Sunday, May 20, 2012

Art Vs. The Artist

I recently watched Stephen Fry's documentary about Wagner's music. It serves as a history of his opera and Fry's love affair with it grandeur and cathartic qualities. In it, Fry questions whether as someone of Jewish heritage, he should feel guilty for being so passionately in love with Wagner's music. Wagner himself was deeply antisemitic, as were most non-Jews of his day, and even wrote an essay "Judaism in Music" which attacks Jewish composers Mendelssohn and Meyerbeer and represents Jews as being evil and alien to German culture and therefore incapable of producing music which represented the German spirit. Wagner's music also carries the taint of Nazism, as Hitler was a greatly influenced by his music and stage production.

This question of can the artist be separated from the work has troubled me for sometime. I've always thought Miles Davis's "It Never Entered My Mind" was one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written. When the raspy, plaintive trumpet plays over the quietly melancholy piano, it just moves me. But then I am troubled by Davis's habit of beating Cicely Tyson and then writing songs about it. Should I, as a feminist, feel guilty for enjoying Davis's music? This problem is explored in the play "Mad at Miles" by Allison Ray, but as I've never read or seen the play, I've never come to any satisfactory conclusion.

I did come to some clarity on the situation when Fry interviewed an Auschwitz survivor who was saved from being exterminated by the Nazis because of her talent with the cello. As Fry asks her if he should feel guilty as a Jew for playing Wagner's music, she answers "I think that is is something that everyone has to work out for themselves. What does it do to you?" That question of what the music moves in you, is in itself an answer to the question of guilt. "It Never Entered My Mind" now brings up feelings of compassion for both Tyson and Miles himself. Surely both were tormented, her by him and him by his inner demons. His pain is clear in both the music he writes and the pain he inflicted on the woman he was supposed to love. I don't think there is anything to feel guilty about in that recognition. And ultimately, as Fry concludes, the music is bigger than the man.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

My Thoughts on the President "Coming Out"

Since President Obama came out in support of gay marriage, I've had conflicting thoughts on the matter. On the one hand, having the man who hold the highest office in the land give his support is a great victory for equal rights. It also reminds me that reason the reason I voted for him is he promised hope, change and progress. So, in many ways, I was very happy when I received the email of him "coming out" in favor of fairness and rationality. It seemed to fall right in line with the man I want him to be.

Then I started thinking about how this is an election year. It might be cynical of me to think that was his motivation, as he probably made as many enemies as he gained supporters. Maybe he just felt it was time. But then, why not do it sooner? Like before the North Carolina banned same sex marriage? Or while he was pushing for the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell? Or the minute he took office, for that matter? I realize I might be prejudiced on that point because it seems like such a no-brainer to me. In this country you need a reason to take away someone's rights, not a reason to give it to them. I guess I just assumed my President felt the same way this whole time. Maybe that's why a small part of me was disappointed that it was necessary for him to even have to make the announcement to begin with. It should have been clear from his actions that he felt that every American deserves to be treated equally. And I'm probably aiming a little bit of misdirected anger at him for the fact that this is even a debate. We live in a free society. So why doesn't it feel like it lately?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Rape and Masculinity

This great article at Alas! A Blog explores the connections between masculinity and the rape culture. The analysis breaks down how the myth of fragile masculinity, the general low regard for women, and the idea that sex is something women possess and "give" away all contribute to the high incidents of rape. Men must prove their masculinity and must do so by avoiding by maintaining a sense of entitlement and by taking revenge is that entitlement is threatened. Women, however, are lower on the social hierarchy than men making it less likely that a man will feel empathy for a woman. And since sex is something that women have and men want, if a man wants sex and doesn't get it, it damages his sense of entitlement and his masculinity. All too often, the solution is some men's minds is to regain his power by taking what he wants, sex, regardless of how the woman feels on the situation. Overall, this is a well-written and thought provoking article and I highly suggest taking the time to give it a read.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Women Get Snarky

Many congressman may be perplexed as to why they are receiving a knitted vagina and/or uterus in the mail, but odds are its because they raised the ire of The Snatchel Project . This group targets government officials who have pushed for anti-woman legislation and "gifts" them with their handiwork. The vaginas and uteruses are handmade and mailed in by volunteers who want to add their voice to the growing number of women and their families who are frustrated by male politicians who insist on inserting themselves where they are not needed. "We are half the population and we will not be treated as children or a disenfranchised minority," says the Snatchel Project via its website.

