Monthly Archives: July 2014

Sex Spreadsheets are Bullshit. Grow Up.

So recently this spreadsheet went viral. A spreadsheet.

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I’m already annoyed.

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First of all, what kind of passive aggressive bull shit is this? Are we 12?

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Here’s a newsflash: if there is something going on in your relationship, the quickest way to make it worse is to place the blame entirely on your partner and then EMAIL them a document you made specifically to shame them. How about being an adult and having an actual conversation with your partner about why you’ve been going through a dry spell? Because here’s another newsflash: your partner doesn’t owe you regular sex. Sex is a collaborative, cooperative experience. Your sex life is not static and it is not guaranteed. Just like other aspects of your relationship, it changes and evolves  and will require effort to be maintained. It’s an important aspect of any relationship, sure, but it’s not the only one. And given that the sex is dwindling and their communication obviously stinks, I’d venture to say that this couple has lots of other issues. I’m just so freakin’ annoyed by this guy I can hardly stand it! Have a conversation! Think seriously about why this may be occurring, including how you yourself may be contributing. Grow the fuck up. (Note: this goes for all people creating sex spreadsheets, cause apparently it’s a trend happening now ew gross come on guys, seriously.)

one more eye roll. cause ugh.
one more eye roll. cause ugh.

Speaking of how you may be contributing: some responses to this story have tried to maintain the pernicious myth that women are less interested in sex than men. I’m here to tell you that this is nonsense. Many have pointed to the orgasm gap to help explain women’s perceived disinterest. The orgasm gap, according to a recent study, is the fact that women are having 1 orgasm for every 3 that men have. Which just makes me so sad. And before you start with me, let’s clear some things up. Women are not ‘more complicated’ than men, anatomically speaking. Women are able to achieve orgasm at the same rate as men when they masturbate, and indeed women in same sex relationships have orgasms at the same rate as heterosexual men. It’s also not true that it takes women longer to achieve orgasm, because when masturbating it takes women and men the same time on average: 4 minutes. All it takes to make a woman cum is willingness, and basic understanding of female anatomy (because the clit isn’t hard to find, but it is absolutely necessary.)

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translation

Alright so we’ve cleared up the myth that women are harder to please sexually. So the orgasm gap isn’t natural and it’s not acceptable (or is shouldn’t be!)  As it stands, this gap can explain part of why women may seem less interested in sex than men. But another important factor is how we raise men and women differently when it comes to sexual self expression. Boys are allowed to be outward in their expressions of sexuality, and in fact expressing sexual desire is seen as a sign of a healthy young man. Men can brag about their sexual encounters, and their orgasms are an assumed part of ‘sex’ in the accepted cultural narrative. Girls, on the other hand, are raised knowing that for them, sexuality is shameful. Not only is too much desire or too many partners evidence that they are slutty, it can also be used to justify sexual violence. For women, one of the first ways they learn about sex is to fear rape. And it is crystal clear that they are partly responsible for preventing rape, by controlling their own behavior; not dressing too provocatively or getting drunk or “leading men on”.  All of this adds up to confusion, because we also teach girls that their worth can be measured by their perceived ‘fuck-ability.’ They must be available to give pleasure, but they must not want or seek pleasure too obviously. And there is not a single piece of sex education that teaches about women’s pleasure, so we don’t learn to make our pleasure a real priority. Add that to the lack of value we place on women’s bodies overall, and the picture is bleak.

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Listen guys. Sex doesn’t happen like in the movies. Two people, even if the chemistry is great, don’t always hit a home run the first time. Or the second, third, etc. And sometimes, if you’ve had the same partner for awhile, your sex life can hit a slump or a drought or whatever. Because sex is about more than just orgasms, it’s also about intimacy and communication and closeness. And your sex life doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and real life can get crazy. Awhile back I was working 2 retail jobs and my schedule was insane. I was working 6 or 7 days a week, often 10 or 12 hour days. And indeed, my sex life with my partner took a hit. I was exhausted, and I also didn’t feel good about myself (no yoga, crappy eating, no sleep, you get it.)

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How did my partner respond? (HINT: it wasn’t by blaming me passive aggressively with a spread sheet of entitled anger.) He asked a simple question, over drinks: What’s up with our sex life? And I’m not saying that was an easy conversation, but we kept drinking and throwing out ideas, we laughed a lot, and we were willing and honest. We didn’t yell, or blame each other, we didn’t take ourselves to seriously and we never for one moment assumed that it should be easier. It meant a great deal to me that he was able to be vulnerable about how he was feeling, and that he wanted to work together to keep this part of our relationship vital. That conversation was the first big one we had about sex, but it wasn’t the last, and we will need to keep talking and laughing over drinks from time to time so we can keep the spark alive. And hopefully we won’t only check in when things get rough, because even when things are good there is room for improvement (*wink*), and when times are good the pressure is off. It shouldn’t feel like torture. Communication can even be sexy! Take a deep breath, retain your sense of humor, and remember that you’re on the same team.

