In the Spirit of the NASW Code of Ethics: We Don’t Owe Anyone An Explanation

Here is a link to a wonderful account of the personal politics (politics are always personal) of abortion, by Laura Lannes and Candace Russel.  For a very compassionate discussion of the way that women’s reproduction is determined unfairly by racial, economic, and national issues, check out this article, recently posted at Rewire.  And here is an excerpt from that essay:

Eleven years ago I joined the fight for abortion access, after a 14-year-old parent, pregnant again by an adult, told me it was cheaper to pay friends $10 each to beat her up and force miscarriage than it was to afford an abortion. She said she would lose her housing if she was pregnant again, and that it would be easier to explain getting beat up to her family than wanting an abortion.

 

Canada Day

July 1, 2011

Anura, Bipin, Gorima, Nirmala and Krishala sang Happy Birthday to me.  I had brought everyone presents—blue and white ribbons for the big girls, who have long hair, purple barrets for the younger two, and a ping-pong paddle set for Bipin.  We walked to school the way we always do.  We pass the pile of bricks growing steadily smaller next to the house being built, cross the busy intersection, and then go down the road to school, where there live two roosters, an uncertain number of hens and chicks, and a homeless red puppy with a wound on his neck.  I want to rescue the puppy every day.

Shova was upset that no one had come to breakfast today.  She had, after all, gotten up early to cook it.  Even though I had already eaten at the orphanage, I sat down and ate to please her.  I had 3 helpings because it was sooo good: large flat white beans and potatoes in a curry of onion, garlic, ginger, and masala.  I want to cook with her and take lots of notes.

Brendan is still sick and I am worrying about him.  I love fussing over him and mock-threatening to punish him if he doesn’t drink up all his water and take his medicine.

I love love love love love love having him here with me.

I am very happy today.

……

Just back from teaching. Very touched. Darina has been coaching the women to sing happy birthday to me all week long.  They serenaded me right after the Nepali anthem.  Total surprise!  They also brought me flowers and a lovely (well, hideous) plaque that says “Sweet Love/ Best Wishes”.

Exhausted in Nepal

30 June, 2011

Eve of my 51st birthday.  I am tucked into my hard but comfortable bed under a lavender mosquito net in Nepal.    I have views of the mountains from my corner room. The frogs in the fields around the house are making a high-pitched whirring sound that comforts me.  I am here with Brendan who is having yet another attack of the Nepali disease.  He hasn’t eaten all day and can hardly stand, but he did go to work this morning, which impressed me. It’s good for him to be here, psychologically if not physically.

I am utterly exhausted by the business of taking care of people who don’t know or won’t learn how to take care of themselves.  I am also weary from the strain of getting along across cultural and linguistic barriers.

Sughanda and Rupa and Tej are much more generous=hearted than I am.  I see a person who tries to scam other people in to taking care of him or her.  They see the same kind of person, but remain committed to helping and sacrificing.  Modernization has not yet fractured family ties, which are feudal and kin-based here.  I’m conscious of my hypocrisy.  I see how I make judgments about others and their attitudes and behaviors without really understanding what I’m condemning.

Falling asleep.

Missing love.

Required Reading: “GOP: Tax breaks for everyone, except those pregnant teenage rape victims, the dirty whores”

I’m reproducing major portions of Amanda Marcotte’s post because if you are a feminist, you need to read it:

HR3, misleadingly named the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act”, is a perfect storm of everything that’s nasty about the modern, hyper-conservative Republican party.  It’s dishonest, since women who have federal health insurance are already banned from using that money for abortion care.  This bill is actually an attempt to shut down abortion coverage through all private insurance, including employer-provided insurance, which means that it’s beyond even the dreadful Stupak-Pitts amendment/executive order.  Some “small government”.  As Rachel Maddow documented, this bill is just the most egregious example of how the GOP basically hoodwinked the voters.  They ran on “creating jobs”, which they clearly have no intention of doing, since they’re going to be too busy looking for ways to put the screws to everyone they hate, a long list that includes poor people, people who read a lot, gays, and basically all women, but especially the most vulnerable in our society.

