March 30, 2010
It’s often the case that when people talk about reproductive freedom or reproductive justice, the conversation centers around abortion access. And don’t get me wrong, that’s an important conversation to have, particularly in this age of anti-choice concessions. To that end, then, I wanted to highlight this story I came across today (via Two Women Blogging), written by Bridget Potter, titled Lucky Girl. She details her experience with an unwanted pregnancy and illegal abortion in 1962. A brief excerpt:
Michael was Roman Catholic and at twenty-two was willing to get married but unenthusiastic. We could, he supposed, live with his parents in the Bronx. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. My upper-class English parents would have been appalled and, I was sure, unsupportive. Confused, ashamed, scared, and sad, I decided to try to get an abortion.
Try was the operative word. I asked the gynecologist for advice. He told me that the law prohibited him from helping me in any way but he offered to check me later for infection. The idea of infection alarmed me but I thought his gesture was nice.
Potter’s story, alongside the statistics she cites, is an excellent illustration of the importance of keeping abortion legal. It is not just for women who do not wish to bear children to be forced to do so. Also important in the struggle for reproductive justice, though, is the idea that women who do wish to bear children, or who might wish to bear children someday, should not be forced not to. The tragedy and injustice of involuntary sterilization is something we need to be talking about, too, and so I wanted to highlight an excellent article (heartbreaking, but excellent) published on Indyweek.com last week that tells the stories of several survivors of North Carolina’s mid-20th-century eugenics program. (Hat tip to Feministing.) Here is a brief part of Elaine Riddick’s story:
Elaine was 14 when she gave birth to what was to be her only child, a son, in 1968 at Chowan Hospital in Edenton. She doesn’t remember much about her hospital visit, but she was told that she almost died and had to stay in the hospital a week longer than her son.
For the next few years, Elaine says she remembers having frequent stomach pain and hemorrhaging so severe that at 16 she was admitted to a hospital. The doctor gave her little information, but she remembers he remarked that she’d been “butchered.”
These stories are important. Some folks are horrifyingly quick to decide that certain people, people society deems less valuable for any number of reasons, shouldn’t have children. (Here’s an example from less than two years ago.) But those people deserve the freedom to procreate (or not, should they so choose) as much as anyone else does. They deserve justice.
December 18, 2009
Recently I overheard a conversation in which a woman stated that because she’s a feminist, she opposes prostitution. Another woman chimed in, stating that she, too, opposes prostitution, and that no woman ever chooses to be a prostitute. Those were actually the words she used: “no woman, ever.” She went on to say that a woman might become a prostitute voluntarily to try to escape poverty or what have you, but that that’s not really a free choice.
I thought of that conversation today as I reflected on the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, which was yesterday. I agree with Jos of Feministing when she says that the notion that “sex work cannot really be a chosen profession, regardless of what sex workers themselves might think . . . leads to the continued criminalization of sex workers rather than efforts to make it a safer, non-exploitative job.”
Also, quite frankly, I think convincing oneself that no woman would actually choose to be a prostitute—and nevermind how that framing erases prostitutes who aren’t women, and sex workers who aren’t prostitutes—ultimately enables one toward seeing sex workers as less than human, “disposable persons,” as Michael from Sex in the Public Square put it yesterday. He used the phrase in a paragraph wherein he makes some important points:
We also need to consider the way violence against sex workers is customarily framed as situational or predatory, or how when sex workers are the victims the job and not the person becomes privileged, and the crime becomes portrayed as just another disposable person. What is not conveyed by such reporting is how it is the state itself that becomes the agent of violence, creating the structural factors that shape and facilitate the observed violence. Similarly the agents of social control, policing and criminal justice, are the major determinants of much of the violence. We must also realise that the agents of social control are just tools by which society disciplines subdominant cultures and that equally destructive is the violence of stigmatisation.
The memorial Radical Vixen participated in yesterday sounds like an excellent way not only to memorialize fallen sex workers, but also to focus on their humanity. I recommend checking that particular piece out, as well as the writing she’s done in the past and will do in the future about her fellow sex workers.
(I’m a bit concerned, though, that all of us are sort of preaching to the converted. How might we go about getting this message out to the public at large? How do we go about changing the dominant culture?)
December 10, 2009
Well, color me surprised: “Reverend Rick Warren released a video letter to clergy in Uganda today, speaking out against proposed legislation in that country that punishes homosexual activity with death.” You can view the video at the link, or if you’d rather not watch the message, I’ve transcribed Warren’s message below the fold. While I’m grateful that Warren finally spoke out on the subject, his message leaves much to be desired, and I think it comes off as defensive at some points and painfully self-congratulatory at others. All the same, is this the best we can hope for from evangelical leaders — a statement that essentially boils down to the notion that LGBTQ folks deserve respect and dignity, and should not be imprisoned or put to death simply for being who they are? I mean, I guess that’s a place to start, but — is it really so naive or foolish of me to expect more? Read the rest of this entry »
December 7, 2009
The Episcopal Church joins many other Christians and people of faith in urging the safeguarding of human rights everywhere. We do so in the understanding that “efforts to criminalize homosexual behavior are incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ” (General Convention 2006, Resolution D005).
