Tag Archives: Planned Parenthood

The Weaponization of Social Justice

18 Jun

In the past three months I have been doing a great deal of reflection around how to mindfully create space to be more generous and more loving during the extraordinary fatigue of 45. Sadly, I have observed that I and the communities I am a part of and the nation in general are short tempered, ungenerous, quick to anger, quick to judge, and operate from fear and hate, rather than increasing our efforts to be loving and empathic. I know for me it has been difficult to get in the space of being more generous of heart with the daily assaults coming from 45 and his racist, homophobic, ableist, misogynistic, transphobic administration. How then can we be committed to issues of social justice and to be mindfully centered in love is the question I am wresting with currently.

I have, with great sadness, witnessed communities and students where I teach using social justice as a weapon–a weapon to prove how “woke” they are. I will say emphatically right now that none of us are “woke.” My whole life’s work is around social justice and working towards a more equitable world. My colleagues and I are constantly tell people we work with that we are having to hold the tension of messiness of social justice in perpetuity — that we are life long learners and our journey of awareness will never end if we are truly reflective, curious, and come from a place of love and humility.

As of the writing of this article, we are on day 514 of 45’s assault on the United States. The fatigue is real, as we see people in this country pitted against each other and the erosion of empathy and loss of any sense of community. We have to witness and live through more than 514 assaults on LGBTQ rights, on women’s rights (the aggressive attack on Planned Parenthood, on separating children from families and housing them in cages), an assault on civil rights for all people of color —  the list goes on and on. With the deterioration of our nation, I am wanting to engage in conversations and behavior that extend more love and more generosity of heart — to resist the hate that 45 and his administration put out into the universe. I want to make my corner of the universe sane in the face of this overwhelming insanity.

I want to embrace what former First Lady Michelle Obama said: “When they go low, we go high.” And my heart sinks at how much I miss First Lady Michelle Obama and how much I miss President Obama. I am inviting myself and others to resist what is being modeled for us from Fox News, who control 45’s brain — resist operating from a place of fear and hate. We must be mindful and center ourselves in love. I must work to reflect and try to ensure that our actions and words are from a place of love and to create more space for all of us to exist. I know I will fail at this and yet I must dedicate myself to keep trying in the face of so much overwhelming hate and fear, of racism, classism, abelism, homophobia, misogyny, all of the other ways in which we treat targeted communities.

What has been particularly heartbreaking for me is watching people lash out at those who are trying to help and make a difference. For example (and I have her permission to share this), a colleague of mine attended a listening session for the students we teach. My colleague, and friend, thanked the students and then offered: “Thank you, this is so helpful, please tell me what you need so that I can try and meet those needs.” What horrified me was the reaction from a student, a white woman, who came at my colleague with: “Don’t you dare ask what we want — that is putting all of the labor on us and not you. You are acting in a white supremacist way right now.” I hardly know what to say, save that I hope this student will do some reflection and come back to my colleague with an apology. My colleague is Latina and is part of the resistance  movement, so I am also worried we have people using language that they actually lack the sophistication of knowing how to use words with shared meaning.

Another example that was particularly painful was an experience in one of my own classes, where a student told me that: “my job is to listen and to say yes or no, but not to make things messy.”  Wow! Candidly, I consider the lion’s share of my work is to make things messy and to ask people to create more space and more empathy. I can only hope this student, who is now a colleague, will do some reflection and even circle back to me.

Call to action: I invite all of us to try to practice radical love and kindness. While I know I will fail at this probably several days a week, I must commit to staying engaged and working hard to act from a place of curiosity, humility, and love. I must also continue to do everything I can do to help make my world a place that values community and resist the insanity that  is 45, Pence, and their minions. I must center my self in love.

What has been very helpful for me is watching the television show The Good Fight! This is such a brilliant show and my husband and I feel a bit more hopeful, a bit safer, and a bit less anxious after each episode. The amazingly talented Delroy Lindo, Audra McDonald, Cush Jumbo, Nyambi Nyambi, and Christine Baranski, and the rest of the amazing cast of The Good Fight create amazing resistance to the world 45 is creating. We are also watching RuPaul’s Drag Race as a tonic to the hate and fear mongering perpetrated by this administration. While I know it can be extraordinary difficult at times to love people who are actively hurting you, I am trying to sustain the belief and action that being centered in love is the way to eradicate racism, homophobia, abelism, misogyny, and all of the intersections therein. With love and gratitude, Michael.

