Friday, August 24, 2012

The Rapeublicans

I freely admit that I am enjoying the schadenfreude spectacle of the GOP sprinting away from the now notorious remarks made earlier this week by Todd Akin.  It is not that they are recoiling from an extreme viewpoint; rather, they are scrambling to save their own sexist asses because Mr. Akin  has verbalized the ignorance and distaste for women that is rampant in their party, and exposed the policy line as horrifyingly misogynistic. And for this, he is being hung out to dry by his hypocritical cohorts who think exactly the same way he does but resent him exposing their hateful attitudes to voters so close to their respective elections.

Whenever Republicans like Todd Akin slip up and show their true outrageous beliefs about women, minorities, gay people, et al., in unguarded moments and are called to task for it, they immediately say they misspoke.  You and I know that they didn't misspeak. They showed their true colors. They are quite simply ignorant, bigoted, male-dominant homophobic anti-democratic people who have no business being in leadership positions.
Rep. Akin is an educationally impaired misogynist who is clearly not qualified to hold any public office.  Since his nomination, he has advocated for a complete ban on the morning after pill, called for an end to the federal school lunch program, and has also infamously said student loans have given America "stage three cancer of socialism". In his latest outrageous sound bite, using the words "legitimate rape" implies that there is a magic on/off switch in a woman's body that can reject an attempt at fertilization. It further implies that deep down, he thinks most rape victims are just liars and falsely accusing someone. Sadly and incredibly, this particular belief is shared by  many right wing Christians (he is a self proclaimed devout Christian), and it is not the first time I have heard a Christian say this. What he WANTS to say is that God will not allow a woman who was raped to get pregnant. If you DO get pregnant-it's because God is exposing you as a whore. So see...he was actually softening his real opinion....which is shocking enough. (Why all-powerful God could not prevent the rape from happening in the first place is never discussed, of course.)
What he and everyone of his ilk have been schooled to say by the Republicans is "forcible rape". This language has been introduced in anti choice bills- one co authored by Akin and VP nominee Paul Ryan. He just slipped up and said "legitimate", instead of "forcible".

So why parse things like this? Why are they trying to redefine rape?  The answer is to kill all access to birth control and abortion.  By redefining rape they are feeding into a cynical narrative
that women don't actually get pregnant from rape and therefore no emergency contraception or abortions are needed. They have been trying to advance these anti-reality theories for some time now, with the help of a (so-called) Dr. John Wilkie. So, in this worldview, if a woman becomes pregnant as as result of a rape, she was in fact NOT raped, she must have wanted it.
As disgusting, despicable and heinous as this notion is, it is widely held amongst rabid right to lifers- and hey, as long as we are renaming and redefining things, THEY should be henceforth be referred to as "right to birthers" since they only care about what happens to you until you are born, and then you are on your own, pal. But I digress.
Up to now, this ridiculous and dangerous line of thinking has largely been kept underground, unless you are a political junkie and have been paying strict attention.  The GOP depends on low information voters to win elections. The bungling Akin has exposed their mindset and threatens their current positions of influence and power, hence the almost universal calls by fellow Republicans for him to step down.
As unthinkable as it is undemocratic, the GOP is attempting to suspend womens' rights, insult their intelligence and relegate them to a permanent status as second class citizens. There is a degree of depravity in condemning women to bear the child of a rapist that is chilling.
Seriously and dangerously stupid, Akin and Ryan and the rest of the GOP show no empathy, compassion or understanding of any medical, physical or psychological trauma experienced by victims of rape. What they DO display is a readiness and willingness to impose their religious beliefs, disguised as political, upon an entire nation. And in case you think I have overstated the issue and that this is hopefully not a typical attitude held by the GOP, please consider this actual statement by Idaho state Senator Chuck Winder: 
"If a woman claims to have been raped, we must make sure of it, because women may lie and call consensual sex resulting in pregnancy 'rape' in order to get a free abortion without having to undergo a trans vaginal ultrasound." 
No matter how you spin it, that is quite likely the most oppressive thing ever uttered by an American politician.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

In Goddess We Trust

Very glad that CJ Roberts saw fit to do his job in a non partisan manner today. The health care ruling by the SCOTUS is being hailed as a victory for the people, as it should be. It is particularly sweet for American women, whose rights have been under non stop attack by the Rethuglicans. ( A pretty horrifying state by state legislative list  here.) 
A welcome respite from the relentless misogyny (see above list)  begins today with this decision.  From the Huffington Post: 

"Beginning in August, woman of all income brackets will be able to obtain contraception, annual well-woman visits, screenings for sexually transmitted infections and gestational diabetes, breastfeeding support and supplies, and domestic violence screenings without any co-pays or deductibles."

