Porn is NOT liberation; it is Exploitation

April 15, 2014 by Leah  
Filed under Latest Thoughts, New Feminism, Uncategorized

I recently came across the Piers Morgan interview with a Duke University student who has been living a double life as a college student and porn star. This young lady, Miriam Weeks, says she has been working in the sex industry to help pay for her college tuition, but that she would choose this lifestyle regardless of financial need. She says she loves the support and understanding she has received from fellow sex workers and feels at “home” in the world of adult films.

Duke University porn star Belle Knox interview ON Piers Morgan March 6, 2014

The interview is actually excruciatingly difficult to watch as someone who can see how this industry is going to eventually kill her naturally sweet disposition. She really seems like a nice person, someone you’d hire to babysit your kids. The youthful optimism and energy with which she embraces the cause of pornography is infectious and reminds many of us of times we threw ourselves into ideals and movements without even understanding what we were advocating for. She smiles naively as she says things like,

“We are in a society where we are repressed every single day. We’re told sex is bad, we’re told not to have sex, we’re told not to show our bodies; and that’s really true for women. And to be in porn and to be able to be naked and free and have that sexual autonomy is so incredibly freeing.”

Though some are raised this way, many people are bemoaning the fact that our culture is increasingly sexualizing young girls at ever younger and younger ages. One look at modern fashions will tell you that young women are certainly not told to cover their bodies and that the more sexually available a young woman makes herself appear the more socially accepted she will be. Her out of touch reasoning and her perception of sexuality seems to have been fed to her by an education system bent on convincing women that we are the victims of a patriarchy that wants to keep us covered up and shut up. What they fail to see however, is that whenever the whole totality of a woman’s personhood is not recognized, she is still being oppressed. If she is treated like she is a walking womb, without regard to her emotional needs or the other gifts of her personality and intellect, or if she is treated like a sex toy to be used for someone’s sexual pleasure without regard to who she is as a person, she is objectified.

Miss Weeks is a proud Women’s Study major at Duke, which might explain why the responses she gives when questioned about choosing pornography as her outlet for sexual autonomy sound exactly like lines out of Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique written in the 1950’s. Women’s Studies programs are infamous for promoting the ideas of Second Wave Feminism, which are outdated at best.  The ideas of sexual repression and a cry against sexual victimization by a restrictive culture are what led to the massive Sexual Revolution of the 1960′s. This Women’s Studies major has absorbed the talking points of the Second Wave Feminists of the 1960’s and has failed to see that the zeitgeist has shifted massively since these ideas where first thought of as advances for women’s liberty. The idea of free sex = liberation trope is really exchanging one form of oppression for another. But what is strange about her application of the women’s rights talking points is that what she is advocating for with them is linked with a rape culture and the abuse of women. Julie Meadows, a former porn star sums it up best saying,

“This industry is full of people that hate – literally HATE women.”

The fact is that like abortion and contraception (and all the other ideas that women have allowed men to convince us are really in our best interest, pornography is not really about us at all. It is about men and power and women choosing, for whatever reason, to become players in a game that involves lust, money, and domination. Many women willingly go into this industry and experience  an initial euphoria at being desired and adored, however the realities of STDs and high levels of depression usually cause these women to soon leave. The average life expectancy of a porn star is only 36.2 years.1

Every act that places our sexuality in a position where we must suppress the fullness of ourselves in order to act it out will have consequences far beyond the initial satisfaction and reward we receive. When we betray our body and our spirit for the satisfaction of others, our own joy will be short lived and in the end very empty.  I fear she will suffer the same sad consequences that millions of women who have embraced the “free sex” mentality have over the past forty years.

Pornography is BIG BUSINESS. Worldwide pornography revenue in 2006 was $97.06 billion. Of that, approximately $13 billion was in the United States. The United States adult film industry produces 4,000–11,000 films a year and earns an estimated $9–$13 billion in gross revenues annually. An estimated 200 production companies employ 1,200–1,500 performers. Performers typically earn $400–$1,000 per shoot and are not compensated based on distribution or sales.2

And the sad truth here is that this beautiful young woman is just a disposable, replaceable piece in the eyes of her money hungry employers. They are not her family and they do not care about what her decisions now will do to her for the rest of her life. She is being used, but she doesn’t even realize it. She has naively allowed herself to be convinced that this is in her best interests.  She has ignored the protests of her own family, who are reportedly very upset by this news, and she instead chooses to believe that people who are profiting off of her sexual appeal somehow see her fully as a unique and irreplaceable human being. They do not see her as more than her body and her willingness to do what those who use her demand.

I suspect, that the $1,200 she is paid for each scene is not enough to keep her subconscious  from waking up screaming in horror each day, but the psychological manipulation that convinces her that this is “what liberates her” is. She must maintain the psychological safe-guard that is telling her this is what she wants; that this is what liberates her. If she is to one day wake up and decide that she would like to stop doing porn I can assure you the friendships she has in the sex worker industry would also end. Why? Because these relationships are founded on the soothing comfort of being with people who will not challenge her decisions. These relationships are with people who are profiting off her poor judgment. If she ever sees the light and decides to stop making adult films she will realize very quickly who her real family is. They will be the ones who have been waiting and praying for her safe return to a home where she is valued as a whole human being, not just a commodity. We certainly hope that day comes sooner than later for Ms. Weeks and in the meantime we’ll work to educate and fight the rampant abuse of women that takes place in all the sex trades.

Resources:

http://candeobehaviorchange.com/ A secular, anonymous, online recovery program that uses the Brain Science of Change to actually heal the brain from the damage caused by sexual addictions.

http://reclaimsexualhealth.com/ A Catholic, anonymous, online recovery program that uses the Brian Science of Change to actually heal the brain from the damage caused by sexual addictions.

