I'm on the verge of adulthood, womanhood, self-discovery, creativity, and sometimes a whole lot of emotions! Feel free to follow my journey!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Obamacare: Friend or Foe?

My wonderful boyfriend (Happy 9 months yesterday by the way! Even though we're 5 hours apart and I was super sick and gross all day!) sent me a text saying that by August 1st of next year all birth control would be free, with no copay. This also includes:

  • women's well visits (which I'm assuming is the PC way of describing the horror that is the gynocologist's office)
  • HPV and other STD screenings
  • breast pump rentals
  • domestic violence screenings
  • testing for gestational diabetes
  • the morning after pill (*inserts gasps of horror here*)
So, I for one think this is fabulous. Right now I'm paying $15 a month for birth control. Which, no is not breaking the bank, but come on. I'm a student making $8 an hour hosting and bussing tables at a restaurant and trying to save money so that I don't have to live on Ramen when I graduate in December and have to find a job in this GLORIOUS economy...

But, alas, the Right Wing is PISSED. It's like they have a whole bunch of ridiculous scare tactic metaphors that they just wait to use on FOXNews. Here are some fun ones I found by this woman Sandy Rios who I'm now happily Googling:

Why in the world would you encourage your daughters, and your granddaughters, and whoever else comes behind you to have unrestricted, unlimited sex anytime …”

Why does needing birth control = being a big slutty slut? If you have ONE sex partner for your WHOLE LIFE there's still a huge risk in getting pregnant. Someone needs to give Sandy a "birds and the bees" talk again. I don't think she got it the first time. Also, there are many MARRIED people who use birth control. You know, because everybody can't be super cool like the Duggars... And people who don't have sex use birth control too for acne, cramps, etc.

Yes, I am well aware that some people are flaming morons who are unaware of the whole concept of "you probably shouldn't have a baby when you have no money." But, call me Suzy Sunshine, I really think that most people are trying to do the best they can. 

She also said, in this same clip, “In Red China, they have this down to a science. The local health care centers make women come in every month to be examined to see if they’ve had their cycle to make sure they are taking their medication and if they have a baby they are roundly punished, if they have an extra baby that baby is aborted. That is the control we’re moving toward.”

Who said who to what now? So, let me try to get this straight. YOU as a Right Wing, anti-abortion woman, think that it's your right to tell people they shouldn't be having sex and you don't want to pay for any of it, BUT making birth control free is the same as FORCED ABORTION? Just because something is free doesn't mean you're forcing the person to take it... I wish politicians would stop comparing apples to oranges.

"We’re $14 trillion in debt and now we’re going to cover birth control, breast pumps, counseling for abuse? Are we going to do pedicures and manicures as well?

Honestly, this woman makes me sick. She's comparing DOMESTIC VIOLENCE COUNSELING to a PEDICURE?!? Are you kidding? Helping someone get out of an abusive relationship and a beauty treatment? I hope someone shoves that comment down her throat if someone she cares about gets raped or abused. I can't even say anything intelligent about this because it's just ridiculous. 

I think if you're trying to get someone to agree with you you probably shouldn't say things that are extremely, horribly offensive to 90% of the population. But...maybe that's just me.

Oh, and just one more from my mother's favorite, Bill O'Rielly. "Most women who get pregnant are blasted out of their minds when they have sex. They're not going to use birth control anyway."

Well, Bill, all I have to say to this is: The only way any woman would have sex with YOU after that is if they were blasted out of their minds. Because you're an asshole :)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Random Vent.

You thought you'd gotten rid of me didn't you? Here's what I want to know:

WHY IS MY PRESCRIPTION OF BIRTH CONTROL PILLS $15 A PACK?!? I mean...I'd much rather pay $45 for 3 months than say...pay to raise a kid on the $8 an hour I currently make, but still. Come on! Apparently, the GENERIC form of BC I'm currently on is $73.08. I have health insurance, which pays for exactly $28.08 of it.

I've been looking into the NuvaRing for a while now because I've been having some nausea symptoms (which, *knock on wood* haven't been bad for a few weeks). So, I decided to call my health insurance provider! Until I graduate, I'm covered with my parents' policy, Horizon Blue Cross  After listening to some truly horrible hold music, talking to an animated voice and being transfered a couple times, I found out that if I go to the pharmacy and get a 3 month supply, my copay would be....

*drum roll please*

EFF THAT!!! I'm sorry, that's absolutely ridiculous. I'll stick with the pill. It may make me nauseous sometimes, but the idea of paying $40 a MONTH to protect myself WITH insurance is out of control.

It really makes me wonder why birth control is so expensive. Is it really that complicated to develop/produce/package that I have to pay that much a month for it? I really believe that making it financially and logistically difficult for women to have control over our bodies is something we should be more outraged about.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"Wrap Up"

I hope to continue this blog after Women's Studies, but this is my last entry as an official member of the class. I've learned a great deal in this class - both about women's studies in general (history, issues, schools of thought, etc) and about my own personal beliefs.

There have been some really positive things that helped me with my personal growth. I am taking an Intro to Developmental Psychology class, which meets right before Women's Studies. I have been able to look at things in Women's Studies from a developmental perspective and developmental psychology from a women's studies perspective. I also have some fantastic, intelligent, opinionated friends and a wonderful boyfriend who I've been able to bounce ideas off of and get alternative perspectives. I've really tried to keep my mind as open as possible during this class - to not necessarily just recycle all my old ideas but to really think about my own opinions, beliefs, biases and shortcomings as a woman and human being.

