An Anti-Choice Holiday Journey

Oh friends…  Oh.  Friends.

This week I went to a family holiday party at a church and saw such a flyer I could hardly believe it was real.  I could just show you the whole thing, indeed you can skip to the end if you want, but what I’d really like is to take you on the full journey.

So there I was, waiting for my kid to get back from the bathroom when I looked up at a cork board filled with the usual flyers and one very special flyer for a movie night.

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It’s a Church Movie Event and the movie is called Sarah’s Choice.  I wonder what on earth she could possibly be choosing?  How can we know!?

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Look, it’s the international hand symbol for pregnancy!

Yeah.  Sarah is pregnant and she has to choose not to have an abortion through some really labored Dickensian plot devices.  Isn’t it clever that they call it Sarah’s Choice?  Here’s the IMDB movie synopsis:

Sarah Collins is considering an abortion. Before she makes her final decision, she is presented with three visions causing her to think about the impact on her future.

Sarah obviously needs some visions to help her consider the future.  How could a woman possibly come to the right decision on her own?

I found a full plot summary here (linked with Do Not Link).   So clearly  Sarah gets pregnant out of wedlock (only unmarried women consider having abortions…but not really)

Sarah decides to tell her un-motivated and immature boyfriend she is pregnant.
Oh no, are you telling me that her boyfriend is immature and irresponsible?!  I would literally never have guessed that.  And clearly Sarah’s “friends and coworkers pressure her to get an abortion.”  Sarah has zero agency.  She’s also got a friend who had an abortion and “while she doesn’t regret the decision it still haunts her.”
arrested development eye roll lucille bluth
And now for her three Christmas Carol-style visions that a lonely old woman at the family planning clinic told her she would have.  Well…they aren’t actually Christmas Carol style because they’re all of different moments in a theoretical future where she decides to continue her pregnancy and have the baby.  In the third vision this happens:
Sarah then asks Matt, “Are you glad we did it? Are you glad we got married?”  “It wasn’t like we had much of a choice.” Matt responds, “Oh we had a choice, and we made the right one.” Sarah looks endearingly at a Christmas ornament that says “mom” on it.
“It wasn’t like we had much of a choice”?!  For real?  This is the magical future vision that’s supposed to convince her to have the baby and marry her boyfriend?  “Well I knocked you up so I guess I had to marry you.”  I’m overwhelmed by the romance.
Maybe the best part, though, is when – as part of her third vision – she finds out that SHE IS THE LONELY OLD WOMAN!  Yes, that lonely old woman who told her she would have three visions of her future is her if she decides to have an abortion.  I’m not sure about the time-travel implications there, but…interesting.
It is at this point that Sarah “breaks down in repentance” and decides to have the baby.  You see, her dad died at some point and she had drifted away from god but now she’s so happy that her dad is in heaven and…wait…why is this suddenly about her dad?  Oh right, everything in a woman’s life revolves around one man or other.
What’s been amazing for me though is looking at the way that people who would actually watch a movie like this talk about it.  For example, here’s a line from the shortened plot summary:
Though raised in a Christian home, Sarah becomes pregnant by her boyfriend.
How is her being raised in a Christian home in any way connected her getting pregnant by her boyfriend?  I wonder if the reviewer is aware that Christianity is not actually a contraceptive.
Since I wasn’t going to watch the movie, I checked out the message boards for it on IMDB, which is where I found this gem…
What I want to know is what world is a 31 year old woman considered to be a young woman? I mean come on now. Aren’t there other actual young Christian girls singers that you could use for this part? Rebecca St. James is almost old enough to be a Grandmother.
If you think that 31 is “almost old enough to be a Grandmother” then we need to discuss the age at which you think most women are having children, because no.
And then…
Plus at her age who the hell cares if she is going to have a baby? I can’t see any reason to have a conflict. So what she is going to be a singer? I am pretty damn sure that female singers do that all the time. It sure doesn’t hurt their careers.

 

Nope.  At 31 you couldn’t possibly be conflicted about having a baby and having a baby has never hurt any woman’s career.  Never, not ever.

But let’s finish by returning to what is maybe the best part of it all.  Let’s look at the whole poster…

sarahschoicewithcircle

No childcare for the anti-abortion movie event.  It’s always nice to see how people who don’t want women to (have a right to) choose abortion support women who do have children.

