Sometimes in life you have to get a little lost before you are truly able to find your way.

Archive for the ‘Women’ Category

I am who you made me, so thanks!


This world is wildly unbalanced. So many children grow up with no parents at all. And I not only grew up with two biological parents, but a whole host of pseudo-parents as well. Yes, my parents were divorced, but they were still there, loving and supporting me. And I had all kinds of other parents…my doctor and his wife (my mom’s best friend), my best friend’s parents, my older siblings, my fiance’s parents…I could go on.

I look at this (partial) list of all of these people who have loved and guided me through life at different stages and I cannot help be be overwhelmed by such immense gratitude. But today is Mother’s Day. So I want to say a HUGE HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to all those moms, pseudo-moms, adoptive moms, etc., whether you’re in my life or you just happened to stumble across this post. You are doing something WONDERFUL. But I have a special message for my real mom….

You have empowered me. You have kept me going. You have been there for all the panicked phone calls and cries for help……when I was three years old, and today when I am thirty-three. The issues might have changed, but your love and support never have.

You have made me strong. You taught me over and over that I could do anything I put my mind to, and that nothing in this world was too hard to overcome. You told me over and over that as long as I had my friends and my family, that was all I would ever need to be successful. As it turns out I have had to measure my success differently than most, and all those lessons paid off. Had I not learned them early I fear for where I might be now. Thank you for that wisdom so early on.

You encouraged me to write. I did…and still do! You encouraged my creativity and allowed me to make giant messes just to see what it was I was trying to get to….thank you. You encouraged me to explore, and to follow my heart, no matter where it led…even when that was scary for you because it meant trekking off to the other side of the planet for half the year, or moving to California. The good news is, my heart has always led me home to my family, just as I’m pretty sure you knew it would.

You tried to teach me to cook…sorry about that one. 🙂 I’m getting better…slowly.

You taught me that believing in myself would always be rewarded. What I see now though, is that some of the very best parts of me, are really you, shining out from inside, instilled in me ages ago. You are so much a part of the woman I am today. Thank you for being such an incredible mom. I wish I could be with you today, and closer to you everyday.

Happy Mother’s Day

xoxo

Update on PPNNE

As of Friday, July 1, just over a week since the New Hampshire Executive Council, led by Councilman St. Hilaire, decided to reject funding for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, the effects are already being felt in a big way. At PPNNE’s six health centers in New Hampshire, 92 patients didn’t have access to affordable birth control. By next week it will be hundreds. By next month, it will be thousands.

Your help is needed now. Here’s what you can do:

Make a tax-deductible donation to PPNNE’s Justice fund. The Justice Fund helps provide the resources PPNNE needs to meet the legal, advocacy, and public information challenges that arise in their efforts to protect access to women’s health care services. Often, when legal and public policy threats emerge, they are unavoidable, unbudgeted, and tap precious, limited resources. Your special gift to the Justice Fund will help as PPNNE staff members work around the clock to ensure this contract is renewed.

If you live in NH Districts 2, 4, or 5, contact your councilor and urge them to reconsider this extreme decision. If you live in NH Districts 1 or 3 thank your councilor for caring about women!

NH residents: Add your name to our petition and signature collection.

Thanks for standing up for women, health and justice.

Affordable Healthcare in NH takes a Huge Hit

New Hampshire Executive Councilman Hilaire

Last Wednesday the New Hampshire Executive Council voted 3-2 against a $1.8 million contract that has allowed Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (PPNNE) to provide health services to low-income patients for more than 30 years. (AP/Boston Globe, June 22, 2011) The services funded by this contract include cancer and sexually transmitted disease screening; family planning/reproductive health education;  and access to contraception. The council, composed of five men, approved every other family planning contract it considered. So why not the Planned Parenthood contract?…you guessed it – because (GASP!)…they also provide abortion services! (Though no state or federal money would, or ever has funded abortions at Planned Parenthood.) When asked why the contract was voted down, Councilor Dan St. Hilaire admitted that he “supports most family planning services but opposed awarding the contract to PPNNE because the organization provides abortion services.” (National Partnership for Women and Families, Daily Report)