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It’s true there should be magic, but the magic can’t be taken for granted. You need to work to maintain it. And nothing kills the magic like taking your partners body for granted, or feeling like they ‘owe’ you more than they’re giving. Sexual pleasure isn’t a right you automatically have in a relationship. It’s a gift that partners give to one another, through practice and empathy and consideration and enthusiasm and vulnerability and creativity and collaboration. If you aren’t getting it, you might wanna reflect on whether or not you are giving it.

beyass

peaches
it takes effort. nick names. lingerie. whatever works for you, plus enthusiasm. get ’em Bey.

Street Harassment: Biking Edition

I’m pretty rattled about this incident, so bear with me.

I was coming north on Ave B, just passing the Williamsburg bridge. A fellow cyclist went ahead of me in the bike lane. For about a block we did this awkward thing where we were sort of going the same speed, but then he’d slow down and I’d go outside to pass him, but then he’d speed up again so I’d back off. This happened 3 or 4 times. At the intersection I made a move to pass him and he yelled at me ‘Watch it, what the fuck do you think you’re doing?!’ I hadn’t passed him closely at all, everyone had plenty of safe space. Now we were sort of next to one another so I said ‘I’m just trying to maintain my speed.’ He replied ‘Why the fuck are you trying to pass me?’ This sounded arrogant and completely illogical and I was starting to feel angry so I said ‘Just mind your own fucking business and keep your eyes on the road.’ I tried to speed up. He sped up next to me and unleashed a torrent of hateful language. I remember fucking bitch and who the fuck do you think you are and something about what a slut I was for biking around in a skirt and how I should cover up my filthy cunt. I tried to slow down to let him go ahead, but he slowed down and wouldn’t proceed without me. He even insulted my bike, and her fucking sparkles.

sparkle
this is my sparkly bike, sparkle pony.

I was starting to feel threatened, and unsafe. His tone was not joking, he was purposely staying with me, and he’d noticed my totally noticeable and not at all commonplace bike, which he could certainly see again in the future and remember. I wondered if I should try and get my phone to take a picture, but my phone wasn’t accessible and I’m always at yelling people holding their phones while riding. I wished I could magically manifest some of the cards this dope chick has been making, so I could throw up a whole handful and make it rain on him and hopefully distract him long enough to pedal to safety.  As we were approaching Houston Street I sped up like I was going to fly through the intersection, and so did he. Just before getting 1/2 way across I abruptly stopped, which PS was probably super dangerous, and I turned my bike to head east towards Ave C. He was ahead of me and didn’t see me right away so he was through the intersection and he didn’t turn around. His rants faded as I pedaled east, looking behind me every few minutes and hoping he didn’t turn east ahead of me to meet back up. He didn’t.

this is my awesome dad, ken dill, instilling a love of bikes in me at a tender young age
this is my awesome dad, ken dill, instilling a love of bikes in me at a tender young age

So, what is it, I wondered, that set him off? I pedaled all the way home, unsteady, turning over in my head what had occurred. Was it that I deigned to pass him? Because dudes are always stronger and faster than girls? Does he have something against lady riders in general? Too much freedom and autonomy? Too much joy? Too much leg? I couldn’t figure it out.

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But it doesn’t matter. Not one bit. Because I’m allowed to ride a bike. It’s fun, it’s economical, and it’s good for the environment. And I’m allowed to bike in dresses. If my thighs offend you, look at something else. And I’m allowed to pass you. I’m allowed to ride at whatever speed I judge to be appropriate, so long as I am not putting other riders/cars/pedestrians in danger. But isn’t it fascinating how quickly this conversation went from urban cycling to what a bitch/slut/cunt I am? I mean, he could have insulted my riding skills, or continued to claim I wasn’t practicing good bike safety etiquette. He could have just called me a jerk or a butt head. Alas, it was straight to bitch. That ubiquitous insult with no male equivalent (except for bitch, which is insulting because it implies you are acting like a woman.) How quickly he leapt to assume that I was a wanton harlot due to the fact that I had a bike seat between my legs and there was skin visible above my knees.

sparkle with one of her friends, my besties claire bear's bike from back in the day
sparkle with one of her friends, my besties claire bear’s bike from back in the day

Also: if you are reading this and thinking in horror ‘god that dude is an asshole and terrible and I wish things like that never happened’, but you don’t get why women complain about cat calling, please take my hand and allow me to show you the connection. In this case, the original exchange between us was unpleasant, however the scariest moment was when he escalated. It took a turn from a cycling disagreement to what a bitch/slut I was, and then he physically wouldn’t leave. This pattern also happens when the conversation starts with a ‘hey baby’ or ‘damn girl you look good’ etc. You can never tell when an innocuous compliment is going to to turn lewd, vulgar, or aggressive depending on how you do or do not react. This is why ‘compliments’ are not fun to receive, because they feel like ticking time bombs. So spread the word about how it really feels to be cat called or harassed on the street, and don’t do it yourself (unless there is an obvious vibe and eye contact and you’re a grown up I know you can figure it out on your own) and also check out these great folks and their work: SSH & Hollaback!

