Did We Turn the Tide for Equality?

Did we turn the tide for equality? Time…and our members…will tell.

Every vote counts. Tired of hearing that? You still don’t believe it, even after the Minnesota Senate race recount? Then consider this: our new National NOW leaders won by a margin of eight votes.

Minnesota NOW arrived in Indianapolis, Indiana with a delegation of eight strong, dedicated feminists of all ages, occupations…and both genders…for the National NOW Conference, held July 19 – 21. Doing the math, our delegates just might have turned the election. See the power of your vote now?

Although the winning slate campaigned for only five weeks, delegates elected the Feminist Leadership NOW team of Terry O’Neill, President; Bonnie Grabenhofer, Executive VP; Minnesota’s own Erin Matson (yes!), Action VP; and Allendra Letsome, Membership VP. They campaigned on sisterhood, action, collaboration, results…and good old grassroots women’s power and action. I firmly believe this is what NOW needs…do you agree?

Get to know your new leadership team. They’ve pledged to lead as peers, to listen to us, to work for us, and to be accountable to us. Read their Feminist Leadership NOW blog http://feministleadershipnow.wordpress.com to learn more about their philosophy. Check out the National NOWweb site, too – they officially took office in Washington, D.C. on July 21.

Plenaries, workshops, and socializing, oh my.

We did more than just campaign, discuss candidate merits, debate, and visit hospitality suites. Conference attendees heard from women imparting wisdom and wit as plenary speakers, and leading us in discussion and debate during an overwhelming number of workshops.

 The first woman we heard from was Shirley Harrington-Watson of the Civil Rights Division at the United States Department of Agriculture. Yes, the USDA sponsored the National NOW Conference. As a woman in the ag industry, I chuckled…and then felt pretty proud (FYI, 43% of USDA employees are women).

 Plenaries that followed included journalist/author/activist Barbara Ehrenreich; Lulu Flores, President of the National Women’s Political Caucus; Donna Smith (seen SiCKO? that’s her); Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner (running for U.S. Senate); Wisconsin Representative Gwen Moore; Reverend Dr. Katherine Ragsdale, president/dean of the Episcopal Divinity School; Dr. Julianne Malveaux, president of Bennett College; and outgoing NOW president Kim Gandy.

 Workshops focused on issues and action including sexual/domestic violence; retirement; finances; sexual health; marriage equality; prison advocacy; Islamic fundamentalism; changing media/policy with feminist voices; Title IX; states limits on women’s reproductive rights; reforming welfare; challenges of young women; classism/racism in auto insurance; CEDAW, trafficking, global feminism; family court; health care reform; and the Organizing and Political Institute tracks.

Turning the Tide for Equality, the 2009 Conference theme, fits the philosophy of the new National leadership and of MN NOW. Watch for more about MN NOW’s fresh plans for our organization…and the strong push to return to our (grass)roots.

In Sisterhood,

Jessica K. Trites Rolle

Feminist, MN NOW Legislative Coordinator

MPR on sex ed, teen pregnancy, and the CDC compilation report

First link in this post…
After years of requiring sex education, reducing teen pregnancy and HIV infections remains a stubborn problem particularly among adolescents of color. A look at what’s next for addressing the major health challenges for teens.

The statistics and honest conversation from some of the callers isn’t surprising (maybe will be to some?), but the show is very good, something everyone – even childless people like me – should hear. And there are links to the study on the MPR page. 

...and here’s the second link:

Improvements in Sexual and Reproductive Health of Teens and Young Adults Slowing, After a period of improvement, trends in the sexual and reproductive health of U.S. teens and young adults have flattened, …

This is the official CDC Press Release. The link to the site with the full report (downloadable PDF, bottom of page) is at the bottom of the release page.

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So, what were your experiences with sex education?  Did you have comprehensive sex ed?  When did it start?  Was it from mom or dad or another relative or trusted adult (or physician)?  Or was it in school?  If you received sex ed in school, does that school still offer it, or are they “abstinence only” now?

I’m from a small town in west central MN (Henning – it’s in Ottertail County, and has a whopping 738 people).  I did get sex ed in 6th grade from the school nurse.  Now, it was pretty basic, and really didn’t get into contraception, but it explained in blunt terms what all the parts were, how they worked, and how those boy and girl parts worked together.  Yeah, we all giggled and turned red, and some of us (me) were already having our periods, so when she talked about that, some of us sat up a little straighter and listened…we could…get pregnant?  But I’m 12!  Wow.

To be honest, I don’t know what happens in Henning today, but I’m going to ask a teacher/friend who is still there.  Do the same – find out what happened in your school.

And two things I thought were poigniant in the MPR radio program above:

  1. Parents need counseling and coaching to be comfortable with their OWN sexual health and knowledge so they can have those important discussions and open a dialogue with their kids.
  2. Even though the info wasn’t necessarily surprising, the interviews/conversations drew out the right points, AND pointed out how the move away from being comprehensive has been accompanied by an increasing rate of unplanned pregnancies in teens and very young women, and thus a growing rate of abortion.

So come on, anti-choice folks: If you REALLY want to reduce abortion, which I question considering your lack of support for education and birth control (hey, what would you have to rail against if abortion went down to a tiny figure?), you should support comprehensive sex ed.  AND you need to support education of parents and of communities about teen sex, sexual health, and discussing sex with kids.

Reproductive rights/freedom/health…collectively, women’s health.  This is my issue, your issue, a MN NOW issue!

I’ll be reading through the report.  I ask you to do the same, and then consider how we help.  And post it here.

