Tag Archives: reproductive rights

Making Babies and Making Money: Pregnancy and Worker’s Rights

The Supreme Court is currently hearing a case that I find completely fascinating, and super important for all families. The case is brought by Peggy Young, a UPS employee that was denied her request to change work duties after being advised that she should not lift over 20 lbs. She was pregnant.

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The details of her case can be found here, but in a nutshell there is a Pregnancy Discrimination Act (1978) that requires that employers give the same accommodations to women affected by pregnancy or child birth that it would give to employees that are temporarily disabled/injured. To be clear, the UPS will allow a change of duty not only for workers injured on the job, but also for workers who lose their license because they are convicted of a DUI. So drunk drivers can switch roles and continue to earn a living, but pregnant women made a choice and so they are shit out of luck. (Actual comment from NY Times op-ed: “Pregnancy isn’t a disease. In fact as I understand it, it is a choice. These women became pregnant due to their own actions. They can no longer do the work they were hired to do. Why is that such a big deal. It isn’t an injury.”)

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I had a fascinating chat with my coworker about this case. She claimed that if what feminism fights for is gender equality, then you must err on the side of UPS. Because men cannot get pregnant, accommodating pregnant women is giving them preferential treatment. And she was hung up on that word, equal. As if equal here meant equivalent. But I don’t think equality means we all must be the same. And in my dream world where the patriarchy is dismantled, I do not imagine a world where men and women are alike. I imagine a world where your personality and your physical characteristics aren’t policed by societal gender norms. I imagine a world where everyone is free to express themselves compassionately, and explore interests that are close to their heart without any thought to what girls and boys are supposed to like or do. I don’t claim that men and women are the same, but it’s important to remember that making statements like “women can get pregnant and men can’t” as proof that we will always remain different/unequal erases women who are unable to conceive, or women who do not want to bear children, as well as a range of trans experiences. Not all women are able to bear children, not all women menstruate, and plenty of folks live outside of the bodily gendered binaries we assume. We mustn’t be biologically reductive.

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i imagine the dude she kills is the embodiment of misogyny. so satisfying.

 

And equality has never been about equivalency. Separate but equal was ruled unconstitutional for education, because being equivalent doesn’t always mean that the spirit of equality is being honored. I do not think that being injured or disabled is the same as getting pregnant, however in both cases the ableness of one’s body is compromised. We have determined that folks that are injured or disabled have a right to work, and that right should be extended to those who are pregnant.

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And what is so interesting to me, is that this is actually a conservative issue. The state has a vested interest in regulating families, and in encouraging its citizens to procreate so that there are evermore citizens. It’s similar to gay marriage, an issue I am always confounded by. Marriage is a conservative value, and if you truly value the nuclear family and two parent home, then you should be an advocate for gay marriage. The more people creating those kinds of unions, the more those values continue to guide our society and the more regulated sex and the family continues to be by the state. The same with this issue. Encouraging women to become mothers by assuring that their jobs will be safe and they will be able to work and earn is not exactly a liberal fantasy. In this case, the state should recognize it’s interest both in regulating the family and encouraging the work force. It should be a no brainer.

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And yet. I wonder how the justices will see this. They have seriously let me down recently, and I fear that people will conflate the issue of pregnancy advocacy, which is a feminist issue, with leftist liberalism and dismiss it. But it’s important to remember that feminism isn’t liberal or conservative, and that the interests of women across race and class lines span a broad array of values and belief systems. Reproductive rights don’t begin and end with abortion. Folks should be able to get or not get pregnant, to access the full range of care they need, to determine the state of their bodies, and to do so while pursuing their economic and personal goals. Peggy should not have been forced into unpaid leave because she was temporarily limited, while ‘light duty’ remains available for other workers. If the choice to drink and drive is accommodated, then the choice to create new life should also be accommodated. And yet, misogyny runs so deep that for some, any chance to demean or limit women must be taken. We do indeed treat pregnant women poorly, often limiting their autonomy and assuming they must be protected (or assuming they must be protected against.) It astounds me that some parties will vote against their own interests because something is seen as ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’. Those two sides, they are made up, they are socially upheld and constructed. Kind of like gender (ZING!)

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Separate but equal is bullshit, and thinking about equality and social justice in terms of equivalency and sameness  misses the point entirely. Social justice is freedom from sameness, it is permission to be different and live on your own terms. It is a world where your choices aren’t determined by your gender, or your race, or your ability to participate as a cog in the capitalist machine. It’s a world where pregnant women can continue to work, where both families and single folks are supported. How hard is that to understand?

Female Privilege: It’s actually Patriarchy, You’re confused, Go Home.

Here is an article making its way through my newsfeed called 18 Things Females Seem Not to Understand (Because, Female Priviledge.)

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Really_seriously_WHAT

bunch of malarky

In fact, that’s such a huge bunch of malarky I brought ole’ Joe back to point it out. Here is the really really misinformed and stupid list, with my rebuttals in italics. Please note, this is not rocket science, its patriarchy.