Most people who do not support abortion refer to themselves as “pro-life.” (more accurately called anti-choice) So I find myself somewhat perplexed given that the services funded by the contract save lives. Call me crazy, but that sounds pretty “pro-life,” no? They also prevent unwanted pregnancies and decrease the number of abortions annually. But then again, I supposed it probably does make much more sense to deny PPNNE the opportunity to save lives and prevent unwanted pregnancies because…they also  provide abortion services…even though the contract doesn’t fund any of them….just the life-saving stuff. Hmmm…

Here’s the real problem. The weight of the political debate over abortion has so far exceeded the level of honest decision making that real, life-saving, crucial services are being denied, defunded, discredited and done away with. It is a sad testimony to the state of our politics and the credibility of our leaders that time and time again health, quality of life, and even life itself are victims of weak politicians jockeying for votes. Is being against abortion really more important than supporting health and life? For three members of the NH Executive Council, apparently the answer to that question is “yes.”

So what are some of the real outcomes? Undetected cancer that will kill. Untreated/undetected sexually transmitted diseases that will spread, some that will kill. Untold numbers of additional unwanted pregnancies. Increased abortions, many that will be done in back alleys or at home, with unspeakable outcomes. Some of these will end with both fetus and mother dead. Many women and girls will not have access to contraception prescribed for health reasons not even related to birth control (yes, the pill is actually a widely used treatment for many medical conditions!) PPNNE offered the following as an example of services that may no longer be available.

“The manager of our West Lebanon Health Center was recently asked what effect the loss of this contract would have on our services. She shared a story of a patient who visited a drug store to get birth control pills, only to learn they were $100 a pack. She couldn’t afford this cost, so she came to PPNNE. We told this patient that, based on her income, we could slide her pills down to $0 but we would take any donation she could give us. The patient pulled out a handful of change and counted out $1.37 in coins and said, “It’s not much, but I want you to have it.”

I said these services MAY no longer be available…the Council is being petitioned to reconsider their decision. In addition, PPNNE is seeking donations. If you’d like to make a tax-deductible gift to PPNNE’s Annual Fund, click here. If you can donate, donate. If you can’t afford to donate, but wish to voice your opinion to the Council, please call, fax, email, or visit them!  With enough support, the residents of New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine will continue to have access to affordable, critically important health services.

New Hampshire Executive Council
107 North Main Street
State House, Room 207
Concord, NH 03301

Phone: 603/271-3632               E-mail: gcweb@nh.gov

Fax: 603/271-3633                   Web site: www.nh.gov/council

Small Wonders

For all those who have lost loved ones, I hope you find some comfort in these words.

In loving memory of Evelyn Marion Small Colvin and Helen Small Barter

Small Wonders

There are some things, some people,

that are like fixtures in our lives.

We always know where to find them, 

and just how they will be when we get there.

They are permanent; they have a place.

They are timeless, and elegant…

the perfect balance of wisdom, beauty and grace.

Without ever meaning to, 

or perhaps ever knowing that they do, 

they serve a purpose in the lives of others.

They are a sort of beacon about which we orient ourselves,

and come to know our own places in the world.

They serve as a standard by which we measure

not just our own worth, 

but the good of all that surrounds us.

We come to rely on them.

We depend on knowing where to find them, 

and just how they will be when we get there.

But when they move, or are gone, 

it takes time before our own lives make sense again.

This is the time in which we heal.


Abortion Culture?

(Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

In an interview yesterday with WEZS Radio in Laconia, NH, potential 2012 presidential candidate Rick Santorum discussed the role of “Abortion Culture” for the failures of our social security system. Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, blamed abortions for robbing the nation of 53 million workers who could be supporting retirees. His family, with seven children is “doing our part to fund the social security system.” The former senator noted that he feels the social security system “is a flawed design, period. But having said that, the design would work a lot better if we had stable demographic trends.” During the interview Santorum also stated that “a third of all the young people in America are not in America today because of abortion,” a statement that at best, merely attempts to make sense.