National Women’s History Month 2016

1 Mar

Women's HistoryMarch 1 marks the beginning of the celebration of National Women’s History Month. My dear friend Molly Murphy MacGregor led the pioneering effort to recognize how women have impacted, shaped, and influenced our world. Molly — always very humble — is the co-founder of the National Women’s History Project (NWHP) and a key force behind why we now celebrate Women’s History Month in the United States. The not insignificant move forward started in 1980, when President Jimmy Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation declaring the Week of March 8th 1980 as National Women’s History Week.  Finally in 1987, Congress declared March as National Women’s History Month in perpetuity.

Sadly, we still see enormous resistance to treating women equally and equitably. We have no further than to look at the current discourse presented by the GOP presidential candidates to see how far we have yet to go regarding the equitable and equal treatment of women. Never have I witnessed such anti-woman rhetoric in the last 50 years. The false and fictitious allegations brought against PlannedParenthood by misogynist David Daleiden, were nothing less than disgraceful. All subsequent investigations found no evidence of wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood. We also had to witness Kansas (R) Sen. Mitch Holmes defending a dress code for women. The dominant narrative continues to exert power over women and continues to create barriers.

We also need to look at issues of race, gender identity, and sexual orientation and all of the intersections there in when looking at all of the insidious ways women are still discriminated against.

We have much to celebrate and much work yet to accomplish.

Hero of the Week Award: June 28, Wendy Davis

28 Jun
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

Some weeks the choice for Hero is abundantly clear. Thanks to regular SJFA follower Voice of the Trailer for nominating the amazing Wendy Davis.

Davis is a Democrat state senator in Texas, a thankless job if ever there was one. When Gov. Rick Perry called a special legislative session specifically to curtail abortion rights, she refused to let his scheme work. The short session was intended to pass a ban on all abortions after 20 weeks, create more burdensome requirements for all abortions, and crush Planned Parenthood in the state. Davis, working with a strong coalition that included Planned Parenthood’s wonderful Cecile Richards, mounted a firm plan of resistance.

Demonstrating what a filibuster ought to be, Davis launched a thirteen-hour speech on the Senate floor, refusing to allow the bill to move forward. Her marathon speech required the use of a back brace before she was done, but she stuck it out. Republicans tried a number of administrative tricks to block her, but she carried on almost to the end. When they finally cut her off with moments to go, dozens of pro-choice supporters in the gallery raised their voices in protest, shouting down any action until the clock ran out on the special session.

Gov. Perry has sworn to try again, but the voices raised against him are strong. Having a true leader like Wendy Davis brought new life to the cause. There’s now a movement to draft her to run against Perry — that would be lovely justice indeed.

Honorable mention goes to the four justices on the Supreme Court who did their best to truly represent the people in their work this week. In the devastating ruling that gutted the Voting Rights Act, Justice Ginsburg delivered a scathing dissent, joined by Justices Breyer, Kagan, and Sotomayor. All four also voted to overturn DOMA and to preserve Affirmative Action and worked to ensure that Prop 8 was nullified in California. When the highest court in the land is ruled by an opportunist ideologue, their courage and voices for justice are needed more than ever.

Bigot of the Week: January 11, Reps. Marsha Blackburn and Diane Black of Tennessee

11 Jan
Bigots of the Week

Bigots of the Week

An elephant may never forget but it appears that many Republican members of Congress never learn. Two members of the House of Representatives, both women from Tennessee, have decided to renew the war on women and attack Planned Parenthood on the first day of the new Congress–always sad to see internalized misogyny. Ignoring the election’s clear message in support of policies that promote women’s health and the fact that the vast majority of Americans support Planned Parenthood for its breadth of services, Rep. Marsha Blackburn and Rep. Diane Black have both introduced bills to block use of government funds for organizations that provide abortions as even a small part of their operations.

Rep. Blackburn is the Vice Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the committee with jurisdiction over the issue. She lifted a failed bill from the last Congress written by former Rep. Mike Pence (R – IN). (He went on to be elected Governor of Indiana, the home of Richard Mourdock. Not a woman-friendly state…) The bill — clearly targeting Planned Parenthood — would restrict the use of Title X money. Says Blackburn,

As a woman, I believe America deserves better than abortion.

Rep. Black purloined the same Pence-penned poison pill and put it forth herself. Even being from the same state and the same party, these two couldn’t communicate around a single bill, apparently. In the name of scoring Tea points, they both ignore the wide range of services most health care providers offer. They ignore the fact that without Planned Parenthood millions of women would have little or no access to critical health services and that the impact would be particularly hard on minorities, the poor, and rural women — all populations present in large numbers in Tennessee. How pathetic to see such self-loathing women pursue such a hateful agenda.

