What are you coming to tell me?
Do not bring me anything that doesn’t have apposite details, please.
Why has the antiquated opinion that contraception is dangerous to society resurfaced?
Because this ersatz politics is simply thinly-veiled misogyny. The purpose of creating this false tension (e.g. women are incapable of making autonomous decisions about their bodies) keeps the discourse noisy, distracting, and catatonic. It’s salacious rhetoric and it sells.
“There are few ways in which a person can exercise more power in a relationship than by consciously playing with it.” [Nomy Lamm, make/shift issue no.10, pg 17]. Lamm was giving advice to someone struggling with a long-term BDSM relationship break-up but the agency translates beyond interpersonal politics. The leverage point in Lamm’s advice is consciousness. To be conscious is to be awake; aware.
This realism can be magical. As William Stafford so eloquently states in A Ritual to Read to Each Other,
“For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to
the signals we give–yes or no, or maybe–
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.”
So if you are unable to see this darkness and translate these critical details, then you do not have my attention. No matter which side you hustle.
Disaster Capitalism: The East faces a pumpkin shortage.
Math matters: A rotation of 180 degrees results in “packaging error” on 1.4 million birth control pills. It’s an interesting angle that having an unintended pregnancy is not “an immediate health issue.” So decrees the spokesman.
Apparently it’s me and surly 15-year-olds who can’t stop trolling the interwebs for images that are both mundane and inspirational. I suspect it’s the mundane pattern recognition that makes them inspirational. At the very least, it’s cheaper than Prozac and (hopefully) less damaging to my neurons. It’s literally my virtual basket of kittens.
The future may not bring us moving sidewalks or jetpacks, but men may finally get to control their fertility. Men are interested, according to surveys, so there’s funding. And that may be the “sense of accomplishment and success” that men will need to arrest manopause. I’m calling it: 2011 is the Year of the Man. If those in power are smart, they’ll add language to the Affordable Health Care Act that ensures their fertility is also covered.
As the summer days tumbl by, I dream impractical.
*Yiddish for social misfits, or rather an impractical dreamer with no business sense. Literally, air person.
“What relationship can you have with yourself if you systematically hand your genitals over to someone else?” – Virginie Despentes
Waiting in the Walgreen’s pharmacy line, listening to a man get medicine for his cat (to be picked up by his wife), I was seething. Having been told that I couldn’t refill my birth control prescription until my pack was “80% complete” because “people would buy more than they needed,” I stood at the nexus of body, choice, and a child-free future.
I didn’t want to be the “crazy lady” but I also didn’t want to roll over and take it. I knew the women behind the counter were not to blame for this injustice; this discrimination against my sex. They were simply reading the computer. However they were responsible for spewing its bullshit on me and justifying that “insurance companies don’t want to pay more than they have to” mantra. I don’t want to have to pay more than I have to either: dollars, grief, and potential unwanted pregnancy.
In the end, after my blood pressure returned to normal, I walked out with three more months of apparently highly addictive estrogen and progestin. I was lucky this time and I know it.
It seems like we’re all fighting for autonomy these days. Ironically, me and the Tea Baggers might actually be yelling about the same things. Stay out of my bedroom and I’ll stay out of yours.
After recently hearing Cornell West rap about Socratic energy (living an unexamined life is not worth living) and deodorized discourse (we aren’t talking about the issues; we’re covering up the funk, the bruises), I am hypersensitive to the cover up. There was such hope for this new decade but we find ourselves mired in factional dichotomies paralyzed at the nexus of change. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before …
In the war on words with its battlefields littered with broken compromises, there are no coherent winners. Our stories are false and shallow.
