept the Vatican’s verdict, and would send their president and executive director to Rome on June 12 to open a dialogue with Vatican officials.
Sister Pat Farrell, president of the leadership conference, said in a telephone interview on Friday, “We do want to go and speak the truth as we understand it about our lives.” She said the sisters had been “stunned by the severity” of the Vatican’s pronouncement, which accused them of transgressions that included promoting radical feminism and contradicting the bishops. The sisters were also concerned that the assessment was conducted almost entirely by written communication, she said, with only “minimal contact” with officials at the Vatican office that issued the conclusions, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Among the accusations the nuns considered “unsubstantiated” was the Vatican’s charge of promoting “radical feminist themes,” Sister Farrell said.
“Even large sectors of the church itself have legitimate concern and want to continue to talk about the place of women in the church, and rightful equality between men and women,” said Sister Farrell, who is a member of the leadership team of the Sisters of St. Francis, of Dubuque, Iowa. “So if that is called radical feminism, then a lot of men and women in the church, far beyond us, are guilty of that.”
It also reprimanded the sisters for making public statements that “disagree with or challenge the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.” Many influential nuns who work in hospitals and health care had supported passage of the Obama administration’s health care overhaul, crossing wires with bishops who were working with Congress to forestall the bill’s passage because of their concerns about abortion.
The upshot is that teen motherhood is much more a consequence of intense poverty than its cause. Preaching good behavior won’t do anything to reduce its incidence, and even handing out free birth control won’t contribute meaningfully to solving economic problems. Instead, family life seems to follow real economic opportunities. Where poor people can see that hard work and “playing by the rules” will reward them, they’re pretty likely to do just that. Where the system looks stacked against them, they’re more likely to abandon mainstream norms. Those who do so by becoming single teen moms end up fairing poorly in life, but those bad outcomes seem to be a result of bleak underlying circumstances rather than poor choices.
Matt Yglesias at Slate, explaining that getting pregnant doesn’t make teen girls more likely to be poor throughout life. Being poor makes teen girls more likely to get pregnant. Poverty isn’t something inflicted on teen mothers by some vindictive paternalistic cosmos, y’all… (via thepoliticalnotebook)
For doctors and medical workers, the woman bleeding from a botched abortion was a familiar figure in hospital emergency rooms in the 1950s and ’60s. Entire wards were given over to patients suffering from septic abortions. Women tried to abort themselves with abortifacients or irritants administered as douches: Lysol, soap, kerosene, vinegar, powdered mustard, bleach, among others. They used, or others on them, garden hoses, syringes, telephone wire, coat hangers, nut picks, pencils, catheters, and chopsticks. They were brought into hospital wards by the hundreds, bleeding from perforated uteruses. In 1962, for instance, Cook County Hospital in Chicago treated nearly five thousand women for abortion-related complications. Police crackdowns forced women to self-abort or resort to untrained specialists, with the result that deaths increased, doubling in New York City between 1951 and 1962. In the 1960s, they accounted for nearly half of maternal mortality.
The Feminist Promise,
A passage from a book I read for my history class. I actually cried a little when I read it - it was so horrible. Hey guys. THIS is what you’re asking for when you ask for abortion to be outlawed.
Oh, what the U.S. military will do to protect itself. It’s abhorrent and disgusting. Women who were sexually assaulted were more likely to be discharged for having personality disorders. This meant they lost all benefits and in some cases had to pay back the military.
Things are blue for women in the Bluegrass State, where female poverty is at 18.5%, only 21% of women have college degrees and freedom of choice doesn’t exist for many. Health-insurance companies don’t cover abortions — unless it’s a procedure to save the mother’s life — and even if they did, an overwhelming 77% of women live in counties without a provider. Yet Kentucky still ranks only fifth on the list of worst states for women. In other words, it gets worse — not better — here on out.
4. West Virgina
After examining the data, iVillage found that West Virginia wasn’t the most ideal place for women to live. With a dismally low number of women holding degrees (just 17.8%) and the median income hovering around $29,651, women don’t have much of a chance at independence. Also, West Virginia has the dubious distinction of being the only state that doesn’t have laws to protect a woman’s right to breast-feed in either public or private.
In the state that was once known as the Land of Opportunity, there aren’t many opportunities available for women. Women in Arkansas will find it nearly impossible to get an abortion, since only 3% of the state’s counties offer them. And it’s likely they won’t have the funds to travel, as the median income is only $29,148 a year, and 24% don’t have health insurance.
A woman’s right to choose is also compromised in Oklahoma. (Are you starting to recognize a pattern?) Women wanting to terminate a pregnancy in the Sooner State likely need to travel, as there are only six abortion doctors in the entire region. Once they’ve traveled, they’ll also have to wait a full 24 hours after their first visit to the doctor, where they will only be allowed to have a sonogram and hear details about the fetus. They’ll have to wait until the next day to have the procedure, which their health insurance won’t be covering. There’s also a sizable chance they won’t have health insurance anyway, as 1 in 4 women are without coverage. What’s more, the share of women in the Oklahoma legislature is a pitiful 12.8%, and there are no women in its Congress.
And, at last, we come to the worst of all U.S. states for women to live in. Perhaps the female citizenry of Mississippi already suspects this, since 22% of women are impoverished, they earn the lowest average wages in the country, with a median income of $28,879, and college-graduation rates are grim at only 21%. Also, while 68% of Mississippi women are overweight or obese, nearly a quarter of the state’s women have health insurance. With such a depressing state of affairs, is it really any wonder that Mississippi has never had a woman in Congress or as governor — and the state legislature is only 15% female?
Over the last 40 years, Gloria Steinem has almost always been at the other end of the phone when some member of the news media has sought comment about a pressing issue involving women’s rights, whether it was Roe v. Wade (“If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament”), the tax problems that all but doomed the chances of the first woman to run for vice president on a major ticket (“What has the women’s movement learned from Geraldine Ferraro’s candidacy for vice president? Never get married.”) and even the presidency of George W. Bush (“There has never been an administration that is more hostile to women’s equality, to reproductive freedom as a fundamental human right”).
And that raises a question well worth asking in 2012: Where is the next Gloria Steinem, and why — decades after the media spotlight first focused on her — has no one emerged to take her place?