Rick Perry is feeling the heat from women as well. Perry recently refused $35 million earmarked for Planned Parenthood, cutting off one of the few avenues for preventative health care available to women. In response, his Facebook page was flooded by comments from women asking questions about their menstrual and vaginal health. Many added in their comments that they were coming to him for answers since he clearly regards himself as an expert on women's health. Perry's Facebook has since been cleared of these comments, but I sincerely hope he got the point.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sex Tourism in Thailand

Human trafficking and forced prostitution are issues that are very close to home for me. I live near one of the largest human trafficking hubs in the country and you cannot drive down the interstate without seeing half a dozen billboards with hyper-sexualized "masseuses," who tend to be Asian or Hispanic, and promises that trucker parking is available. But of course, this is not just a local issues. Human trafficking is an international tragedy that affects men, women, and children alike. Many wind up in this situation because they are kidnapped, coerced, or traded by unsuspecting family members who are desperate to pay off their debts. The parents are promised that they will have a better life and will be able to send money back to the family in addition to the money they received from the trade. Instead of placing them in good jobs as promised, they usually end up in slave labor or forced prostitution, which is more often than not the case in Thailand. These individuals are highly prone to AIDS and other STDs which usually follow the sex tourist back home to infect their loved ones.

Those who come to Thailand specifically for sex often do so because they indulge in sex acts that would be frowned upon back in their home countries, including child prostitution. Many, if not most, are aware that these individuals have been trafficked and have no choice about being there. For the men who engage in sexual tourism, it is as much about the power as the sex. They revel in the fact that they have economic power that allows them to purchase anything, including a human being. This only reinforces the idea that men are the providers of money and women (and children) must succumb to that power.

Men looking for the best sex at the cheapest prices turn to the internet instead of lurking around dark alleys as they have in the past. There are even forums on these websites so they can report their experiences, discuss new areas to be explored and to warn about police crackdowns. While conducting research for this article, I came across several such websites. Of course, the same advantages that the internet provides to the offenders, also serves as a tool for police enforcement to combat this growing problem.

However, in far too many cases, the prostitutes are arrested as well. When their pimps come to bail them out, they must work off what they "owe" the pimp for the bailout, which is ofter added on top of "travel expenses" and "room and board." On the up-side, U.S. citizens who have sex with children under the age of 18 abroad will be tried at home instead of the country where it happened and can face up to 30 years in prison. This is a much harsher sentence than they would have faced in the country of the offense as their laws are often much more lenient or unenforced.

The women who are forced into this lifetime have the added shame of being harshly judged by their community. In Thai culture, a good woman is a chaste woman and are therefore marginalized. Additionally, the Thai people resent being associated with sex tourism and those who solicit those services are equally reviled.

Many organizations such as the Polaris provide opportunities to raise awareness, volunteer, as well as donate or organize fundraisers, or even report possible sex trafficking situation. Their hotline is 1-888-3737-888. You can call this number to report a tip, connect with social providers and shelters in your area, request information about volunteer opportunities. Other great resources include, The Department of Homeland Security, and theIntercommunity Peace and Justice Center just to name a few.

Excuse Me a Moment While I Geek Out Over President Carter

President Carter is one of my all-time biggest heroes. He is a humanitarian who has made a huge impact on the poorest people in the world and he continues his philanthropic work to this day, long after he has left office. He founded the Carter Center and won a Nobel Peace prize for his role in the Camp David Accords and his tireless work to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts. He has also been working since 1980 to eradicate guinea worm disease, a crippling condition that Carter has stated keeps people in poverty.

He sat down with the Huffington Post to discuss his new book "NIV Lessons from Life Bible: Personal Reflections with Jimmy Carter." As always, he gave heartfelt and well reasoned answers on topics such as gay marriage, reconciling science and religion, and women's role in the church.

He begins the conversation by pointing out that God inspired the Bible but was written by men and therefore we must take the spirit of the text instead of interpreting it literally. On the topic of religion and science, the former President had this to say: "I happen to have an advantage there because I am a nuclear physicist by training and a deeply committed Christian. I don’t have any doubt in my own mind about God who created the entire universe. But I don’t adhere to passages that so and so was created 4000 years before Christ, and things of that kind. Today we have shown that the earth and the stars were created millions, even billions, of years before. We are exploring space and sub-atomic particles and learning new facts every day, facts that the Creator has known since the beginning of time."