Dishonorable mention this week comes courtesy of my friend Jennifer Carey, who pointed me to some additional misogyny. Odious evangelist Pat Robertson managed to outdo himself in a broadcast this week. Responding to a question from a youth who was concerned that his father was spending too much time online, Robertson laid the blame firmly on the mother.

It may be your mom isn’t as sweet as you think she is. She may be kind of hard-nosed […] It’s easy to blame the mother! You always have to keep that spark of love alive. It just isn’t something to just lie there. ‘Well, I’m married to him so he’s got to take me slatternly looking.’ You’ve got to fix yourself up, look pretty.

Just when you thought he couldn’t sink any lower, Robertson manages to astound again; this man is one big ball of crazy and hate.

Republicans in Your Vagina…

6 May

Raise Your Voice!

Thank you to my friend Nancy (a strident advocate for social justice) for inspiring me to write this article. Republicans continue to dictate who we can fall in love with and marry, signing pledges to discriminate against the LGBT community (thank you, Mitt (I hate the homos) Romney). The war they are waging against women increased exponentially with Jan Brewer’s move on Friday.  Gov. Jan Brewer on Friday signed into law a bill to cut off Planned Parenthood’s access to taxpayer money funneled through the state for non-abortion services–way to go Arizona.  Is there anyone safe in that state that is not white, male, christian, and heterosexual?  Again we see an attack specifically on women without economic means.  Planned Parenthood addresses women’s health, specifically women that are disenfranchised.

I saw this video last night and have to share it, for it perfectly captures the Republican War Against Women.  Click here to see the full video. As you will see from the video, government should not be in banks, or classrooms, but it should be in all vaginas.

Women’s History Month 2012: Wendie Malick

28 Mar

Today we honor and celebrate actress and activist Wendie Malick. Born in 1950 in Buffalo, NY, Malick graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University and began a career in modelling. She did some political volunteering and then began to focus on her acting career. Understanding the value of her public persona, Malick has focused on the power of bringing light to people’s lives.

I think people underestimate the benefits of laughter.  It’s one of the reasons I’ve come to be very proud of the work I do, because I know how much I value the people who make me laugh before I go to sleep at night, and I know that without Jon Stewart, the world would be a far more difficult place to live in.

She is also a vigorous advocate for many causes. She has spent most of her adult life on Planned Parenthood’s Board of Advocates. She is also concerned with body image and self esteem issues for women. Speaking about those issues and how they play out on her smash sitcom,Hot In Cleveland, she observes:

But what I do think we’ve lost in our culture, and it’s the complete opposite of what our characters do, is embracing this stage in our lives and owning our experience. I think it’s funny because when we first did this show, [show creator] Suzanne [Martin] kept talking about how we’re the late 40-something women.  But I said, ‘Let me play my age. Let me turn 60.’ It’s important to remind women out there that you don’t have to crawl under a rock  at any given age. Also, obesity, which we are dealing with. Now the ways we deal with these issues are as quasi idiots. These are serious problems that we tackle in a comedic way.

Malick is also very involved with PETA and the Humane Society of the United States, passions she shares with co-star Betty White. She has testified before Congress about animal cruelty. Wendie Malick is a woman who is happy being herself and finds pleasure in bringing joy to others. How nice to see a star who is so engaged in social justice!

Women’s History Month 2012: Susan Faludi

21 Mar

Today we honor and celebrate a strong feminist voice of the 21st century and the author of Backlash.  I remember reading Backlash in the early 1990’s and thought Faludi really captured the wave of misogyny erupting from the Bush Sr. administration. As I look back, her book now seems prophetic in some very scary and dangerous ways. Faludi does a remarkable job of addressing how our culture still finds the need to punish women for wanting parity in the workplace, or governance over their own bodies.  We have only to look at the recent attack on Planned Parenthood and the vicious and specious attacks on Nancy Pelosi and Michelle Obama to see the full accuracy of Faludi’s words.

Faludi was born to a Jewish family in Queens, New York in 1959 and grew up in Yorktown Heights, New York. Her mother was a homemaker and journalist and is a long-time New York University student. Her father is a photographer who had emigrated from Hungary, a survivor of the Holocaust. She graduated from Harvard University in 1981, where she wrote for The Harvard Crimson, and became a journalist, writing for The New York Times, Miami Herald, Atlanta Journal Constitution, San Jose Mercury News, and The Wall Street Journal, among other publications. Throughout the eighties she wrote several articles on feminism and the apparent resistance to the movement. Seeing a pattern emerge, Faludi wrote Backlash, which was released in late 1991. She has written a number of other books about feminism and civil rights; she won a Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Journalism in 1991 for a report on the leveraged buyout of Safeway Stores, Inc. that the Pulitzer Prize committee thought showed the “human costs of high finance.”

