Hi all! It's been a while! Hope everyone had a good Thankgiving celebration if you celebrate it, or at least some days off. There have been lots of cool things happening at St. Olaf's campus, so read on!
Last week, our Students for Reproductive Health and Choice held an event where Reverend Kelli Clement from Minnesota Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice talked about being religious and pro-choice. It was wonderful! She spoke eloquently about the importance of a woman's choice in when she begins parenting. So often we get stuck on the issue of when life begins, whether at conception or birth, etc., and Kelli made a good point that this just distracts us from the real issue. We can agree to disagree on when life begins, but we do need to agree that women should be agents of their own bodies and be able to decide when they will be a parent. Caring about the woman's health, both emotional and physical, is necessary in making this decision.
I really loved Kelli's description of their non-coercive counseling. This is a tool that Crisis Pregnancy Centers often lie about; they will say several false facts about what abortion can cause (healhwise) to make sure the woman births the child. Non-coercive counseling is vital to making the right decision for a woman, for she needs to feel comfortable and free to make her own choice based on what is best for her.
Kelli layed out the following 4 human rights of reproductive justice:
* the right to bear children,
* the right not to bear children,
* the right to raise our children in safe & healthy environments, &
* the right to celebrate sexuality in health & wholeness.
Love these! This was a great event (thanks to SRHC and MRCRC!) and good to learn about, since I had only heard about the opposite end of the spectrum: Feminists for Life (pro-lifers who also identify as feminists---which, if you read/believe in bell hooks, that actually is an oxymoron). This is a hard issue to discuss, but it is necessary, because parenting and pregnancy should not be forced upon anyone.
Also!!!! Something awesome and angering is happening in Northfield! If you didn't read Payne's (from SRHC) letter to the editor on CPC's, you should read it. Then check out the email he received from the Northfield CPC's director that appeared on the NARAL Pro-Choice America Facebook Page!!!!! I'm pasting it below as well because it is actually incredible that she would write such immature words. I've heard from several others that Liz, the author of the email, has said truly offensive remarks to people who do not practice her own choice of lifestyle. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want someone like that counseling me if I were in the tough decision of deciding to carry my pregnancy to term or not! These sources have verified that the CPC of Northfield uses false information and medical information that has been discredited to deter patients from having abortions. They claim they respect a woman's right to choice, but they do not refer out for abortions. Watch 12th and Delaware, and you'll see what I mean!
Article from http://defamer.gawker.com/evan-rachel-wood-tells-the-mpaa-women-dont-just-have-1472893497
"Missives intended to shock are nothing surprising from the former Mrs. Marilyn Manson, but Evan Rachel Wood's Twitter rant today could not be more on point. On the heels of producers cutting a scene where Wood receives oral sex, solely to secure an R-rating from the Motion Picture Association of America, Wood took to social media to express her displeasure."
After seeing the new cut of #CharlieCountryman I would like 2 share my disappointment with the MPAA, who thought it was necessary to censor a womans sexuality once again. The scene where the two main characters make "love" was altered because someone felt that seeing a man give a woman oral sex made people "uncomfortable" but the scenes in which people are murdered by having their heads blown off remained intact and unaltered. This is a symptom of a society that wants to shame women and put them down for enjoying sex, especially when (gasp) the man isn't getting off as well! Its hard for me to believe that had the roles been reversed it still would have been cut...OR had the female character been raped it would have been cut. Its time for people to GROW UP. Accept that woman are sexual beings... Accept that some men like pleasuring woman. Accept that woman don't have to just be f***** and say thank you. We are allowed and entitled to enjoy ourselves. Its time we put our foot down. Thanks for listening. — Evan Rachel Wood (@evanrachelwood) November 27, 2013
LOVE THIS! So true. See (way) below on my essay of the stigmatization of female masturbation.
Fellow feminist Chandler's new blog, everyone!