President Carter also shares his disagreements with the Southern Baptists stance on the role of women in the church. "I separated from the Southern Baptists when they adopted the discriminatory attitude towards women, because I believe what Paul taught in Galatians that there is no distinction in God’s eyes between men and women, slaves and masters, Jews and non-Jews -– everybody is created equally in the eyes of God."

On the topic of gay marriage, President Carter points out that at no point did Jesus speak out against homosexuals. He concedes that churches who oppose gay marriage should not be forced to perform such a ceremony because as a Baptist he believes that each congregation is autonomous. In case you were wondering, the church President Carter currently attends accepts gays on an equal level.

If this doesn't make you fall in love with Jimmy Carter as much as I have, then I have a few links that I'm pretty confident will blow your mind.

President Carter wants to end Guinea worm disease

The Carter Center

President Carter Bio

Karen Santorum One of Her Husband's Top Advisors

Karen Santorum has mostly kept herself behind the scenes in this campaign. She shies away from the public eye but in private, she is one of her husbands most trusted advisors. "She's very politically savvy," says former state Rep Al Salvi. "I know she is the first one to tell Rick that he has made a mistake." One of those times was when Santorum called President Obama a "snob" for encouraging people to go to college. Soon after he made that statement, she called to admonish her husband.

You might be surprised to learn that Mrs. Santorum is a nurse as well as a lawyer. Santorum's campaign would do well to highlight these facts more often if they wish to win the women's vote. Mrs. Santorum insists that he is no way anti-woman, despite some of the remarks he has made. “I am a registered nurse, a lawyer and an author of two books and when I was on my book tour he was home making meals, changing diapers, cleaning the kitchen. He’s been supportive of me and my career. They’re trying to make him look like something he’s not. He is completely supportive of women.” She went on to assure women that her husband has no plans to ban contraceptives.

Voters who worry that Santorum may ban abortion should not hold out hope his wife may soften him on this issue, however. Since the birth of her daughter Bella, who suffers from a genetic disorder, her pro-life stance has only been strengthened. “I just felt very strongly about faith and family and I … feel very strongly about life, the life issue,” she told CBS. “Now that we have a special-needs little girl, I … feel especially stronger about, you know, the dignity and value of every person from the moment of conception until death.” She also recalled the pain of losing a son who was born prematurely, which also contributed to her pro-life views.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

In Ga, No Abortion Even For Stilborn Fetuses

All over the country, politicians are deciding that they know more than doctors about women's health. Here in the great state of Georgia, Representative Terry England lends his vast knowledge on the topic to the national debate. His qualifications? He used to work on a farm.

England defended HB 954 which would restrict abortion to the first 20 weeks, even in the event of a stillborn, by citing cases in which a cow or pig deliver a dead baby. "Life gives us many experiences…I’ve had the experience of delivering calves, dead and alive. Delivering pigs, dead or alive. It breaks our hearts to see those animals not make it." Bizarrely, he follows this statement by relating a story in which a man who was running a chicken fighting ring tells him that if abortion was outlawed he would give up all his chickens. I'm not sure what chicken fighting has to do with managing a high-risk pregnancy, but they are apparently linked in England's mind.

Its very frightening to know that the state I live in feels I should have to carry a stillborn fetus and give birth to its corpse because its good enough for cows, pigs and other barnyard animals.

Friday, March 9, 2012

NYPD Surveilling Muslim Citizens

Its not all good news from New York today. The Associated Press released a report that showing the NYPD'S Demographics Unit has been doing everything from recording conversations in Muslim owned business to copying license plates at mosques with absolutely no link to criminal activity. Mayor Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner have commented that the lack of terrorist attacks since 2001 is due to the program's success and that they aren't treating the Muslim community any differently than any other group. So I'm guessing there is a huge data base of licence plate numbers from churches and synagogues as well? Wrong. Jews and Christians were excluded from the surveillance. As if all that wasn't bad enough, NYPD has been spying on Newark NJ citizens as well without Newark's Mayor Booker or Governor Christie's knowledge or consent.