As a senior who will be graduating in December, I have been rather obsessive about trying to figure out what to do after graduation. I will graduate with a degree in music education and vocal performance and I've already passed the Praxis which means that I could theoretically get a teaching job in 25-30 states (hopefully by the time I graduate public schools will still HAVE music programs...*ahem*...another topic for another day...). But do I WANT to spend my life teaching music?

I took Developmental Psychology and Women's Studies to explore some of my passions that I have let lie dormant over the past 3 1/2 years of juries, hearings, performances, recitals and lesson plans. Lately, however, I have started seriously considering going into Music Therapy.

Women's Studies and this blog has helped me figure out some things that I didn't realize I was passionate about. I have always been a feminist, but how do I put that into action? For me, this blog has made me realize how passionate I am about body and sex education. This does NOT just mean "here's how to put the condom on," but rather has many components. Each link is a link back to a post that I wrote about that topic or something similar.

I would like to find a way to:

  • Helping women to learn about their bodies, in both a sexual and non-sexual way through promoting body exploration - once again in a sexual (masturbation) and non-sexual way (creating a "mental image" of your reproductive organs and how they work)
  • Feeling more comfortable and empowered in situations that deal with bodies - for instance, in the gynecologists office or with a sexual partner. Knowing what to expect and how to be assertive with your needs, wants and questions.
  • Knowing all the facts about your reproductive system and your reproductive rights - sexual experiences, the risks and rewards, STD's and non-sex related gynecological issues, rapebirth control (before, during and after), fertility awareness, pregnancy, menopause
  • Feeling confident and comfortable in your own skin. Getting rid of negative body images, stereotypes and expectations. Feeding your body and soul in a way that makes you feel strong, competent, healthy and beautiful and making your own informed choices.
  • Empowering a dialogue. We live in the information age, but I think face-to-face or voice-to-voice is the most powerful way to impart information. Teaching parents to talk to their kids (and vice versa), knowing where to go for information (doctors, Planned Parenthood, therapists, etc.)
For the next leg of my journey, I think I will be researching ways that I can help with these goals, specifically in a way that I can use my passion for music and education. I like to talk and I love to make music and I think that I can "be the change I wish to see in the world" through these in the future.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Abortion FACTS

After watching "12th and Maine" today and seeing all of the pamphlets given out by the pro-life clinic, I wanted to know the real facts. People tend to talk about abortion in very abstract terms, especially pro-choicers. We are more invested in the circumstances surrounding the abortion, the reasons women may need to have abortions, etc., because our argument is CHOICE. So here are some facts about what actually happens if someone makes this difficult choice.

First of all, as someone who is pro-choice, I do NOT believe in abortion as a birth control method. I think that as a choice, abortion should be a last resort and people need to be as proactive as possible about their sexual health. Although I ranted about different contraception methods in one of my other posts, they are very effective when used correctly and using contraception is the responsible thing to do.

Also, if you've had unprotected sex recently (i.e. within the last 5 days), there are other options. The "morning after pill,"(technically, emergency contraception) which is sort of like a "super pill," lots of hormones to stop implantation. Also, if it's been less than 5 days since you had unprotected sex you can also have an emergency IUD implanted, which also can prevent implantation. Many people still consider this abortion, but it is much less invasive and hey, you can't make everyone happy.

  • Medical Abortion - also known as chemical abortion, is the use of certain medicines, usually taken in several steps over a period of 2 weeks to terminate a pregnancy. The medications soften the cervix, stop the growth of the placenta and/or encourage contractions. Medical abortion can only be done during the first 9 weeks of pregnancy, causes moderate to heavy bleeding (similar, I'm assuming, as if you had a natural miscarriage) and has a slightly higher risk of infection (1 in 100,000 can lead to death). It also usually requires a few visits and a medical followup.

Surgical Abortion - There are 3 kinds. *WARNING* -- sort of graphic. However, I got them from WebMD, so they are factual.

  • Manual Vacuum Aspiration - uses a tube attached to a syringe to draw the fetus out of the uterus. It can be used from 5 to 12 weeks after the last menstrual period.
  • Machine Vacuum Aspiration - uses a tube attached to an electric pump to draw the fetus out of the uterus as the above. It can be used during the same time period (5 to 12 weeks after last period).
  • D&E - uses a combination of vaccum aspiration, forceps and dilation and cutterage (D&C is what you get when you have a miscarriage after 12 weeks, btw, because you can get a severe infection otherwise).  It can be used from 12 to 24 weeks, requires one visit and usually a sedative and local anesthesia. It has less of a risk of infection and is 99% effective.

There are complications with these procedure, as with any.

  • Normal symptoms include irregular bleeding (for up to 3 weeks), cramping (for up to 2 weeks) and what they call an "emotional reaction," (which can include sadness, anger, guilt, regret, relief, or a range of depression symptoms. The website warns that prolonged symptoms of depression need to be talked about with a professional). 
  • Also, they warn about heavy bleeding, clotting, severe pelvic pain, fever etc. because these can be signs of complications. However, less than 1% of patients experience serious complications afterwards.