Last weekend I woke up at 6 am in order to gather with the Choice group at my campus and drive to the city to escort women safely up to the doors of a clinic so they can access their healthcare. Why do women need escorts, you may ask? Some do not agree with their decisions of what to do with their body and the way the rest of their lives will go. These people take up posts protesting outside of abortion clinics, either yelling at patients about killing their babies or encouraging them to reconsider and offering them resources that they will most likely never follow through with. Protesters absolutely have a right to voice their beliefs, and many of them are ingrained in religion and giving a voice to an "unborn baby." These protesters believe they are saving lives, and no one thinks abortion is an easy issue. However, many of the protesters do not know what is going on in many patients' lives. Women get abortions for diverse reasons, as I have outlined in my last blog post, and they will often offer to pay for rent, food, etc. just so women miss their appointments. Their goal is to postpone as long as possible and make it too late to abort. But the vast majority of the time, they do not follow through on their promises to help with financial problems or be a support network. They change the mind of the woman with the intent of saving lives but sometimes they actually ruin her life. Birthing an unwanted baby is an alienating experience in itself, and if the woman keeps the baby and does not give it up for adoption, she and her newborn child may suffer through economic problems and other societal problems that she feared beforehand--the problems that caused her to choose abortion in the first place.
For more info on specifics of all these different views and politics that go into the decision to abort, please read my last blog post, for I would like to review my personal experience as a clinic escort. I have to be honest -- it was not a dramatic or super influential experience for me, and I think this was because I didn't actually have any contact or conversation with any patients. We were randomly posted in various locations around the clinic/parking garage. I was at the entrance to the parking garage, so I simply waved the drivers into the garage, while the escorts at the other side of the garage went to greet the patients and walk them across the only crosswalk that was located on their side to the front door of the clinic. (They had to use that crosswalk for liability reasons.) I didn't feel like I individually was able to be much help because of my post. Next time I will try to be in a post where I do escort the women to the front door, because although I will never truly understand unless I am in that position, I would like to try to understand and empathize as much as possible because I believe not judging others' experiences is essential in living a conscious life.
We escort these women to the door because protesters yell things like "Please don't kill your baby, you don't want to do that! Think if your mother didn't have you!" However it was a pretty lowkey day last weekend - only 5 or so protesters, and they weren't collaborating. Two men were pacing back and forth praying, and 3 different women had signs and were yelling to the patients and to us, but only when the patients were present. They acted individually, which I am grateful for, because I think if they had collaborated it would have been a lot more scary. I think on a busier day there might be 10 protesters, and apparently one of them is a doctor who is quite tall and intimidating when he spits out gruesome scientific language about the abortion procedure. I'm glad he didn't show up.
I'm sure others have different experiences in my situation, or in the position of the patient. Please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences. Post them or message them to our facebook page, and I will post them on here anonymously, or not if you prefer. Diverse experiences are what make this world, people. Get out there and act!
Abortion. It's a difficult topic. Some cringe at the word. Yet it is a reality in the lives of so many women (1.2 million per year), and we can't continue to stigmatize it or blame these women or criticize the right to choice. You can start to engage in this thought by reading the stories of many women here. These women's stories deserve to be heard, and deserve to be respected, AND they deserve, in the future, the respect to not even HAVE to make this choice. No one wants abort a fetus, but in the end, individuals will do what is necessary for themselves and for the rest of their family or loved ones. This right is necessary, because we have systemic causes that affect our lives. Some adolescents do not receive sex education, and this may explain why they practice unsafe sex. Some women may not have free access to contraception. Some may just not have support networks where they can feel free to discuss their sexuality. These are the problems within our system that make this issue of abortion so controversial. So the next time someone fights the right to choice, I would suggest connecting with them and encouraging them to advocate for things that you both agree on, and that would reduce abortion rates... Things that will actually address these systemic problems.
So this is what I usually say: "Women will always seek out abortions, as they have been doing for all of time. Limiting access to them only makes them more dangerous because illegal ones will be sought after. You are looking at the act of aborting a fetus and disagreeing with that. I believe it is more beneficial to look at the system and see what systemic influences cause women to abort. I want to educate myself and others on those systemic flaws, such as lack of sex education and access to contraception (as I mentioned in my other post to you), and also situations of poverty, domestic violence, and gender inequality that can factor into the decision to abort in any part of the world.
If you are anti-choice, I encourage you to get involved in your community or legislation and promote public sex education and free and easy access to contraception! These are my goals as well because with lower rates of unwanted pregnancy, the difficult issue of abortion will not be as prevalent. People are never going to stop having sex, but if they are more educated about the possible outcomes/consequences and are able to discuss this in a supportive, non judgmental, and educational environment, we will see progress."