So what exactly is “Abortion Culture?” Well, that depends who you ask. Some people hold the view that Abortion Culture is a result of high abortion rates. Others say high abortion rates are caused by Abortion Culture. Others point toward countries like China that systematically use abortion (and sterilization) as a means of population control. So how does the U.S. fit into this mix of varied definitions? To begin answering this question it is important to get an overall idea of where America ranks among countries worldwide with regards to abortion rates. According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI), the U.S. is somewhere in the middle. Countries like The Netherlands have relatively low abortion rates (less than 10 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 per year. The U.S. falls in at just over 20. China is estimated to have around 30 per 1,000 women annually, while Romania and Vietnam, by contrast, are estimated to have at least 80. (Source: The Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI), Sharing Responsibility: Women, Society and Abortion Worldwide, New York, AGI, 1999, p. 28.) Worldwide then, the U.S. has a relatively low rate of abortion when compared to countries world-wide. It should be noted that the abortion rates cited above have almost no correlation with the legality of abortion in each country.

So if our abortion rates are not high (taken in the context of world-wide comparison), what then defines us as an Abortion Culture? Is it the fact that abortions are legal? If so, every country with legalized abortion, regardless of its abortion rate would have to be labelled an Abortion Culture, so that doesn’t seem to make much sense. Do we have legalized abortions here? Yes…for now, though that right is under constant fire. Relatively speaking, we do not have high rates of abortion. We do not use abortion as a government-enforced means of population control. Abortion is not widely used as a means of contraception. Given these facts, personally (and I recognize many will disagree with me on this), I have yet to find a logical explanation for claiming that we live in an Abortion Culture.

Getting back to Santorum’s remarks, I can’t help but reverse his logic. Perhaps the problem isn’t a lack of children, but rather too many retirees that is to blame. What about the baby-boomers? Could we not more logically look at the sudden rise in the number of births from this generation as the root of unstable population trends? And what happens if all of those women who have abortions instead choose to give birth? Would that really solve our social security problems? Given that the majority of women in the U.S. and worldwide cite the same reasons for choosing abortion (cannot afford to properly care for the child, the need to work to support themselves/their existing children, lack of relationships/healthy relationships with the child’s father, among others), what would the real impact of fewer abortions be in our society? More women unable to work? Well that doesn’t help support the large number of retirees, does it? More families relying on Welfare? Doesn’t sound like a great option. More children born into poverty/homelessness? Not a huge help when it comes to contributing to Social Security is it? Of course, if we were talking about 53 million children born into wealthy families with an abundance of opportunity, access to quality education and healthcare who are most likely to hold steady, high-paying jobs (children of a Senator, perhaps?)…well that might be a different story. Even so, more people…more resource use. We can’t ignore the far-reaching implications of ushering thousands of additional children into our society each year. The environmental impacts and social costs of such a rapidly growing population would be staggering.

In response to Santorum’s argument, then, I guess I’d say he ought to get back to the drawing board if he wants to fix Social Security. Abortion is a right, often a medical necessity, and certainly not the cause of any failure of our programs to support retirees. We have a world-wide over-population problem. Our planet cannot sustain the current rate of population growth. Attempting to increase population in a country that severely over-taxes nearly every resource?…not my idea of a great solution to anything. With regard to “Abortion Culture,” I’d say a significantly higher degree of care should be used in determining if that term can be accurately used to describe our country. As far as I can tell, for the moment anyway, 2011 America…not an Abortion Culture.

Rape Culture

What does the term “Rape Culture” mean? Is it just another buzz word, or is there real meaning, or even danger behind these words? Do we live in a Rape Culture here in the U.S. in 2011? Where does it come from? How does it evolve and why does it persist?

First let’s look at what this loaded term actually means.

There are many definitions of Rape Culture found everywhere from Wikipedia to Sociology text books. Most of them center around the same basic ideas which I think are presented well in this definition offered by the Women’s Center at Marshall University: “Rape Culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture.  Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety.” http://www.marshall.edu/wcenter/?page_id=295

A recent example…

Several weeks ago there was an article published in the New York Times about the gang rape of an 11-year old girl by 18 men and teenaged boys  in a small, east Texas town. One might assume that any account of such a horrific attack would be focused on the recovery of the victim and how her assailants would be brought to justice. Not so, in this case. The Times article included the following remarks:

“The case has rocked this East Texas community to its core and left many residents in the working-class neighborhood where the attack took place with unanswered questions. Among them is, if the allegations are proved, how could their young men have been drawn into such an act?

“’It’s just destroyed our community,” said Sheila Harrison, 48, a hospital worker who says she knows several of the defendants. “These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives.”

“Residents in the neighborhood where the abandoned trailer stands — known as the Quarters — said the victim had been visiting various friends there for months. They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said.”

