How Women Killed The Recent Attempt To Repeal Obamacare

Trump’s campaign-trail promise to “immediately…knock out Obamacare” is proving to be more difficult than the GOP originally anticipated, as we are now over one-hundred and eighty days into the Trump presidency and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is still intact.  Initial attempts to repeal and replace the ACA have led to resistance on both sides of the aisle, with members of Congress expressing concern that the bill written to replace the ACA would not do enough to ensure that low-income individuals had access to health insurance. This fear is a legitimate one, as repealing and replacing the ACA would leave 22 million Americans without healthcare and would also cause out-of-pocket medical payments to increase. Due to these issues (and others), Senate Republicans’ two attempts to dismantle the ACA have failed.

However, the message that the Senate was sending to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell apparently wasn’t getting through, as McConnell decided to vote on repealing the ACA without a replacement earlier this week. This decision posed a very real threat to Americans, as repealing the ACA without a replacement–a decision that Trump has supported in the past–would leave 32 million Americans without access to healthcare and would “blow up the insurance markets.” Those who support the ACA were waiting for this vote with bated breath–but it never came to pass.

The morning of July 17, three GOP Senators–Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Susan Collins of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska–all announced they would nix the repeal of the ACA should it come to a vote. These refusals, due to the laws of the Senate, halted the repeal attempt in its tracks. When asked why she voted against her party’s platform, Senator Murkowski said “I cannot vote to proceed to repeal [the ACA] without reform that allows people the choice they want, the affordability they need, and the quality of care they deserve.”

Though these three Senators’ views on other issues don’t align with mine (or Minnesota NOW’s) their stand against McConnell’s risky attempt to repeal the ACA without a replacement plan is a reminder that the fight to save the ACA is still alive and kicking, and getting support from unlikely places.

Update: On July 25, 2017 Senate Republicans voted to open debate on the healthcare bill. Two Republicans — Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) — voted no. 

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Efforts to Repeal the Affordable Care Act

Yes, Donald Trump is president of the United States of America and yes, he is the Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces. And yes, he immediately went to work, in lock-step with Congress, dismantling healthcare programs. Massive demonstrations here in Minnesota, across the country, and around the world did nothing to dissuade him or Congress from pursuing a course of action that may well prove to be detrimental to the health and well-being of many families in this country.

As one of his first acts as president, Mr. Trump signed the “MINIMIZING THE ECONOMIC BURDEN OF THE PATIENT PROTECTION AND AFFORDABLE CARE ACT PENDING REPEAL” executive order on January 20, 2017.

In this executive order, Mr. Trump clearly states his intention to repeal the Affordable Care Act. There is no mention of a replacement plan.

Per section 2 of the order, governmental agencies may, at their discretion, deny services authorized by the Act. Some of the agencies that provide healthcare services are Health and Human Services, the Department of Defense, the Department of Veteran Affairs, Social Security Administration, Indian Health Services and others.

Sec. 2. To the maximum extent permitted by law, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (Secretary) and the heads of all other executive departments and agencies (agencies) with authorities and responsibilities under the Act shall exercise all authority and discretion available to them to waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement of the Act that would impose a fiscal burden on any State or a cost, fee, tax, penalty, or regulatory burden on individuals, families, healthcare providers, health insurers, patients, recipients of healthcare services, purchasers of health insurance, or makers of medical devices, products, or medications.”

In the most extreme scenario, all healthcare services presently authorized by the Act could be summarily halted. Imagine the impact this would have on women, men, and children across the country! More likely, there will be an erosion of services over a period of time as classes of conditions and/or groups of people are excluded.

This action by Mr. Trump is a danger to the health and welfare of many women and families in the United States.

The President and Members of Congress all have great healthcare plans totally paid for by us, the taxpayers. Apparently, the rest of us aren’t entitled to economical healthcare and prescription medications.

Contact your representatives and let them know that we all deserve access to high-quality, affordable healthcare.

Feminism and Eating Disorders: NEDA Week 2016

This post was written by Colleen, a high school student and Minnesota NOW volunteer.

This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Given that I am both a feminist and an eating disorder (ED) warrior, I want to take this opportunity to discuss how feminism and eating disorders are inextricably linked, in more ways than meet the eye.