Pro-choice or anti-choice, I know abortion is something that no one is comfortable with. It's a tough topic. It's very taxing to go through. It's a decision that will change your life, maybe cause regrets, or maybe make you very happy for the right to have that choice. Either way, if we did not even have to arrive at that choice due to universal sex education and free and easy access to birth control, we will be able to unite and tackle other issues such as sex slavery and child labor and other atrocities in the world where the individual actually has no choice or voice (which are, indeed, issues we should be focusing on instead of what a woman does with her own body). Act, people. Let's make some progress.
So the word feminism gets a lot of backlash. I may have blogged about this before but I just see so much backlash from all these people who I really expected to know more about it. People, women included, reject it, despite their full support of gender equality. This happens when they don't really know what feminism is. And we, as feminists, are here to educate them. Let's begin with the simple definition brought to us by the great bell hooks.
"Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression."
Pretty simple, right? I'd say most of us agree with those ideas. However, people get scared of the word feminism or calling themselves a feminist. They think it means they'd have to burn their bra, or hate men, or not be a man, or choose women over men. We are here to assure you: it does not mean any of those things. I mean, you can burn your bra if you want to and if you think it has a significant meaning. But as a feminist, you would never make anyone else burn their bra if they didn't want to, and you wouldn't judge them if they didn't. Because that's what feminism is also about: choice.
We need to have the agency and the choice to make our own educated, conscious decisions. We need to be aware of the consequences and the meaning of those decisions. Moreover, we need to respect the decisions of other people (yes, including women, as they are people), and realize that their decisions are none of our business. Unless someone is hurting others or possibly herself with her decisions, she has the right to do as she pleases.
So Joss Whedon made this speech (Watch Joss Whedon Make the Perfect Speech about the Word Feminist - Jezebel). He gets to his point near the end about making genderist the new word so less are scared of the word feminist. Cool. However, I don't think it faces the real problem; instead, as one commenter said on our Facebook page, "it just proves the stigma attached to the word is alive and well." People have all these ideas about feminism, and although it does not embody one way of life, it is a word that is inherently flexible and can work for all different kinds of people and their expressions. One does not have to deny feminism in fear that he/she will be labeled a man-hater or sexist against men. Feminism embodies gender equality; it does not put women above men, but strives for equality.
In the text below the video, blogger Kate Dries says, "You can of course say you're not a feminist! It's not what I would do and it makes me sad but it's your life. You can say you're not a feminist because you don't like the movement and how it's been isolating to women of color, or because you think women shouldn't have to be asked if they are feminists. But don't say you're not a feminist because of things that are inherently not true about what word means or that inarticulately imply that there's something wrong with owning your belief that men and women should be equal or rejecting the many women and men that have come before you who let you live the life that you've led."
I absolutely love this. This is everything. And it's so sad that these women, many whom we are familiar with in pop culture, feel that they cannot express their struggle against patriarchal institutions in their business. Many of them explore the word feminist in their quotes and ultimately don't want to be judged by applying it to themselves. As the commenter who I mentioned above said, "These women shouldn't have to be afraid of a word, a label, they get labeled things all the time, but they know this particular label could create problems for their career." You said it, girl.
Another problem I've noticed is that people say they are a humanist instead of a feminist. Perhaps they mean humanitarianist. Even if humanitarianism is your go-to word, feminism is still necessary in context, because historically, humans meant men. Women did not have rights hundreds of years ago. So you still need to acknowledge feminism is required in the movement of humanitarianism. However, humanitarianism is a logical argument if you naturally believe women and men should be equal and you don't feel like you are required to constantly explain that to people (which you have the right to-but note this is a feminist idea, hence bringing us full circle back to the requirement of feminism to explain so many of these things...).
But back to humanism. I first learned about humanism in my AP European History class my sophomore year of high school. According to the definition that pops up in a google search, humanism is:
Humanism is not a word for a social change or political movement as feminism is. Rather, it refers to several branches of philosophical and secular thinking that have their origins in 13th century renaissance thought. So although modern-day humanists can be politically and socially active, the term humanism doesn’t have the political or human rights implications that feminism does.
This is absolutely right. You can say you are a humanist because you want to believe that that promotes that all human beings deserve to be treated like equal human beings. Maybe you think feminism is a gendered word and you don't want to raise women above men. But you are wrong in thinking that that is what feminism is about, and you are not understanding feminism if you believe humanism can embody all that feminism does. People striving for gender equality needed to name their movement, and since women have historically been oppressed, the name they deemed it has a "feminine" word derivation. But it's necessary to understand that does not mean it is a sexist movement, pushing to raise women up above men.