hollaback

I was coming home with a small token of celebration for my partner last night. Nothing extravagant, just wanted to take a moment to point out an accomplishment I think is pretty cool. And instead I came home upset, shaken, and thoroughly un-joyful. I showered and shook off the encounter. But I will never forget his face, or the feeling in the pit of my stomach, or the fact that our interaction is part of a web of similar interactions between men and the women they harass (#YesAllWomen). These interactions create a ubiquitous feeling of danger in public places. And instead of jumping to protect the right of women to do whatever the fuck they want to the same degree as men, as a culture we say things like ‘well maybe you shouldn’t bike in that skirt‘ and ‘what do you expect when you dress that way‘ and ‘you shouldn’t be going out alone at night‘ and ‘are you sure you didn’t do anything to lead him on‘ and ‘gosh, can’t you just take a compliment.’

no gif

And I said the same thing to myself. You shouldn’t have engaged with him, you shouldn’t have cursed at him. But fuck that. I did what any reasonable person would have done when they were shouted at. I’m not going to stay quiet because you have some ego-maniacle malfunction. Fuck you bro. I am still gonna bike and sing up and down the east side of this island. I’m gonna go to yoga, run errands, meet up with friends and commute to my fucking big girl job. And I’m going to always wear a helmet because fucking safety. More and more women are biking, so you’ll have to get used to us, or relinquish the road. Sparkle and I aren’t going anywhere. And neither are my thighs. Grow up. Shut up. Get a helmet, and while you’re at it try seeing women as actual human beings. Maybe then we can all get where we are going a little more safely.

What’s Actually Annoying About ‘Women Against Feminism’

Maybe you’ve seen it by now. There is a tumblr happening with women holding up signs about why they don’t need feminism. A lot of the signs talk about not hating men. And a lot are about opening jars. But most importantly, the majority of the signs are confused. Confused about what feminism is and what feminism does. And I am just so frustrated.

katnissareyouserious

My initial response is to make a counter list about what I don’t need, and make up confusing reasons why. Here are some fun examples:

I don’t need water because it can be a liquid, gas, or solid and that means it’s tricky and can’t be trusted!

I don’t wanna go to school because you know who went to school?! The person who is responsible for making the atomic bomb (whose name I don’t know because school is for destroyers of the world!)

I don’t watch TV because they have TV in prison and prison is for reflection and reform, not free cable!

I don’t ride bikes because bikes are slutty and also they are for hipsters and cars are way safer!

I could go on. But being snarky is only half the battle. Because what is happening here is both a profound disconnect, as well as a deeply embedded self-hatred resulting from being born and raised in a culture that profoundly controls, disrespects, and abuses women’s bodies. Let’s look at just a few examples.

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I almost can’t even start with this one. First of all, feminism doesn’t look down at women who choose to stay at home. Feminism advocates for choices, and support for all those choices. At one point, not staying at home was not a choice for some* (*white, middle/upper class) women, and thus expanding those choices was the goal. If something is already an option, you don’t need to fight for it. This particular argument is a little tired at this point, and yet it persists. This woman has been a victim of abuse and assault not once, but twice, and yet cannot see how her abuse is part of a pattern, indeed a crisis, happening worldwide. Violence against women is not random, it is systematic, and pervasive, and one of the greatest clues to how patriarchy functions. Feminism doesn’t set out to vilify men, who in fact also experience sexual assault and abuse. Also some feminists really like penises. And some don’t. But I don’t really think that’s a ground breaking truth.

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Em k, well that’s cool. Compliments are nice. Feminism isn’t anti-compliments. It’s anti-harassment. And not all people feel appreciative or happy when they’re being ‘complimented’ by strangers. So their feelings are also valid, and everyone should respect the right of everyone else to walk to work/the store/a party etc without feeling like they are on display. Cause not everyone wants to be only display all the time. And also sometimes ‘compliments’ are actually about a pervasive system of violence and control. And also not everyone is nailing lipstick the way you are so maybe they’d rather just go on about their day?

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This is another weird trend. That people want to take responsibility for their own actions. That sounds super honorable. But we don’t live our lives in a vacuum. All of us are affected by culture, and by each other, each and every day we are alive. And sometimes, we make big mistakes and we need to own up. But sometimes, actions have root causes that are out of our control. (For example: the only people responsible for rapes are rapists.) This picture makes me kinda sad because this person is choosing to be vulnerable and own up to some insecurities, which is brave. And we all have insecurities. But to claim that some of those insecurities aren’t fed/encouraged/created by the patriarchal capitalist monster machine that is the beauty industry, and also celebrity culture at large, is just silly.