1. Female privilege is being able to walk down the street at night without people crossing the street because they’re automatically afraid of you. Male privilege is being able to go wherever you want whenever you want without the fear of sexual assault. It’s being able to walk up to your door late at night casually, without turning down your music and having your keys ready and looking over your shoulder to be sure you aren’t being followed. (1/6 of women nationwide will experience an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. An assault will occur every 2 minutes.)

2. Female privilege is being able to approach someone and ask them out without being labeled “creepy.” Male privilege is being able to walk down the street without being bombarded with comments on your appearance as a reminder that your body is not your own. It’s being able to enjoy an adult beverage without worrying about being groped or hit on constantly. 

3. Female privilege is being able to get drunk and have sex without being considered a rapist. Female privilege is being able to engage in the same action as another person but be considered the innocent party by default. Male privilege is being able express yourself sexually without fear of being called a slut. It’s being able to let your guard down with friends/strangers without fearing assault or date rape. And that article you link doesn’t mean what you think it means…

4. Female privilege is being able to turn on the TV and see yourself represented in a positive way. Female privilege is shows like King of Queens and Everybody Loves Raymond where women are portrayed as attractive, competent people while men are shown as ugly, lazy slobs. Male privilege is living in a world where men are heroes, actors, adventurers and villains. It’s a world where you aren’t constantly represented as the sidekick or in need of rescuing, or hyper sexualized.  PS The examples listed are definitely harmful, because patriarchal ideas/images are also harmful to men.

5. Female privilege is the idea that women and children should be the first rescued from any sort of emergency situation. Female privilege is saving yourself before you save others and not being viewed as a monster. Um, children should be rescued first. But without valid stats I refuse to believe that this is a valid concern in this century unless you’re watching Titanic.

6. Female privilege is being able to decide not to have a child. Male privilege is never having to worry about unwanted pregnancy. It’s never having to bear and give birth to a baby, wanted or unwanted. It’s being able to walk away. 

7. Female privilege is not having to support a child financially for 18 years when you didn’t want to have it in the first place. If a man is paying child support, a woman is actually caring for the child. Being a single parent is not a privilege. Also see #6.

8. Female privilege is never being told to “take it like a man” or “man up.” This is patriarchy working against men, but while we are on the subject of name calling: male privilege is never being called a bitch, slut, cunt or whore for any number of actions including but not limited too looking sexy, not looking sexy enough, wanting sex, not wanting sex, walking down the street, existing in public spaces, not speaking, speaking, riding a bike, having a drink, accepting a drink, not accepting a drink, breathing. 

9. Female privilege is knowing that people would take it as a gravely serious issue if someone raped you. Female privilege is being able to laugh at a “prison rape” joke. No one should laugh at prison rape jokes and if they do they’re not nice. Also, every compassionate person I know takes rape seriously regardless of who the victim is. Also plenty of people don’t take rape seriously for men or women, because those people are ignorant and heartless.

10. Female privilege is being able to divorce your spouse when your marriage is no longer working because you know you will most likely be granted custody of your children. The burden of childcare should be given to whomever is most capable. Any imbalance is evidence of a faulty justice system. 

11. Female privilege is being able to call the police in a domestic dispute knowing they will take your side. Female privilege is not having your gender work against where police are involved. Male privilege is being 60% less likely to be the victim of domestic violence. Oh, and the police have been known to ask questions such as ‘Why’d you lead him on?’ and ‘What’d you do to provoke him.’

12. Female privilege is being able to be caring or empathetic without people being surprised. Please be more caring and empathetic. Not having to be caring or empathetic is actually a male privilege, and it sucks for EVERYONE.

13. Female privilege is not having to take your career seriously because you can depend on marrying someone who makes more money than you do. Female privilege is being able to be a “stay at home mom” and not seem like a loser. Um, seriously? Male privilege is not having to worry, ever, about balancing the needs of your career with the needs of your home. It’s not feeling pressure to be awesome at your job and a super mom. It’s not having to deal with the ‘to Lean In or Not Lean In’ debate. Dependence is not a privilege. PS Stay at home dads are awesome. 

14. Female privilege is being able to cry your way out of a speeding ticket. You got me. Crying my way out of a ticket totally makes up for centuries of second class citizen-ship, sexual slavery and forced marriage, an ongoing sexual violence epidemic, and the fact that women on this very day in 2014 still make 77c on the dollar of men

15. Female privilege is being favored by teachers in elementary, middle and high school. Female privilege is graduating high school more often, being accepted to more colleges, and generally being encouraged and supported along the way. Since you have no stats to back this up, I’m assuming this is based on personal experience. I’m sorry if you felt this way, but I can assure you there is not a conspiracy among educators to favor girls (although there is a very real achievement gap, it’s not along gender lines.) 

16. Female privilege being able to have an opinion without someone tell you you’re just “a butthurt fedora-wearing neckbeard who can’t get any.” Yea that does seem hurtful. So do words like bitch, slut, cunt and whore, which are plastered all over the comments on any female opinion disseminated on the web. 

17. Female privilege is being able to talk about sexism without appearing self-serving. Actually, when women talk about sexism it’s a matter of survival. 