Therefore, if you believe in gender equality and you want to end sexism and oppression, you are a feminist. You may not identify as one if you truly understand what it embodies, and if you have a problem with it. That is legitimate. But if you don't understand it and you want to reject it because of the way it sounds, you are hurting us women, who are subject to sexism or oppression every single day. You are devaluating our experience and how far we have come, attempting to stigmatize and make unattractive a word that has helped us find a light in dark times. I am personally hurt when I hear one of my friends, who I know to believe in gender equality and to fight domestic abuse or gendered violence, say he or she is not a feminist because he or she has a misconstrued understanding of what it is but is not interested in learning what it's truly about. It's their right as free individuals to refuse that, but it hurts me by showing that they don't care about something that is one of my life passions. I'll end with something I said which was quoted in our school's newspaper:
"We need to recognize that feminism is not solely about gender equality (although that is the essence of it). There's all these different layers that come together, and we have to be conscious of that.”
Be conscious, people. That's all we ask.
“People feel removed from sexism. “I’m not a sexist, but I’m not a feminist.” They think there’s this fuzzy middle ground. There’s no fuzzy middle ground. You either believe that women are people or you don’t. It’s that simple.”
~ Joss Whedon, in a gripping, insightful exploration of the word “feminist”
Love this guy! People need a better understanding of what feminism actually is. It is gender equality. Some people say, "I'm a humanist," but humanism was a movement led by white men promoting philosophical/secular thinking starting in the 13th century/renaissance time. It is NOT a word for social change about gender equality, like feminism is.
More info about humanism vs feminism here: http://everydayfeminism.com/2013/05/why-not-say-everyday-humanism-instead-of-everyday-feminism/
Yesterday, I (Chloe, CFC intern at St. Olaf) held an event called Why Do We Need Feminism? and asked students/community members to write why they need feminism on a piece of paper. I then snapped their photo with it. The photos will go up in our main advertising hallway November 18-24. Everyone gave permission for use of their photo, and over 50 people stopped by in one hour to write their bit. The table was jam-packed! So many students thought carefully for several minutes before deciding what to write. They said there was so much they could write, but it was difficult to find the most powerful words to express their experiences with sexism or gender inequality. Their participation was awesome! Big thanks to everyone at St. Olaf who helped out. Click on this link to see all the photos!
Although there were so many good ones, I'll post some here that represent the different themes people brought up:
After the event, nobody had written specifically about choice, so here's my photo:
Although this documentary is mostly the man telling us information with examples, clips, and pictures, it is interesting and true information that we all see in life and media but that people don't necessarily realize. This topic of violence in men was first introduced to me when I read something…I don't remember what it was and if I was reading it for a class….that said "if men stopped committing violent acts, violence and murder would essentially be wiped out of our society. Some women do kill or hurt, but the percentage is so small that it is insignificant. Men are the ones who perform violent acts."
After I read that, I understood how true it was, and this movie is a reiteration of that statement exactly, but with more evidence. The man talks about how damaging the requirement of this behavior is in order to "be a man" is to the psyche of these men. He compares it with the women's movement, and talks about the backlash that received by men who could not simply accept the progressive change. That comedian makes me sick listening to him…those are EXACTLY the institutional thoughts we need to get rid of. The fact that he makes a living off of a huge audience off of men laughing at digs toward women, calling them whores and bitches, makes it seem okay to treat them that way. I hate that behavior and attitude, even when women call each other women 'bitches' or 'sluts' as terms of endearment….men may learn that behavior and treat you as such if you call each other that! Or the radio show, when the women are disrobing and Howard Stern and the men are sexually insulting them and their bodies. DISGUSTING.
I also thought it was interesting how he examined the newspaper article titles. They are written like "Girl is raped" instead of "Man rapes," with the emphasis on the female victim instead of the male perps. I think just changing that one institutional aspect of the media could be so great for all of society to help realize how apparent this is.
The Minnesota Women's Consortium is the largest statewide network of women's groups in the nation, currently serving 170 member organizations. The Consortium's purpose is to achieve equality and justice for all women and girls by connecting organizations and individuals that share that goal.