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This is another interesting point of logic for these folks. Feminism doesn’t believe that all women are victims, and it doesn’t believe that all men are rapists. At no time does it attempt to paint all women one way and all men one way. Feminism does shed light on the epidemic of sexual harassment and assault happening nation wide (and indeed world wide), and it names this epidemic a political problem. Women make up the majority of the victims (1 in 6 will be assaulted in their lifetime), but not all women are victims and not all victims are women. Feminism advocates for those that are raped, so that their rights are guaranteed and their attackers brought to justice. Victims did not always have a voice, nor was justice often found (and actually, I’d hesitate to use the word often now…) Not all men perpetrate violence, but most women who experience violence experience it at the hands of a man. But this itself is a feminist issue! Indeed, we do live in a culture that conditions boys to suppress their emotions, unless those emotions are aggressive. Our culture does glorify violence, especially as an essential part of masculinity. This is bad for men and women, and it is the fault of patriarchy, not feminists.

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Ah yes, this one is a real gem. Check out how she ‘subtly’ slut shames women she has never even met while defending the entire male population but also talking about ‘real feminism’ which is really just, well, feminism. It’s quite a feat. First of all, I would argue that respect and equal opportunity for women does actually involve access to safe abortion, contraception, and sexual empowerment/autonomy. Just saying. Additionally, and this is important: feminism doesn’t damn men. It points out systematic oppression. It highlights how issues that were once deemed ‘personal’ are actually political. It advocates for women to have a full breadth of choices about their bodies and their life paths.

Plus men can also be feminists! See below for one of my fav examples:

JGLFEMINIST

Look, if you don’t want to claim the feminist label, that’s fine. Labels can be a real bummer. But please don’t disavow what you don’t understand.  At it’s heart, feminism is about equality and justice. It’s not perfect. We have a lot of work to do to make sure that the movement is inclusive of all issues across the lines of race, class, and sexuality. We’ve gotten better as the journey has continued, but feminism is a group of humans and humans are not perfect. It will take diligent work within the feminist community, and with our allies, to ensure that the movement continues to grow along an inclusive, empathetic and justice driven path. But you could be helping! Instead of holding these weird signs that mostly promote outdated or plain old incorrect misconceptions about feminism. Considering it, but still skeptical? Allow me to help clear things up:

Not all feminists choose to grow their natural body hair. Some do. If you don’t wanna grow your body hair, you can still be a feminist. Not all feminists think being a stay at home mom is wrong (most, I’d argue, don’t.) You can be a stay at home mom and be a feminist, although you should also advocate for mom’s that work because all mom’s are great and because not all mom’s have the option to stay home and because women’s work both in and out of the home has been undervalued for a really long time and that should stop. Not all feminists are humorless bitches. I’m sure some are. But some are wildly hilarious. If you have a sense of humor, you can still be a feminist. And not all feminists hate men. Some might. And maybe you are uncomfortable with their anger. But if some folks have been harassed and abused and assaulted, is their anger not warranted? Just because you would, or have, responded differently, does that mean that their voices should not be heard? Frankly, feminists are angry because by no fault of their own they live in a culture that values their humanity less than the humanity of men. This isn’t all men’s fault. It’s patriarchy’s fault. But sometimes men take advantage of their advantages and sometimes the appropriate response is righteous anger. I don’t advocate that we come from a place of righteous anger all the time, because it is exhausting and because I think that love and inclusion and empathy will bring us closer to our goals. But if you don’t hate men, congratulations, I don’t either, and we can still be  feminists.

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I’ll just leave this here at the end and say that feminism is responsible for the fact that women vote, for the fact that marital rape is illegal, for equal rights regarding access to school and the resources there-in, for birth control, and for Beyonce. Any young woman living in this moment in America is a product of feminists efforts in some way. You may think you don’t need it, but it has already positively shaped your life in one way or another. And maybe you aren’t down with the complete agenda, but denying it entirely is ungrateful and disingenuous, and ultimately it hurts us all.

beyonce-world-war-ii-650

Let’s Take a Break from Apocolytpic Emo Breakdowns and Talk Natural Body Care

Let’s talk about hair cuts and natural body care products cause the rest of the world is exhausting and it’s just too hot to keep raging!