Some specific things that the ACA will do for womens' health:

Being a woman is no longer a "pre existing condition." Yes! Women were denied coverage for just being women before the Affordable Care Act became law.

Insurance companies can't charge you more for being a woman either. Before the Affordable Care Act was law, women were sometimes charged up to 150% more than men of the same age.

Breast cancer screenings, cervical cancer screenings, domestic violence counseling and screenings and a whole bunch of other preventive care measures must be covered by insurance companies.

Birth control is now covered by health insurance.

Children can stay on their parents' health insurance until they're 26 years old. And if you want to have kids, the law will help you get pre-natal care and counseling and help with breast feeding and supplies too.

AND: important benefits for everyone:

Insurance companies can't take away your coverage if you become too sick.

You cannot be denied insurance coverage because of a pre-existing condition.

Seniors receive a 50 percent discount on prescription drugs when they hit the "donut hole." Especially crucial for senior women, who are the largest population receiving Medicare.

Small businesses get tax credits to purchase insurance.

There are no more lifetime limits on your coverage.

15 million more people will receive coverage because of expanded access to Medicaid.

Millions of Americans are going to receive tax credits to help them get insurance--people who wouldn't be able to afford it otherwise.

12 million seniors are currently receiving free preventative care through Medicare.

No, it's not single payer and it's not perfect. It IS a step in the right direction and it reaffirms my slender hope that sanity may yet rule the day.  Ladies: remember this day. Come November,
don't forget who's got your back, and reciprocate.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Self Love is Not Selfish

My friend Candace owns a day spa and has been, for the last 2 years, through the proverbial wringer, in re to:  permitting, contracting issues, city inspections and all the headaches that go with being a small business owner- and she has been burned out of late. I suppose you could call it ironic that someone in the business of helping others relax, de-stress and promote self-care was so stressed and weary herself. I am glad that she is course correcting; her most recent blog post is here.
 It made me think:  Gay or straight, partnered or single, kids or no- doesn't seem to matter. We are all susceptible, no matter our personal circumstances, to the societal pressure to put ourselves last. Women can be, and are often expected to be, masters of the art of self-denial, putting everyone else's needs first. Traditionally, women have been assigned the caretaker role, both in society and in the family dynamic.  There is a murkier, slightly sinister issue at play here also: the amazing convenience and "coincidence" of having one entire gender being the unselfish, caretaking, more nurturing half, and there is a huge assumption in conventional wisdom that there is a genetic predisposition to do so.  While there is certainly a degree of satisfaction in being a nurturer, it is crucial that we also nurture ourselves. 

Self love = self respect and self esteem. Not as easy to do as you might think- but we must care for ourselves to continue to care for others in our lives. We need to be able to take ourselves from THIS:

to THIS: 

as often as we possibly can.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Between an Emerald and a Hard Place