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Think Before You Comment: Teachers Are Teaching Edition

Recently I read a comment on Facebook that has been stuck in my head for a few days and it’s brought up a number of thoughts about some of my favorite people.  For some small background, Pennsylvania is in the midst of a budget crisis.  We’re closing in rapidly on 200 days without a budget.  One of the most talked about budget issues is school funding, which is of importance everywhere but maybe most especially in a state where the difference between the most we spend per student and the least we spend per student is larger than any other state.

So people are talking extensively about what to do about education and the budget and that leads to comments like this:

I believe one of the reasons we voted for Wolf is because he is a businessman. He knows about budgets. Things are going to get much tougher before they get better. We can’t have everything we we want. I do know kids can learn without computers and many other resources. Let the teachers teach. Pencils, paper, chalk and chalkboards. Back to basics.

To be clear, this person is (I’m pretty sure) a Democrat, and they aren’t against public education.  They aren’t being belligerent or flippant.  They mean well.  I’m not angry with this internet commenter, who appears to be making a genuine effort to engage in conversation.

However…

My problems with this comment are two-fold and I’d like to start by talking for a minute about red herrings.  Computers in classrooms are not stopping Pennsylvania from having a budget.  The computers are – for the most part – already in the classrooms.  Ironically, the pencils, paper, and chalk may be in shorter supply than the computers.

Clearly kids can learn without computers.  No one is saying they actually can’t learn without computers.  Human beings had been learning without computers for thousands of years, discovering amazing things up to and including – say it with me – computers.  Technology has been slowly but surely evolving throughout our history, much faster recently than ever before.  Technology has become an integral, undeniable part of our lives.

As an Oregon Trail Generation member with a mom who is also an early adopter, I am incredibly comfortable with technology.  The tech has been growing up with me for my entire life.  And though, yes, at times I have tried to be curmudgeonly about the progression – there were those couple years that I swore I would never be on Twitter and that time I was like “I’m too old for Snapchat”- but eventually I remember that I played text-based roleplaying games on Prodigy dial-up internet and I jump in.  Understandably, not everyone is as into social media and technology generally and that’s totally fine.  You can not be into something and still recognize its value.  My husband has a Twitter account that he basically never uses.  He doesn’t feel the need to overshare with strangers.  This is 100% fine with me.

What is not 100% fine with me is when people (usually who didn’t grow up using technology) get overly nostalgic about pre-technological educational experience to the point of floating the idea that students don’t need computers.  Students don’t need computers to learn the basics.  Computers provide many advantages.  One of them is knowing how to use a piece of technology that you will have to understand how to use for your life generally but also in almost every job.  Just because a kid isn’t going to major in computer science doesn’t mean they don’t need to know the basic functions of computer.  When I was in high school, my tenth grade class was the last class to taking typing on typewriters.  Every class before mine had also taken typing on typewriters.  It was a required class.  Typewriters are very much a one-trick pony, but we were all cool recognizing that knowing basically how to type was probably a good skill to have in your pocket for a rainy day.  No one railed that the teachers showing us how to type were not actually teaching.

This is, of course, not even to mention the kids who might actually want to go into computer science or some other highly computer-dependent pursuit.  How are those kids supposed to jump into those career paths from an educational system that doesn’t support computer-based learning?  It may be possible, but it sure as hell isn’t likely that kids who don’t have access to technology in their schools will be able to pursue high-tech paths in their post-secondary education.

Ultimately, however, this is only a prelude to my biggest problem:

I do know kids can learn without computers and many other resources. Let the teachers teach. Pencils, paper, chalk and chalkboards. Back to basics.

Teachers who use technology as a resource aren’t not teaching.  This is a statement which, knowingly or not, says that when students use computers, teachers aren’t teaching.  Computers are a resource.  They are a resource like textbooks or pencils or paper or chalk or chalkboards, with the added benefit that that can be used as all of those things at once and then some.  Teachers, I was told recently by a friend who is a teacher, have been restrained by any number of rules designed to keep The Bad Ones from being Lazy Teachers.   So many people, most especially of a certain ideological bent, think the problem with public education is (well…the public part, but also) bad teachers.  I think the problem is that we keep writing rules based on a fear of bad teachers instead of building a system that gives decent teachers the ability to become good teachers and good teachers the ability to become amazing teachers.  Good gods can you even imagine what happens when we have a system that lifts up teachers who are already amazing?