Huh. So a young girl is gang-raped and the community concern is over how her rapists will recover? Interesting. And she “dressed older than her age…” Sooo…what? She asked for it? She wanted it? She deserved it? Wow…I sure hope those rapists are all OK…

After enormous public outcry, the New York Times public editor, Arthur S. Brisbane, issued a statement saying that the outrage was “understandable” and that the piece conveyed “an impression of concern for the perpetrators and an impression of a provocative victim” that “led many readers to interpret the subtext of the story to be: she had it coming.”

While this apology is important, particularly coming from a source such as the New York Times, the fact that the article was researched, written, reviewed, edited and printed in the first place leaves me astounded. All of those people had input. All of those people had an opportunity to react, reflect, and interpret those words. And yet none of them put a stop to it. Why? We can only speculate. But the fact is, we live in a culture where the mindset about rape allowed all of those people to actively take part in the publication of an article that perfectly illustrates what Rape Culture is all about.

Sex sells.

Good Morning America recently aired a story on marketing “sexy” to young girls and the effects of such provocative marketing to such young age groups. The piece focused on the clothing industry’s role in this nationwide problem. How young is too young? How sexy is too sexy? They featured Abercrombie and Fitch’s “push-up triangle bikini, ” a padded, skimpy bikini designed for girls as young as 7-years old!

So what are we telling our young girls? You need to look older? You need to be sexy? You need to get ahead of your biology if you want to be pretty? But wait…if you do…don’t come crying when you get raped because you asked for it!

Abercrombie has since renamed the suit the “triangle bikini” though the style (padding included) has not been changed. Girls are internalizing these messages and as a result, we see low self esteem, increased numbers of girls and women with eating disorders, distorted body images, desperate attempts to live up to impossible standards, little girls who are trying to look like little women, and families and a culture that encourages it…that is, until one of them gets raped. Then the critical eye opens.

While Abercrombie and Fitch is certainly a high profile example of the messages our society is sending young girls, the rest of the media should not be forgotten. A quick glance at the nearest magazine stand is all it takes to see that it’s not just Abercrombie and Fitch selling sex, nearly every magazine on the shelves is doing it. Try watching a music video, watching a television show, or the latest movie or video game……the same messages over and over again where ever you look. And in response, not only are parents and kids buying it…literally, but the messages are like viruses. The ideas about what “beautiful” and “sexy” are pervade the mindsets of our country’s women and girls.

Is this really us?

What does all this have to do Rape Culture? Let’s go back to the definition we started with. Is rape prevalent in our society? Absolutely. According to the Coalition Educating About Sexual Endangerment, one out of every three women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. http://oak.cats.ohiou.edu/~ad361896/anne/cease/numberspage.html I’d say that qualifies as prevalent.

“Sexual violence is normalized and excused in the media.” One needn’t look farther than a stack of video games or a nightly line-up on TV to see how true this has become in our culture.

Heard any misogynistic language lately? Slut. Whore. Feminazi. Bitch. Sound familiar? If not, tell me where you’re living and I’ll send every woman I know.

Objectification of women’s bodies? Well we’re right back to Abercrombie, MTV and the magazine isle aren’t we?

Glamorization of sexual violence? No? You don’t think so? Again, the media (and mainstream America’s  support of it) glamorize violence, and sexual violence in particular, to a remarkable degree. Video games, television, movies, music…it’s difficult to find an area of popular culture that isn’t pervaded by these messages.

Media messages are filtered and internalized by men and women (and boys and girls) in different ways. Female members of our society are expected to look beautiful and sexy, but are chastised for having sexual relationships. They “give it up” suggesting that they have been beaten. Males, by contrast, are supposed to be strong, powerful, in control and are championed for their “sexual conquests.” They are congratulated when they “hit that, pound it, nail it,” etc. The use of such violent rhetoric in describing sex is particularly harmful when taken in the broader context of a society overrun by the elements of Rape Culture. These factors compound one another and ultimately leave an 11-year old rape victim to be blamed for her attack while her community worries about how her 18 male attackers will be able live with what they have done.

Rape Culture will not be defeated quickly or easily. But the battle will have to begin in our homes. It will begin with every individual, and every family. Like all great movements in our history, it will swell from the ground up.

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