First, and foremost, eating disorders are a mental reflection of the ridiculous beauty standards perpetuated by social sexism. This is NOT to say that seeing paper thin models or those ludicrous health crazes in magazines causes eating disorders – they are complex, multifaceted illnesses that are influenced by genetics, environment, and biology, among other factors. However, the extremely unhealthy and unrealistic body image ideals our society promotes definitely influence those with eating disorders, as well as those without them. It is impossible to ever meet the requirements of what is considered “beautiful” in our society: tall but not too tall, thin but not emaciated, big butt/boobs but not too big, no acne, no blemishes, skilled at makeup, toned arms, etc., etc… This list diminishes the self-esteem and body positivity of practically anyone who reads it, and promotes the unhealthy ideals that a disordered mind believes. Not to mention that many of our society’s beauty standards are heteronormatively sexual in nature… but that’s another blog post.

Second, eating disorders are linked to feminism in how they touch on women taking up space. This idea may illicit a “huh?” at first, but bear with me as I explain. For me, I can definitely link my struggle with anorexia to the idea of women taking up space. Our society has come a looooong way in terms of the prevalence of sexism; no one can deny that. And yet there still are ingrained elements of sexism, many of which are subtle nuances that often have to do with women taking up space. Think about how much women apologize, even when it’s not necessary to apologize – like when someone else bumps into them or they contribute an idea in a discussion. (Check out this startling video on how quotidian a habit this is). That is nuanced sexism – women defaulting to apologies for taking up space, metaphorically and physically. 

In my struggle with anorexia, I focused a lot on losing weight and being thinner – taking up less space. I thought that by taking up less space, I would be better in every way. But really, taking up less space than you’re meant to only deprives the world and yourself of the wonderful contributions you bring to the table. On the flip side, women are often more judged than men for bigger sizes, both literally and metaphorically. Women who speak out and get involved, thus taking up “more space” in a figurative sense, are often judged as “bitchy” or “bossy.” I do want to emphasis that eating disorders are NOT about the food, and there is NOT one body type that indicates that someone is struggling with anorexia or bulimia or EDNOS or BED, contrary to what the media often portrays (the emaciated model type). I choose to talk about the size aspect in this post, both in the small and large sense, to show how feminism and eating disorders are paralleled in numerous ways. 

Lastly, eating disorders relate to feminism in that women are often shamed for needing and pursuing the two things all humans are programmed to need: food and sex. I find it fascinating from a sociological standpoint that humans are programmed to need sustenance and sexual interaction, and yet we live in a society where food is potently tied to value judgments and sex has become a power play that can change someone’s self-worth at the drop of a hat. I’m going to elaborate here on the food piece as it is more pertinent to the subject matter at hand. We all need food, and yet eating “too much” (which is a blatant disregard for the fact that everyone’s bodily needs are completely unique and no blanket calorie amount works for everyone) suddenly makes one seem “gluttonous,” “fat,” and “greedy.” This especially affects young girls–it’s interesting how when a teenage boy gets seconds, it’s deemed okay because “he’s growing!” and yet when a teenage girl does the same, there are usually comments on how much she’s eating. (News flash: teenage girls grow too! We all need food! Wow!)

Feminism and eating disorders are linked in other ways too – think affordable nutrition and the poverty cycle, access to healthcare, etc. The aforementioned reasons are but three of many. I encourage everyone to start/continue this discussion, especially during this week. Eating disorders are life-threatening illnesses that never take a day off, so I encourage everyone to use this NEDA Week to stand in solidarity with all those who fight their inner demons each and every day.

Here are some great links to find out more about eating disorders, prevention, treatment, and how you can help:

http://theprojectheal.org/6-things-you-shouldnt-say-to-someone-with-an-eating-disorder/

http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/

https://beatingeatingdisorderspage.wordpress.com/2015/10/06/what-is-anorexia/

I should have been in a theater on Monday night

On Monday night I should have been in a theater watching Invisible War with 116 people who want to fix a broken military judicial system that enables the continuation of pervasive sexual assault. Sadly, MN NOW and our co-sponsors fell 50 people short of the required 117 tickets sold to screen Invisible War.

I first saw Invisible War a couple years ago when Gender Justice organized a screening, and I was so disappointed in how few people showed up. They did nothing wrong in how they marketed the screening. There was no other event that any of us knew about that was drawing away any possible audience. They even lined up an amazing panel of experts to discuss the film and answer questions. To this day, I don’t know why more people didn’t show up, but I was determined to screen it again. But once again, we didn’t get the turnout that the movie deserved. We didn’t get the turnout that the survivors deserve.