This has been the repeated and vehement position of Anglican bodies, including several Lambeth Conferences. The Primates’ Meeting, in the midst of severe controversy over issues of homosexuality, nevertheless noted that, as Anglicans, “we assure homosexual people that they are children of God, loved and valued by him, and deserving of the best we can give of pastoral care and friendship” (Primates’ Communiqué, Dromantine, 2005).
The Episcopal Church represents multiple and varied cultural contexts (the United States and 15 other nations), and as a Church we affirm that the public scapegoating of any category of persons, in any context, is anathema. We are deeply concerned about the potential impingement on basic human rights represented by the private member’s bill in the Ugandan Parliament.
It goes on from there, too. Doesn’t seem so hard, does it? Nor does it seem to contradict your Christian values. Now, you know and I know that your refusal to condemn the anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda has much more to do with connections and politics than with any actual issues of faith, but when a person of faith is in the public eye as much as you are, couldn’t you at least pretend to care about other people’s suffering? (Aside from the ostensible 146,000 Christian martyrs, that is. Also, what do you suppose the odds are that none of those ostensible 146,000 Christians were gay? Welcome to the idea of overlapping oppressions!)
Meh. I don’t even know why I care what Rick Warren thinks or says, particularly, except that he has such a large platform to speak from, and his church is nearly in my hometown…
At any rate, though, kudos to the Episcopal church! I don’t at all believe that you have to be a person of faith in order to work toward “the safeguarding of human rights everywhere,” but it’s always nice to see people of faith choose to do so.
December 1, 2009
Keith Haring’s “Silence = Death,” 1989
From The Body: What Can You Do, See, Hear and Know on World AIDS Day 2009?
The theme for World AIDS Day this year is HIV treatment access and human rights. Uganda’s “Anti-Homosexuality” bill is therefore relevant to this discussion:
The bill would criminalize the legitimate work of national and international activists and organizations working for the defense and promotion of human rights in Uganda. It would also put major barriers in the path of effective HIV/AIDS prevention efforts, the groups said.
“Discrimination and punitive laws like this aimed at marginalized groups and at those often among the most affected by HIV drives people underground and does nothing to help slow down the AIDS epidemic,” said Daniel Molokele, Africa program officer at the World AIDS Campaign.
(Rather an unfortunate topic for Pastor Rick Warren to declare himself apolitical on, then, no?)
On the eve of World AIDS Day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Monday made the strongest statement yet by an administration official that the United States will not tolerate efforts to criminalize homosexuality among countries that receive U.S. funding to combat HIV/AIDS.
Also from Human Rights Watch: World AIDS Day: Punitive Drug Laws, Policing Practices Impede HIV/AIDS Response
Now that the U.S. has lifted the travel ban for people with HIV, the International AIDS Society has announced that it will hold its 2012 conference in the US, which will be the first time the conference has met here since 1990. (I recently read about the Society’s early meetings in And the Band Played On; I hope to have a review posted within the next few days.)
Education is still essential: Michigan teenagers, for example, are still becoming infected with HIV at an alarming rate.
From Sex in the Public Square: Thinking Local on World AIDS Day
September 30, 2009
A pet peeve of mine is people calling undocumented immigrants “illegals.” It’s dehumanizing. Naturally, then, I appreciated this passage from a recent Crooks and Liars post, which goes into more detail on that point, and makes enough really good points that I wanted to reproduce it here in hopes of contributing just a little bit toward making the discussion a bit more… dare I say civil?… and grounded in reality. The excerpt is fairly long, so I’m putting it below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »
March 3, 2009
Also, a dear friend of mine has a pertinent guest post up on Sex in the Public Square regarding human remains found on Albuquerque’s West Mesa. A snippet:
Thus far, two sets of bones have been identified. They belong to Victoria Chavez and Gina Michelle Valdez. Both young women had a history of drug use and prostitution; this is the one point the media coverage has not failed to announce, and it has defined for investigators the profiles of the remaining dead people. Any other features of these people’s lives is rarely worthy of mention, which leads me to believe that if it’s not salacious-seeming, it’s not salient, right?
Go check out the whole piece!
December 17, 2008
December 17th is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. This event was created to call attention to hate crimes committed against sex workers all over the globe. Originally thought of by Dr. Annie Sprinkle and started by the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA as a memorial and vigil for the victims of the Green River Killer in . International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers has empowered workers from over cities around the world to come together and organize against discrimination and remember victims of violence. During the week of December 17th, sex worker rights organizations will be staging actions and vigils to raise awareness about violence that is commonly committed against sex workers. The assault, battery, rape and murder of sex workers must end. Existing laws prevent sex workers from reporting violence. The stigma and discrimination that is perpetuated by the prohibitionist laws has made violence against us acceptable. Please join with sex workers around the world and stand against criminalization and violence committed against prostitutes.