I believe that anyone who is sexually active should have the facts, for if they ever need to make this difficult choice. They need to have as much information as possible about contraception and methods of pregnancy termination. For instance, WebMD recommends sexually active women to have emergency contraception or a prescription for it on hand at all times.

So many of the young women who went to the "Pregnancy Health Clinic" seemed to have no idea about abortion (or birth control for that matter...I hate to judge, but I wanted to give the girl who was having her 2nd abortion in a year a pack of Trojans and a prescription for the Pill...) and got all kinds of wrong or exaggerated information from the women at the clinic.

They also got lied to about how far along they were in their pregnancy. Knowing about their bodies and menstrual cycles would be helpful here. I think that the best way to prevent all this headache and heartache is prevention. Access to and information about sex, contraception, abortion and reproductive health is the best way for people to make informed sexual choices, whether or not they are choices other people necessarily agree with.

P.S. I got all my information for this blog post from here and the links below.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Impostor Alert!

My best friend and I are your classic girl duo - both feminist, both perfectionists, both hard working, both (unfortunately) suffering from our own personal demons at times, both with lots of goals and lots to talk about on those rare occasions we can talk on the phone or see each other (she goes to school in Virginia, we usually consider ourselves lucky if we can see each other three times in one year).

Our conversations are never dull. One topic, I've been meaning to write about for months. It's called Impostor Syndrome.

According to this article, people with Impostor Syndrome are "unable to internalize their accomplishments." They often shrug away success as dumb luck, good timing, work, personality OR immediately start thinking of the task ahead instead of enjoying or congratulating themselves for their success. They constantly feel that those around them are smarter, better, more able then them and that they will eventually get "found out" as a fraud.

Say you got an A on a midterm in a difficult class. Instead of being excited about it, you think, "Well, I only got this grade because I studied so much, not because I'm actually good at the subject," "Well, the test wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. If it had been on all the information I'd never have done as well," "Well so-and-so got an A on this test and didn't even have to study. He/she is so much smarter than I am," or "Well it's a good thing I did well on this test, because I'm definitely going to fail the midterm...and this is a sequential class, so I have no idea how I'm going to do next semester...maybe this degree is too difficult for me."

I know SO many women who suffer from different severities of impostor syndrome. Going to college for music is a breeding ground for all kinds of perfectionist insecurities. Everyone is always trying to be a little bit better, do a little bit more, work a little bit harder. As a vocalist you should be in choir...and do the opera...and opera workshop...and a summer program in Italy...and sing in masterclasses...etc, etc.

My best friend is a classic example. She's a math major and double minor in art history and the Classics at a competitive college. She has a 4.0 GPA, 3 part time jobs, is involved in a service fraternity and heads multiple clubs, runs marathons...and still feels like she's never good enough!

On a positive note, impostor syndrome often makes women compete harder for their goals. It's what made me audition 4 times for the performance degree when I could have easily gotten a music education degree and not have gone through all the headache of the past 4 years. It's what makes another friend of mine stay up late making sure she has the perfect lesson plans for student teaching.

Impostor syndrome is perfectionism on steroids. Perfectionism is saying, "I need to be perfect." while impostor syndrome is, "I need to be perfect to hide the fact that I'm actually a failure." Impostor syndrome can be at the root of all kinds of mental health issues - depression/anxiety and eating disorders especially. The funny thing is that when you have depression, it's even more difficult to be wonder woman...

I only wish that we could get off the treadmill of our culture-on-overdrive. Stop talking to ourselves in a nastier voice than we would EVER let anyone else speak to us. Stop looking into the future and trying to be thinner, smarter, better, richer, more popular, more successful and actually start ENJOYING the lives we have RIGHT NOW.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Birth Control

Maybe it's just because I've been feeling like complete crap emotionally since Saturday, but I've been extremely frustrated about the current state of birth control. Let me know if you think I'm being ridiculous - my patience threshold is at an all-time low.

Let me start by saying I'm really happy that women have all these different forms of birth control to help them prevent pregnancy. We live in an age where pregnancy is not an all-consuming fear about having sex like it was even 50 or 60 years ago. Honestly, if it weren't for barrier and hormonal methods of contraception, I probably wouldn't be having sex right now. I don't want to see ANY strollers in my immediate (i.e. AT LEAST 5 years) future.

However, here's my dilemma. All methods of contraception seem to have some major downsides. Condoms can be a little bit of a hassle "in the moment," you need to store them correctly (not in your wallet like you see in the movies) and they can break. Hormonal methods (The Pill, the patch, the ring, the shot, IUD's) have 99% effectiveness if they're used correctly, which is awesome. But each have their own set of downsides.

1. All these hormonal methods are completely dependent on the woman. Men have absolutely no part in preventing pregnancy. This can be a good thing if you don't have a steady partner at the moment and don't want to rely on someone else's judgement, but it's not really fair. It perpetrates the idea that pregnancy is "the girl's problem." Uhm...hello! It takes 2 people to get someone pregnant!

2. All of these methods involve putting synthetic hormones in your body to essentially stop its natural cycle. I'm not coming at this from a religious or moral standpoint, but it makes me uncomfortable to be on the pill and have my body essentially being controlled by medication. Then again, I don't like to take Advil if I don't absolutely have to...so maybe I'm crazy.