Footnotes:

1. Retrieved 3/24/14 from https://www.thepinkcross.org/porn-industry

2. Retrieved 3/24/14 from https://www.thepinkcross.org/porn-statistics

photo credit: Jason M Parrish via photopin cc

The Truth About Sexual Violence

How can we support survivors of sexual assault while encouraging the rehabilitation of sexual assault offenders?

The above question has been plaguing me since I started writing this post weeks ago. It follows that supporting survivors and dismantling rape culture would include rehabilitation and counseling for offenders, as well as understanding offender demographics, but how can we accomplish that without minimizing the effects of sexual violence? In order to best guard our communities against sexual violence, we must:

•             Be rid of victim-blaming.

•             Dismantle rape culture and the norms that allow its existence.

•             Rehabilitation for offenders.

Sexual violence is real. Every two minutes, an American is sexually assaulted.  One out of every six American women and one out of every thirty-three American men are victims of an attempted or a completed rape in their lifetime.  It is a real crime with real victims and devastating consequences.  Victim-blaming is common: Her skirt was too short;  she was too drunk; she wasn’t careful enough;  the woman was too promiscuous to say no;  he shouldn’t have ended up in prison if he didn’t want to be raped.*

Rape culture also allows for sex to fall in a gray area. ** It is treated as a debt owed instead of a way to deeply unite two people. There are jokes about fancy dinners on dates in return for sex. Alcohol is used as an excuse to waive consent. Abortion is used to cover up the evidence of a crime. We need both men and women fighting to dismantle rape culture. We need women to support women. We need men to discourage and stop sexual assault. We need a culture that does not encourage men to be sexually dominant. We need a culture that does not demand women be sexually provocative but then admonishes them for it. We need a culture of life that respects both men and women.

How are we addressing the offenders themselves? There is the controversial sex offender registry. There are moves for harsher punishment, longer statutes of limitation, pushes for survivor protection during trials. The truth though is that only three out of one hundred rapists will serve time, and it stands to reason that sexual assault convictions are along those same lines. Offenders are less the masked evil-doer in the bush and more the acquaintance or boyfriend or friend. Even male survivors are more likely to be assaulted by male offenders, though offenders can be of any gender.

While punishment and justice certainly are a piece of this, rehabilitation is important as well. If approximately two-thirds of rapes are committed by parties known to the survivor, then offenders are friends, intimate partners, brothers, and fathers. They are known to the survivor, and sometimes loved by the survivor. To follow a consistent pro-life message all the way through to its logical conclusion, rehabilitation for offenders is a must. Dignity for all from conception to a natural death includes sexual assault offenders. We know that released sex offenders are four times more likely to be rearrested for a sex crime versus non-sex offender releases.  This means there is a pattern of recidivism that must be addressed through the appropriate channels of justice and rehabilitation/counseling.

April is dedicated to Sexual Assault Awareness. Please share this post, or some of the resources linked above and below. We can do better for survivors by engaging in this conversation.

 

Resources

Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers

Myths and Facts About Sex Offenders

Measuring Sex Offender Recidivism

Resources for Offenders

Why Should Men Care About Rape?

National Parole Resource Center

*I have written more in depth on the consequences of victim-blaming here.

**A specific example of both victim-blaming and sexual gray areas here.

 

A Helping Hand

In general, there are few things that can entice me to grocery shop with all of my kids in tow, for obvious reasons, but deals too good to pass up is one of them.  Our local grocery store has a “Dollar Day” four times a year.  I prep my list the night before, bring a snack to shamelessly bribe the kids with post-trip, say a prayer, and hope for the best.

A few weeks ago, I strapped on my ten month old, loaded the six and four-year-olds into the “car” attached to the front of the cart, and popped the two-year-old into the front of the cart.  This lovely arrangement lasted about 7.5 seconds before said two-year-old decided she would rather walk, the denial of which resulted in loud, dramatic complaints.  At this point, any sane mother would have likely headed back to the car, deals to be had or not, but I decided to just plow onward.  Fifteen (long) minutes later, I checked out with 75% of the kids now protesting various injustices.  In situations like this, when I feel like a walking birth control ad, I am even more aware of the importance of being a pro-life witness.  I gave the cashier a gigantic (albeit somewhat forced) smile and told her to have a great day.  As I turned to start bagging the groceries up, I heard someone say, “Would you like a hand with those?”  I looked up to see a friend’s mom, a woman who raised five kids and, as she noted, has “been there and lived to tell about it.”  I was immediately filled with overwhelming gratitude.

Any mom who has more than the socially acceptable 2.3 children has no doubt heard variations of “You sure have your hands full!” (I did before even entering the grocery store), but how often do those moms hear that glorious phrase my friend’s mom asked?  Many people, upon seeing someone with their arms full of packages, bags, etc., won’t hesitate to ask if they can help.  So why do we as a society shy away from helping, or at least asking to help, mothers with their arms full of children?  Why is our conditioned response to tell a woman with children that she has her hands full?  No one would, upon seeing someone drowning, yell to him, “Boy, you sure are drowning!”  This analogy may seem snarky or dramatic, and I use it only to make a point.  I do know that many people are simply afraid of interfering or offending the mother in our easily offended culture, and I have of course encountered wonderful strangers who give me an understanding and encouraging smile, little old ladies with tears in their eyes who remind me it all goes so fast, and even people who stop their own busy days to help for just a moment.  These little things give me so much encouragement as a mom, and I always pray that I will be bold and courageous enough to encourage other moms in tough situations.

A friend recently shared a story of taking five of her children out to eat, the youngest of whom is six.  As they were sitting quietly, perusing the menus, a waitress approached.  The first words out of her mouth were not “Hello,” or “How are you doing?”, but rather, “Boy!  You sure have your hands full!”  My friend said she looked around at her well-behaved, self-sufficient children and thought, ‘Not really.’

