Dear America…

I was fortunate enough to spend the other day with my room mate reading me poetry by Allen Ginsberg. His poetry is phenomenal and writing as a queer communist in America during the 1950s you can only imagine how banned his books were and how influential.

If you haven’t heard of his poem “America”, you can read the full poem here.

It is so amazing that he addresses America as if the country is a person who is accountable for his or her actions. This is a radical concept and one I’m amazed more people haven’t adopted. One of my best friends has questioned me about my loyalty to America and what I think America means: do I support the idea of America? the literal place?

What am I attached to?

Reading Ginsberg prompted me to write a freewrite of uncensored thoughts of what I would say to America if the country were a person and not an abstract idea. Especially in light of the NSA spying, Americans need to find their voices even more.

Please join me sharing your uncensored thoughts by writing a freewrite titled “Dear America”. A freewrite is where you write constantly for a set period of time-say five minutes-without stopping to think or censor your thoughts but see where they take you.

Here is my freewrite letter to America, exactly how I hand wrote it:

Dear America

Why do you oppress us? Why do you oppress those who stand for freedom and democracy and believe they are worth more than order?

How can you bury us under packages of meat, packages of disease marked as food, labeled as toys or beauty products? The elusive health care.

You bury us under packages and then package us into boxes. The blacks. The whites. The gays. The lesbians. When you can, spare the postage stamp to send us on our way as poster children.

The children of America. The brainwashed, the ignorant.

Able and disabled. You love hierarchies masqueraded under change. Your puppet president Obama has turned “yes we can” into a war cry of inaction.

And that is what you want, America. You want us to suffocate in our packaging and be reborn as true American citizens: the ones who matter.

Straight. White. Cisgender. Rich. Men.

And then in a feast of gluttony you feast on those who did not make the cut.

For shame, America. For shame. But what can I do? I wag my finger, I scream on the page, and you, my country are strong.

You swell with pride when I say those words: my country.

But here’s the thing, America, I own you. We own you. And you, my dear, are in our hands.

Rip open the packaging and see the hand that feeds you. Because it might not be white, straight, cisgender or male. Rip open the packaging and see.

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50 Cents. Period. part 1

I just came back from the most magnificent event. My college is fortunate enough to have hosted Lorrie King, the founder of the women’s health organization 50 Cents. Period.  50 Cents Period is an organization dealing with menstruation in developing countries, focusing currently in Andhra Pradesh, India; the Kathmandu, Sindhupochok, and Karnali portions of Nepal; the Masaka, Kutamba and Kasese portions of Uganda, and Managua, Nicaragua.

As 50 Cent Period explains:

“We believe that every woman has the right to experience her period with dignity. Our mission is to empower women and girls to stay fully in engaged in their lives and educations without the stigma and barriers surrounding their periods.”

The brilliance of this organization is not just in their efforts to promote healthy menstruation or their feminist push for female education. The brilliance is that women like Lorrie King are not afraid to talk about their periods.

On a personal level, this struck me as incredibly fearless in an area that shouldn’t require bravery. And yet I know I struggle to remember that having my period is not a curse. It’s such a taboo subject that even going to CVS to buy pads is a mortifying experience that makes me feel degraded. On some level I can blame the world around me for perpetuating the idea that menstruation is an ugly, terrifying process that distorts the beauty of womanhood. But I know that it is my choice to believe this myth or not.

I must applaud Lorrie King for reminding me that I can view my body’s natural functions as the natural occurrences that they are. I know I am not the only one who struggles with this self perception of womanhood.

I am grateful to King again, because she has agreed to an open interview with me for this blog. I open the floor to you though. Please submit any questions you wish to ask and I’ll forward them to King for the interview. Please get the questions to me by April 12th. After April 12th, submissions will be closed.

  

Pro-Life/Pro-Choice

I was previously unaware that October 16th is the Pro-Life Day of Silent Solidarity. Although my college campus is for the most part quite liberal, there were quite a few fliers and supporters decked out for the occasion  I found myself angry at the Pro-Life supporters who waved fliers with slogans like: “1/3 of our generation didn’t make it”. Some of my friends were involved, wearing red duct tape with the word LIFE scrawled in black sharpie.