In the book, Bodies of Knowledge: Sexuality, Reproduction, and Women’s Health in the Second Wave, Wendy Kline exposes the battle lines around women’s knowledge of their own bodies. She quotes sociologist Kathy Davis, “it was the method of knowledge sharing and not a shared identity as women which appeared to have a global appeal” for Our Bodies, Ourselves, the seminal catalyst for the women’s health movement. Bodies of Knowledge is an interesting exploration into who owns authentic knowledge and what Kline describes as “the inherent tension between two equally valid truths: the singularity of being female and the plurality of individual experiences among women.” (emphasis added) Klein outlines how the “personal is political” was implemented and eventually institutionalized for better or worse, neither side having a clear victory. The point was made more than once that the false paradox of body and brain, after all most of us have both, is outdated at best and divisive at worst.
Was the “personal as political” or DIY health care scalable? And if not, is that a such a bad thing? Why this need to always go global? Localizing and authenticating your epistemological standpoint within critically examined experiences might actually be worth the engagement and collateral damage. It’s the sharing of those authentic experiences that just may be the missing praxis. A symphony of critical voices who are just as fine operating within the system as around it is a worthy goal that’s often overlooked as a viable vehicle for living one’s life. Of course that shouldn’t be the only strategy for social change but it certainly sounds better than the current chorus.
As access to abortion becomes more and more difficult for the “average” woman, those of us on the body side [choice] find ourselves weary from using the master’s tools. Jane where for art thou?
Practicing what you preach is hard. That’s why most people end up preaching.
Life With Maggie by Ofer Wolberger effectively conveys that feeling of living a life in which you mask yourself, not for any sinister reason but rather that just seems to be the status quo of our oppressive culture. Wolberger’s images are innocent yet curious. They reflect a hyperreality.
It’s been a week of exhilarating explorations. There is a wide gap between implementation and theory but that’s the fun and messy dance of exploring. The moment you realize that you don’t need to wear a mask is the moment when you know you’ve stumbled upon something really amazing. You’ve discovered new terrain and despite the risks, you bravely forge ahead. I can always put my disguise back on but it’s easier to breathe without it.
We may just be pixels but keeping a sharp focus will make this expedition a revolution.
Happy Mother’s Day! And even happier day to those of us who choose not to birth or be restricted by our wombs.
Gail Collins’ Op-Ed column in last week’s New York Times, What Every Girl Should Know, is a stark reminder of how precarious our happiness is and how we all need to be advocates for our choices, lest they be made for us.
Sometimes it feels like change is glacial. Yet it’s only been 50 years that the birth control pill was approved by the FDA, 45 years since married women were prescribed the pill, 36 years since single women could gain access to the pill, and it’s only been 37 years since abortion was codified. It can seem like menstruating women are measuring time by trimesters and months.
We often forget that transforming the cultural landscape is a modern project of progress. We assume that we can map out all the complexities of change and have thousands of theories of action to document these assumptions. But this is a project where constant change is the chorus and trying to interpret the illogical can become an obsession. What we choose to focus on and obsess over matters greatly because if change is the constant, you may find yourself looking back and not recognizing where you came from.
A Saturday editorial in the NY Times, End to the Abstinence-Only Fantasy, is news that makes the heart grow fond. It’s a bright light on the absurdity of abstinence-only ideologies in a decade of restriction of choices. With the recent abortion debates surrounding government health care, here’s to hoping that comprehensive sex education works.
The entire article, the emphasis is all mine:
“The omnibus government spending bill signed into law last week contains an important victory for public health. Gone is all spending for highly restrictive abstinence-only sex education programs that deny young people accurate information about contraceptives, sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. The measure redirects sex-education resources to medically sound programs aimed at reducing teenage pregnancy.
Federal support for the wishful abstinence-only approach, which began in the 1980s, ballooned during George W. Bush’s presidency. As the funding grew, so did evidence of the policy’s failure. A Congressionally mandated study released in 2007 found that elementary and middle school students who received abstinence instruction were just as likely to have sex in the following year as students who did not get such instruction.
Many states rightly declined to participate in the abstinence program, forgoing federal money. Most of the nation’s recent progress in reducing the abortion rate has occurred in states that have shown a commitment to real sex education.