We live in a culture that views children as a burden rather than a blessing.  Having more than two children constitutes a handful and something to be avoided.   The Guiding Star Project’s informational video clip uses the George Meredith quote,  ”What a woman thinks of other women is the test of her true nature.”  I would take this one step further and argue that what a society thinks of children is the test of its true nature.  We needn’t look far to see that our society’s priorities where children are concerned are greatly lacking.

This is why I love the Guiding Star Project so much.  The Guiding Star Project is working to create a culture where children are viewed as blessings; a culture where moms have the help they need to endure the craziness of motherhood; a culture that asks, “Would you like a hand?” rather than noting the obvious.  Each day, with your help, the Guiding Star Project is becoming more and more of a reality.  It is my hope that by the time my children are having their own children, we will live in a culture that values women and life so much that my grandchildren will never hear how full their mother’s hands are, but only see how full her heart is.

photo credit: Chung Ho Leung via photopin cc

What about when my body DOES have problems? An interview with Rexann Hammons.

Our culture likes to paint the female body as an oppressor, a sinister villain opposed to all the dreams that women have for themselves. It is the nemesis who cunningly tries to foil all our chances at equality by menstruating, gestating, and lactating. In this scenario, birth control pills and devices, and abortions are the necessary liberators that will free women from the burden of being themselves. In opposition to what we feel is just another misogynist caricature of femininity, New Feminism aims to give honor and respect to the amazing abilities of our feminine bodies. We believe that any so-called progress that is won at the expense of our natural and healthy functioning, is not progress. It is in fact, another form of oppression. If we are ever to be recognized as true equals, we must not do so on on men’s terms and on the pretext that we incapacitate our normal and healthy functioning, but we must gain this recognition by being fully, and most wonderfully ourselves.

So while we seek to give due respect to the “Feminine Abilities” of ovulating, gestating, and lactating, the fact remains that some women are not able to do these things. Many women struggle with various menstrual disorders or infertility or struggle to breastfeed their infants. What about them? Does New Feminism throw them under the bus? Is New Feminism saying that they are not fully women or that they don’t have worth? As a New Feminist I believe that the answer is a resounding NO! but rather than hear about it from me, a mother of three who breastfed all her children, I think it would be great to hear from a woman who has struggled with some of these issues. It is with great excitement that I can share this interview with a dear friend of mine, Ms. Rexann Hammons. Rexann is a professional woman who works as a nurse. She has struggled for more than a decade with severe endometriosis.


Ms. Rexann Hammons

Can you tell me a little bit about your health history?

In the fall of 2000 I was a senior in high school. I started experiencing pain in my abdomen that seemed to correspond to my periods. After several emergency room visits and a belittling diagnosis of constipation I was finally diagnosed with an ovarian cyst. I was thankful for the diagnosis because that meant my pain could be treated and I could be healed. I had surgery to remove the cyst. At that time I also started my first oral contraceptives to regulate my periods. This was a difficult decision at 17 to take something unnatural to my body. I was a young Catholic woman and didn’t want to be on contraceptives. I was somewhat comforted by my confessor who clarified that contraceptives were okay if used for medical. As my illness progressed I was placed on one form of contraceptive after another. In the Spring of 2001, I was diagnosed with dysmenorrhea, or painful periods. I proceeded to attempt to live life as a normal young woman. A few months later I had my second surgery to remove a dysfunctional gallbladder. I felt relieve that maybe this was the cause of my pain and I could be free of it and I could embrace my freshmen year of college pain free. I proceed to have pain and go through treatment after treatment, doctor visit after doctor visit, and have no answers and no relief. In fall of 2002, I had another surgery, and finally a diagnosis of endometriosis. Little did I know what this would mean. I would begin a life-long journey of physical and emotional pain that has no cure.

 

I know you’ve tried both conventional treatment for endometriosis and NaPro Technology treatment. Can you tell me about your experience with each of these approaches?

As I said there is no official cure for endometriosis. Contraceptives, pregnancy, and NaPro Technology have helped many women. However, contraceptives and NaPro Technology have not helped me. For five years I was on a roller coaster ride trying anything and everything for a cure. I went from trying conventional methods to NaPro technology. Conventional methods seemed to be band-aids just covering the endometriosis but not even treating the symptoms. I was drained emotionally and felt broken and worthless as a woman. I felt NaPro technology and Creighton Model Charting gave back my dignity. I was not taking any synthetic drugs and I was able to learn my body’s rhythms and what was my normal cycle. I was able to begin to love my body and accept it as a gift. I was unable to continue treatment with the NaPro as there were no clinic near me and long distance was not working for me at the time. In 2007 I turned back to mainstream methods. I began taking the Depo-Provera shot in eight week intervals and Arimidex daily, a drug used in breast cancer therapy. I was only able to take this regimen until I turned 30, as it increases one’s chances of heart disease and osteoporosis.

 

You say fertility charting gave you back your dignity. Can you explain a little more about that?

Learning the Creighton method I learn how indeed I am wonderfully made. While using the Creighton model and not taking any form of birth control, my body was able to return to its natural rhythms. At this time I feel I experienced the power of being a woman. By learning how my body cycles to work with a man’s body to produce life and learning my mucous and how it changes through the cycle I could see and feel this gift that only a woman has. Through this experience I found value in my body, and found my worth and dignity.

The relief I received from NaPro was short term as in my case I have microscopic endometriosis and it is most likely that all the endometrial implants were not visible during my surgery and were unable to be removed, and because of that I still experienced pain after the surgery. I would however seek NaPro again if future surgery is recommended.

 

Have you tried any other approaches?

I currently am trying a Naturopath physician who uses herbal treatment and diet changes. I was pain free last month and so far so good in March. I have not started my period since coming off Depo and Arimidex last fall but being pain free the last two month gives me hope in this current option. However I am waiting for insurance coverage to fully participate in the Naturopath treatments.

