Monthly Archives: December 2009

Grandmas Raise Awareness About Emergency Contraception for New Year’s

In this hilarious video, the Don’t Drop the Ball campaign asks: “if you can accidentally text your Grandma on New Year’s Eve, what else can go wrong?”

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBJQDpWD32E&w=425&h=344]

This comic creation courtesy of Back Up Your Birth Control, which wants you to remember that, if something goes wrong while you’re getting busy banging in the New Year, there is a Plan B available. For more info on how to access EC and prevent unwanted pregnancy, and how to raise awareness about its availability to women year-round, check out their snazzy website.

Have a very happy New Year!

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Jerking Off Into a Cup Doesn’t Make You Daddy

Sperm donors and recipients beware: Ireland’s Supreme Court ruled this month that the man who provided a cupful of DNA to a lesbian couple reserves rights to the child.

According to a Huffington Post article, the donor had been buddies with the couple, but when the friendship went south, he decided to assert fathering rights over the toddler. This sends serious shock waves through the foundation of families who happen to have used artificial insemination — the donor could pop up and any moment and decide he wants to be “Daddy.” Even worse, Justice Susan Denham insults the legitimacy of same-sex parenting with her justification for the ruling: “There is a benefit to a child, in general, to have the society of his father.”

There is a benefit to a child, in general, to not having the composition of their family insulted and undermined by judges who ignore the fact that they already have loving parents — the people who have been raising them. What if the parenting couple in question had been a man and a woman, but they used a donor because he was sterile? Would the judge still have argued that they should make it a ménage à trois and include a second DNA-driven father in the mix?

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Egyptian Med Students Believe Masturbation Causes Blindness

When a country’s doctors-to-be believe masturbating will destroy your eyesight or cause sterility, what hope is there for the rest of the population?

Let’s talk about sex, baby. Because when sex is treated as a topic too taboo for words, you get med students blaming thick glasses on choking the chicken one time too many, high school girls wondering how exactly sperm makes it into their ovaries, and men believing that they’ll use up the store of semen God pre-filled them up with — oh yes, “this is not an exaggeration,” an opinion piece in Egypt’s Bikya Masr assures us.

Baher Ibrahim writes that young women, expected by the conservative Egyptian society to be white virginal emblems of chastity, often wouldn’t know a penis from a bratwurst (I’m talking the literal food here). Meanwhile, many of the guys get their sexual knowledge from watching porn, which doesn’t do women any favors, no matter what country you’re in.

Bad or non-existent sex ed also fails to teach people to protect themselves against STDs. One student interviewed recalls a professor pinning the failure rate of condom usage in protecting against HIV/AIDS at 15-20% (it’s actually close to zero). Unsurprisingly, women are at particular risk for the disease, which spreads primarily through unprotected heterosexual sex, due to a severe lack of information on the subject. And, oh abstinence-until-marriage-will-solve-this proponents, 90% of HIV-positive women were infected by their spouses.

Another article that appeared today in Bikya Masr chronicles the history of sexually harassment in Egypt, which is described as one of the country’s “most enduring social pandemics. Until recently, it fell under the heading of “too taboo to talk about,” alongside anything else that includes the word “sex.” Oddly enough, the whole silence and covering up the issue tactic hasn’t improved the situation.

So sing it again: Let’s talk about sex, Egypt baby. You clearly need the conversation about the birds and the bees and respecting women.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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Stoves Join the Battle to Stop Violence Against Women

We might not yet have the technology (or magic) to animate appliances Beauty in the Beast-style, but stoves are the latest tool in fighting violence against women.

In Congo, rape appears to be one of the favorite weapons of war. But Mercy Corps, a non-profit that works in crisis situations, is out to spoil the fun by providing fuel efficient stoves to women displaced by the fighting.

Ten percent of women haven’t run into violence or harassment, sexual or otherwise, while gathering firewood for wood-burning stoves. Can you guess what percentage of women have?

This data in hand, Mercy Corps connected the dots. If women didn’t have to spend as much time out in the forest looking for fuel — venturing deeper and deeper as the resources close to their camp thin out — they would be less vulnerable to assault. The shiny new stoves (well actually, they’re clay) use a quarter of the wood the current version uses —  so they’re environmentally friendly to boot!