The last Bush budget included $99 million for abstinence-only education programs run by public and private groups. The new $114 million initiative, championed by the White House, will be administered by a newly created Office of Adolescent Health within the Department of Health and Human Services with a mandate to support “medically accurate and age appropriate programs” shown to reduce teenage pregnancy.
Unfortunately, some of this progress could be short-lived. The health care reform bill approved by the Senate Finance Committee includes an amendment, introduced by the Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, that would revive a separate $50 million grant-making program for abstinence-only programs run by states. Democratic leaders must see that this is stricken, and warring language that would provide $75 million for state comprehensive sex education programs should remain.
In another positive step, the spending bill increases financing for family-planning services for low-income women. It also lifts a long-standing, and utterly unjustified, ban on the District of Columbia’s use of its own tax dollars to pay for abortion services for poor women except in cases when a woman’s life is at risk, or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
Ideology, censorship and bad science have no place in public health policy. It is a relief to see some sense returning to Capitol Hill.”
Mail & Guardian ~ 20 Aug 2009 ~ OP/Ed: Bridget Hilton-Barber
“Have you seen the Femidoms?” asked my travel mate. We were at Platjan border post, between Botswana and South Africa, returning from a road trip. “Nah,” I replied, “but I once saw Femi Kuti the Nigerian muso, you know, son of the famous Fela …” “Female condoms, you idiot,” he said, “right there, next to the male ones, in the big box that says For Free.”
I must confess I had only ever heard of female condoms, or Femidoms as some are branded, but never actually seen one or used one and certainly didn’t expect my first encounter to be at an unassuming little border post under an acacia tree along the banks of the Limpopo River.
It was also a bit embarrassing to have a man point out the free Femidoms. But to be fair, he’s a tour operator and comes through here once a month with Dutch and German groups, mainly women.
They take them as souvenirs, he says. I took the last two left in the free Femidom box. “The gals they like them,” said the Botswana border post official, stamping me out of Botswana with a resounding thump.
I have found out some interesting things about Femidoms since, even though mine lie sadly unused in the office drawer. Like the fact that you’re actually more likely to encounter one under an acacia tree in Africa than under a statue, say, in Europe or the United States.
I also found, with some delight, that African women seem to have subverted disdainful Western notions about the female condom and have instead popularised it and given it street cred.
Femidoms were pioneered in the United States in 1993 by the New York-based Female Health Company (FHC), but whereas they were slammed in the West, they have caught on in Third World areas with a high HIV prevalence, where men are traditionally recalcitrant in their own condom department.
Female condoms are distributed for free by Aids NGOs mainly in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Ghana, parts of Southern Africa and some Southeast Asian countries.
“Is that an amoeba between your legs?’’ ran a famous British newspaper headline slamming the Femidom’s debut. “It looks like a cross between a pair of diaphragms and a male condom that might have been used as a water bomb,” said another report.
European women complained that the Femidom was baggy and that it “squeaked” during use. They never really took off in Europe or the US and are pricy there and inconsistently available. In the streets of Senegal, however, it’s a different story.
The sisters there, apparently, have turned the squeak into a novelty. In some hot spots the female condom comes with a free bine bine bead necklace, worn around the hips and designed to complement the squeak erotically with its click. Mmm. Must be that old African rhythm thing.
It is also rumoured that Senegalese women boast that the Femidom is so large because their men are so large. In Colombo, Sri Lanka, sex workers use the Femidom as a sex toy, allowing the client to insert it — a special thrill because seeing or touching a vagina close up is still taboo there.
Prostitutes are apparently now charging more for sex with a female condom.
Zimbabwean women, too, are tantalising their men with female condoms. They say that when a man’s penis rubs up against the inside ring of the Femidom during sex, it causes a pleasant tickle that intensifies his orgasm.
In Zimbabwe a new word — katekenyedze — has been coined to describe this tickle. In the late 1990s, Mary Ann Leeper, president of the FHC, got a call from a woman named Daisy at the Zimbabwean health ministry who said she had a petition signed by 30 000 women wanting to bring the female condom to Zimbabwe.