So why? Maybe our potential audience was distracted because they were busy with Get out the Vote efforts. The election was on November 4, and our deadline to sell 117 tickets was just three days later on November 7. Maybe, maybe not. I have a few other thoughts about why people aren’t showing up to see this important movie.

A friend tells me that it’s available on Netflix, so why would someone pay for a ticket to see it? I’m glad that it’s on Netflix and hopefully reaching a wide audience, but I see a definite value in screening it for a group. When I saw it, I received the benefit of expert panelists who could address questions from the audience. I attended the movie with a friend who had survived sexual violence in the military, and her insights were invaluable. Additionally, this movie will challenge your heart and soul. It is not easy to watch. I would recommend that you have someone to emotionally support you after watching it.

At my social media seminar today, the organizer pulled up a meme of a baby with a scrunched up face. All of the attendees giggled, and he made the point that he chose that image because all of us in the room had some connection to the image (one pregnant lady and two doting aunties in the room), and that is why it appealed to us. The point of the lesson was that people respond to familiar and appealing images. Perhaps we don’t relate to the experience of the woman soldier on the promotional materials and so we feel somewhat removed from their lives.

I hope that the people who read this will share your thoughts about why people didn’t show up for the viewing, because we are not deterred. We will find a way to screen the movie, because the message is too important not to share.

The isolation that any rape survivor feels is multiplied times ten when it happens in the military. The process of military justice is not conducive to justice for survivors at all. Imagine if your boss raped you, and he was your only means of obtaining justice. Imagine being stationed in the middle of nowhere, and having to work alongside your rapist(s) day after day with no independent venue for justice.

This is why it is important for us to show up in droves to view Invisible War, even if we don’t serve in the military.

Here are some of the truths shared in Invisible War:

“Service members must report rape to their commanders. However, if their commanders take action and prove that rape occurred, they also prove a failure of their own leadership.”- Brian Lewis, who was 20 years old when he was raped while in the Navy.

14 percent of female veterans report experiences of gang rape.

About 40 percent of victims in one study indicated that the perpetrator was their ranking officer.

One-third of victims indicate that the perpetrator was a ranking officer’s friend.

“I was repeatedly drugged and raped by several of my superior officers over a nine-month period. …There was no one I could turn to because, like so many victims of sexual assault in the military, my attackers were in my chain of command. So I kept my mouth shut.” – Testimony of Trina McDonald, who was 18 when she was stationed in Alaska and assaulted.

62 percent of victims who reported sexual assault experienced retaliation.

Heath X reported that he was gang raped, told he was lying, threatened, bullied, assaulted again and tried to commit suicide all during his first month in the service. He left, became homeless, was incarcerated and was diagnosed as suffering “intense psychological pain.” He was taken to a naval jail, and then returned to his post where he had to serve with the “gang of molesters” that had attacked him before. He faced court-martial or dishonorable discharge. He was denied benefits because he was dishonorably discharged. He was 18.

90 percent of survivors of sexual assault in the military are involuntarily discharged.

80 percent of perpetrators and those accused are discharged with honor.

Kori Cioca was serving in the US Coast Guard when she was raped by a commanding officer. He also broke her jaw, leaving her with lifelong pain and serious depression. When she attempted to bring him to justice, she was informed by her commanding officer that she’d be court martial as a liar. The commanding officer admitted that an assault happened, but said it didn’t include rape. As such, he was only restricted to his base for 30 days without pay for a short time.

By the terms of the current military legal code of justice system a general’s decision to overturn a jury verdict is the final word.

If you find these truths to be disturbing, I encourage you to see and hear them directly from the survivors’ mouths. MN NOW will continue our efforts to screen this movie again in the Twin Cities, with your help.

~Beth Johnson, MN NOW President

This is dedicated to my dear friend, who passed away last year from injuries related to a serious drinking problem. She drank to numb the memory of the rape committed by her training officer while she was serving our country.

~The chances of a female veteran developing PTSD are nine times more likely if she has been sexually assaulted.

~Military victims of violent assault or rape are 6 times more likely to attempt suicide than service members and veterans who have not experienced sexual assault and rape.