3. All of these hormonal methods have to be very strictly followed. You have to take your Pill at the exact same time every day, or change your ring or patch at the same time every week/month. If you don't you're at risk of ovulating and blowing the whole thing.

4. The Patch is not invasive, but because of that, it has 60% more hormones in it than a normal low-dose pill (and for the record, "low dose" is labeled at 30 mcg. per day, when there are actually pills out there that are only 20 mcg per day - so that's double!). That amount of synthetic hormones in me just makes me uncomfortable and has a great deal more possible side effects.

5. For the NuvaRing , it's just sort of sitting there, hanging out inside your vagina. I've never tried it but I'd really like to hear feedback - Can you really not feel it during sex? It just weirds me out. Again, I'm probably being a big baby.

6. Other methods that are not time sensitive are very invasive. Depo Provera (the shot) is an injection every 3 months (some people don't mind needles but I have yet to meet someone that truly enjoys them). And IUD  sits in your uterus -it is painful to have put in and has a risk of falling out, which is extremely painful. Implanon is a rod that is implanted in your arm for 3 years. None of theses things are horrible torture devices by any means, but they all just seem very invasive to me.

So, I ask you, if you're comfortable answering:

  • What form of contraception do you use? 
  • Do you have any qualms with what you use or are you really happy with it?
  •  Do you ever have scares or have to use backup methods? 
  • Have you tried methods that haven't worked well for you?
  • Guys, if there was a birth control for men, would you take it?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

What Makes a Slut?

Damn you, Women's Studies! I come out of that class and just want to research feminist theory all day instead of doing the other 49 million things on my to-do list! Maybe I'm just a nerd...haha.

Anyway, we started class today talking about work - what is valued, what is acceptable, how are certain people treated in jobs, etc. Not surprisingly, the topic quickly turned to sex. Teachers having sexual relationships with their students, prostitutes, strippers and porn stars, there was even some talk of sexting (ohh to live in 2011...). 

People used a lot of words. Degrading, sexist, objectification of women etc. But I kept thinking of the classic, colloquial words we use: whore and slut are the most popular today. And I sat there quietly, hungrily listening to peoples points, trying to figure out what I thought of all this. What makes someone a “whore” or a "slut"? Sending someone a sext? Wearing a low cut shirt (whether it's to get a phone number, a one night stand, or a tip while serving or bartending)? Dancing on a pole in a thong? Having sex for money? Having 3 partners...or 10...or 100?

So I thought, what does the dictionary think of this? Well, apparently, alot. Here are some of the things I got back from my search:

Slut: –noun
1. a dirty, slovenly woman.
2. an immoral or dissolute woman; prostitute.

Okay…well that’s one of the most vague, subjective definitions I’ve seen in a while. Just to see, I typed in "loose man." Big surprise, I got no results except "Did you mean...ladies man?" Uhh...sure. Here are some synonyms I got for that:

Casanova, Lothario, Prince Charming, Romeo, charmer, heartbreaker, ladies' man, lady-killer, lady-killer, libertine, lover, philanderer, playboy, rake, seducer, skirtchaser, smooth operator, stud, wolf, libertine, womanchaser

First I thought, why the HELL do we get stuck with “tramp” and “hussy” and man get  “charmer” and “seducer?”

Then, I had a light-bulb moment. Even in my Women’s Studies class, where everyone there considers themselves a feminist, women’s sexuality is still looked at as a passive act. Men are considered aggressive, women passive. We “give up” our sexuality, our virtue, our so-called purity, our power. It is 2011, and sex is still not considered an equal act. Our bodies are still not considered ours to do with what we will, but rather objects that we have to protect from abuse.

People kept talking about “objectifying bodies,” but I don’t think it is all about the body. It’s sex, and it’s gender. Sex for women “takes away our power” and “turns us into an object.” But men have sex all the time! Why do men keep their power after engaging in a sexual act but women don’t? Why is men’s power tied up in action and women’s in sexuality. If we “give away” our sexuality, is that all we had to give?

Also, if a woman has had…lets say 10+ sexual partners (depending on her age and the culture she lives in) she gets some side eye. If she has a one-night-stand, or several. We are taught that we should wait until the man in question respects us (through realationship or at times a marriage ceremony) before we “give it away.” But in a one-night stand, does the woman necessarily respect the man?

Why are women not considered human beings who have sexual needs, sexual desires and fantasies, that we have every right to satisfy?

Logically, I know there some pretty good reasons for this. Pregnancy is a biggie. Before birth control, there was no way a woman could have sex and not have a huge chance of getting pregnant. And since they were financially dependant on men, if the men didn’t step up to the plate they were pretty much SOL. Even now, with the pill, the patch, condoms, the ring, etc., there is still the chance of an STD. And there are emotional risks as well. Women literally secrete a chemical that makes us feel closer to the person we’ve slept with afterwards. It’s biological. So I get it.

But it’s 2011. You can protect yourself very well from pregnancy and pretty well from STD’s if you are smart. Wear a condom. Get an HPV shot. Don’t have sex with the guy that apparently gave that girl in your Psych class chlamydia. Don’t send random people naked pictures unless you want yourself all over the internet. Don’t expect to marry the guy you hook up with after you’ve been at Moonies until 1 am. Don’t use sex as a bargaining chip for intimacy.