 

Instead of viewing the female capabilities as burdens, New Feminism seeks to honor and celebrate them. But the fact remains that some women’s bodies do not function normally. Maybe they experience infertility, have difficulty birthing vaginally or breastfeeding. Some women just aren’t mothers and so the whole breastfeeding and birthing thing is outside of their experience. As a single woman without children, and one who has a severe menstrual disorder, what do you think New Feminism can offer women like you?

I think we live in a very broken world. Part of that is believing we are flawed and that our bodies are flawed. In my case my body does not function like text books say it should. It is an ongoing challenge for me to love and accept myself as I am. New Feminism gives me the chance to share my experience of being a woman with other women. I find it gives me power to say I am a woman and though my female organs don’t work “normally” I still have power. I can still love passionately; I can be tender, warm, and understanding. These are not weaknesses. They are strengths. I can nurture and give life purpose and give meaning to others’ suffering through my own suffering. I channel this energy to family members, friends, patients, and anyone I meet daily that needs to be loved. Being a nurse I have lots of opportunities to use my feminine abilities to comfort those in my care. I am a woman!

 

Many women experience an enormous sense of accomplishment and empowerment when they discover they can birth children and breastfeed them. Conversely, when women have difficulty with these things, it can rock their sense of self and they can experience such heartbreak and feel like they are failures as women. Again, as someone with your health issues, and as someone who may be unable to have natural children, do you think women with these difficulties can find empowerment in another way? Or might you have any ideas about how they might learn to value themselves as women and cherish their femininity?

I wish I could say I had the once and for all fix to this sense of failure and heartbreak that comes when we can’t fulfill the role of being a natural mother. My faith and good friends have helped me in this area, but it is an ongoing challenge. I have to work at it. Some days I want to go for a long run or walk and my body says no you can’t. Some days I have to sit and enjoy the sunset from the porch instead of the beach, but I try to be thankful for the ability to still see the sunset. I try to embrace my body, love it, and work with it. Some days I do get down to the beach! The key is staying one with my body and one with my feelings. When I deny my normal and my natural for what the world or mainstream society says should be my normal, is when I lose ground.

Getting Closer to a Healthier Body Image

March 17, 2014 by katiemurry  
Filed under Latest Thoughts, Uncategorized

I dislike my body. After four children, things are not exactly where they used to be. Things are bigger, other things are smaller, others are misshapen. It certainly isn’t he body I used to have. I’m jealous of women who bounce right back to their pre-pregnancy body. We all know someone who seems to miraculously melt off their baby weight overnight. And truth be told, I was once that woman. After my first pregnancy, I was right back to my pre-pregnancy shape in a couple weeks.

Now, I longingly look in my closet, wishing I’d fit into my old clothes. And then there are my skinny jeans. Oh, my “skinny jeans”. They are jeans I can wear only when I’m skinny. I’ve taken them out after every one of my pregnancies, as a goal. There is nothing wrong with setting a goal, but when it consumes and defines you, it becomes a problem. I wasn’t happy if I didn’t fit into those jeans. I felt fat. I felt depressed.

I‘d look in the mirror and wonder where my body went. Why did it need to go? I‘d sit and stare at these hips that seemed to take over my entire body. They are big. They are clunky. They run into walls as I am rounding corners. I don’t like the way clothes fit.

But while I dislike them, I’ve come far from the loathing I used to feel. It took me some time, but I needed to come to terms with why my body had changed. I needed to give my body a break and love it for what it had done and what it is doing. My body has spent years forming and nourishing little babies. It kept them alive and healthy. It continues to keep me strong and healthy so I can continue to care for my children.

I was once told  that women comparing childbirth stories sound like old men comparing battle stories. And my body has been through a battle. My changing body is what I have to show for it. While these changes bother me, they don’t bother anyone else. My husband thinks I am beautiful; my kids see me as “Mommy” and not some giant pair of hips. And that’s what really matters.

I’m not completely over my body image woes. There are many things I don’t feel ok about. But, I can appreciate my post-baby body for what it is. My hips are for carrying babies, both inside and outside the womb. My hips are for shutting car doors when my arms are full of kids and groceries. My hips are for birthing beautiful children into this world, perfect little beings that I wouldn’t trade for the most in-shape and fit body. My hips are like my battle scars, and that, I’m ok with.

photo credit: quinn.anya via photopin cc

Be Courageous, You Never Know Where it Might Lead

A few weeks ago, I was buzzing through Walgreens taking advantage of a little toy sale they had and getting a few other things. Having my 9 month old in the small cart and the 2 year old on my hip made for an interesting visit. My two year old is your average two year terror, wiggly and curious.

The worst part about a shopping trip with a toddler is when you have to stop. As long as you are moving, they move along with you. When you stop, they want to keep going – anywhere! So here we were at the checkout aisle…

me: got to just quickly check out! toddler: look at everything I can grab!

…when something caught my eye. You must know that I’m also a woman who has a deep love for women and children. I’m against abortion in all its forms, seeing it as another exploitation of women. I believe we can do better. Women deserve better.

You can imagine my surprise then when I was standing in line to check out I saw this.

Cough drops, snickers, potentially abortion-inducing drug, little cutesy key chains! Take your pick!

Right next to the snickers, gum, cough drops, is “PlanB”. No age restriction on purchase, no prescription necessary. My toddler of course running crazy and I was just shocked to see this so “in your face”, I just took a photo to document it. We bought our items and left. But I had such a sick feeling in my stomach. How could a product like that be put up next to candy bars like it is no big deal?  All other contraceptive products are at least in the “family planning” where a client can choose to avoid them if they want, but this was right there in your face whether you liked it or not.

I have to admit I didn’t know all the details about PlanB so I did a little research. I found many different sources, but here is what Webmd says:

“5. How does Plan B One-Step work?