Rightfully enough, there has been considerable outrage over this revelation. “It is no longer a question that the NYPD is engaged in widespread racial profiling,” says Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “NYPD documents state that they are spying on Muslims solely because they are Muslims.” I couldn't agree with him more. So does the Attorney General who is launching a review of the report. Here's hoping he brings the hammer down hard.

Female Firefighters on the Rise in NY

Apparently a record number of women have signed up to be firefighters. 3,481 brave ladies signed up for the entrance exam, a significant rise from the 1,4000 in 2007. Currently, there are only 24 female uniformed firefighters out of the 11,000 member department. This rise is likely due to FDNY's recruitment drive targeting women, which appears to be working. The recruitment drive may be due to the fact that if the doesn't raise its minority ranks, they will be facing a $128 million fine. Competition is still a bit stiff, however, as 60,000 people of both genders have signed up for the exam and there are only 300 - 325 spots to fill.

I absolutely support women breaking into traditionally male dominated fields and I absolutely support employers making attempts to diversify their staff. I just hope that these women are chosen because of their ability and passion for the job, not just to fill some quota. Hiring women just to avoid a fine helps no one and gives feminism a bad name.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Santorum: "Single Mothers Breed Criminals"

As if it weren't already clear that Rick Santorum were a bucket of batshit, Mother Jones discovered a gem from his first Senate campaign wherein he declared that single mothers were breeding more criminals.

"Most people agree a continuation of the current [welfare] system will be the ruination of this country," Santorum told a town meeting in Clairton, Pa., in February 1994. "We are seeing it. We are seeing the fabric of this country fall apart, and it's falling apart because of single moms." He even brought a handy-dandy chart that shows a direct correlation between the rise of welfare and the rise of children born out of wedlock. He ended his statement by saying that single mothers need a "kick in the butt." Because raising children by yourself isn't enough of a kick in the butt to begin with.

Santorum also insisted that if the single mother couldn't produce the name of the father, she would not be entitled to welfare. So I guess rape victims and women who were forced to turn to prostitution for whatever hellish reason got them there are just even more shit out of luck than they were before. And if that doesn't get your blood boiling, Santorum says children with disabilities are part of the problem as well. Crackpotsayswhat?

Now that he is in the national spotlight, he has tones down his rhetoric slightly. In October he stated that welfare recipients and single moms were the base of the Democratic party. So, as an incentive for people to get married, he proposed an end to the head of household exemption for single parents while tripling the value for married parents.

So if you are in an abusive or unhappy relationship, widowed, have a child as a result of being raped, or simply don't believe in the institution of marriage, you're not living in Santorum's version of America.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Funny or Die Nails It

Limbaugh Calls Sarah Fluke "Slut"

In a whack-a-doodle move earlier this week, Rush Limbaugh called Sarah Fluke a "slut" because she supports the contraception coverage. On Thursday, he took yet another step around the bend when he stated that women who advocate the coverage should be made to post sex tapes of themselves online.

"So Miss Fluke, and the rest of you feminazis, here's the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch," said Limbaugh. So in his addled mind, if you have sex ever you are a slut and therefore should have to prostitute yourself out to pay for your dirty, dirty birth control. Right.

This is why whenever I see an article with his name attached, I'm always slightly surprised to learn that people find him even remotely relevant. Fluke stayed classy, however, and was quoted as saying "No woman deserves to be disrespected in this manner. This language is an attack on all women, and has been used throughout history to silence our voices.” True that.

Syria Condemned By UN For Human Rights Violations

The United Nations Human Rights Counsel voted Thursday to condemn the Syrian government for widespread violations of human rights. The measure passed at 37 nations in favor. Russia, China and Cuba voted against and India, Ecuador, and The Phillipines abstained. An additional four nations did not participate. Britain and Switzerland announced they were closing their embassies in Damascus, Syria's capital. Kuwait has pledged support for rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad's rule.

The government began its bombardment of the neighborhood of Baba Amr in Homs four weeks ago on Thursday and activists say army defectors were still resisting the onslaught. Baba Amr was pounded on all four sides by mortar and rocket fire on Wednesday. Syria's main opposition group, the Syrian National Council, announced it had formed a "military bureau" to organize resistance to President Bashar al-Assad. Communications with Baba Amr were cut for several hours, raising the fear that a long-awaited ground attack had already begun. Tank reinforcements had closed in area the area overnight from Damascus highway.