If the only way that we can think of to fix our budget woes is on the backs of students and the teachers that are doing their best to prepare them for life after school I don’t know what we’re doing.  I don’t.  If you think that the belts we should be tightening are in education funding then your sight is so short and so narrow it is shocking to me that you can see at all.  It’s bad enough that we have legislators who think we could just lay off 10% of all the teachers and go on with our lives, as though those teachers both wouldn’t be missed in their former classrooms and their no longer having gainful employment wouldn’t be detrimental to local economies across the commonwealth.  Let’s not allow these people to back us into a position of bare minimum education funding to make up for the irresponsible spending habits of legislators who care more about their ideological purity than whether our commonwealth has the sort of education funding that assures students have an education that includes things like understanding what ideology is.

Support comprehensive education.  Support schools having the technology they need to prepare students for whatever is next.  Support the teachers.  Never stop supporting teachers.  They’re working evenings and weekends and summers.  They’re buying their own pencils and paper and chalk.  Teachers are looking for the best in kids who don’t believe there is a best inside them.  Teachers are pushing students who think they’ve found their best self to find an even better one.  So don’t tell me we need to go back to basics.  We don’t need to step back.  We need to step up.


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Where Are the Women, Ted?

Isn’t it amazing…

Look, I have things to do, right?  I’ve got papers to write and other really important stuff I’m just saying, this is beyond me.

Ted Cruz – and any sentence that starts this way should make you roll your eyes instantly – takes issue with Hillary Clinton’s statements about the Republican position on contraception.  This is the pertinent part of what she said for our story:

“The Republicans have made it clear in recent years that they are not only opposed to abortion, which they have been for quite some time. They’re increasingly opposed to family planning and contraception. This is a direct assault on a woman’s right to choose health care.” (Washington Post)

Emphasis is mine.

This is how Ted Cruz responded to that.

“Last I checked, we don’t have a rubber shortage in America. When I was in college we had a machine in the bathroom, you put 50 cents in and voila!” Cruz continued to some laughter. “So yes, anyone who wants contraceptives can access them.” (The Hill)

There’s more.  I linked the article from The Hill, check it out.

First thought?  I can’t tell you what my first thought is.  It’s inappropriate. My second thought, however is this: where are the women?  Isn’t it amazing how Republicans manage over and over again to talk about women’s health – including abortion – without ever actually mentioning women?  Again and again they do it and Ted Cruz just did it once more.

When faced with a question of whether Republicans support contraception (which is variable, to be generous), he responded by saying “condoms, you guys, they’re everywhere.”  Except, excuse me – rubbers.  I hope you can feel my eyes rolling right now, because they are.  Condoms, the sort of condoms to which Ted Cruz refers, are for men.  And yes, they are available everywhere.  You can buy condoms at your local grocery store, at Target, Walmart, pretty much any local pharmacy, not to mention most convenience stores and gas stations.  You can buy those condoms, which are made to protect against sexually transmitted diseases as well as prevent pregnancy by fitting snugly over a penis, over the counter without a prescription and without question.  What about the other kinds of contraception?

How about IUDs?  They are, if you’re unfamiliar, inserted in the uterus by a doctor to prevent implantation of a zygote thus preventing pregnancy.  Ted Cruz thinks IUDs are abortifacients, never mind that isn’t medically accurate.  He opposes abortion in all cases, even incest and rape, and he called IUDs and similar forms of birth control including Plan B abortifacients which means that he doesn’t – in actual fact – support a full range of contraceptives.  Neither do several of the Republican candidates.  Here’s a fun article that ranks the GOP candidates on women’s issues.  It’ll make you ill.  Conservatives have a pretty fun record when it comes to contraceptives.

This is all, however important it is to know, very much beside my main point which is – how do Republicans keep managing to talk about women’s health while never actually talking about women?  I don’t know, but I very much hope that whoever wins the Democratic nomination for every seat up for election in 2016 plans to push their Republican opponents on exactly that.  No more talking about abortion without talking about the women who desperately need abortion services.  No more talking about contraception without talking about the people whose economic independence depends largely on their ability to control when and if they have children.  No more pretending that the logical end to your policy positions isn’t denying women the ability to control our own bodies.

No more.

 

A Heartfelt Thank You

This week I was incredibly proud to be involved in an amazing event created and organized by the student organization of which I am currently President, Students Advocating Gender Equality (SAGE) of Penn State Altoona.  The event was called Speak Their Truth, and it was an incredible success thanks to the hard work of our membership and thanks to the students who had the courage and generosity to share their experiences with us.