Plan B One-Step works like other birth control pills to prevent pregnancy. The drug acts primarily by stopping the release of an egg from the ovary. It may prevent a sperm from fertilizing the egg.

If fertilization does occur, Plan B One-Step may prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the womb. If a fertilized egg is implanted prior to taking Plan B One-Step, the drug will not work and pregnancy proceeds normally.

6. Does Plan B One-Step have any side effects?

Like any medication, Plan B One-Step does have side effects. The most common side effect is nausea, which occurs in about a quarter of women after taking the drug. Other side effects include abdominal pain, fatigue, headache, dizziness, vomiting, and menstrual changes. If you vomit within two hours of taking Plan B One-Step, consult a health care professional to find out if you need to take another dose.”

So, it is a drug designed to take the day or two (up to 72 hours) after sexual intercourse and avoid a pregnancy. However, if conception has already occurred, it prevents the egg from implanting. It claims to not affect an already implanted egg.

But – woah – did you see that? Did you catch what they just did there? With just a twist of words, they have said it prevents “pregnancy” saying pregnancy “begins at implantation.” No one is talking about human life beginning, just pregnancy.  By their own account, it prevents implantation. So, if someone believes that life begins at conception (which a great many people do), then this product can cause an early abortion and end a human life. (And that’s not even going into the debate of whether they can prove that it wouldn’t affect a fertilized egg that has already implanted. Many argue that this claim cannot be proven and therefore this drug could potentially cause an abortion to an implanted fertilized egg, aka conceived child, as well.)

It was in 2009 that it became a for sale “behind the counter” drug (no prescription necessary) to anyone 17 and older and in 2013 the age restriction was removed and it became an “over the counter” drug. Anyone of any age can buy this at any time. (But did you know that you need to be over 18 to buy Sudafed? But not PlanB…but I digress…)

However, pushing it at the front checkout line of all places could only encourage its dangerous use (some dangers including: – it triples the rick of ectopic pregnancies  (a life-threatening condition if left undetected), – it fails 1 in 10 times, & – It is labeled as a group 1 carcinogen, the same cancer risk as cigarettes. See planbfacts.com or exposeplanB.com for more info) and especially eases the ability that women could be abused and forced to take this “one time contraceptive.”

With all this in mind, I felt that inner nudge. I had to act. I’m not a confrontational person. Really I’m not. I’ve always been strong, but I do not enjoy the confrontation. Regardless of my personality, though, I knew I had to take a stand on this. The next day I went in to Walgreens and spoke to the manager about the placement of the PlanB at the checkout counter and how it could be seen as inappropriate. I asked to know whose decision it was. She told me everything placed there is what they want to sell more of and it is a corporate decision, but she’d be happy to give me their number. I accepted the offer.

I called and left a message at Walgreen corporate fully expecting I wouldn’t hear back from them. It took a few days, but I received a voicemail from a woman asking me to call her so they could fully “address my concerns”. When we finally connected, I explained to her the concern I had about such a product being at the front checkout counter. She asked where I had seen it and said she would look into it and get back to me taking down my number and email. (This incidentally also happened to be my birthday.)

Later that day, she emailed asking for one more day to give me their official response. I replied thanking her, telling her that was fine and sent her the photos I had took (the ones posted above) as proof. Again, I was bracing myself for a “we stand by our decision” response, but I did find out in the meantime that this wasn’t the case for all Walgreens across the country. At my mother’s local Walgreens in Louisiana, she couldn’t even find PlanB much less see it anywhere at the checkout counter.

I did receive an email back then from Walgreen corporate last Friday the 7th and it said this was their official statement:

“We agree that this product shouldn’t be merchandised at the checkout counter, and we have communicated that to our stores. The particular store you visited has removed it from that area.” - Emily Hartwig, Corporate Media Relations, Walgreen Co., 108 Wilmot Road, Deerfield, IL 60015

Wow! I was surprised and so pleased! Our nanny offered to check at the store on her way home just to verify if what they said was true and this is what she saw:

PlanB gone!

Well, happy birthday to me! The tag was still there but all the product had been removed.

I appreciate Walgreen’s response and ability to hear and respond to the customer’s concerns. I’m sure they still sell it (which is unfortunate), but at least it is now kept in a more appropriate place.

Moral of the story, my dear friends:

- Be courageous. It may seem like you can’t make a difference, and it may seem like no one listens, but you never know when what you say might just fall on the ears of the right person at the right company at the right time.

Or

- Getting all pro-life activist on a pharmaceutical company on your birthday might just pay off. ;-)

 

Theresa Martin is a blogger and author, follow her blog at NewFeminismRising.com

An Open Letter to Dr. Wicklund

Tonight, I found the following photo haunting my Facebook feed.

 

For the sake of brevity, I will move beyond my initial ranting thoughts that focused on lack of funding, true healthcare reform, and medical practices that over-complicate birth. I want to address the concerns that Dr. Wicklund mentions in her above experience: resources.

Dr. Wicklund,

I hope this letter finds you well. I was struck by your retelling of a time where you reached out on behalf of a pregnant woman that desperately needed resources. I am deeply sorry to hear that those resources were not readily available for her. It can be challenging to acquire the resources to help pay for prenatal and labor/delivery care for women that cannot afford it, as you well know. I am also fully aware of the additional struggles that your neck of the woods face: transportation issues, and a deeper lack of funding. I am writing you to say that women like me, who do not believe that abortion is quality healthcare for women or their children, want to be able to provide quality care for all women that are seeking an abortion. We want to arm women with the tools to embrace their new roles as mothers, and to equip them so that they are able to provide for their children. We believe no woman should have to choose between herself and her child. Funding can be difficult to acquire, but there are many organizations in your area that, without a doubt, will do their best to serve women like the one that you mentioned.