Activists say it was a very aggressive attack but do not think they will invade the city with tanks. There is speculation that the army would rather destroy the city than to invade. Snipers dispatched anyone on the streets of Baba Amr.

"The humanitarian situation is really bad," says Mulham al-Jundi, a nearby activist. Many neighborhoods have lost electricity and they are using much needed fuel to refrigerate the bodies of the Western journalists Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik. There is minimal health care, endangering the lives of scores of wounded. Supplies are running low in the city and the death toll reached 29 on Wednesday.

Damascus blocked the visit of The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator Valerie Amos, despite the fact that Russia encouraged attempts to bolster medical and other aid. Amos stated that she was "deeply disappointed" and supported a call by the International Committee of the Red Cross to meet the medical and other humanitarian needs of civilians. The Foreign Minister was quoted as saying that Amos had suggested an "inappropriate date" but they were willing to consider a more suitable time. It is unclear if Syria will allow the visit of Kofi Anan who was appointed as the organization's special envoy. The Foreign Ministry has requested clarification on Anan's role.

As Anan himself said, "The message is clear: the killing and violence must stop."

Cody Rogers Starts Facebook Campaign After Being Beaten

Oklahoma teen Cody Rogers stepped in to defend his 21- year old friend and got severely beaten among homophobic slurs at a party this weekend. 18 year old Rogers came out of the closet 18 months ago. "I am feeling really emotional, I am holding it in right now. I stepped in and they threw me to the ground." Pictures of his bloody wounds went viral just after the Rogers uploaded them to Facebook.

Rogers has created a Facebook page called "Help Stop the Stomping" with an eye for promoting protection for the LGBT community. Currently, Oklahoma is one of nineteen states who don't include sexual orientation in their hate crime bills.

I'm almost split down the middle on whether is more important to protect LGBT individuals or protect society as a whole for precedents that allow for your thoughts to be persecuted as crimes. Not to mention that being illegal seldom stops people from doing anything. However, if it saves a handful of lives, might it be worth it?

Republicans Who Support Gay Marriage Targeted By Their Own Party

Senator Roy J. McDonald was quoted as saying "they can take this job and shove it" while discussing the political consequences of supporting gay marriage. The Republican Committee in his own hometown of Wilton endorsed his opponent in his re-election campaign. Elaine Gerber, chairwoman of the committee, stated that his remark certainly had an influence on their vote.

A remark of that nature may or may not warrant withdrawing support. However, Senator McDonald is the second of the four Republicans who support gay marriage to have faced political difficulties. Senator Mark Grisanti of Buffalo lost support of the Eerie County Republican Party, who were critical to his election. New York's Conservative Party stated that it would oppose all four of the senators for re-election.

On the other side, Mayor Micheal Bloomberg pledged financial support of the Senators' campaigns and Senator McDonald announced the endorsement of the Stillwater Republican committee. Senator McDonald stated he would continue to focus on lowering taxes and creating jobs. Scott Kingsley of the Wilton Republican Committee agrees. "We cannot be branded by that single issue. If we're constantly making decisions based on that one issue, we're going to have a hard time putting together a coalition to govern." McDonald's opponent is Steven McLaughlin who is running because he feels the incumbent hasn't represented conservative view on issues such as abortion, taxation, or marriage.

A move back to the middle would likely benefit the Republican Party. The GOP is currently too crowded with evangelicals who want to expand the government to control the medical procedures and family structures of Americans. A return to focus on job creation, lower taxes and smaller government be very attractive to voters in this economic climate.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Clash Over Contraceptives

The Senate is scheduled to vote on the contraceptives amendment (the Blunt Amendment) which was curiously added to a highway bill. On one side of the issue are pro-choice groups, represented mostly by the Democrats, and on the other are social conservatives and Catholic clergy, represented mostly by the Republicans. Public opinion on the matter is more or less split down the middle with 45 to 48 percent of adults agreeing with religious leaders.