Speak Their Truth is an event that came from an idea that one of our members had to share the experiences of sexual violence in our campus community, but to have those experiences read by people of a different gender than the people who experienced that trauma in order to try to break through the gendered perceptions of sexual violence.  In our anonymous submission process, we explained that mission but also allowed the people submitting experiences to specify the gender of the person reading their story.

I want to applaud the students who were brave enough to share their stories, some of whom had never shared their experiences before.  In this first year, all the experiences shared with us were from women.  I would also like to applaud our readers who, apart from me, were all young men.

In addition to sharing these lived experiences, thank you to the young men who read a series of catcalls.  Also many thanks to a student who shared a beautiful, original poem about her experience.

If I were better an sharing genuine emotion I would probably write at further length about how it feels to have experienced this as a survivor of sexual assault.  Catharsis doesn’t even begin to cover it.  I look forward to creating a plan to share the framework of this event with other campus feminist groups.

And again, thank you.  To all the people that I will not name because I will inevitably forget someone, you know who you are.  Thank you.

SuperJeb! Strikes Again: Supershero Objectification Edition

Jeb! is super awkward.  We get that.  On the HuffPost you can read a whole article about how super awkward Jeb! is.  This awkwardness probably starts with the very reason I keep putting an exclamation point after his name, you know…this:

Have you ever seen such an original totally awesome logo?

I mean it’s so good he’s been using it for like twenty years.  Okay, look, I’m moving off topic.  I just want us to agree that this is hands down the most idiotic campaign logo ever used by a major candidate.

Anyway.  In the course of his campaign of complete awkwardness, Jeb! was recently asked who his favorite superhero is.  Superheros and the nerds who love them are having kind of a moment, if you hadn’t noticed.  What superhero you most admire says a lot about a person.  If you are unfamiliar with the superhero genre and backed into a corner – especially if you are a Republican – just say Superman.  Don’t try to be clever.  You want clean-cut, all-American (looking…I mean, he is an alien), and totally inoffensive.  Jeb! did actually go with this initially:

In his answer, Bush said, “I don’t know; I’m kind of old school. I like the old-school guys, like Batman. A little dark these days.”

…which makes sense.  I would imagine that any number of Republicans would like to see themselves as Batman.  Or at the very least they like the idea of Batman because he fits with the philosophy that they’re trying to sell the American people.  If you just leave the rich alone they’ll make everything better.  I would argue, though, that Batman doesn’t actually ever make anything better.  He does what Republicans do; he puts band-aids on problems.  He doesn’t address the actually address the source of crime.  He fights the crimes while they’re in progress, and that’s a best-case scenario.  Anyway, this isn’t about Batman.  What we were getting at was the other part because if Jeb! had just said “I like Batman” no one would care.  I wouldn’t bother writing about it because it’s all too obvious.

How Jeb! made it awkward was with this line:

“I saw that Supergirl is on TV. I saw it when I was working out this morning, there was an ad promoting Supergirl. She looked pretty hot. I don’t know what channel it’s on, but I’m looking forward to that. …”

While listening to the Slate Political Gabfest on Friday I listened to Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson, and David Plotz try to figure out whether there was anything wrong with what he said or if it was creepy.  The general consensus seemed to be that if Supergirl or the actress who played her is under 18 (they aren’t) then the statement was creepy and if so then it would be.  So it’s not creepy to say she’s hot because she’s 18 and – as John Dickerson pointed out – that outfit, right?  No really, John Dickerson – who under most circumstances I really enjoy and agree with – actually pointed out that probably it’s okay to be skeevy about Supergirl because she is wearing a super tight, sexy outfit.  I hold onto the hope that he was being sarcastic.  In the scheme of superhero outfits, though, Supergirl’s isn’t really all that risque.

It’s maybe the least sexy superhero outfit I’ve ever seen, which isn’t a bad thing.  I mean, yes it’s form-fitting, but it also covers almost every inch of her body.  It is – except for the skirt, which I’m ambivalent about – pretty utilitarian.  We’re not staring at her outfit trying to figure out how her boobs are staying in.  We can’t even ogle the muscle tone in her arms.  This is not sexy by the standards of superhero outfits.  So, on a side note, I’m pretty disappointed in how the Political Gabfest discussed this issue.  Although, in fairness, they gave me a pretty good preface to one way that you can talk about how weird and awkward this moment was while totally missing what I think may be the more pertinent point.