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This is an update on my natural body care journey (for a full breakdown on ‘why the hell am I doing this?’, see here and here.) First of all, I cut my hair. My fears, it turns out, were unwarranted. I love it. I don’t feel less pretty, I feel light and free and cute. Since I provided photos before, here is my new ‘do, shout out to Marika in Delaware who is the best and always does what I want but better than I imagined:

photo

Also, I have been washing with honey and it’s been great. Honey is moisturizing for the hair, slightly acidic to balance the PH of your scalp, and it’s also anti microbial and anti fungal. The recipe I used is 3 parts water and 1 part raw honey (raw is important, but it’s not wildly expensive and you don’t use a lot of this mixture per wash so it will last.) I warmed the mixture over low heat to make sure the honey was fully dissolved. I let it cool down, and then put it all in an empty hair product bottle I’d cleaned out (reduce reuse recycle!), and I’m keeping it in the fridge to avoid spoiling. Not that I have hair to really focus on, but this mixture should be massaged into the scalp rather used to saturate your hair. It smells great, my hair is soft, and I don’t have to wash everyday. Additionally, I now have way less stuff in my bathroom. Less plastic bottles, less products, less clutter. It feels great to clear the medicine cabinet and shower caddy, and to know exactly what is coming into contact with my body. Plus I haven’t had to sacrifice any quality in terms of how clean I feel! My skin and hair aren’t oily, I’m not breaking out, and actually my showers are quicker. So far, oil cleansing and honey shampoo are a success.

Yay-kyli

But it hasn’t all been hunky dory. My natural oral care experiments have been…. less than wonderful.

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I did not like the toothpaste recipe I tried, which consisted of coconut oil, baking soda, vegetable glycerin and peppermint essential oil. The texture is kind of grainy, and you cannot honestly describe it as ‘minty’. It didn’t leave my mouth feeling fresh, however I suspect I will have to try and re-calibrate my taste going forward so that ‘fresh’ isn’t automatically ‘minty.’ In any case, I haven’t given up on toothpaste, but I will be trying some different recipes and maybe different essential oils for flavor. Lemon or orange oil would be nice, and also help with whitening. For now I’ve gotten a fluoride-free toothpaste from Tom’s, and I’m psyched to have a minty mouth again!

scoobyteethbrushing

Additionally I’ve been oil pulling and… well… I’m not crazy about it. Full disclosure: the time ranges people suggest vary, and I’ve been shooting for 10 whole minutes, but honestly I’ve never hit a full ten (I get close, like 8 and 1/2 or 9 ish and bail.) I will keep practicing and try to keep my eyes off the clock, but that’s a long time to keep swishing. Even so, I am going to continue with this, because I think it’s a mindful practice and I’m kind of into that. But again, it doesn’t leave my mouth feeling super clean (no mint…), although I do not mind the over all taste. It does, however, help with morning breath and whitening, and like I said you have to kind of slow down and focus. So this gets a reserved thumbs up. You can read up on it here, here, here, and here.

oilpulling

That’s all the news for now. I have to say that it’s been fun trying all these new things, as it is all moving me in what I feel is a positive direction where I have less extraneous and potentially poisonous stuff, not to mention more time. Having less hair has been amazing in this heat, and actually I think it’s the best thing I’ve done for my yoga practice since… going to yoga. I’m less distracted, I still feel sassy, and the lack of maintenance is super empowering. Next up to try is homemade deodorant, and I am hoping that this works as well as folks claim because I am a very active human and it is really very hot in NYC right now and I don’t mind sweating but I sure don’t wanna stink. Have any of you guys tried any natural body care stuff, with or without success? Please share any stories, insights or resources in the comments!

he (and i) really wanna know! <3
he (and i) really wanna know! ❤

Real Talk: I’m having an existential crisis about hatred for women’s bodies, and it’s storming, and the struggle is too real

I know that a lot of what is written in the feminist blogosphere is done with a certain amount of humor, and snark. Sarcasm. Because we want to believe that what we are writing about is so obvious, that sarcasm is the perfect tool to reveal it for what is truly is. But honestly, I’m not sure I have a lot of snark left after this week, so I hope you will forgive this rather sincere and earnest post.

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I’m disheartened this week, by the recent Supreme Court rulings, but more so by the lack of outrage I feel. I know there is a lot written in anger, and that lots of my peers are upset. But outside of that rage bubble there is a collective shrug. An overall ambivalence, that this decision isn’t a big deal. The limitations aren’t very strong. Sincere religious beliefs are a fair enough claim for exception. This is about insurance, not about women.

SMHkatniss

I don’t understand how people cannot see with certainty that this is about hatred for women’s bodies. How the very fact that contraception is controversial is irrefutable evidence that we live in a toxic, misogynist culture that values any life (hypothetical, corporate) over the life of a woman. And with other marginalized groups making strides, the rights of women are being legally thwarted at every turn. The law of the land was just altered so that folks who believe that women’s bodies belong to something or someone else can assert their beliefs at the expense of real people. And now the floor is open for companies to use their ‘sincerely held religious beliefs’ to discriminate against women. And it is discrimination, which is made even more obvious by the fact that no other religious exemptions were granted. If you believe the blood transfusions, vaccines, or anti-depressants are immoral or sinful or whatever, well tough cookies. It’s only women’s bodies that can be sacrificed in the name of ‘Christian’ values. (Unless of course they allow this ruling to set a precedent for discrimination against LGBTQ folks, which is already trying to happen, FYI.)