And you know that saying about how if you teach a man to fish he’ll eat for a lifetime? Mercy Corps isn’t just handing out stoves like prizes on an Oprah show — they’re also teaching women to build DIY versions to spread the wealth.

Obviously this appliance-based approach treats but a symptom of a larger problem. But until we see peace in the Congo and a rape-free world, the important point is that Congolese women report feeling safer now that they aren’t forced to spend so much time scrounging for fuel.

Just call them Stoves for Safety.

Photo courtesy of Todd Huffman’s Flickr photostream.

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The Spectrum of Catholic Views on Choice

From blustering bishops to Catholics for Choice, trying to pin down the “Catholic” stance on abortion will send you all over the map. In the latest, the Catholic Health Association, the major coalition of Catholic hospitals, is giving the green light to health reform that includes the last-minute Senate compromise on reproductive health. While America’s conservative bishops remain stubborn, the association of hospitals — you know, the people who actually treat and interact with the sick — has determined that the need to get everyone decent health coverage ranks above being nit-picky over what’s already anti-choice language.

Back in the day (May 2009), the bishops threw down eight requirements for winning their support for health care reform. Disregarding the whole “separation of church and state” thing that ought to make their opinion irrelevant, the bill has measured up to their litmus test — including on reproductive health, where they insisted that the legislation “preserve the longstanding prohibition on federal funding for abortion” (re: Hyde Amendment). Yet even though an abysmal infringement on women’s rights in the Senate version segregates private funding for abortion from public funding for all other health services, the bishops aren’t giving it up unless the reconciled final bill retains the House’s Stupak Amendment, which goes far past preservation and would likely result in women losing the abortion coverage they already have.

The New York Times explains that the Catholic Health Association, on the other hand, has chosen to follow “traditional principles of cooperation with evil” in service of the greater good. I’m hardly thrilled about throwing around the term evil, even if we’re talking high-brow theology, but I’m all for cooperation.

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Five Pro-Family Gifts from Congress to D.C., With Love

Welcome to Opposite Day: D.C.-Style. Yesterday, I discussed seven family-friendly provisions in the omnibus bill; today, I’ll be bringing up the final five D.C.-specific presents that comprise the “dirty dozen” that the Heritage Family has oddly dubbed “Twelve Anti-Family Gifts from Congress.” Weird.

1. Redirecting money to public schools: I am painfully aware of the deficiencies of public schools, and that the decision to end the D.C. Scholarship Program is a tense one. However, allowing some children to opt-out of the system through vouchers, while leaving others to rot in sub-par District schools that need the cash now headed to private schools, hurts the many unlucky families that don’t get to escape. Also at stake is the violation of church and state involved in paying for students to attend religious schools on the public dime. I’ll only consider this a real gift if Congress proves it’s simultaneously improving public schools. So I’ll be watching, and we’ll consider this one present owed.

2. D.C. can spend its taxes on abortion if it damn well pleases: After adopting a we-know-best approach to our nation’s capital’s finances, Congress is finally allowing D.C. to make its own decision on spending its tax money on reproductive health care for low-income women, just like any other state. No shades of gray here: thanks for the great present!

3. Benefits for domestic partnerships: Congress is also allowing D.C. to provide health care benefits to federal employees’ significant others, regardless of sex. How much more family-friendly can you get? Hmm … seems as though Congress could stand to take its cues from the capital city. Look out your windows, Congresspeople!

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Seven Pro-Family Gifts from Congress

Welcome to Opposite Day! This weekend I’ll be calling attention to seven family-friendly provisions in the omnibus bill (and five more D.C. specific presents tomorrow), which the Heritage Family has oddly dubbed “Twelve Anti-Family Gifts from Congress.” Weird.

There’s more that needs to be done (and funded) on just about all of these issues, but because Heritage was nice enough to give me the gift of such an easy blog post, I’ll shove aside the criticism for today and accentuate the positive.