Mitt Romney initially said he was against the bill before retracting the statement and claiming that he misunderstood the question. His spokeswoman clarified, stating the Romney supports the bill and believes in a conscience exemption. President Obama's campaign quickly stated that Romney's remarks "showed why women don't trust him for one minute." I certainly don't because of his stance on women's health and women's issues, not to mention his appearance borders on the Uncanny Valley.

Critics of the bill say that the language is too broad and could allow for any employer to restrict access to any treatment they object to, as if restricting access to birth control wasn't bad enough. President Obama suggested a compromise wherein religious institutions would not be required to provide no-cost contraceptives, passing the cost on to the insurers. In addition to the Blunt Amendment, seven states along with Catholic groups have sued the federal government for allegedly violating the right to religious freedom.

I can't quite see why this would be a violation of religious freedom. No one is forcing anyone take anything they don't want to take. If you believe birth control is wrong, don't take it. But freedom means you can't restrict someone else's rights.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

More Ultrasound Bills

It seems that Virginia started a trend among anti-choice politicians. The Virginia Bill was signed into law today and already more states are cooking up their own versions. Alabama, Texas, South Carolina and Illinois either have already passed laws or are deliberating on laws to force mandatory ultrasounds on women seeking abortions. Its not surprising to me that anti-choice groups are pushing unnecessary and costly procedures onto women seeking abortions. What is surprising is that these laws are being passed despite overwhelming protest from the states' constituents. A survey of Illinois voters showed that only 33% of voters supported the bill.

Zach Wichmann of the Catholic Conference defends the bill, stating that it is merely ensuring informed since an ultrasound are a necessary part of an abortion. I may be wrong here, but it seems if it were necessary it would be standard procedure, making any law requiring it redundant. Not to mention the fact that the law dictates that a woman must wait 24 hours after the ultrasound to have her abortion, putting an extra burden on women who had to travel from a rural area or another state to find a clinic. I can see no need for this bill unless your goal is to manipulate women and restrict their options.

Washington Governor Apologizes for Not Supporting Gay Marriage Sooner

Gov. Chris Gregoire of Washington discusses her struggle with the gay marriage issue in a recent interview. Gregoire says her Catholic faith caused her to be conflicted on the issue. "I apologize that it took me so long. I feel better about my head and my heart than I have in seven years. But it took me time. I regret that it took me that much time, but it just did."

During her term as State Attorney General, Gregoire supported the same-sex marriage ban. Her first experience with doubting that stance came when she was working on anti-bullying. She discovered that bullying that was centered on sexual orientation was more likely to end in school violence or suicide. While working on hate crime issues, she found that most hate crimes were sexual-orientation-related.

As Governor, she saw the passing of an anti-discrimination bill, then a domestic partnership bill. Listening to members of PFLAG and thoughtful, open discussions with her daughter further convinced her. Now she says that she feels better in her heart and her head than she has in years. Welcome to the club, Governor Gregoire!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Women Less Likely to Seek Treatment for Heart Attack

A new study shows that women are likely to delay treatment for heart attacks. In fact, many never make it to the hospital. This may be partly due to the fact that women seldom have the classic heart attack symptoms. Instead of chest pains, most women experience shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, light-headedness, and back and jaw pain. Of those women who do experience chest pains and pressure, they may be inclined to not take their symptoms seriously. Patients who don't experience the classic chest pain symptom, such as women below 55, are more than twice as likely to die. In lieu of this indicator, women who experience sudden and extreme fatigue should be mindful that they are danger of having a heart attack. Doctors also recommend keeping a close eye on blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Some Good News

The Maryland Senate voted on Thursday to legalize same-sex marriage. Governor O'Malley has pledged to sign the bill into law. This seems to indicate that the fight for equal marriage rights is gaining some momentum. Six states and D.C already allow for same-sex marriage and five have civil unions.

"There's no question that with so many Americans having changed their minds and opened their hearts as they've heard the stories of real couples and thought about why marriage matters, we now have tremendous momentum towards ending marriage discrimination," said Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry.