An urgent message from Ohio NOW

From our colleague Diane Dodge, State President of Ohio NOW:

Felonious Assault at an Akron Abortion Clinic

Monday, July 20, 2009

The antis have been getting louder and braver since the election of President Obama. Then on May 31st, we had the tragic shooting of Dr. Tiller at the door of his church. The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) is supposed to protect clinics, clinic workers, clients and their families. Sadly, those of us who work at the clinics, who have done clinic escort, who have gone to the clinic as a patient or accompanying a family member or friend have experienced first hand how intimidating and terrifying the anti’s can be, and how the laws that should protect us and our right to an abortion often fail.

The clinic in Akron, Ohio has been the site of a protest every Saturday morning for years. There are the regulars with their signs and bibles, some who stand quietly and pray others who are much more verbal and intimidating. There are the in your face group, who try to stop people from entering the clinic, threaten, intimidate and occasionally try to push or grab. And now we have the Jericho Riders, self proclaimed Motorcycle Ministers, warriors for Jesus Christ, who have declared war on abortion, gays, and sinners. Their website states ” Those of you who would call truth HATE, simply HATE the truth! The site proclaims they are unashamed, unafraid and unapologetic. And even offers a warning before you enter the site www.jerichoriders.com. There posted on the missions calendar every Saturday from 0800 until 1200 -1300 in front of the Murder Mill at 839 East Market, Akron, Ohio.

And it was there while defending the clinic and a woman’s right to choose that Charles Wright, a long time Akron Area NOW member and activist was beaten to the ground on Saturday morning. Wright who was unconscious, was taken to the hospital where he spent the night in the ICU. Fortunately, he was not hurt seriously and was released from the hospital on Monday with a few broken ribs and bruises. When I talked to him at the hospital Sunday, he told me he was hesitant about going to the clinic because the antis were getting more aggressive. He also stated that though he will continue to believe in a woman’s right to choose, he was not sure he was willing to put himself in danger outside of a clinic again.

These sentiments were also expressed by another NOW member who on July 8, 2009 was instrumental in helping get a guilty verdict of Criminal Trespass against an anti at the same clinic. She has been grabbed and threatened and does not feel safe going to the clinic again. Her question to me was “Where are the police? Why aren’t they protecting the clinic, its workers and clients?

The good news is that it seems the Akron Police are taking the attack against Wright seriously. The charges are to be Felonious Assault. NOW along with many other prochoice and gay rights groups will be watching to make sure they do their job. We will be meeting in the near future to discuss the violence and what we can do to help protect the clinic, workers and patients. We cannot allow the antis to succeed in closing down another clinic. We cannot walk away from our sisters in need. We cannot allow hatred to win. We must stand together against violence and speak out against discrimination and hatred.

In sisterhood,

Diane Dodge
President
Ohio NOW

Bollywood Tries To Balance American Ideals With Indian Ones

I’m a huge fan of Bollywood movies (Indian films with lots of singing, dancing  and color). So when I noticed this article I was particularly intrigued. Apparently many Bollywood actresses have begun, in the tradition of the unrealistic American body idea, begun shedding pounds in a trend that is moving towards the size zero and eating disorders common among Hollywood actresses.

To which I can say nothing but, this is a tragedy. One of the things I’ve admired about Bollywood is its ability to represent more realistic body ideals in women. These actresses have always seemed much more, for the lack of a better word, plausibly beautiful. It seems like a loss to give them the same unrealistic and less naturally beautiful look of the American actress.

In a funny twist, however, the above article states that Indian men generally still prefer their full-figured, voluptuous icons of old. How interesting, men still like real women…

Rebecca Booth on HPV Vaccine

Here’s a great piece written by an obstetrician and gynecologist over on Huffington Post, Why My Daughter Is Getting the HPV Vaccine. It’s a really good explanation of her personal reasons for feeling that any young woman should be vaccinated, even if she doesn’t think she’ll need it.

Democrats For Life of America Boots Pro-Contraception Member

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) was, as he put it, booted from the anti-choice Democratic organization Democrats for Life of America. Why? He thought the movement should include acceptance of contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancies, thus reducing demand for abortion. This seems like a pretty valid point to me, but apparently such a scandalous position gets you kicked out of this group which Rep. Ryan recently described as a fringe group.

Yeah, something about saying that the only way to reduce abortion is to only use sex as a method of conception does seem just the tiniest bit fringe…

Seriously, I just read something saying that over 90% of women will use contraception at some point in their lives. Yet here we have a group of Democrats, supposedly the more liberal of the two parties, claiming that it’s not okay.

Interstingly you can read here about how young people use contraception at a much lower and less effective rate then those over 20. Hmm, but surely that doesn’t encourage them to seek, *gasp* abortions?!?!

Now I’m not with Rep. Ryan on the anti-choice position, but at least he’s actually using some logic. The same cannot be said of the group from which he was recently booted.

Unnecessary Sexism on Fox… What A Shocker

The other day Fox News was doing a segment on President Obama’s Surgeon General which got wildly out of hand, to say the least. Neil Cavuto had a guest named Michael Karolchyk, the owner of a gym, who explained how Dr. Regina Benjamin is too fat to be Surgeon General. Apparently Dr. Benjamin, who with no apparent evidence Mr. Karolchyk alternately described as “size 20” “50 pounds overweight”, 60 pounds overweight” and “obese” would set a bad example for the American people suffering from an obesity epidemic. You can see the video here or see it with comments and a clip of a truly repulsive ad for Mr. Karolchyk’s gym here.

I’m not saying that health shouldn’t be a concern or that obesity is not a health risk particularly prevalent in this country, but to claim with no knowledge of her health that a perfectly lovely woman and presumably highly intelligent doctor is not fit to be Surgeon General because she isn’t model thin is repulsive. Dr. Benjamin is hardly what I’d call morbidly obese, and anyway it is her skill that should be the deciding factor, not her looks. But thank you, Mr. Karolchyk, for showing us that misogyny is far from dead.