According to one report, the FHC has since struck a deal with the World Health Organisation to sell the female condom at a discount to education programmes in more than 80 developing countries, mainly those hit hardest by Aids.
In South Africa local television has started screening advertisements for a female condom under the brand name Care at R5 for two.
Recently an as-yet unpublished study in South Africa found that 80% of men liked the female condom and the same percentage of women agreed.
The men said it didn’t reduce sensation as much as a male condom and the women said they could use it without male knowledge, insert it hours ahead of sex and it didn’t kill the moment of passion. It may be time, sisters, to check out the squeak and tickle.”
According to this, even galaxies practice birth control. Galactic birth control may be due to intense bursts of energy from black holes which heat the surrounding gases preventing condensation – which is how stars are born. Black holes act as “cosmic contraception.” All those innocent baby stars denied their right to life. Operation Rescue is working on a fund raising drive to blast protesters armed with messages of “Save the Stars” posters into the heavens.
Middle-aged women from foreign countries are packing up their fertile dreams and their ticking biological clocks. Traveling from the far corners of the earth, childless women seek the donated eggs from IVF clinics in the US – the “Wild West of reproductive technology.”
Apparently we take for granted our reproductive freedoms.
As Terri Schiavo dies in her hospice bed, the world rotates on its axis. Bombs explode in Iraq, Lebanon, and Minnesota. The GOP and Fortune 500 corporations feast on each others sugary morality. The culture is awash in life.
The Washington Post ran a story today about a trend that is sweeping the nation. Pharmacists’ rights are trumping the rights of consumers. In the hierarchy of personal freedom, who determines who is right? The pharmacist who refuses to prescribe birth control on grounds that it is murder or the married woman who has four children and can’t imagine having a fifth to care for?
If fascist personal belief is all it takes to get out of doing your job, sign me up. It’s the new slacker! The new slacker can claim strong personal belief in order to get out of doing their jobs! Brilliant. They would be the first to claim religious persecution. The first to run to the nipple of Freedom of Religion. The persecution paranoia is getting surreal. I think the liberals have been starving the lions in Hollywood. The giant football stadiums are empty right now. I smell a coup.
We have truly reached the saturation of the personal is political.
Personal vs. Private battles are saved for the Social Security debacle. The body politic is silently raped in the state and federal courts. What is left of personal autonomy is reserved for those who seek to monopolize the discourse on “life.”
I was fortunate enough to view the “largest retrospection on contraception ever assembled.” The traveling History of Contraception stopped at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH. While the collection was certainly unique (who keeps their used contraceptive devices?), a lack of cultural context was desperately missing. Cheerfully stating, “you will see the creativity and ingenuity employed in the absence of today’s knowledge and readily available, safe and effective products.” Readily available, safe and effective? Last time I checked, the lack of safe, inexpensive and most importantly, reliable birth control was novel science fiction lost in the bureaucracy of moral values.
Sponsored by Janssen-Ortho, Inc. (a Canadian pharmaceutical company whose parent company is Johnson & Johnson) the exhibit displays various methods of contraceptives – from the candy wrapper as condom to the exotic dried weasel testicle. The journey from torturous, often deadly concoctions (lead and mercury), to our modern day miracle, the pill, summed up centuries of women’s attempts to control their fertility, their bodies, and their lives.
Most noticeable was the lack: the lack of politics, the lack of abortive methods, and the lack of women’s voices. Nearly every device displayed related to suppressing women’s fertility, yet their agency was delegated to the masculine science that “improved” with each generation’s knowledge. The desperation that many of the devices exhumed was quickly passed over to continue the tidy progression of history.
Considering the climate of today’s cultural “values,” I was honored to have seen the display. It is rare to witness such items in a public setting (for free!). Knowing that women have always employed ingenious methods and desperate desires to manipulate their fertility was both empowering and a little depressing.