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Monthly Archives: May 2012

Attack, Attack, Attack.

I was recently talking with my birth-father about my blog.  I am adopted and found my birth family 15 years ago.  He is very political.  He suggested I address the attacks on reproductive rights at the state level.  He feels the topic isn’t getting enough attention.  I think there is a reason for that.  The patriarchal media tends to focus on national issues, like Obama’s attempt to allow women access to contraception via their health insurance.  If the media doesn’t mention the statewide attacks on women’s right to reproductive freedom, the average citizen will remain unaware and no one will speak up.

The bottom line is that 17 states have introduced bills that present tighter restrictions to abortion than what is allowed under Roe v. Wade.  The ones that have garnered the most press are these “personhood” bills that give rights to the fetus while in utero.  

According to the Guttmacher Institute, and as quoted in Daily Kos,

• Ten states have introduced bills requiring all or some abortion providers to have hospital privileges.  The worst of these has been Mississippi, where the governor signed such a bill that could mean the shutdown of the state’s last remaining abortion clinic before the summer is over.
• A number of states, including Indiana and Tennessee, have introduced bills that would require   require all medication abortion providers to have hospital privileges at a hospital that is in the same county as the abortion clinic.
• Five states introduced or passed laws regulating crisis pregnancy centers. After seeing its 2011 law in this regard blocked by court order, South Dakota enacted a new law in March this year that “require[s] that abortion counseling include information on any research showing that some women (based on their ‘physical, psychological, demographic or situational’ characteristics) may be at higher risk of negative mental health outcomes associated with an abortion.
• Three states have introduced alternatives-to-abortion bills. In Kansas the bill would also prohibit abortion training in state-run facilities, create a priority system for distributing family planning funds and allocate funds for family planning.
• Fourteen states have introduced or passed and enacted bills prohibiting abortion coverage in insurance policies in the exchanges required to be set up under federal health care reform. The South Carolina bill would restrict abortion coverage in ALL private insurance packages. In Washington, however, a bill was passed in the state House of Representatives requiring insurers to cover abortion unless the purchaser opts out.
• Eleven states introduced bills affecting medication abortions. In Indiana, the Senate “passed a measure that would require a physician to examine a patient in person before prescribing medication for abortion, effectively banning telemedicine.” The session adjourned before the bill progressed further.
• Several states this year have introduced, passed or enacted bills setting a gestational age after which abortions may not be performed. The law is already on the books in seven states.
Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Mon May 07, 2012 at 09:35 AM PDT.”

My new mantra regarding women’s rights is to take back Susan Faludi’s term from the EARLY nineties and keep saying we are in a backlash.  Women continue to take two steps forward and what seems like three steps back.  My concern is that young women need to be at the forefront of this debate, this debacle.  I am reaching the age where birth control will no longer be a concern of mine (when did that happen?), yet while I work closely with college aged women every day, I am not sure they really understand the gravity of these attacks.  I am not sure they appreciate what the women before them did to give them reproductive freedom. 

We need to keep these discussions going with young women.  Educate them.  Tell them what it use to be like.  We need women who were alive before Roe v Wade to tell the young women today how bad it was.  And we need to elect more women to office who will understand that making laws on the backs of women is just an old fashioned tradition that needs to end.  Today. 

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Bad Feminist!

This week my dear friend, a second waver, we’ll call her, and I were talking about the way we judge women in our culture.  This conversation came up because I had just submitted a grant (cross your fingers!) that addresses the way that women are represented in the media. The focus of the grant is on raising awareness with young women that the messages they are sent, those very subtle messages, are deceiving.

She wondered if some of this obsession women have with looks is cultural and she talked about how she wore make-up at different points in her life depending on where she lived.  Then we moved into a conversation on how easily we silently judge other women about what they wear, how they look, why they dress the way they do, and so on.  We talked about how so many young women today wax away EVERYTHING and do so in the name of “cleanliness.”

I harp on this topic today because I wonder how we can break this so-called cycle.  As self-proclaimed feminists we are aware of the pressure to wax, paint our face, dress nice, yet as much as we fight against this pressure, we still bow to it, in many ways.  I wonder, is there a balance?  The documentary, Miss Representation, which I have written about previously features a gorgeous blond as filmmaker.  She briefly mentions her struggles as an actor being typecast as the dumb blond, but I feel like she just glosses over how she fits into this whole paradigm.

I think, too, of some of my favorite movies, those produced in England and Holland, like Mike Leigh’s Secrets & Lies or Antonia’s Line.  Are these movies on my top ten because of the subject matter, the acting or the writing; or are these movies so good because the actors look like REAL people?  When you live in a culture, (the U.S.) where everything presented to you is “perfect” it is hard to see what reality is.  What is beauty when we only see it photo-shopped and touched up?  How can we find real beauty and reject the artificial?

I know women who don’t wear make-up and tend to dress in a non-conformist way, but even they are conforming to some sort of “look” that fits into their world. I think of a good friend of mine, a former student, who has a unique style that reminds me somewhat of Ellen, the CoverGirl herself.

I certainly don’t have an answer to this big issue on this rainy Wednesday in New England.  Perhaps I am thrown into these thoughts today as a teeter on the edge of PMS feeling bloated and fat, eagerly awaiting my period so this monthly slump will pass on.  Maybe its because I went to my bridesmaid dress fitting the other day for my sister’s wedding and felt huge in that oversize dress, literally four sizes more than I normally wear.  Maybe its because I fell down the stairs two weeks ago and my lower back is still aching and discouraging me from running.  Or maybe it’s just that the media-owned-conglomerate is plain old patriarchal and the only way to avoid it is to turn it off.

Stop buying magazines that don’t feature REAL women.  Stop watching television that mis-represents us.  Only watch International films.  And when that woman walks by you wearing something you would not be caught dead in, say to yourself “you go girl” and let the judgment fade away.

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Ashley.Bendiksen.

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Providing weekly critiques of theatre, film, books, politics and pop culture from a feminist perspective.