If a woman is smart and safe about sex, why is there still a stigma? When a woman uses her sexuality, why is it automatically assumed that she has also given away her soul, her power?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Women Working - Take 2

I love when my boyfriend finds subjects for me to write about here! We are often looking at research where women are getting paid less than men (we still earn $0.80 on the dollar that men do), but there are some jobs where women are statistically getting paid more. Some are rather surprising!

  • females working in construction jobs (laborers of supervisors), maintenance painters, aircraft and vehicle mechanics earn more than men even though they only hold 3% of these jobs. This article speculates that women in these jobs are less likely to be associated with negative gender associations.
  • Don't want to fix cars? Female teaching assistants, occupational therapists, dietitians, nutritionists and life, physical, social science and health technicians also make more on average. Perhaps this is because more women go into these jobs and are customers in the first place?
  • I liked this statistic because I occasionally work as a busser at my job (though we get tips from the servers, so this statistic doesn't actually help me much). Women who work as dining room attendants (I'm assuming this is the politically correct term for bussers) and bartender helpers (barbacks, which sadly, in the restaurant I work in, are only guys) make 111% more than men. Also, female food preparation workers and servers earn more as well. Helloooo tips!
  • Bakers - this article speculated that it might have to do with the flexibility of women to work odd hours.
This was interesting information, however most of these jobs are lower level, where the income potential isn't great anyway, even if women are making more. I'd rather have a job with a pension plan and health insurance than making 111% more as a waitress any day of the week.

Also, not to be the complete Debbie-Downer, but are women getting more work in some these positions (specifically in the restaurant business etc.) because of negative sexual gender stereotypes? Female servers, bartenders, etc. are trained and know to dress and sometimes act a certain way (suggestively) in order to get more tips. 

Samantha Jones, in Sex and the City, says "Women are allowed to use every possible advantage to get to the top." But what advantages are actually sexual exploitation? Are these long term successes for women or short-lived victories that are going to blow up in our pretty little faces?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Posture and Power

Last week I went to Chicago for the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) National Convention. Every 2 years, ACDA has a national convention (two years ago it was in Oklahoma). One of the events at this convention is the Conducting Competition. There's an undergraduate and graduate division and for each category, 7 or 8 conductors are picked out of about 75 each. In the undergrad category there were 2 girls out of 7, and in the grad category there were 4 out of 8. Doesn't sound horrible, right?

So there I am. sitting in 4 hours of this conducting competition... And somehow, only 1 girl went on in each category and neither of them won 1st prize (they both won second, I felt like this was some kind of consolation prize...but maybe I'm just being paranoid. I kept thinking about why, in a convention made up mostly of women, there were no women who won?

Conducting is all about leadership. I started thinking, perhaps the leadership qualities that judges are looking for are typically more "masculine" qualities? Men are naturally taller and have posture and movement that stems from their upper body. Women are naturally shorter (hello...I'm 5'2") and we lead from the hips. Men's voices are deeper and often carry further because of the lower resonances.

Are we- as smart, independent, driven young women- actually sabotaging ourselves with our voices and posture? And what can we do to be taken seriously without sabotaging our true selves.

I started reading articles, like this one, The Eloquent Woman, saying that women shouldn't try to lower their voices to an unhealthy point because it can cause vocal issues like hoarseness, nodes and polyps. That website advocates finding your comfortable speaking voice for optimum power and resonance and gives other tips on "finding your voice," both literally and metaphorically.

I've written about posture a little bit before - in my voice studies I often see that men's posture problems tend to come from stiffness and women's posture problems tend to come from over arching, pulling (such as pushing your neck forward too far) or generally contorting ourselves into strange positions. Are we still holding ourselves like insecure teenagers?

In addition to learning about women's history and gaining the best education they can, perhaps there should be a course available in college on posture, voice and leadership? On looking and sounding confident, healthy and strong when making their way into the fields of their choice, especially in this economy.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Women's History Month - Birth Control

Thank my pro-feminist boyfriend for this entry. I was looking for an idea for a blog and he reminded me that it's women's history month! Happy March! :) With all the hoopla related to Planned Parenthood, I decided to look into the birth control aspect of Women's History.

Apparently, according to this site, condoms (both animal skin and "vulcanized rubber") were around as early as the turn of the 20th century, but they were not widely used because they were associated with sexual promiscuity. The sponge was also an option, but they were sometimes dipped in substances that were actually very dangerous to women- vinegar, lemon, astringents (ah!).

I truly believe that the inventors of oral contraceptives deserve a Nobel Peace Prize. I learned that Margaret Sanger, a women's rights advocate, underwrote the research necessary to create the first women's contraceptive and raised $150,000 for the project, after it was learned that hormones prevented ovulation in rabbits. Frank Colton invented the first oral contraceptive, Enovid, which was marketed in 1960. I'd give him a huge hug if he hadn't died in 2003!

Thank god for these people. I actually think a lot about how the entire act of sex has been changed thanks to reliable birth control. As an unmarried, sexually active 22 year old, I know that I wouldn't be able to live my life in the same way 50+ years ago. It is truly incredible that I can have sex without undergoing dangerous, unreliable forms of birth control or having dangerous abortions as preventative birth control.

When I think about Planned Parenthood, I get very conflicted. The evidence I've been reading against them isn't great - especially the fact that they're making millions of dollars in profit even though they are technically a non-profit. But the idea of people without health insurance being unable to get cheap/free birth control, STD testing and gynecological exams really sickens me. Stopping unwanted pregnancies is one of the most fool-proof ways to stop poverty in this country.

