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”.

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