What surprised me the most though, was not that the campaign was going on, or that I had friends who participated, but that I was angry at these individuals. My own reaction frightened me. I am used to being able to debate calmly, accept the views of others even if I inherently disagree, but I couldn’t as soon as I saw the posters and the duct tape.

I hated the flyers, where a woman’s mouth was taped over to emphasize the silence of the generation who “didn’t make it”. Why silence the mother? Why not have a poster with a baby with the tape? The advertisement tells me that women should be silenced. I can’t reign myself in when this is the promotional material of the opposing argument. My friends who are women were in support of the day and saw nothing wrong. If our moralities contradict so clearly is it wrong to be upset?

The argument between pro-life and pro-choice sometimes seems as silent as the Pro-Life Day of Solidarity. Political candidates won’t breach the subject because their opinions are so clearly split down party lines. Why would a democrat need to say he or she supports pro-choice when their opinion is written in between the letters of their party? I am angry at this day of solidarity because I do not feel that communication between the two sides is open and I fear that even if it were nothing would be accomplished. I’ve talked to other, far more vocal, women in support of pro-choice who tell me horror stories of debates with those in support of pro-life where the pro-life individual calls them a baby killer and the debate ends there. I’ve had conversations with people who think abortions (like birth control) are a girl’s ticket to be a slut so the government should not support it. In their words: let women claim responsibility for their actions.

I feel I need to address these two arguments separately, and although these are not the only arguments made, I feel  I must address the baby-killers in a different manner than the slut shamers.

First, the baby-killers. Perhaps this is why I fear opening up communication: even the labels people choose to identify themselves with put each other more than at odds. If we are at odds, the two sides would either be Pro-Life and Pro-Death, or Pro-Choice and Con-Choice (for lack of a better word). But    instead by choosing Pro-Life and Pro-Choice it doesn’t feel that we’re even having the same conversation. I personally hate the term Pro-Life because it implies anyone who is of the opposite opinion, must be Pro-Death. Now, I know a lot of liberals and none of them are racing off to kill babies, neither before they are born or after. The ‘you’re a baby-killer’ argument fails on multiple accounts: it not only distances the two groups from having any semblance of a reasonable discussion, but it also uses the wrong terminology because the fetus is not yet a baby, and perhaps not even yet a fetus. So long as these lines are up, separating those who believe in life and those who believe in death there can be no open dialogue.

But perhaps if the labels were changed there could be a discussion with the Pro-Life supporters of the above argument. Things get a bit more complicated when the second argument comes into play. Denying women access to abortions because they deserve to be taught a lesson for having sex is rooted in a deep seated misogyny rather than in labels. Though the two arguments of baby-killing and slut shaming are very often entwined, I feel I must separate the two because my anger feels quite different for the second argument. Perhaps I can forgive those who are bound by labels and associate Pro-Choice with choosing death, but it is much more difficult to forgive those who not only deny women access to reproductive health care on multiple levels, but justify through the age old belief that women’s sexuality is dangerous and immoral. I do not believe that when people make the argument that a woman needs to pay a penalty for having sex that the issue is actually about the unborn child. It is so much more likely that the issue is about controlling women and what better ruse to hide behind than the sanctity of life? Pro-Life then has the advantage of both a religious moral high ground and being on the opposing side against feminists. It makes me sick the lengths people will go to in order to keep women domesticated and sexless objects for the sexual pleasures of one man.

Until I got to college I knew I was Pro-Choice, but I didn’t know why. I would not have gotten angry at those of Pro-Life. I hoped writing this would help me understand my anger, and it has helped to get my thoughts out. Still, I do not know if my anger is justified. I want an open dialogue, but I do not know if I am ready to have this discussion. I present my thoughts to you with the question of anger and where it belongs in morality and politics.

Invalidate me if I’m wrong not because of my sex

It’s nearly impossible to have a conversation about politics in my house. My brother is a Republican who believes feminism is ruining the world. Feminism is the cause of higher divorce rates and teenage pregnancies and abortions. Women are spending their time in higher education instead of looking for husbands. Men are being emasculated. Men are naturally better leaders and more logical than their female counterparts. It only spirals down from there.