Demonstrating an understanding of the divergences in any movement, Faludi has also spoken candidly against the claim advanced by critics that there is a “rigid, monolithic feminist orthodoxy”, noting in response that she has disagreed with Gloria Steinem about pornography and Naomi Wolf about abortion. he has also characterized “academic feminism’s love affair with deconstructionism” as “toothless”, and warned that it “distract[s] from constructive engagement with the problems of the public world”.

Bigot of the Week Award: March 16, Mitt Romney

16 Mar

Bigot of the Week Award

As the gruesome clown car pileup that is the GOP Presidential Primary season grinds on, it would be sadly easy to give the BWA to any given candidate any given week. Mitt Romney manages to sink below the pack sufficiently this week to make it a lock. Pandering ever-farther to the right as he tries to fire up the base that horrifically prefers even Rick Santorum, the Mitt-bot has staked out some pretty loathsome positions over the past few months, including his support of so-called “personhood” and his signing of a virulently anti-gay pledge. Most of these actions — which Romney characterizes as emblematic of his “severe conservatism” — are direct contradictions of positions he staked out as Governor of Massachusetts or during his failed run to unseat Senator Ted Kennedy.

His dangerous and desperate flip-flopping has him so coated in Santorum that he’s adopting the most far-right talking points as his campaign positions, no matter how illogical or unpopular. The terrifying example that wins him this week’s award is a single sentence from a campaign stop, bizarrely included in a discussion of budget cuts: “Planned Parenthood, we’re going to get rid of that.” REALLY? Let’s set aside for a moment that this is an independent organization, not a Federal program, so any attempt to “get rid” of it is anti-business (ironic much?). Far more terrifying is that the putative front-runner for President in one of our two major parties has officially endorsed the war on women. The Romneyborg wants us ignore the fact that the vast majority of the services Planned Parenthood provides are critical women’s health care to poor and rural women. He has become so extreme in his eagerness to clinch the nomination that he’s endorsing the radical anti-contraception position that the vast majority of Americans (including Catholics and all Republicans other than the Tea Party) oppose. This candidate’s dizzying spin might provide a great alternative energy source; in every other respect it just induces nausea–yes, I will have to spit up after publishing this.

A huge dishonorable mention goes to the Arizona legislature for even entertaining the idea of allowing women to be fired from their jobs if they use birth control.

Bigot of the Week Award: February 3, Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation

3 Feb

Bigot of the Week

Thank you to the many people that helped to inspire this week’s BWA with their outrage.  A special thanks to Cecile Richards, Sara Swain, and Voice of the Trailer.

It’s always disappointing when an organization that should be seen as an ally and champion stumbles. This week’s BWA winner managed worse than that with a stumble that turns into a full-fledged fall from grace. The Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation has announced that it will stop supporting lifesaving breast cancer screening for low-income and underserved women at Planned Parenthood health centers. Over the past five years, Komen funds have enabled Planned Parenthood health centers to provide nearly 170,000 clinical breast exams and referrals for more than 6,400 mammograms. Alas, who cares if poor women have breast cancer?

These cancer detection and prevention programs saved the lives of women who often had nowhere else to turn for care.  Women of color, minorities, the poor, and the transgender community depend especially heavily on services like those provided by Planned Parenthood. Komen for the Cure’s decision has a perhaps accidental but nonetheless potent impact on the most needy members of our society. Badly done!

The reason given for the decision is baffling, shallow, and hypocritical. Bowing to pressure from right-wing groups, the Foundation said that it will cease the funding because of a policy prohibiting contributions a grant applicant or any of its affiliates if it is “currently under a local, state or federal formal investigation for financial or administrative impropriety or fraud.” This refers to the Congressional witch-hunt launched by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R – FL) who has stated unapologetically that his whole mission is to destroy Planned Parenthood.  Even worse for Komen, this policy seems only to apply to money that flows outward. They accept huge partnership donations from Bank of America, a corporation which is currently the subject of at least five state and federal investigations. How’s that for self-serving hypocrisy?