 Those of us who love Mad Men obsess about every element of the show, not the least of which is the writers ability to take unexpected directions. They always manage to surprise us and occasionally shock us. The most recent episode, "The Other Woman", has generated more discussion that any other episode I can recall- and this is a show that gets a LOT of attention from bloggers, critics, and fanatics like me.  Joan is such a beloved character and seeing her in this impossibly sad situation was like watching her get raped by her horrible manchild husband all over again.
On the surface, Joan is incredibly self possessed, beautiful, and competent- this is a carefully constructed facade that she maintains with a heroic amount of effort. When we as viewers see the vulnerability and insecurity underneath her strong public presentation, it is haunting and heartbreaking.
The discussions I have been following, on Facebook and other fan sites seem to have brought out a lot of judgmental types who, despite the complicated nature of this show, persist in seeing everything in black and white. In their eyes, Joan has" lowered herself" and they would never sell their own virtue for material gain, blah blah blah. Other slightly more cynical posters have suggested that it wasn't a big leap since she had been Roger's mistress for years and generally "slept around" (whatever that means). It was sad but not surprising how many of these posters were female. I understand the denial and judgement- it's a defense mechanism. While most of us have not been in this exact situation, I think seeing her backed into a corner like this rings a bell for a lot of women, echoing times that we have felt like we had no choice but to stoically make the best out of a bad situation.  And in my mind, Joan did not really have a choice here. Once Pete told the partners about it, her fate was sealed. When Lane told her the partners would finance the fee, she finally knew where she really stood with people she considered friends and colleagues- and the damage was done for good. Whether she slept with the skeevy Jag dealer guy or not, she was fucked. In their eyes, she was either going to be the reason they didn't land the account (if she refused to do it) or the person who slept their way into a partnership. 
I keep thinking about what Joan's night after that day at the office must have been like. Drinking alone after work, believing that all the men at SCDP were unanimously willing to sell her for an account. She must have been wondering what her options were. Should she refuse to do it- and go on being an aging divorcee raising a child, chasing after some other man for some other measure of security, and continuing to go into work every day in an office run by a group of men who believe that her body can be used as a bargaining chip?
So she set her terms, and they met them. Now she has a partnership, and hopefully some security she gained on her own. I can't say that I wasn't terribly sad for Joan, but I am not disappointed in her at all. She made what she believed would be the best choice for her future. It was a terrible choice to have to make, and it was terrible to watch. But you know what, Joanie? You are not a ruined woman. Take that partnership, and hold your head high. I hope you never feel like you have to rely on a man again.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What's in a name?

The term "strong female lead" first came to my attention in a great song by the Cowboy Junkies, "Sun Comes Up It's Tuesday Morning". The singer is musing about the recent change in her relationship status and the bittersweet pleasures of solitude.
"Maybe tonight its a movie
with plenty of room for elbows and knees
a bag of popcorn all to myself,
black and white with a strong female lead
and if I don't like it, no debate, I'll leave"

These lyrics evoked the images of all those great 40's era movies that were called  "women's pictures." They made lots of these films during WW II, largely because the male audience was off fighting the war, and the women were left behind, working in factories and going to the movies. I like to imagine that these ladies were watching Joan and Bette and Barbara and seeing a glimmer of their newly-found autonomy flickering back at them in the theater.

More recently, I have seen "strong female lead" used as a category on Netflix. As near as I can can determine, the definition applied here is a film with a protagonist who is a woman with a tough life who kicks ass and sticks it to the system. It can also include strong female characters who are complex. (Yes, both of these catagories are ridiculously scarce, but that's a whole other post.)
The phrase rings a bell with me for a lot of reasons, and when I decided to start a blog, it was the only name I seriously considered.
 I suppose this blog would fall into the "uncategorized "bin- not specifically about music, politics, cooking, etc. This is what kept me from even starting a blog for so long- I was convinced I wasn't expert enough on anything to talk to others, even about things I was passionately interested in. 
I finally decided to stop being afraid and just jump in. In making that decision, I became the strong female lead in my own life. The single constant element in all my experiences, and the occurrence that has shaped my world view the most, is being a member of the Double X Chromosome Club. So the posts on this blog, no matter what they might be about, will all be filtered through that lady lens. We'll see how that manifests itself. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

boys club

Watching this last night was unexpectedly touching. It made me think about all the funny talented women who have come through SNL and run the gauntlet of the boys' club there. It must have been really tough and frustrating at times for Gilda and Jan and Molly et al. Making your unique voice heard is always a challenge. Look at all the shit being thrown at Lena Dunham right now. Thanks to all you for persevering. I appreciate it.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

cheaper than therapy

Over the years, many friends have encouraged me to start blogging. They said it was because I was" funny" and "opinionated." I think this was a tactful way to say "drunk" and " loud."  I was (and still am) reluctant to do so; I feel like the cultural bandwidth is choked with attention whores and I didn't want to swell the ranks.  There is a lot of great commentary available on the subjects I am  interested and passionate about, most of it by people smarter and better informed than me.  Why add to the clamor?  
But it IS cheaper that therapy. So what the hell. We'll see how it goes. And you don't have to read it, especially if you are related to me.