I agree with bell hooks on this point 100% - you can decide for yourself that you won't have an abortion, but to be a feminist you need to believe in legalized abortions. Period.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Women and Witches

I've been watching the movie Stardust and thinking of one of the biggest sexism fables of all time - the witch.
In this particular movie, Michele Pffeiffer's character is a witch who is trying to kill Clare Danes (a star) and eat her heart out so that she can gain back eternal life. What struck me was that she starts out eating the last another star's  heart so that she can gain back her youth and beauty, but she loses it each time she casts a spell, getting older and uglier. True, this character is portrayed as evil, however, it really irritated me that as a woman, she is unable to be both powerful and beautiful at the same time.

This movie is not the only one I've seen where this is the idea. The Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz (who people hate and fear, unlike the pretty Good Witch who doesn't really do much besides fly around in a pink bubble), the witch in Into the Woods (as soon as she gets her beauty back at the end of Act 1 she loses her powers), the witch in the new Disney movie Rapunzel (who can only be beautiful with the aid of the magic of Rapunzel's magic hair).

Why, even in Disney movies being marketed to young girls who we'd like to be strong and independent,  are women still showing women as either powerful, ugly, antagonistic hags or sweet, pretty, childish (for the most part) girls? Why are we still feeding into the princess thing in 2010?

In one of the last songs in Into the Woods, The Witch sings "I'm not good, I'm not bad, I'm just right." As women, maybe that's what we should aspire to be. Just ourselves, whatever we want to be. Because, contrary to what mass media wants us to believe, we can have both - we can be powerful, and that's beautiful.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Monday, February 21, 2011

What Do We Value?

I just love Facebook. All my friends, even the obscure ones, give me such great ideas for this blog!

I read this note on Facebook that I thought was fantastic. It made me think about something our teacher has been talking about in class a great deal that I have actually been thinking about quite often. I don't usually throw out judgements like this in writing, but anyone who says we live in a classless society is living underneath a rock:

What do we value? (this could also be titled "Who Do We Value?")

  • We say we value education, that that's one of the most important parts of society. So why is everyone scrambling to cut teachers salaries, drop most or all of their health benefits, firing music and art teachers (and in places without state mandated physical education, phys. ed. teachers). Also, college expenses, in my opinion, are laughably ridiculous at this point (I'm sorry...$46,000 a year NOT INCLUDING books, meal plan, student medical insurance, or job certification costs.
  • We say that we value care of those unable to care for themselves - but childcare workers get paid just above minimum wage (this is not including teachers in Montessori settings, who get paid a bit more), as do people who work as aids in hospitals, nursing homes, etc. 
  • We say that we value small businesses, but they have to buy their own health insurance and the health insurance of their staff and the government bails out big businesses that are failing so that the CEO's can get their big severance packages. This is also true of anyone the service industry (food service, shoppers assistants, secretaries or receptionists, janitors or maids, and how about snow removal?, etc.)
  • We say that we value parenting, especially mothering (I mean GOD FORBID you ever do anything to make you a bad mother), but women get 6-12 weeks of maternity leave, get mommy tracked out of moving up the corporate ladder, and get all kinds of grief for taking days off or leaving early. And forget about any time off or help for the fathers. We also have a shockingly sparse range of services to help families with both the financial and emotional challenges of parenting.
  • We say that we value a woman's right to pick whether she wants to stay at home or work, but working moms are "absent mothers" and stay-at-home mom's "don't do anything all day." 

This is not solely a women's rights issue, which is usually the focus of this blog. But first of all, many women are affected by these issues. Also, it is a societal issue. As individuals and as a culture, I think that the time is ripe for a shift in consciousness. Our actions need to match our spoken values. We need to value the quality of life rather than success measured by wealth.

So what can you do, what can I do? You and I can't change their salaries tomorrow, but we can change how we interact with the people around us. Tomorrow, why not thank a teacher, be nice to the secretary that's helping you make an appointment at the health center (even if she's being grumpy) or the person that makes you food at the pub. She or he may not have a high profile job but they are providing a service that you would be VERY unhappy without!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Women Working

Last week in Women's Studies we watched a really great documentary about women in the creative arts who were balancing work and family. While their specific career path was what we were learning about, I think that many of the ideas presented in the video could be applied to working women in general. All these issues intertwine but here are some of the ones that I have thought of in terms of my own personal journey:

Issue #1 - Mom, will you stay at home or keep working?
So you have a baby. Now everyone around you is asking, what now? The first issue, obviously, is money. Can you afford to stay home or work? According to the U.S. census., the average woman in 2005 made $33,075 per year and the average man in 2006 made 43,317 (insert anger and disbelief here...). In many households, the choice of "stay at home or not?" is irrelevant, there isn't enough money for one person to stay home. Or one person makes the bulk of the money and the other has all the healthcare benefits.

The second, is what do you and your partner want for your family? In my family's case, my mom and dad both decided early on that my mom would stay at home and my dad would work. They worked together financially and logistically after they married to make sure that this would be possible. It's not my ideal partnership for me but they're very happy and I've had an extremely stable, loving household all my life.