My mother, on the other hand, is a Democrat. If she was old enough in the ’60s she would have been a hippie, but present  she’s a yoga teacher and a liberal activist who has no adequate words for her continuing frustration against Romney and the War Against Women. Unfortunately, her passion causes my brother to tell her she’s being over emotional.

This almost ran a collision course the other night when my mother brought up how she would leave the country if Mitt Romney was elected because of his and his party’s misogyny. As far as I know my mother’s claim to move to Canada is a hyperbole, but my brother flat out told her she did not know what she was talking about.

No explanation. Just, “You don’t know what you’re talking about and I don’t want to have this discussion right now.” It was as if he was being the bigger person by calming my mom down and walking away from an ensuing argument. I defended my mother, telling him we did know and we were knowledgeable, but he just continued to explain he did not want to get upset about politics over dinner.

I asked to say one thing and he almost didn’t let me. When I finally convinced him to let me speak I told him “Please do not invalidate our opinions.”

He said okay and the remainder of dinner was served with a heaping portion of awkward.

I write this and I’m afraid I’m vilifying my brother. I love him. He loves me. He loves my mom. But what he did was wrong. It did not make him the bigger person; it made him less.

He reads men’s rights blogs, goes online and argues against feminism (his definition) whenever he can, and this makes him feel politically involved and up to date on current events. He must know more than us. From the biased source material that he reads he, by default, must have more knowledge than the group of people whose rights are being discussed and who are directly affected by the issue. As women, we not only cannot know more, but we are automatically wrong.

I would not mind a chance to debate if he chose to invalidate me and then continue the discussion. I was not given this chance and so it is not about the merit of arguments I could have made or any counter points I might have had in regards to his argument. It is about my sex. As a woman I cannot be involved in politics. It is not even should not be involved because he did not give my mother or I the chance to argue and defend ourselves at all.

The chance to speak out, like our rights to decide how and when we give birth, is being taken from us. In our own home we could not speak out as he would not listen.

Feminism is needed more than ever; speak out for those who are silenced.

Pearl Harbor, 9/11, and August 1st 2012

As of Wednesday August 1st legislation has been implemented that requires health insurance companies to cover women who wish to buy contraception.  This is a compromise drawn up in lieu of the original so that Catholic organizations would not be required to offer insurance plans that involved contraception, just cover women who needed it.

But even the compromise has too much infringement on religious freedom for some Republicans. At a press Conference on Capitol Hill, Pennsylvania Representative Mike Kelly (R) said:

“I know in your mind you can think of times when America was attacked. One is December 7th, that’s Pearl Harbor day.  The other is September 11th, and that’s the day of the terrorist attack. I want you to remember August the 1st, 2012, the attack on our religious freedom. That is a day that will live in infamy, along with those other dates.”

Mike Kelly is not the only Republican speaking out and it is not just men who fear the liberation of women’s sexuality. New York Representative Ann Marie Buerkle (R) is quoted in saying:

“This is a right that every American should be outraged, outraged about what this administration and Secretary Sibelius has set forth here on August the 1st.And as Mike said, August the 1st is a day that we as American will look at as the largest assault on our First Amendment rights.”

So what are we to make of this? My grandfather does not believe there is a war against women. He said he had never heard the term and therefore it must not exist. But what else can this controversy be? When women’s health care is described as a national catastrophe and linked with infringements on religious freedoms it raises the question of what the real issue is. The argument is that women should not have control over their own bodies because religion says so and that the government should keep its hands out of the liberation of half the population because it violates religious freedom. But this conclusion if flawed: to protect religious rights which are not infringed upon other rights are denied based on religion. How is this centrality of religion not medieval?

Treating women and their sexuality with respect and decency is not an attack against the country. Contraception is not a bomb. Contraception is not a foreign power’s attack against the nation. Women’s health care is a right and half the population cannot continue to be marginalized on such a gross and inappropriate scale.

Source: http://firstread.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/08/01/13070876-republican-likens-contraceptive-mandate-to-pearl-harbor-911#.UBlhtwzWnJQ.twitter