What’s that point?  What other time have you heard someone answer the questions “What’s your favorite superhero?” with an answer that involved saying how hot that particular superhero is?  Probably never.  You like superheroes because of their cool powers.  Maybe there’s something about their backstory that resonates with you.  The worst, most sexist reason to like a superhero is because of how hot she is.

Yeah, she.

It’s bad enough that so often women have to deal with depictions in comic books like this:

That’s the Black Canary.  I have literally know idea how she gets anything done with that leotard up her ass not to speak of the industrial strength double-sided tape that must be required to keep her boobs from falling out the top.  It’s female superheroes…fuck it’s that I’m saying female superheros…but cliched poses like this that help make it okay for Jeb! to admire Supergirl, a character he apparently knows next to nothing about, for her looks.

It’s not about her age.  There’s no age that magically makes it okay to ignore a woman’s undeniable skills, be she ever so fictional a character.  Supergirl is fantastic for many reasons, not the least of which is that being a “girl” isn’t a detriment to her heroism.

I don’t really know how to end this because I don’t actually expect better of Jeb Bush.  This is who he is.  There are certainly male politicians of whom I expect far better who have disappointed me in recent days.  Jeb! isn’t one of them.  Jeb! is a guy who has posited that if single women want to get off welfare they should get married.  That was in 1994.  More recently he questioned whether the $500 million per year spent on women’s health was worthwhile.  Jeb! doesn’t have a great record on behaving as though he thinks women as a category are actual human beings.  So yes, I expect this shit from him.  What I want, I suppose, is for us to hear about this and not just shrug our shoulders.  I want us not to spend our time trying to figure out how it is that Supergirl, the actress who plays her, or the people who created her latest incarnation have made her in a way that begs her eventual objectificatoin. I want us to value supersheroes for their cool powers as much as superheroes.

When you think of Supergirl, I would just rather that what you think of is a little more like this…

Hopefully, that’s not too much to ask.

Kathleen Turner Zombie Time (Plus Presidential Drama)

It’s less than two weeks away from Election Day, I’m a political semi-professional, and I sound like a congested Kathleen Turner looking to audition for a reboot of the Night of the Living Dead.  Eat your heart out George Romero.  …or…you know, let me do it.  Of all the times to get sick.

Meanwhile, Wolf Blitzer has successfully bullied Lincoln Chafee out of the Democratic Primary race. It’s like SNL is prophetic.  Though in fairness you didn’t really need to be a prophet to predict this shit.

We should also bid fairwell to Jim Webb.  Of course he says he may run as an Independent because the problem isn’t his candidacy but rather the corrupt Democratic Party that weirdly insists that a guy whose primary name recognition stems from him bragging about killing people in ‘nam is probably not going to fly as a presidential candidate.

Whatever, how about Hillary Clinton answering questions before the BullshitBengazi committee for 11 hours.  How on earth are there that many questions to ask about a thing that happened three years ago that you’ve spent $4.6 million investigating?  Happily, at least, over the course of 11 hours of questioning, Hillary Clinton managed to be so cool that even conservatives felt that she embarrassed Republicans on the committee.

If only I could feel that good right now. I’m both hot and cold.  Filled with mucus…and yet my throat is dry and scratchy.

BS Attacks on Repro-Rights Watch:

the practices of providers of second and third trimester abortions, including partial birth abortion and procedures that may lead to a child born alive as a result of an attempted abortion;Look out for this term “live-birth abortion”.  Seriously.  Partial birth abortion wasn’t good enough for these assholes.  Rep. Virginia Foxx (demented long-lost sister of Phyllis Schlafly I’m pretty sure) introduced a resolution to – among other things:
“the practices of providers of second and third trimester abortions, including partial birth abortion and procedures that may lead to a child born alive as a result of an attempted abortion”
Obviously the resolution passed with flying colors because the US House of Representatives is chock full of people who hate women.
Things I’m Binge-Watching to Survive
  • Parks and Recreation – It’s on Hulu and Netflix.  Go watch it.  In fact…

  • Veep – If you like the word fuck and politics (and I’m honestly not sure which one of those things I love more) then you need to watch Veep.
  • Difficult People – Hulu’s original show exec produced by Amy Poehler, starring Julie Kasner and Billy Eichner is fantastic.  They’re as awful to people as I would like to be most days and that makes me feel good inside.  It’s only one season at this point so at 8 episodes it’s more like a mini-binge, but whet your palette.  You’ll love it.