But if both parties are working, the baby needs to be in childcare. According to the National Association of Child Care Resources and Refferal Agencies, infant child care in a center costs anywhere between $4,560 - $15,895 a year in a center. That's a huge chunk of someone's paycheck!

Issue #2 - Okay, you've made the first decision, what now?
If you're staying at home, what are your responsibilities? Are you completely responsible for all cooking, cleaning, laundry and childcare? When do you get time for yourself during this 24/7 job? How long will you stay home and will you be able to still qualify for jobs when you enter the workforce again?

If you're going back to work, how much are you working? Full time, part time, out of your home? Are you staying in the same job or taking a different, more flexible position? Where will your child go for childcare? What happens if your kid gets sick? Will you be "mommy tracked" in your job because of your split focus (or have you been "mommy tracked" already before even having a kid)? How will the household duties be split, now that they will grow exponentially.

Issue #3 - Living "The Dream"
So you make all these decisions, you're at home or you're at work; you're doing the cooking and he's cleaning, whatever. How will it actually work? Are you in a partnership where your goals are the same as your partners? Do you have schedules where you can work, take care of baby, get everything else done, and still make time to be a couple? How supportive of your family life is your job?

One thing that really depressed me (and others in the class) about the women artists film was that 3 out of 5 of them ended up divorced. It makes me wonder, can you really "have it all"? As a woman, can you be happily married, be a good parent, have a career you enjoy and not collapse from a nervous breakdown?

"The master's tools will never destroy the master's house"

One bright side of the film that I liked was the ability for these women to stop trying to "make it" in already created, male dominated structures, but to create their own life pictures that worked for their lives, families and selves. One woman stopped auditioning for Broadway shows and started her own business doing theatre camps. For years I have wanted to eventually become an entrepreneur because of the freedom I think it can create. My hope is that I would be able to do what I love, create my own schedule, be financially independent and feel fulfilled.

Check back on me in about 20 years if you care to! haha

Thursday, February 10, 2011

"The Healing Vagina" - What REALLY Happens at the Gyno?

Yep, the "v-word" is officially on my blog! If that offends you, by all means, don't read this blog post. No hard feelings!

For Women's Studies, we have an assignment to read an article in the book We Don't Need Another Wave. The article is about a woman who is a gynocological teaching associate, that is, someone who educates aspiring doctors to give gynecological exams in a sensitive, professional manner through actual hands-on experience.

Without going into TMI details of my own life (this is, of course, the WORLD WIDE Web and God-forbid some tight laced potential job employer stumbles upon this blog) this article really spoke to me. The gynocologist's office has been a source of extreme anxiety to me for the past 5 years. My experience up until a few years ago has always been associated with some high level of anxiety (to the point of having to take valium each time I go, yup, that's right) and always somewhere on the I-hate-my-life scale of "embarrassing and painful" and "humiliating and excruciating".

I have no problem with doctors or gynocologists as a whole. However, even some of the nice ones don't want to talk about your fears and worries, don't want to teach you about your body and don't care if you're absolutely terrified at the thought of inserting what looks like a medieval torture device into the most private part of your body.

*sigh* Alright, off my soap box.

I thought that the career of a gynecological teaching associate (GTA) was absolutely amazing. Someone is sitting there teaching doctors how to give an exam without giving me a full scale panic attack? HALLELUJAH!!

I wanted to learn more about these people, so I did another lovely Google search! I came across this great website called Project Prepare. If you don't want to browse the website like I did, you can get a great overview about this organization by going to their youtube video. I was interested to learn that this has been going on since the 1970's, since I've never heard of it before! There is also a male component that helps doctors perform urology exams. I learned and read about the people that work in this organization, who train doctors to perform everything from routine gynecological exams to male breast and rectal exams.

I feel like I've spent a great deal of time this semester railing against "the man," both in and out of the classroom. Seeing that there are still really positive things going on in women's issues  really gives me hope for the future of medical care for women. In my own life I've recently found a doctor who is starting to help me heal as well, and that gives me even more hope!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Be the Change You Wish to See in the World...

Today I was thinking about writing more about the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion" bill, but, once again, something else dropped into my lap. Gotta love Facebook.

I found out that Ithaca is on the MTV website! Check it out and watch the video first because it is absolutely adorable.

But how is this a women's studies topic, you might ask? Well, here's why.

After an 75 minutes of exciting discussion in class on Thursday, our teacher told us, "Okay, you've talked about all this, now go out and do something about it!" I thought...I've considered myself a feminist for years and I really haven't done anything about it besides throw a hissy fit after every family holiday after watching my female relatives do nothing while the men sit in the living room chatting. I'm definitely not setting the world on fire here.

Watching this video, which is made to raise money for the Trevor Project, a group dedicated to "crisis and suicide prevention amond lesbians, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth," made me feel really proud to be a member of Ithaca College, specifically a music major. I know Adiza and almost every one of the members of Ithacapella. And watching the kids, they seemed like they were having so much fun and feeling so empowered that they're wonderful just the way they are.

Bell Hooks talks often in her book about creating a dialoge about feminism at a young age. How wonderful would it be if every girl from now on grew up in even a slightly less culture than we did? If going through puberty was a little bit easier, if dating was a little bit easier and safer, if girls could dream about being whatever they wanted to be and doing just as well as the boys.