Let’s Talk About Sexual Violence in the Military

The American military is an institution founded in patriotism and shrouded in the mystique of brotherhood and love of country. I’m grateful for the important and life-threatening responsibilities that the men and women of our military undertake on a daily basis. I also know that it’s something I could never do. The aim of this post is not to question the bravery of those who serve our country but to express my anger with how the U.S. military handles instances of sexual assault.

I read an alarming statistic the other day in my research about sexual assault in the military — a female soldier is more likely to be assaulted by a fellow soldier than killed in combat. Also, women make up 15% of armed forces, but 47% of sexual assault cases. Although women are ‘allowed’ to serve in the military along side men, in terms of their own bodily autonomy they are certainly not equal.

Soldiers — both men and women — who report sexual assault are subjected to lifelong consequences that affect their physical and emotional wellbeing as well as their career. Ninety percent of sexual assault survivors in the armed forces are involuntarily discharged. The perpetrators of these crimes aren’t usually punished in any way. In fact, 80% of those accused are actually discharged with honor.

I recently rediscovered an article in Huffington Post that lists 50 powerful and eye opening statistics about sexual assault in the military — and links to the original articles and research for your reference. I found that reading these statistics and other studies and watching “The Invisible War,” has made me realize how frequently sexual assault occurs in the military and that it’s a huge problem we have yet to solve.

We’d love to hear feedback from anyone who has served in the armed forces about their experiences with sexual assault — whether it was something you witnessed, experienced, or came across while you were serving. If you have something to contribute, please sound off in the comments or Tweet to us at @Minnesota_NOW using the hashtag #NotInvisible.

We are co-sponsoring a screening of the Invisible War on November 17th at St. Anthony Main Theater, and hosting a discussion with a panel of experts after our screening. If you haven’t seen The Invisible War, or even if you have, I highly suggest you make the time to watch it with us — we need folks from all perspectives to truly create a well-rounded discussion.

Get your tickets here!

Selfies – Part 2

By: Colette Hayward

Part 2:

I recently wrote my first blog post on selfies discussing some of the problems I have seen in social media recently. As a person who does not take selfies regularly, I have a biased opinion because I am somewhat opposed to the idea. After some discussion with my Women’s Studies advisor, the point was raised that there are actually benefits to selfies. Selfies are taking over the world and I will elaborate in the next few paragraphs about the benefits rather than the faults as I had previously discussed in this blog post, Selfies – Part 1.

Typing “selfies” into Google will bring up a wide array of articles, blogs, and photos of people, many of which are of half-naked women. However, I also was able to find an article exclaiming that selfies are empowering women everywhere. Twitter and Instagram feminist users are using #feministselfie to label these photos and many bloggers are discussing the idea. The argument here is that individuals who might not fit into the typical white, thin, heterosexual societal norms are able to take a picture and post it online for millions of people to view if the individual so wishes. For people in minority categories, this is a huge step in the right direction. I see it as a way to tell the world, “This is who I am. Accept me or don’t, I don’t care either way.” Women who fit the beauty ideals of western culture might not understand the struggle other women have with taking photos and accepting their physical appearance as beautiful. I am a white female, but I am not thin. In fact, I think I would be considered obese if I asked a doctor. I have struggled with my weight for a long time and still have a hard time considering myself beautiful when I take a photo with my “skinny” friends. Feminism has been a way for me to escape the beauty standards and it has helped me realize I am beautiful even if I don’t look like the celebrities in magazines and on TV. On the blog Bustle, Amy McCarthy wrote, “take your selfies peeps—they’re one way to say ‘fuck you’ to the body standards that have made us miserable for so long.”

Recently, feminist website Jezebel wrote an article claiming that selfies are “a cry for help” and it created quite an uproar on the internet with women explaining how wrong selfies are. Jezebel’s Erin Gloria Ryan wrote that selfies are further forcing girls to conform to society’s beauty standards. This is the point over which people argued. I agree to some extent with Ryan because I don’t think the majority of selfies are taken spur the moment and posted online. Some of them are edited while others were preceded by twenty “bad” pictures. However, when used in the right manner, for instance the way Amy McCarthy does, selfies are absolutely not a cry for help. I appreciate what Ryan was trying to say but I think that she chose to stereotype all women and failed to see the groups of women who are using selfies to boost their self-esteem and feel more beautiful. The claim that women are the only people who take selfies is also absurd. I know plenty of men who take selfies and thoroughly enjoy it. Many of the outraged bloggers labeled Jezebel’s post as a form of girl-hate, which is something we are trying to eliminate not encourage. I think Jezebel could have written a piece that wasn’t so angry and the point would have been equally as clear!