Contraception isn’t magic, and it isn’t evil. And it shouldn’t just be liberals or self-proclaimed feminists getting upset about this ruling. Corporations being granted the rights of people should, frankly, upset everyone. And folks who are anti-abortion should be outraged as well, for indeed the best way to bring down the abortion rate is by providing comprehensive sex education and unfettered access to birth control. And yet, they’ve managed to trick many into believing that to be against one should automatically make you against both. Such a clever tactic. I believe that women’s health choices regarding her body should be her own, whether that choice be in avoiding a pregnancy or ending one. But for those who oppose the elective ending of pregnancy, this birth control exemption should feel like a huge disappointment.

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I want to know why they hate our bodies so much. Why, everywhere I look, control of our bodies is being taken from women and put in the hands of others. Into the hands of the Supreme Court, those 5 men who ruled that corporations have more rights as people under the law then women. Into in the hands of employers, who can now decide which kind of contraception, basic care in the eyes of the medical establishment and federal government, are acceptable for coverage. It’s in the hands of advertisers, the media, and internet trolls, who decide and proclaim which of us is beautiful, appropriate, feminine, and worthy. It’s in the hands of men on the street, who can comment and harass without fear because they are just complimenting you. It’s in the hands of rapists, who will claim that you were asking for it, and be justified when the police and the judge and even your friends and family ask ‘what were you wearing’ and ‘were you flirting’ and ‘how much were you drinking’. All these ways, the insidious and the obvious, are part of the reality of this culture. They are overt and subtle, they are accepted and sometimes frowned upon, but mostly they are tolerated. For now, we would rather uphold the power system of patriarchy that truly dismantle it.

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Ok ok, I’m using ‘we’ there loosely. In fact, I myself would really really like to dismantle the patriarchy, and I know many other capable adults who would as well. I don’t know why these things aren’t more obvious. I don’t know why folks can’t see the hate that is at work in this ruling, and indeed that is at work every day in large and small ways. I sincerely hope that all of the marginalized groups, all those that feel the weight of a culture that wants to keep them in a certain box (or cage), will come together. We have a black president, half of all states have legalized gay marriage, and women are over 1/2 the population. Let’s rally the troops and tell the establishment, the folks in power, the old white guys and all their allies, that their reign is over. That there is room for everyone’s voice, for everyone’s unique gifts, and for everyone’s love. So long as you are speaking about inclusion, empathy, true democracy and community. Equality. Creation instead of war. Love in the place of fear. ‘Yes we can’ instead of ‘No you can’t.’ True justice. Right now, I do not see justice for women. Only manipulation and control passed off as controversy and the protection of some freedoms at the expense of others. But maybe I’m the crazy one. Maybe it’s just about paying for some medicines, and not others.

Here is something that will make you smile instead of sigh, just so we don’t end on a note of despair: 18 Empowering Illustrations, to remind us that our bodies are our own to create and control in whatever image we choose. Namaste. Have a good weekend.

Sebelius v Hobby Lobby UPDATE: It’s worse than you think

“It’s not that bad!” you might wanna believe. “It’s only a few kinds of birth control, and if they don’t want to pay for it they shouldn’t have to, and women can probably still get it covered from the government, and not paying for it isn’t really restricting access!!”

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Lets address these one by one:

First of all, I maintain that corporations shouldn’t be able to have sincerely held religious beliefs in the eyes of the law. They should not be able to get around the law of the land in this manner. And this whole ‘not wanting to pay for things’ argument is really just tough shit. Because there are lots of things we all pay for that we could reasonably object to, particularly with regards to health insurance. For example, I sincerely believe that the American diet causes heart disease, diabetes, and many types of cancer. So I don’t want to cover treatment for any of those issues. People should eat more kale and less hamburgers, or pay for their drugs themselves (Sound familiar? Be less slutty, or pony up for your slut medication yourself? Yea, that’s a real thing people argue.) Or the classic Viagra argument. That shit isn’t strictly necessary, and men should deal with their own penis/heart disease issues, why should I subsidize their erections? But also, what is the real difference between paying for it via insurance coverage and paying wages with which employees purchase contraception? Both are technically benefits earned by working. So to me, not including contraception in a benefits package is akin to an employer deciding what you can buy with your hard earned wages. Which is scary, and wrong.

But Alex, you say, it’s only some BC they don’t wanna cover. There are still lots of options!

1) If the options are legal and FDA approved, there shouldn’t be limits imposed by your employer because they aren’t a doctor and their ‘sincerely held beliefs’ aren’t backed by science and they don’t know what’s best for your body and health. Full Stop.

2) This ruling is limited to only contraception, however it is not limited to only the 4 kinds that Hobby Lobby opposes. I repeat: Companies that wish to are able to stop covering any type of contraception they have a ‘sincerely held religious’ objection to. Here are the 82 companies that currently have cases pending. Not all object only to EC and IUDs.

