Speaking of Women's Rights: 09/11

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Legal Voice Develops New
“Are you homophobic and/or sexist and/or just plain dumb?” App *

by Laurie Carlsson

On the heels of the “Is My Son Gay” Android App, Legal Voice has developed an application that will identify, in no uncertain terms, whether or not you’re a hateful, unintelligent human being. With a quick 20 question quiz, you will be able to identify yourself according to three categories:

Complete Ignoramus

Homophobic Jerk

Just Plain Dumb

When reached for comment Legal Voice said that they are “proud to offer a surefire way for people to know with certainly whether or not they should really be leading that anti-racism seminar at their place of work, or touting their gay acquaintances as proof that they’re totally ok with homosexuality. “ Here are some of the questions set for inclusion in the upcoming app:
  • Do you feel that participating in fist fights will quell any questions about your sexuality?
  • When you call a plumber, do you skip over the female names in the phonebook?
  • Have you ever forced your son to withdraw from P.E. class upon learning that Bollywood dance would be included in the next lesson?
  • Do you publicly scoff at Barbara Streisand, while secretly admiring her amazing voice and theatricality?
  • Do you bully your child into attending baseball games despite the clear indications that they bore him to tears?
  • Do you believe that books about gay animals should be banned from your child’s school library?
  • Do you believe that we have earned the title “Post-Racial America” simply because we elected an African American president?

Legal Voice hopes that the app will hit the market in time for 2012 presidential candidates to save themselves from further just plain dumb comments. That said, representatives from the organization are not hopeful. “There’s only so much we can do.”

*This App is completely fictitious. Its sole purpose is to point out the
idiocy of
certain recently released stereotype-perpetuating apps.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Porn For Pets?

It’s no secret in the anti-violence movement that abuse of and cruelty to animals can be an indicator of a propensity toward domestic or sexual violence. So you’d think that Legal Voice and our allies in the women’s movement would be supportive of animal rights and anti-cruelty groups. And we are, mostly.

But that support, at least for me, screeches to a halt when it comes to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. PETA’s flamboyant approach to seeking support could be intriguing . . . if it didn’t involve pornography and the exploitation and objectification of women. What are they thinking?

Well, apparently they are thinking they’ll get attention, and to some degree, that’s a correct assumption. But it’s time for feminists and our supporters to call PETA out and demand they stop pushing their own agenda by making it harder for those of us working for equality, safety and justice for women to combat harmful stereotypes and cultural themes.

Maybe it was effective when PETA put out the ads showing celebrities saying, “I’d rather go naked than wear fur,” maybe it was eye-catching and (to some people) amusing. But it was still objectifying women. I tried not to get too worked up about it (there is such a thing as being too feminist or PC, after all), and for the most part, succeeded. Then there was the picture of an obese woman with the caption: “Save the Whales. Lose the Blubber. Go Vegetarian.” Offensive, unnecessary, stupid and discriminatory.

This week PETA plans to have naked women lying on the sidewalk in Spokane, Washington, to “lie like dead fish in front of a sushi restaurant.” So wrong, in so many ways. What is the connection between being naked and being a fish (aside from the fact that fish don’t wear clothes, but really – so what?). And why women? Maybe no one wants to see a naked man lying on the street. More likely, PETA is buying into and perpetuating the centuries-old tradition of exploiting women as objects of lust.

It gets worse. In an attempt to get more people interested in PETA, the organization is launching a porn site. No typo: A PORN SITE. And no, I am not going to link to it. You can read about it here, though. And don’t worry: no animals were harmed in the making of the site. Whew, that’s a relief.

Really, PETA? REALLY? Sure, it may attract even more attention --- from people who are already interested in naked women and men. And yes, I know that pornography is an issue that divides people in the feminist and women’s rights communities, and it’s one on which I am not taking a stand. But whatever your view about that, it seems clear to me that PETA’s site is about sensationalism and exploitation, which doesn’t further any feminist agenda. Here’s hoping that the majority of porn viewers are not natural PETA supporters, and that the whole project is a bust. (No pun intended.)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

IUDs: A Neglected Reproductive Right.

by guest blogger Lindley Mease

Why do women still have to fight for their reproductive rights? Regence Blue Shield recently had to reimburse 984 women $150,000 for not covering the cost of their intrauterine device (IUD) removal. An additional $100,000 fine brought the message home—women still need to fight for their healthcare rights.