I would like to invite you to learn more about The Guiding Star Project, an organization that seeks to provide holistic care to women.  We recognize the challenges that face women today, especially the challenges in healthcare. The GSP model seeks to create a culture that:

 

  • recognizes the true beauty and dignity of women and their families;
  • honors and upholds the natural capabilities and uniqueness of our bodies;
  • encourages women in all circumstances to embrace their dignity and find empowerment through their uniquely feminine gifts and talents;
  • recognizes the importance of every single person on our planet and sees the threads that tie all humanity together

Supporting Guiding Star Centers would mean supporting an organization that wants to assist women in finding the resources they need, whether that be basic medical care, prenatal care or beyond.

Additionally, with the help of several other women that were concerned by this ordeal, I have compiled a list of resources with-in the four state area of your practice. This list of resources certainly can put the women that you see in touch with someone that can help them find solutions and a way to care for themselves and their children.

General Resources

Here is a list of birth centers in the US.

 

LifeCall also has centers in all four state in your area.

Phone: 1-800-662-2678  Email: mail@lifecall.org

 

Needy Meds has lists of free clinics in every state.

 

Montana

Public Assistance

St Catherine Family Health Care Clinic and Pregnancy Resource Center

203 West Madison Avenue, Suite E-2

Belgrade, MT 59714

Phone: (406) 388-7035

Catholic Social Services of Montana

PO Box 9071301 11th Avenue

Helena, MT 59624

Phone: (406) 442-4130

(800) BABY-DUE (toll-free)

 

Florence Crittenton’s Center for Pregnant & Parenting Teens
901 North Harris Street
Helena, Montana, 59601
Phone:  406 442 6950

 

Religious resources (For referrals and information):

Catholic

Lutheran

 

North Dakota

Public Assistance

Community (Note: Some family planning services offered. This list includes abstinence, contraceptives, and natural family planning.)

St. Gianna Maternity Home

Religious resources:

Catholic

Lutheran

 


South Dakota

Public Assistance

 

Alpha Center

801 East 41st Street

Sioux Falls, 57105

Phone: 800-99-ALPHA

605-361-3500

 

Care Net Pregnancy Resource Center
2401 W. Main St. Suite 2
Rapid City, SD 57702
Email: carenetprc@rushmore.com

Phone: (605) 341-4477 *Answered 24 hours/day

 

Religious resources:

Catholic

Lutheran

 

Wyoming

Public Assistance

Serenity Pregnancy Resource Center

1614 Beck Avenue

P.O. Box 3185

Cody, Wyoming 82414

Phone: (307) 213-5025

Email: info@serenityprc.org

 

Legacy Pregnancy Resource Center
847 Coffeen Avenue
Sheridan, WY 82801
Phone: (307) 673-4757

1.800.395.HELP

 

Religious resources

Catholic Charities

 

I truly hope this helps the next time you have a patient needing resources.

 

 

 

 

Battle Buddy

March 3, 2014 by amandawagner  
Filed under Latest Thoughts, Uncategorized

Finding your almost two-year-old standing on your kitchen counter digging in the cupboard for candy, completely naked. Calling your mother in tears to exclaim, “I’m running out of places to hide the knives!”  or “They figured out the childproofing again!” Having your four-year-old charge head-first into your priest, nearly tackling him. These are all scenarios that I would likely have found somewhat unimaginable (albeit amusing) prior to becoming a parent. Now, they’re simply reality.

I was a nanny all through college for a family of four boys, a family of three boys, and a few other sets of high-energy hooligans. I truly (naively) thought I was prepared for motherhood. At least, as prepared as one can be. Boy, was I ever wrong! Motherhood is so much messier, literally and emotionally, than I ever could have imagined. While there have been many things that have helped keep me at least semi-sane during this crazy journey, one of the most important has been my friends. I have often heard that if you want to find out what kind of friends you have, move. True friends will help you move, an activity that is now in the top five of my “Please God, never again!” list. Our friends not only helped us physically move last fall, but during the five weeks prior brought us boxes, helped us pack, took our kids for hours (days!) to let us pack, brought us meals, baked cupcakes for our two-year-old’s birthday, and a whole host of other selflessly helpful things. To say we have excellent friends would be an understatement. Obviously, it goes without saying that I have never felt lacking in the friendship department, but rather abundantly blessed.

In particular, I have a women’s group I meet with monthly, comprised of my two college roommates and two other women who not only put up with our nonsense but actually seem to enjoy it. (And frankly, add their own level of laugh-until-you-cry hilarity.) When I graduated college, the mom of the family I had lived with for two years told me that I had no idea how lucky I was to have such good girlfriends and how important they would be to me in the years to come. She was right. I have appreciated those women more each year, as we got married over the course of four months and have since had 14 (soon to be 15) kids between us.

One of my other good friends is pregnant with her seventh child. My husband and I were married on her fifth anniversary, and our lives have taken oddly similar paths, with our third children being born exactly six years apart, our first four kids matching genders, and our oldest boys being crazy-high-energy. I have always felt so blessed by this woman’s friendship, in part because each time we’ve discerned a new child, I have thought, “Okay, it’ll be okay to have a (second, third, fourth, etc.) child because M has done it and her kids are thriving.” It has been a reassuring comfort to have someone walking the road ahead of me, someone to learn from, to bounce ideas of off, and send Facebook messages in hysterics.

As Aristotle noted:

Perfect friendship is the friendship of men who are good, and alike in virtue; for these wish well alike to each other qua good, and they are good themselves. Now those who wish well to their friends for their sake are most truly friends; for they do this by reason of own nature and not incidentally; therefore their friendship lasts as long as they are good-and goodness is an enduring thing…But it is natural that such friendships should be infrequent; for such men are rare.