The Foundation is in desperate spin mode as more people react with justifiable outrage at this decision. The negative comments on their Facebook page are mounting up faster than the Foundation can manage them. Dozens of major donors are encouraging people to give their money to other cancer charities unless Komen reverses itself; New York Mayor Bloomberg gave Planned Parenthood $250,000 to help defray the loss. The Executive Director of Komen’s Los Angeles chapter has resigned in protest. Komen founder and CEO is spewing alternate explanations on every available news channel at a speed that would make Herman Cain dizzy.

Let’s hope this pressure has the desired effect: the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation must reverse this deeply flawed decision and recognize that pressure from the right will never serve the interests of American women. Until then, anyone interested in funding cancer research and prevention should look for another home for their dollars.  At this point, I fear the Komen Foundation is so utterly corrupt that it is now beyond repair.

Wednesday Word of the Week, September 14: Veracity

14 Sep

Useful equipment for candidate speeches.

This week’s word is: VERACITY

conforming to the truth or fact; accuracy – Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

Lately this seems to be not just a problem for some of our nation’s political figures, but an intentional option. Why bother with facts or the truth if you can just adjust your comments on the fly?

The most blatant example is Senator Jon Kyl (R – AZ), who attacked Planned Parenthood in April. Kyl said on the Senate floor that 90% of Planned Parenthood’s business was providing abortions, an error of 3000%. When he was caught in this lie, he responded through a spokesperson that the comment

was not intended to be a factual statement.

What? He makes a specific claim clearly intended to affect public policy that was never meant to be true? I suppose that we should, somewhat ironically, appreciate his transparency about the comment, but why did he make it? What possible purpose did he have in lying to his colleagues and the American people other than to promote his personal agenda over provable reality?

Sadly, this kind of dodge has grown more artful as the Republican presidential hopefuls have begun their campaigning in earnest. There are many examples, but two stand out, especially since they come from the winner of the Ames Straw Poll (Bachmann) and the current front-runner in the pre-primary polls (Perry).

Michele Bachmann took advantage of natural disasters, displaying her typical crass lack of sympathy with the American people, to maintain that Hurricane Irene and the east coast earthquake were signs of God’s wrath.

I don’t know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We’ve had an earthquake; we’ve had a hurricane. He said, ‘Are you going to start listening to me here?’

Apparently, God was angry at the size of the U.S. budget deficit (a nice change from His more typical wrath at the gay community à la Pat Robertson). When called out on her gross insensitivity, Bachmann took a Kyl and said that her words were simply a METAPHOR

a word or phrase that means one thing and is used for referring to another thing in order to emphasize their similar qualities – Macmillan Dictionary Online

Let’s be generous for a moment and assume that Bachmann actually knows what a metaphor is. In that case, she meant to say that lethal devastation was similar to God’s wrath, not the real thing. How does that differ in principle? She’s still saying that innocent people should suffer because the Congress of which she is a member can’t balance a budget. Culpability, insult, and ignorance all in one backpedal, that’s pretty amazing. Of course, we could skip the metaphor excuse and go with her other, contradictory explanation, that she was simply being HUMOROUS

full of or characterized by humor; funny – Macmillan Dictionary Online

Which is it, Michele? A bad analogy or a tasteless joke? Do you know the difference?

Just when the separation of truth and state seemed to reach its peak, enter Rick Perry. Perry has famously maintained that Social Security is unconstitutional, not just in speeches but in his book, Fed Up. During his first debate performance, he referred to this vital program as a “Ponzi scheme” and a “monstrous lie.” When (surprise, surprise) such comments polled very badly with most Americans, Perry took a Kyl as well.

Suddenly, he issued statements maintaining that anyone currently on Social Security should not fear for its viability, nor should anyone about to enter eligibility. What does that mean, Rick? That those people should be comfortable living a monstrous lie? That your presidency would do nothing to end an unconstitutional practice? That you support bankrupting future generations with a scheme you loathe just to get a few more votes?

Mitt Romney is famous for his flip-flops, trying to hide from his past by reinventing his positions. As venal and manipulative as he may be, Bachmann and Perry have lowered the game to a whole new level. What a travesty when Romney rises to the top of the ethical heap.

Americans must pay attention. In this cynical age, most people have come to expect their political leaders to delivery carefully crafted messages to each demographic, to make promises that garner votes regardless of their political viability. What an horrific shift if we let people vying for our highest office simply retract or recast their statements. Candidates, stand by your policies and we will vote accordingly. You’re only human, you’re allowed to make mistakes; when you do, say “I was wrong.” If that doesn’t happen very often you’ll gain credibility and we’ll know where you stand. Own your words. That’s

the quality of behaving according to the rules and standards of your job or profession – Macmillan Dictionary Online

INTEGRITY, a principle of leadership.

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