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Additionally, I’d like to point out that not covering something is indeed restricting access for many many families. Contraception isn’t cheap. The reason that coverage was mandated when the ACA was passed is because the medical community widely recognized that contraception comprises basic care for women and families, and that it should be universally covered like other forms of necessary and preventative care. When it isn’t covered, women and families are forced to make tough decisions. It’s like if health insurance didn’t cover mammograms or prostate exams. These kinds of procedures are covered because they save lives, and often prevent more expensive and harmful issues from occurring. Contraception has the same effect on the lives of women and families.

Finally, the work around. Remember, this work around currently only applies to non-profits that are exempt, so they will need to extend it to for-profit closely held companies. They most likely will, but as of now it’s hypothetical. Regardless of the fact that women shouldn’t have to endure extra steps to get the basic care they need, the federal work around isn’t working smoothly for the non-profit employees. Because companies are assholes. In order for employees to seek coverage from the government, the employer must put in writing that they object to providing coverage. But employers don’t want to put it in writing, because that would allow access which obviously they are against. Erin over at Jezebel explains, complete with sass:

If your company objects, the workaround as it exists as of yesterday requires them to register their objection in writing. This will allow employees of said companies to obtain BC through the government rather than through their employers. Problem is, nonprofits that have been offered that workaround have said that signing a slip of paper objecting to birth control, thus enabling their employees to obtain birth control via other means, violates their religious freedom because it’s a tacit endorsement of birth control/murder/sluts/slutmurder.

It’s a real clusterfuck.

So then, what does this really mean. Is it about upholding your own values? Or forcing your values onto those around you? Is it about personal integrity, or controlling women’s bodies?

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Nope. I call bullshit. We cannot live in a religiously diverse nation if part of what it means to act religiously is to impose your beliefs on others. That’s a catch 22. And it’s really insidious and toxic that this ruling encourages the parts of religious exercise that seek to control women. Only contraception is covered under the exemption. Only the kinds of medicine that help empower women to have control over their bodies and their sex lives. Some women need this medicine for reasons other than preventing pregnancy, and some women cannot safely become pregnant, and those are really compelling points. But the real issue is that women should be able to not get pregnant if that’s what they choose, and they should have access to the medicine needed to safely have sex with their chosen partner(s). That is not radical, and it’s not anyone else’s business. We have all kinds of medicine that, it could be argued, allow people to act recklessly without consequences. People are allowed to smoke cigarettes despite the myriad health risks, and their eventual treatment is covered. We have drugs for constipation, gas, weight loss, diabetes, and heart disease, despite the fact that those issues are largely caused by poor diet and could be remedied with the proper nutrition shift. But controlling what people eat is crazy! They can eat what they want, and how much. Fine. So why is sex different?

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Employers who find contraception morally reprehensible should figure out how to make money without female employees, or perhaps it would be easier if they accepted the full humanity of all women and all people and worried about the state of their own soul instead of forcing their will on other folks who are just trying to live life. I can’t help but think a lot of this would be a non issue if folks learned how to mind their own fucking business.

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Yea but, they don’t. And the justices are whack. And lots of companies could potentially stop coverage and refuse the work around, legally. I hope Obams is working furiously to figure this out, hopefully maybe by mandating that if you don’t provide coverage you MUST put your objection in writing, thus allowing employees to seek full coverage else where. But it shouldn’t require this much thought or effort. Women shouldn’t be forced to work this hard to get basic care coverage.

 

The Supreme Court and their Supremely Disappointing Recent Decisions: Why Don’t They Think Women Matter?

The three branches of our government are supposed to keep each other in check. But our supposedly balanced arms are broken. Probably equally so, but this past week, the Supreme Court has been the most disappointing (and being more disappointing than Congress, even temporarily, is a pretty big accomplishment.)

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The first disappointing decision was especially disappointing because it was unanimous.  Ruth Bader Ginsberg, where the fuck were you on this day? And Justice Sotomayor? Et tu? McCullen v Coakley dealt with buffer zones around abortion clinics, in this case in the city of Boston. The Justices decided that these zones were a strain on the free speech of protesters. Justice Roberts even went so far as to imply that abortion clinic protestors aren’t protestors. From his ruling:

While the Act may allow petitioners to “protest” outside the buffer zones, petitioners are not protestors; they seek not merely to express their opposition to abortion, but to engage in personal, caring, consensual conversations with women about various alternatives.

 

But to characterize these interactions as personal, caring or consensual is a joke. These people do not care if women wish to engage with them, and they are often violent and disruptive to the health care that women are seeking. They harass and threaten patients and employees. They are not small quiet grad ma’s with Bibles. The laws are in place because employees and patients have been assaulted and killed. And furthermore, free speech isn’t unlimited. You can’t throw a ticker tape parade down 5th Ave without clearance, you can’t block sidewalks, and the very Justices who handed down this decision rule from behind their very own buffer zone.