The final point I am trying to make here is this: selfies are not going away anytime soon so accept them for what they are—a form of self-expression. If you aren’t a fan of the trend then don’t participate in it, but also remember it is unnecessary to shame other women who do enjoy them. Society already has so many other oppressing forces for women to face, why attack something that is helping some people feel better about themselves. If you really can’t get over the selfie trend then I think you should take a look at a new term, the “belfie”. I am wrapping up this post now, but before you type that word into Google just know it is a butt selfie, and many women are taking part in it. I think this is much more degrading for women and I also think it is centered around the beauty ideals that feminist women fight so hard to eliminate. The belfie is a new trend and I hope it isn’t here to stay because I would much rather get a selfie of my friend’s face than a belfie of her butt, or her new underwear, etc. Until next time…

Selfies

By: Colette Hayward

Part I:

As a young feminist I have an interesting perspective on the world, women, LGBTQ rights, and anything that affects underprivileged, underappreciated, and underrepresented groups. The world right now is full of amazing men and women, many of whom think in a similar manner as me and are expressing those views largely through social media. I have never written
a blog about feminism, though I have actively discussed and regurgitated information I discovered around the internet. Blogging as a form of activism is tricky. It can be extremely beneficial for many reasons, one of which being that it is a personal collection of thoughts, reactions, rants, and perspectives on a variety of topics that can allow another individual the
opportunity to feel like they aren’t alone in the world. For my first blog as the Communications Intern at Minnesota NOW I would like to discuss the concept of “selfies” and how they are miraculously changing the world.

I would like to begin by saying that I am a twenty two-year-old female who doesn’t actively take selfies for the simple fact that I think they are annoying most of the time and not all that interesting. Thanks to cell phone apps like Instagram and SnapChat selfies are taking over the world. I didn’t realize how popular they were until I discovered that selfie was Oxford
Dictionaries Word of the Year in 2013. Hmm…apparently, I am not trendy enough to understand the purpose of taking hundreds of photos of myself and plastering them all over the internet. I am currently a women’s studies and anthropology double major and I honestly don’t know where people find the time to take twenty pictures in a row of themselves , hoping to find one good one to immediately post onto a social media site and looking for everyone to tell them how beautiful they are. Recently I saw articles about selfies causing a major lice epidemic due to people putting their heads together to get a shot of the group while one person awkwardly holds their
hand out to take the photo. Now this is worst-case scenario I realize, but it makes me think twice when bunches of people want to squeeze in for a photo together!

It should be common knowledge nowadays that social media sites can be dangerous for women and body image problems, but as with many women’s issues, it falls on deaf ears as far as attempting to fix the problem. Currently there is an IOS app called SkinneePix that promises to remove 5-15 pounds off your figure after you finish editing the selfie of your choice. They should just call it the YourFat app and see if that sells because that is what I thought of when I heard about it. I could preach all day long about how all women are beautiful and how important it is to be comfortable in your own skin, but I feel like the odds are against me when things like the SkinneePix app are created. It is Hollywood Photoshop for dummies and depressed is all I feel after investigating it further. Another report online discussed how selfies are causing mental illness now. Narcissism is the first thing that came to mind but alas it was actually about body dismorphic disorder. It sounds to me like the SkinneePix app is convincing women that they aren’t good enough, along with magazines, celebrities, and the rest of the popular media out there. I asked several of my selfie-obsessed friends how many photos they take before getting a good one and they all said quite a few, five being the smallest number.

Why are we evaluating ourselves so harshly and why are we concerned about a bad angle or a stray hair? I don’t have a solution to fix the selfie addiction that is spreading everywhere, but I do think women should rethink the way they evaluate themselves. Whether you are obsessed with taking selfies or completely repulsed by the concept, the reality is that they exist and in some cases have caused quite a few problems. Do me a favor and tell someone they are beautiful today. I have yet to find a person who dislikes hearing it and everyone is beautiful in their own way. Stop accepting society’s beauty standards as what you should expect from
yourself and see if it increases your own self-esteem. Remember what Aibileen Clark said in The Help, “You is kind, you is smart, you is important”.