Being that such people are rare, I have always been extremely thankful for women who understand me and who are excellent friends in the truest sense of the word. I share all of this simply to note that I have never felt anything was “missing” in my life. On the contrary, I have always felt overly blessed with such fantastic friendships with incredible women.

Yet over the past year and a half, I have had the chance to get to know a woman from our homeschool co-op much better. She and her family have been an answer to a prayer I didn’t even know I had. Our eight kids are similar ages and have very similar temperaments, meaning neither one of us is phased when a two-year-old strips down in the middle of the living room. Not that we would know anything about that, of course!  The kids all play remarkably well together, so little to no adult intervention is required when we get together. My kids are all fairly strong-willed, energetic handfuls — they keep me busy, to put it mildly, and while they are of course wonderful and amazing, as a unit they can be exhausting. Yet, this woman is the kind of friend with whom I am comfortable dropping my whole crew. She gets the chaos of four kids in five years because she is also living it currently. I could never have anticipated the blessings that would come from having a family that “matches” ours so well. Having someone walk through the craziness by our side, a “battle buddy,” has been so encouraging, more than I ever could have imagined.

One of my favorite bloggers, Jen Fulwiler, notes that we were never meant to “do” motherhood alone. In some respect, the way many of us are raising our kids, without close-knit neighborhoods and often far from extended family; makes motherhood even more overwhelming than the day-to-day grind does. It is easy to feel isolated and like our work is in vain. It is easy to get lost in the dishes and laundry and forget that this is the most important thing I will do with my life — raise my kids. To be able to observe a “mirror image,” mom and see the beauty of her busy kids and house is a direct reminder to me of just how blessed I am to be raising this crew. So to end, I’ll borrow a quote from Toy Story‘s Woody, where he is preparing the toys to move:  “A moving buddy. You don’t have one…GET ONE!” Do everything possible to find a battle buddy, particularly if you are a stay at home mom of young kids. You will be blessed more than you could ever have imagined.

Population Control: The New White Man’s Burden

February 24, 2014 by April  
Filed under Contraception, Latest Thoughts, pro-life, Uncategorized

Imperial Federation Map of the World Showing the Extent of the British Empire in 1886
In 1899, Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem “The White Man’s Burden” was first published. The poem was originally subtitled “The United States and the Philippine Islands”. Although the poem was likely written with the intent to inspire the wealthy people from industrialized nations to “save” the “backward” races with our “superior” ways of doing things (whether those backward peoples wanted them to or not), today the poem is largely looked upon as a piece of cultural imperialist propaganda. The ethnocentricity of the poem leaves a bad taste in our modern mouths that prefer cultural sensitivity and diversity. I wonder, however, if we are as enlightened and respectful of cultural differences as we pretend to be. In Kipling’s day imperialists wanted to introduce democracy and Western dress and ideals. Today’s imperialists want to ensure that all the developing (and therefore backward) countries view children as burdens like we do and therefore we must impose our beliefs on the necessity of birth control and abortion on them whether this is offensive to them or not.

Although the post is titled the “New” White Man’s Burden, to be accurate, the West imposing population control on others is not new. Indeed, the then top-secret government report that first highlighted the “necessity” of telling other people how many kids they can have was written 40 years ago already, having been written in 1974. This report, called The Kissinger Report outlines the increasing need for minerals and fuel from developing nations and categorizes their increasing populations as a threat to US interests. It proposes population control as the means in which we will have continued access to their resources that we want. Thirteen counties were considered of particular threat to US interests: Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand, and Turkey. Since the initial report, many agencies have contributed and fought for the cause of population control. Though many agencies claim they want women to have “access” to birth control, time and again, abuses occur that shows that they don’t want women to have mere access; they want the vulnerable poor to do as we tell them and stop having children.

Women in poor countries across the globe have been coerced into taking birth control and having abortions against their wishes. With support and funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID), many countries have developed population reduction programs, and have had US food and monetary aid linked to the success of reaching their population goals. For example, in Indonesia, women who volunteered for IUD insertion, would not only enjoy the village’s food bonus, but she would also earn her neighbors’ gratitude for their increased share. Conversely, women who refused IUD insertion would not get the food bonus for her family, and she would be depriving her neighbors as well. 1 Likewise, in the 1960s, the South Korean government, with US support, began a program of population control which included payments to poor people consenting to sterilization. 2 Bangladesh, one of the countries deemed particularly dangerous to US interests, also began a vigorous population control program. Because tons of foreign contraceptives were piling up and expiring in storage due to women’s dislike of their side effects, AID encouraged integration of the birth control program with Bangladesh’s oral rehydration treatment of children with diarrhea.3 In other words, mothers who were desperately worried about their ill child had to consent to the birth control in order for him or her to get life-saving treatment. China’s well-known one-child policy, and its program of forced abortions and sterilizations has received support from many population controllers. Jacqueline Kasun, author of The War against Population writes:

The Agency for International Development disclaimed direct involvement in [China's] program, although it was a major contributor to the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and the UN Fund for Population Activities, both of which supplied funds to the Chinese program. [...]The Chinese affiliate of International Planned Parenthood is a main player in the one-child program. IPPF has reported that its affiliate “organizes…the family planning group which will formulate the birth plans”, and its “volunteers sometimes collect the occasional fine when a couple breaks the birth plan rules.” The IPPF affiliate itself, the China Family Planning Association, proudly reported at the Cairo [population] convention that its local activists “monitored the formation and implementation of local population projects, participated and supervised that the awarding and punishing policies relating to family planning were properly executed.”4

It seems that rather than having the aim of empowering couples to choose for themselves their family size, many were instead concerned with giving themselves the ability to choose for everyone else their family size.