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They just decided that women’s right to get health care, which is basic, isn’t as serious as the rights of anti-choice protestors to ‘speak out.’ They ignored the evidence that the violence is a real threat. And FYI, these clinics are often providing a wide array of health care such as cancer screenings, STD tests, and even pre and post natal care. NOT THAT IS MATTERS BECAUSE ABORTION IS LEGAL AND ITS A PRIVATE MEDICAL MATTER. I urge you, if you are able and live in an area where clinics are unsafe, consider being a clinic escort. And my deepest thanks to the brave folks already providing this care in the face of danger, and the volunteers who try to make the experience less terrible. These folks deserve better from the justice system.

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Secondly, in Sebelius v Hobby Lobby, the court decided yesterday that corporations that are closely held can deny women coverage for certain types of birth control, based on their sincerely held religious beliefs. Now, to me, the first issue here is that CORPORATIONS AREN’T HUMANS. Is that not obvious? Companies cannot have sincerely held religious beliefs, because that’s fucking silly. But the courts say they do, and that contraception is the only kind of coverage that religious beliefs can be used to deny. So right off the bat, the decision limits the scope by privileging some types of religious beliefs over others (the beliefs against blood transfusions or anti depressants, for example. [All 5 dudes who ruled this way are Catholic, just an FYI fun fact.]) The exemption only applies to companies that want to limit health care options for it’s female employees. Stellar. But even more disturbingly, the decision elevates these sincerely held beliefs over science. The corporations in question believe that IUD’s and emergency contraception cause abortions. According to the medical and legal definitions, that is categorically untrue. These methods do not end pregnancies, they prevent them. So the law says that even when religious beliefs fly in the face of accepted science, we should honor those beliefs over the actual facts, and at the expense of millions of women. Religious beliefs shouldn’t be used as a weapon to police the behavior of others, and freedom of religion shouldn’t trump the right of millions to life, liberty, and the pursuit of fucking happiness (fucking here being both literal and emphatic!)

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Here’s the lynch pin guys: birth control is basic health care for women. It isn’t frivolous. It’s not just for sluts, as the right would have us believe. 99% of sexually active women will use BC in their lifetime, and the education and access to this basic health care should indeed be as universal as other care. It should be covered. Remember, men’s sexual needs are universally covered and deferred to, and I doubt those 5 men would have ruled in favor of companies whose sincerely held religious beliefs oppose Viagra. If erections and other penis issues count as basic care, then so should family planning and vagina needs. I’ve read comments that claim this isn’t a big deal, that companies will still provide coverage for some birth control and if they believe this other stuff is morally wrong it’s not a problem. This is categorically false. Employers shouldn’t get to decide what method of basic care you seek. And they shouldn’t get to limit the health care decisions of workers. They don’t wanna pay for it? Well you know what, I don’t want my taxes going to the industrial military complex, and I’d like it to go only to fixing potholes in the bike lanes and public education. But that’s not how the system works. You don’t get to pick and choose.

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This decision elevates the accepted patriarchal reality of “closely held corporations” (UGH) and the needs of it’s religious owners over the real lives of women.  5 men decided that corporate personhood was more viable than the rights of actual human women. So they don’t have to pay for women’s choices. But we all pay for each other’s choices everyday, that’s how taxes and also insurance works. It’s fine if you disagree with that system and work to change or dismantle it, but these kinds of exceptions undermine the norm and elevate patriarchy. They do not serve justice or the needs of most citizens. And it’s wildly important that this is only about contraception, because that means it’s really about women’s bodies and women’s sex lives. It’s about control.

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Yesterday, I was disheartened. It felt, in a really tangible way, like a personal attack. And it is personal. Because this ruling upholds the idea that women mustn’t make their own choices, that their bodies aren’t their own, and that they don’t have a right to the sex life of their choosing. This exemption validates the needs of men while undermining the existence of women as full humans. It’s personal because who and how we choose to love and fuck is personal, and our sexual health isn’t incidental or a second class issue. It’s central to our health and our lives.

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I’m not sure what to do about these rulings. A murderous rampage crossed my mind. I’d like to say we should all vote, and that is important, but we don’t vote directly on these judges so that feels like a round about solution (but obviously vote, duh.) So I say we just get loud, keep shouting until they take us seriously. Add your name to the Planned Parenthood dissent, join the Lady Parts Justice protest, and have conversations about why this matters. We must stay loud, that’s how these issues gain critical mass. Like the investigations on how colleges handle sexual assault. Slowly but surely, those violations on Title IV are being handled. Because we screamed about it. And we need to scream about this. We need to keep saying, over and over, that our right to bodily autonomy and safety is real, and basic, and paramount. We can’t stop until they stop calling us sluts, until offenders are punished, until our health care is provided no matter what we do or who we work for. We can’t stop until our personhood is upheld and valued. We can’t stop until justice is actually serve.