I think that music can do this, and it's one of the reasons I stick with being a music major even when it really sucks (which is more often than some might think). Music can touch people in a way that I don't think anything else can. It can reach out to people no matter where they come from or what they believe, it can bring people together for a common goal and it can empower people in wonderful, unexpected ways. Maybe if more girls grow up listening to (and singing!) more songs like this, it will break some of the barriers of sexism which leads to poor self esteem.

The LGBTQ community is out there doing it, why aren't we as women?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Redefining Rape?

I went online last night and a topic for this blog literally fell into my lap. A Facebook friend of mine had a status relating to a new bill that legislators are pushing through. It is being nicknamed the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act." As of right now, women can get federal help with abortions relating to rape, incest or if the woman's life is in danger. The term that has been changed in this legislation is "forcible rape"- meaning violence is involved. The speculation is that this would rule out coercive rapes, statutory rape or situations where the woman cannot give consent because of drugs or alcohol, which means it has been getting a great deal of backlash.

First off, a little bit on my own opinions on this super touchy subject. I was raised Catholic. Everyone in my family was staunchly pro-life so I was too by default. Then I read The Second Sex by Simone DeBeauvoir. After a great deal of consideration, I believe that a woman has the right to choose what happens to her body. Denying the woman the right of choice basically turns her into a walking incubator, not a human being. While I don't know what I would do if I was ever in the situation,  knowing that I had the right to decide, especially in a case where I was raped or sexually assaulted, makes me feel like my life and opinions are valued by the society I live in.

Rape is rape. If the woman is forcibly, violently assaulted, that is rape. If a woman is drugged or is too drunk to legally give consent, that is rape. Statutory rape is rape, especially because these laws are put in place to protect women from being taken advantage of. If a woman is coerced into sex verbally or intimidated into sex, that is rape.

Here are some rape and sexual assault statistics that I found:
  • According to medical reports, the incidence of pregnancy for one-time unprotected sexual intercourse is 5%. By applying the pregnancy rate to 64,080 women, RAINN estimates that there were 3,204 pregnancies as a result of rape during that period.
  • In 1 in 3 sexual assaults, the perpetrator was intoxicated — 30% with alcohol, 4% with drugs.
  • 73% of sexual assaults were perpetrated by a non-stranger, 28% of victims are raped by husbands or boyfriend
Starting to "redefine rape," especially by people who have absolutely no experience in the matter, is just the tip of an extremely slippery slope. What's next? A woman who can't afford to protect themselves from pregnancy and disease won't be able to buy birth control or Plan B? The legality of any abortion gets repealed? There is a group of people in this country who I truly believe think they are doing what is best for society, but who are passing laws that make our country a more dangerous place to live in, a place where women will be unable to have sex safely or have a safe, clean abortion if that is their choice.

If you would like to read more about this issue, here are some articles I found:

P.S. As a semi-happy ending, Republicans dropped the term "forcible" from this bill. Unfortunately, this bill is still a step backwards for the women's movement and the pro-choice movement.

I am incredibly thankful that this particular issue has never hit close to home in my life or the lives of my friends. I hope that I never have firsthand experience, but if I do, I hope that the country I live in will help me make the best decision and not perpetuate the feelings of helplessness and worthlessness that rape causes. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Global Feminism

 For our first assignment for Women’s Studies, we read about half of a book called Feminism is for Everyone by bell hooks. There were SO MANY things that caught my eye and have made me think over the past few days, but the topic I’m choosing for my first blog post is from the chapter “Global Feminism” and has to do with sexism and body image, something that I am extremely interested in.
The specific quote that I put a star next to in my book was:
“A decolonized feminist perspective would first and foremost examine how sexist practices in relation to women’s bodies globally are linked. For example: linking circumcision with life-threatening eating disorders (which are the direct consequence of a culture imposing thinness as a beauty ideal)…would emphasize that sexism, the misogyny, underlying these practice globally mirror the sexism here in this country.”
We are told constantly, even by so-called feminists, that American (as well as Western European) women in the “luckiest women in the world,” because we do not have to deal with “barbaric” sexist practices such as female circumcision. But is this truly a good thing or is it more like being the best house on a bad block?
Having struggled myself with anorexia and bulimia in high school, this is a topic that is very close to my heart. A recent goal of mine is to go to graduate school for music therapy and use my music to help those with eating disorders regain their lives. I feel that developing my own feminist perspective is crucial for this goal. While I believe that unrealistic body image is just a part of this lonely, scary illness, I do believe that sexism is a huge factor.
I wanted to know more about this so I looked up some statistics, first from the World Health Organization website about female genital mutilation:

Female genital mutilation (FGM) includes procedures that intentionally alter or injure female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women.
·      Procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later, potential childbirth complications and newborn deaths.
·      An estimated 100 to 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM.
 and then from the National Eating Disorders
 ·      In the United States, as many as 10 million females and 1 million males are fighting a life and death battle with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. Millions more are struggling with binge eating disorder. The incidence of bulimia in 10-39 year old women tripled between 1988 and 1993.  ·      Anorexia nervosa has the highest premature fatality rate of any mental illness
·      Only one-third of people with anorexia in the community receive mental health care and only 6% of people with bulimia receive mental health care.
Perhaps if American women will look at the sexism in our own country and how it can fatally effect women, we can work globally to create a culture where people are valued for their individual selves and not on the basis of gender, race, creed or orientation.