Melinda Gates

Unfortunately, women being coerced into contracepting or sterilizing is not something from a decade or two ago. It is still happening today in IndiaSri Lanka, and elsewhere. Though recently the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation sought to raise $4 billion for its contraceptive program, aiming to get 120 million poor women access to contraception, many groups were concerned at the abuse of women’s reproductive autonomy that frequently occurs when Western donors seek to influence the birth practices of other countries. Many have seen the Gates’ birth control initiatives as a step backward, mirroring the coercive population control practices of recent decades rather than a step forward for women’s rights. Although many studies have shown that birth rates naturally fall when women have education, quality health care, and more economic stability, many continue to ignore the broader needs of women and focus solely on controlling their reproduction, despite the fact that in Indonesia and elsewhere, falling birthrates failed to be accompanied by economic advances,5 as the birth controllers had formerly predicted (and still cling to).

Coercion is not limited to women in developing countries, however. Even today, in the US, women also face coercion. We likely do not receive outright forcible sterilization; the coercion here is more subtle. The coercion comes in the form of medical schools that do not educate their students in Fertility Awareness methods, and so we now have an entire medical community that still believes that Natural Family Planning is the rhythm method. Coercion comes in the form of eye-rolls, dismissive comments, or even outright hostility from medical personnel when women tell them they use Natural Family Planning. Maybe it comes in the form of so-called feminists who are disdainful of those who have children. Maybe it comes in the form of family members who think they know how many children their relatives should have. It comes in the form of parents and boyfriends who coerce vulnerable women to abort. It comes in the surprisingly few student insurance plans that cover prenatal care, or colleges that don’t have housing for pregnant students.

The Guiding Star Project is committed to the empowerment of women, not their coercion. Couples who are educated in Natural Family Planning don’t need to go to a doctor to have anything removed when they choose to have a child. They don’t have to convince or beg medical personnel to remove something unnatural from her body when she doesn’t like the side-effects. Women won’t be at increased risk of infertility from years of artificial contraceptive-use. The woman will have invaluable information about her overall health, and whether the couple plans to try to achieve pregnancy or avoid it, they can do so with autonomy and dignity.

“If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.”

Footnotes:

1. Jacqueline Kasun, “The War Against Population: The economics and Ideology of World Population Control.” (Ignatius: San Francisco, 1999), 110.
2. Ibid. 112.
3. James F. Phillips et al., “Integrating Health Service Components into a Comprehensive Family Planning and Basic MCH Programme: Lessons from the MATLAB Family Planning Health Services Project”, presented at the National Council for International Health and Family Planning, Washington, D.C., June 10-13, 1984. quoted in Jacqueline Kasun, “The War Against Population: The Economics and Ideology of World Population Control.” (Ignatius: San Francisco, 1999), 113.
4. See Jacqueline Kasun. 121-2.
5. See Jacqueline Kasun. 110.

Ricki Lake: New Feminist?

I learned recently that former talk show hostess Rick Lake has begun work on another documentary concerning women’s health. This one, called Sweetening the Pill, has me really excited because it supposedly is going to be focused on shedding light on the facts about how dangerous hormonal contraceptives are to women’s bodies and will explore alternatives to the suppression of women’s natural fertility.

Lake’s famous documentary, The Business of Being Born, which came out in 2008, and the subsequent film More Business of Being Born (2011) focused an investigative eye on the current birth practices in our country. The theme of these films is that women’s bodies and births are being commoditized by pushing expensive measures and procedures that increase risks of complications in birth. She uses her own natural home birthing experience and interviews with midwives and mothers to advance the natural birth movement’s belief that women’s bodies know what to do in giving birth. Others need to just get out of the way and support them to do it.

The focus of her newest documentary makes perfect sense to me if she is to follow the logic she used in The Business of Being Born. If women’s bodies know how to birth and women are capable of giving birth without expensive medical intervention, then why would managing our fertility be any different? The suppression of our natural cycles of ovulation and menstruation is big business to pharmaceutical companies and depends on women buying into the notion that they are not capable of understanding their bodies’ natural rhythms.  Like childbirth, fertility awareness and family planning can be done all naturally, and the evidence is out there to prove that it is safer and healthier for everyone involved in both cases.

As I was writing this post I was reading more about Ricki Lake’s work on women’s health.  I was going to say that logically following the progression of her work we should expect to see a film about breastfeeding next from her. As lactation is the last of the three physical Feminine Abilities of ovulation, gestation, and lactation, it would make perfect sense for her to tell the story about how formula companies have made millions of dollars by convincing mothers over the past 100 years that their own breastmilk was inferior to a manufactured product. That would follow the theme of suppressing a natural ability of the female body for the profit of some corporation or entity, which she shows in her films is being done with childbirth and fertility. I guess Ms. Lake is further along on the path to adopting New Feminist principles than I previously thought as her documentary called Breastmilk was released last year!

I am so excited that a voice in Hollywood is boldly proclaiming that women’s bodies are not broken and that we do not need to suppress and destroy what is unique about them to achieve equality. New Feminists know that being paid the same wage as men and having all the same rights as them is worthless if it requires we give up our Feminine Abilities. We must work to change the culture to meet our needs as women, not change ourselves to fit into a cultural expectation that is based upon childless, working men.

I would be remiss if I didn’t end this with a short acknowledgement that there IS a proper place in women’s healthcare for supplementation to all of the three Feminine Abilities of fertility care, childbirth, and breastfeeding. Of course there are instances where lives are saved through the use of pharmaceutical therapies, childbirth interventions, and formula supplementation. However, these instances of needing intervention are not as common as we currently see them occurring in our culture. The bottom line is that many women have not received proper education about their bodies and thus still feel too intimidated and overwhelmed by the negative cultural influences to believe they are capable of naturally managing any of the abilities of their bodies. Society has convinced us that to be women fully and naturally is not only impossible but irresponsible. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I am hopeful this documentary will address some of these things and I suspect Ms. Lake may one day call herself a New Feminist.

 

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