I was fortunate to hear about the hormonal IUD through friends during my sophomore year of college. More recently, I dug around in the research and discovered all of the unsung benefits it offers. I am more certain than ever of my choice of contraceptive, but I am mystified by the misconceptions that continue to plague friends, peers, and doctors alike.

For those of you who have not heard much about IUDs, you are not alone. Only about 5% of women use the IUD in the United States, while in France over 23% do. Why the discrepancy? It is mostly due to misrepresentation in public forums and negative bias by medical professionals. Ninety-six percent of education about contraception in medical school focuses on birth control pills, and only 76% of students have learned about IUD’s.

A study among obstetrics and gynecology residents showed that over half did not know the health benefits of the hormonal IUD. A study examining current medical textbooks found that 9 out of 13 had inaccuracies regarding the device’s functioning and risk of infection. Furthermore, most online searches are riddled with misinformation related to the IUD’s risks and safety.

Why does the IUD deserve better advocacy? Both the copper and hormonal IUD are over 99% effective, the most effective form of non-permanent birth control. It is safe to use and far, far safer than the many risks associated with unintended pregnancy. Often when you ask women over fifty their opinion on IUD’s, they will recall the early, faulty Dalkon Shield technology of the 70s. But modern IUD’s have millions of users around the world—women who are thrilled with their efficacy, safety, and advantages.

The hormonal IUD is the only FDA approved contraceptive that treats dysmenorrhea or heavy, prolonged bleeding. Hormonal IUD use results in discontinuation of menses 60% of the time. Why is this advantageous? Women menstruate over three times as many times during their lifetime today than our ancestors due to early menarche, late menopause, and fewer pregnancies.

More menses during a lifetime is directly correlated with more menstrual disorders, costing women a 25% decrease in productivity during menses and taxing US industry 8% of its potential efficiency. Originally the pill was created with a 21 day progestin cycle in order to imitate a “natural process”. These synthetically induced “periods” were not grounded in medical reasoning and do not offer any natural benefits. Therefore, these factors suggest the hormonal IUD may offer a healthy advantage beyond its function as a contraceptive.

The hormonal IUD also represents preventative healthcare. It protects against uterine fibroids, anemia, adenomyosis, endometriosis, ovarian cancer, and other menstrual irregularities. With over 2.5 million women that suffer from menstrual disorders, it is astonishing that there is such a dearth of information available about this relatively cheap and safe therapeutic option.

The paucity of knowledge about IUD’s is an injustice, particularly to the underserved. While usage is increasing among top income groups, Hispanic and black women are more likely to opt for sterilization because it is a cheaper choice.

The US Department of Health and Human Services has decided to provide free birth control as preventative healthcare, which is a good start for strengthening women’s reproductive rights. However, often medical professionals and online sources tout the contraindications of the IUD falsely. Medical students and family health clinicians must also be educated and trained on this neglected contraceptive.

In the United States 49% of pregnancies are unintended and 45% of these end in abortion. Britain’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence reported that 73,000 unplanned pregnancies and 29,000 abortions could be prevented if a million women moved from the pill to the IUD.

Women should have the right to learn about the safest, healthiest, and most efficacious choices for their reproductive health. Why should insurance companies offer ubiquitous coverage of Viagra, and not a reproductive choice option for women?

The actions by Regence to deny women their healthcare rights is not only deplorable, it seems downright last century. Although many women have been monetarily compensated, the scar remains—we are not giving women proper reproductive and sexual freedoms, or even the knowledge to choose those freedoms.

Lindley Mease is a recent Stanford graduate with interests in environmental education, conservation, and policy. She currently works for California Environmental Associates while finishing her masters in Earth Systems. She is also an advocate for reproductive rights and family planning.