The site goes on to list a number of ways people can participate; perhaps most notable is the march in DC.
As things currently stand in this country (and elsewhere in the world), this is what often happens if sex workers attempt to report the violence done to them:
Back in April, a law student at the University of Michigan who was doing sex work to put herself through school was hired by Yaron Eliav, a professor there. She agreed to let him spank her, but then without her consent, he whacked her in the head twice, hard enough to give her temporary vision problems.
Not only did the police decline to go forward with charges, they charged the victim with a misdemeanor for the sex work.
Sex workers are human beings (I can’t believe I even have to say that!), and therefore sex workers’ rights are human rights. Again, the assault, battery, rape and murder of sex workers must end.
December 3, 2008
(How is it December already?)
On Thanksgiving and how it relates to, affects, and is regarded by North American indigenous peoples: Thanksgiving: A National Day of Mourning for Indians and Teaching The Young To Disrespect Indigenous Culture by Renee at Womanist Musings
On expectations for children with Down syndrome: More on Peter Singer and Jamie Bérubé by Michael Bérubé
On freedom of speech: Why defend freedom of icky speech? by Neil Gaiman
It’s not exactly cheery material, so “happy reading” doesn’t seem appropriate. Still, I think an exhortation to enjoy wouldn’t be out of line, since I personally enjoy thought-provoking reading. So: enjoy!
November 20, 2008
The Transgender Day of Remembrance was set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. The event is held in November to honor Rita Hester, whose murder on November 28th, 1998 kicked off the “Remembering Our Dead” web project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in 1999. Rita Hester’s murder — like most anti-transgender murder cases — has yet to be solved. …
The Transgender Day of Remembrance serves several purposes. It raises public awareness of hate crimes against transgender people, an action that current media doesn’t perform. Day of Remembrance publicly mourns and honors the lives of our brothers and sisters who might otherwise be forgotten. Through the vigil, we express love and respect for our people in the face of national indifference and hatred. Day of Remembrance reminds non-transgender people that we are their sons, daughters, parents, friends and lovers. Day of Remembrance gives our allies a chance to step forward with us and stand in vigil, memorializing those of us who’ve died by anti-transgender violence.
Jack at Feministe points out that “Remembrance is important and necessary, but we cannot stop at remembrance. If we want this violence against trans people to stop, we must move beyond mourning our dead and take up the fight for the rights of our living,” then goes on to list a number of ways to do so.
Some facts compiled by the Remembering Our Dead Project:
- As of November 11, 2008, 16 transpeople [the site says 30 elsewhere] have died as a result of transphobic violence. This is already double last year’s number. These numbers include not only those who were murdered for being trans, but also those whose deaths were caused by transphobia in other ways. One example is Tyra Hunter, who in 1995 “died from non-life-threatening injuries received in an auto accident because EM workers stopped treating her when they discovered she was Transgender.”
- Twelve states, along with the District of Columbia, have hate crime laws that include gender identity. Is your state one of them? If not, what can you do to change that? If so, are those laws being enforced?
- Transpeople themselves aren’t the only victims of transphobic violence. Being in a relationship with a transperson can put someone at risk, too. Indeed, even just the slightest sign of gender non-conformity can be an excuse for the transphobic to act out: “Willie Houston was not a transgender person, but faced anti-transgender and (and anti-gay) violence because he was carrying his wife’s purse, and assisting a blind male.”
Also, Little Light expresses frustration at the HRC trying to get involved in Portland’s Trans Day of Remembrance (and trying to shift the focus “to ‘Trans Awareness Day,’ something much more upbeat, much more focused on feel-good celebration of the community, something much more acceptable to upper-class, culturally-normative assimilationists you can put in the newspaper without making anyone feel threatened”):
The Day of Remembrance is ours, and it is sacred. It is the one day we set aside to honor those in our community, overwhelmingly poor trans women of color, who were killed due to bigotry and hatred. It is a single day in the year where we make certain that the names of the murdered are heard and held up, so we can all remember that these people mattered, were real, were loved, and are missed. It’s a day to gather the community together and call attention to the violence directed against us and the caring we have for each other. It came from us. It was built by us. It was never supposed to be flashy or glitzy. It is a solemn mourning for the dead, a place to hold hands, and a promise to those who violence took away from us that we who are still living will hold together, take care of each other, and push forward together into a world where that violence is only a painful memory.
Other posts worth reading: queenemily at Questioning Transphobia: How to Mourn, Cara at the Curvature: Transgender Day of Remembrance 2008, Autumn at Pam’s House Blend: Today is the Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.
Remember. Mourn. Act. Speak out.