1. Bye-bye abstinence “education”: The omnibus spending bill redirects the money wasted on inaccurate, intolerant, and ineffective abstinence-only “education” to comprehensive sex ed programs. Though Heritage tries to fiddles with the facts, their own study shows that a full three-fourths of parents want contraception taught right alongside abstinence  — which is exactly what comprehensive sex ed does, in contrast to abstinence-only programs that by definition exclude discussion of safe-sex practices.

2. “Spreading the Wealth”: The new budget includes “a 30 percent increase over President Bush’s last year in office on means-tested welfare programs such as housing, food stamps, and health care.” Why Heritage, I couldn’t have put it better myself — Bush is out and Obama is helping low-income families!

3. Clean needles for all: With the HIV/AIDS epidemic raging fierce in the United States, Congress has finally overturned the two decades old ban on needle exchange programs, one of the most cost-effective (and just plain effective) means we have of turning the tide on a deadly disease that is definitely not family-friendly. Former prez Bill Clinton on having allowed the ban: “I was wrong.” Can I hear that again? “The evidence shows that [syringe exchange] doesn’t lead to increased drug usage.” Boo-yah for fixing it under Barack.

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Take Action: Fix the Census Prisoner Miscounts

When the census-takers come a-knocking, they need to make sure that they count prisoners as residents of the area they call home, not of the jails where they temporarily find themselves.

As so many issues do, the matter boils down to a question of who has the power and where the cash is going. The predominantly rural areas where prisons are located get an artificial population bump, while the cities many inmates hail from get the short end of the stick, which translates into less funding a fewer elected representatives. The system stays in place, however, because representatives from districts where the bulk of the population is comprised of non-voting incarcerated persons don’t want to lose their positions.

This political gerrymandering is unacceptable. Tell Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to fix the census prisoner miscounts for next year.

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Jonas Brother Regrets Abstinence

Some light holiday satire for Christmas: Kevin Jonas, of the Jonas brothers three who rake in the dough as prime preteen and teen crush material, thinks waiting to have sex until marriage wasn’t worth the hype, according to some season’s silliness by the Huffington Post.

The Disney musical sensations have been loud and proud about making abstinence cool. Kevin Jonas, 22-years-old, flashed a “punk-rock purity ring,” which he called “pretty rock and roll.” Apparently his wedding night was a little less so.

Jonas on sex: “that’s it?”

(Lest you feel sorry for the spouse, having her bedroom experience shared at a press conference, apparently she shares his sentiments.)

Props to Andy Borowitz for the gift of giggles this Christmas! We can’t resist a bit of shameless satire this time of year.

Holiday humor aside, if you’re looking for a more serious read, Jessica Valenti’s awesome book The Purity Myth discusses the damage done by the abstinence movement’s essentialization of young people, especially girls, in treating their sexuality as the most important thing about their character.

Photo courtesy of Girl.in.the.Green.Scarf’s Flickr photostream.

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Reproductive Rights Means the Right to Reproduce. Or Not to.

Over on parentdish.com, blogger Rachel Campos-Duffy (of Real World fame) headlines: “Feminists Silent on Call For Global One-Child Policy.” She refers to an op-ed in the Canadian National Post, in which editor-at-large Diane Francis suggests that a one-child policy like China’s would address the environmental devastation caused by overpopulation.

Hi, I’m a feminist. And I don’t approve of instituting a one-child policy. I would have said so earlier, but I’ve been a bit behind on following what’s going on in — which newspaper was it again?

When it comes to the freedom to procreate without government or societal reprobation,” Campos-Duffy claims, “these supposedly ‘pro-women’ groups send a very clear message to women, and mothers in particular: In this battle, you are on your own.” But feminists have spoken out on this issue before. Francis herself opposes the forced abortions or sterilizations that can occur under the Chinese system, advocating instead for financial disincentives.

Campus-Duffy (currently expecting her sixth child) has the right to reproduce without governmental interference, and I would fight for that right. Nonetheless, though Francis’ policy suggestion is off-base,  she is at least correct regarding the environmental repercussions. The right to reproduce doesn’t mean the right not to be aware of the impact the extra carbon footprints will have on climate change, even if that knowledge doesn’t alter an individual’s personal decision (which is nobody else’s to make or attack).

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