Speaking of Women's Rights: Speaking the truth

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Speaking the truth

Pie Chart of Planned Parenthood Services

Though it’s only April, we can safely say that “Not intended to be a factual statement,” is a likely candidate for phrase of the year.

Senator Jon Kyl gifted us with the opportunity for some quality sarcasm last week with his “excuseplanation,” following the grossly incorrect statement that 90% of Planned Parenthood services involve abortion (my favorite Colbert tweet: “Jon Kyl bought a SodaStream so he could drink *carbonated* tears of the poor." #NotIntendedToBeAFactualStatement) . Though I’ve enjoyed the clever jokes, this whole thing has also saddened me. How did we arrive at a place where it’s ok for our elected officials to spit out statements that they are well aware are untrue?

The fact of the matter – no pun intended – is that the consequences of Planned Parenthood losing its funding are no laughing matter. This is an organization that provides important services to millions of women that have no other option; real, live, factual women.

Just as frustrating was Kobe Bryant’s recent apology for a gay slur flung at a ref during a nationally televised Lakers game.

So we’re to believe that the ref is a figurative f****** f*****? The PSA announcement that the NBA crafted after the episode was a step in the right direction, but kind of reminded me of the apologies my brother was forced into – given through clenched teeth – when we were too young to realize the consequences of our words.

Former NBA player John Amaechi responded to Bryant’s slur with an incredibly honest and poignant editorial, calling for Bryant to stop fighting the NBA fine imposed on him, and pointing out why it’s such a big deal:

“I challenge you to freeze-frame Bryant’s face in that moment of conflict with the referee Bennie Adams. Really examine the loathing and utter contempt, and realize this is something with which almost every lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender person is familiar. That is the sentiment people face in middle and high schools, in places of worship, work and even in their own homes across the United States.”

This is why truth matters. Because, even if Kobe Bryant doesn’t feel this way about LGBTQ people, there are certainly people that do. And whether it’s a teenager who is emboldened to bully people at school, or a block of voters who are persuaded to boot out their senator, simply because he or she didn’t vote to defund Planned Parenthood, these false words cause actions. As John Amaechi points out, being in the spotlight gives you a special responsibility to act with integrity. 'I didn’t mean it' just doesn’t cut it.