18. Female privilege is arrogantly believing that sexism only applies to women. Sexism obviously doesn’t only apply to women and no educated person I know would claim that. However, it is not applied equally. The patriarchy is hurtful to people of all genders and all sexualities, and the work of feminism is to defeat the patriarchy and thus free us all from it’s dangerous confines. This article is proof of rampant misunderstanding and a heartbreaking lack of empathy. 

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Patriarchy is damaging to us all, and this article is a weird and twisted expression of that. However, when men are adversely affected by patriarchal rules and standards, that does not equate to women having ‘privileges.’ This dude is in serious need of some Miss Representation education, in the form of this upcoming documentary ‘The Mask You Live In.‘ The more that articles like this circulate, the more the pernicious and disgusting rumor that men and women are enemies will flourish. We are not from separate planets, we are not opposites, we are not natural adversaries. We are all caught in a system with inequality at it’s core, and we should all fight to unravel the rules and regulations that limit our growth and potential.

DonCries

PS It’s important to remember and acknowledge that while we are all constrained by patriarchy, historically speaking, the rules for men have been more fun and placed them in positions of power. Same goes for white and heterosexual privilege. Acknowledging our own privilege, and being aware of how different privileges mutate and overlap is wildly important, and soul searching is required. It requires a lot more nuance that our Thought Catalog author showed himself capable of, but fear not! Mad Men is actually a really excellent place to watch nuanced characters deal with the privileges and constraints of patriarchy, and it’s available now on Netflix. Watch, enjoy, discuss gender issues, and look out for my forth coming blog-recap of Season 7, which premieres this Sunday.

 

Rage Post: When Republicans Say Fucked Up Things

I fear this post is episode 1 of what will surely be an ongoing and arduous journey. I will try not to angry post about every dumb thing that comes out of some white man politician’s mouth, cause really, I don’t have that much free time on my hands and neither do you. But this is, well, rul bad, and it’s Friday and YOLO so let’s go ahead and rage.  Here. Watch.

Seethe.

If you can’t bear to watch that, here it is in good old text form.

Women I know are outraged that Democrats think that women are nothing more than helpless and hopeless creatures whose only goal in life is to have the government provide for them birth control medication…  And if the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of government then so be it! Let us take that discussion all across America because women are far more than the Democrats have played them to be. And women across America have to stand up and say enough of that nonsense.

First of all, Mike Huckabee doesn’t know any women. At least not any women who like him.

But seriously, this is some really gross and disgusting bullshit. It is a complete distortion of reality. He is trying to make is seem as though the government is rescuing us female damsels with birth control because we don’t have the power to control our bodies without them. That is so twisted it’s almost funny.

First of all, having access to safe and affordable contraception isn’t anyone’s only goal in life, asshole. But it is super cool and it does provide women with added autonomy and mobility in their lives and decision making. Next, birth control is not the government rescuing women. Tax payers are not paying the cost of covered contraception. The ACA mandates that insurance must cover birth control because it is a necessary part of a woman’s overall health (SIDENOTE: the first time I picked up my BC at CVS and the pharmistist was like “Oh, it’s covered now” my jaw dropped, I put my debit card back and said “I fucking love Barack Obama” and she said “Yea girl.” End Scene.) And it is integral. 99% of women who are sexually active have used contraception. Providing us with what we need is not rescuing us, it’s a reaction to women’s continual demands that our sexual health is paramount, and that our health depends on these resources. Taking birth control does not mean our bodies are out of control, and birth control isn’t about a lack of self control, you ignorant prick. If almost all women have used birth control, including the virgins and sluts and wives and girlfriends the single ladies and the mothers, then what you are saying is that all women are wanton harlets. That isn’t true. And if it was true, it would be 100% A-OK BECAUSE OTHER PEOPLE’S SEX LIVES ARE NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. Also, new rule: I hereby ban the use of the terms libido and Uncle Sugar, forthwith, from now until eternity please and thank you EW goodbye.

I just don’t get it. I don’t get how they really think it’s possible that this shit will fly. Do they really think that making access to contraception harder is doing women a favor? And do they really think we will believe that? I also don’t get how they don’t see the irony of trying to block access to birth control while keeping their Viagra prescriptions filled to the max and covered by insurance. Holy sexist double standard batman!

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I am really sick of hearing old [mostly] white guys talk about women’s bodies and women’s wants and needs. Just stop. If you have never stopped to think about what it would be like to be pregnant and scared, stop proposing legislation that would affect young girls and women in ways that you will never have to understand and don’t even deign to try and empathize with. I feel like I’m totally rambling… it’s hard to even write coherent sentences after reading that quote. Maybe it’d be a good idea to just let them keep running their mouths, so they can continue to alienate folks who give a shit about women (which, fortunately, it quite a few people) and then those folks will use their voting power and then they will all go away. I am hopeful that the back lash against feminism and the gains made thanks to the tireless work of activists will be over soon and we can stop having these ridiculous conversations. If that sounds naivee, well it’s Friday and I can’t be pessimistic all the time and damnit I still believe that Obama is dope and a step in the right direction and maybe we’ll see women get to even numbers in the political arena in my lifetime. Maybe one will even make it all the way…

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A girl can dream.

Further Reading: Five Important Sex Ed Lessons for Republican Lawmakers