Another bright spot on the horizon is that the Personhood bill of Virginia was essentially table for another year. The bill defines life as beginning at conception. Its opponents say that it would be a pre-cursor to outlawing abortion. Also on Thursday, Virginia's revised ultrasound bill was approved by the Senate Panel. It previously forced women to have ultrasounds via vaginal probe prior to an abortion, now it forces women to have ultasounds prior to an abortion. Not sure if that one should go in the win or loose column.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Birth Control Testimony Silenced Again

Sandra Fluke was the only female witness scheduled for the Republican hearing on birth control last week, but Committee Chairman Darrell Issa would not allow her to testify. On Tuesday, Nancy Pelosi announced that the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee would meet to hear Fluke's testimony. However, the Committee was denied use of the House Recording Studio by Republican House Administration Committee Chairman Dan Lungen, thereby preventing Fluke's testimony from being aired. This goes against a longstanding policy that has allowed such hearings to be broadcasted.

The Huffington Post obtained Fluke's testimony and made it available to the public. The testimony is quite moving. In it, Fluke discusses the devastating economic impact of having to pay for birth control out of pocket. She also highlights how the impact is even graver when the birth control is prescribed for conditions polysistic ovarian syndrome, as was the case for one of Fluke's friends. Both are students at Georgetown which means contraceptives are not covered in their student insurance. The friend could no longer afford to pay $100 a month for birth control and was forced to stop taking it. It wasn't long before a cyst ruptured on her ovary and doctor's removed the ovary.

Fluke also takes Congress to task for minimalizing the cost of birth control and putting the responsibility of providing birth control onto non-profit clinics while simultaneously cutting the funding of those same clinics.

DOMA Ruled Unconstitutional

On Wednesday, Judge Jeffery White ruled in favor of Karen Golinski who was suing for the right to have her wife covered by her insurance. The couple were married in 2008 when gay marriage was legal in California. Judge White's decision was based on his belief that the Defense Against Marriage Act "without substantial justification or rational basis, refus[es] to recognize her lawful marriage to prevent provision of health insurance coverage to her spouse." He goes on to say that the law "treats gay men and lesbians differently on the basis of their sexual orientation."

Judge White is the second judge to find DOMA unconstitutional since President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder announced they would no longer defend the law. Also, earlier this month, the Ninth Circuit ruled that Prop. 8, which made same-sex marriages illegal in California, was also unconstitutional. With this type of momentum, we may see the issue come before the Supreme Court soon.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

VA Governor Reverses Position on Abortion Bill

Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia issued a press release stating that he no longer supports the bill which would make an ultrasound via vaginal probe a prerequisite for having an abortion. This change of heart comes after intense criticism of the bill from women's health groups and the public at large. Many have equated the forced vaginal probe with rape and it seems the Governor is beginning to see their point.

"Mandating an invasive procedure in order to give informed consent is not a proper role for the state. No person should be directed to undergo an invasive procedure by the state, without their consent, as a precondition to another medical procedure," Governor McDonnell stated in his release.

Prior to the national uproar, the staunchly pro-life Governor McDonnell openly supported the bill, saying that it was a "sure thing" as far as he was concerned. This reversal could be at least partly due to the fact that McDonnell's name has been floated for Vice President and signing off on a massively unpopular bill would surely block such an opportunity.

The House of Delegates passed a revised version of the bill which still requires a (non-invasive) ultrasound. The amended bill will now pass back to the Senate for a vote.

Turning the Tide

As a working woman and a feminist, I find it irritating when every household cleaner is shamelessly targeted to women. Dust mops who stalk the housewife after she "dumped" it, women dancing around with floor cleaners as if they were the most liberating thing to come along since the 19th Amendment. It may seem like a minor thing to be irritated about but commercials and pop culture in general are reflections of a society's widely held values. Commercials such as these are just reminders that after a long day of your boss screaming at you, being on your feet, enduring countless toddler tantrums, or being stuck in commuter traffic for hours, women are still expected to keep the house clean and prepare dinner for her clan.

This is why the latest series of Tide commercials have me tickled pink.

Here we have a stay-at-home dad discussing his laundry strategy. Just as he's celebrating the fact that having a quality detergent will eventually lead to more "me" time, his daughter approaches and asks him to braid her hair.

Finally, an ad campaign that reflects the actual day-to-day reality of family life. And what is even better, the stay-at-home dad is not an anomaly of men doing laundry. Several other commercials show men folding laundry along with their wives. Furthermore, when women are discussing their laundry, they aren't depicted as the Super Mom, they are women lounging around in their yoga pants or discussing how their little girl prefers hoodies and cargo shorts to pink dresses. All in all, this ad campaign earns a gold star from me.