Sadly, the mainstream media (outside of a handful of awesome fighters, like Rachel Maddow, Nicholas Kristof, and Bob Herbert) has gotten inured to relentless attacks on women from conservatives, and subsequently fail to properly understand that a bill like this is pure misogyny, with a giant side dose of class warfare.  They’ve failed to cover the nefarious workings of Rep. Chris Smith from New Jersey, who competes regularly in the heavy competition in Congress for the title Biggest Misogynist, and who has made a special pet project out of trying to shut down any foreign aid that would include contraception, and who has accused Secretary Clinton of being a friend to child rapists because she believes child rape victims should get medical care.  But as you’ll see, Chris Smith is actually the worst enemy in Congress a minor victim of rape could have, starting with the fact that he seems to believe they’re lying sluts who need to be punished.

See, HR3 has—like the Hyde Amendment—a provision in it that carves out an exception for rape, incest, and the health/life of the mother. But because anti-choicers like Smith are such ruthless misogynists, they tend to believe the misogynist stereotype that all women, especially those who claim to be ill or victims of crimes, are lying whores until proven otherwise.  Or just lying whores, regardless of the evidence they produce.  And so, to make sure those lying whores don’t get their hands on those delicious, orgasm-inducing uterine scrapings, the bill has language in it that, in essence, assumes that 70% of rape victims weren’t really raped.  The exception is only for “forcible rape”, which is vaguely defined, but in practice tends to mean that anything short of getting your ass beat down means you weren’t “really” raped.  Even if you’re a 13-year-old who was impregnated by a 30-year-old.  Also, if you happen to get pregnant by your abusive, rape-y father on your 18th birthday, you will get no funding to make sure you don’t give birth to your own brother.  Consent is implied if you’re female under these guidelines, and consent to sex with your male relatives is implied the second you turn 18.

Don’t simply stare in speechless disgust.  Get your fingers to work, and talk about this!  Write to your representatives in the House.  Tweet (Marcotte suggets that you tweet against it with the hashtag #dearjohn).

50 at 50: Fires of the Mind

Today I completed my 50th class in 50 days, so I’m at the halfway point in this journey, this experiment that I am carrying on.

As I mentioned before, I haven’t lost an ounce but have changed sizes.  My jeans fit much looser around the waist, hips, and thighs.  I’m not trying to lose weight, but I have begun to eat differently.  I’m way more conscious of how my body feels before and after eating and notice that some foods, such as meat, processed grains (such as bagels or white rice) and, alas, popcorn, seem to move very slowly through the digestive system.  What I have for dinner affects the way I experience yoga at 10 the next morning.  Sometimes this really sucks.

It’s so not about what I look like, but rather about how I feel.  My spine is stronger and more flexible.  My muscles are stronger.  My heart and lungs function more effectively.  My blood carries more oxygen.  “Oxygen!  the greatest nutrient we take in!” my yoga teacher likes to say.  Fire of the body.

In general, I am emotionally fitter.  That is, I feel calmer, more patient, more relaxed than I used to.  Part of that has to do with having a regular practice and finding out that I experience the practice differently each day.  Sometimes I am strong.  Sometimes I am weak.  Sometimes I am very tired and have to sit down a lot.  Sometimes my body does more than I think it can do.   Sometimes I can’t psyche myself into a better pose, and have to accept that.   Each day is just a day.

In general, I’m much more at peace with myself.  Around day 40, however, I thought that perhaps I was having a breakdown.  Intense waves of rage, or misery, or sorrow, or impatience, seemed to be sweeping over me unpredictably and irrationally.  The slightest thought, or sight, could bring tears.  At around day 40, I seemed to begin every single class in the bathroom stall, crying for no apparent reason.    Then I’d get through the class and the extreme emotions–I’m going to call them the fires of the mind–would dissipate.

I asked my teachers and other students about this.  Could it be that this had something to do with the process?  The common wisdom is that the first 30 days are physical, the second 30 days are physiological, and the final 30 days emotional.  But most of the women I spoke to (I didn’t know any of the men well enough to ask them about it) said that they, too, had gone through similar periods of intense feeling, waves of seemingly irrational and often overwhelming emotion.  Many of them said that this process brings issues they had been denying or repressing to the surface.  Some said that they were simply becoming more aware of what they were feeling.

Meditating and staring at yourself in the mirror for 90 minutes a day at 105 degrees makes it rather difficult to avoid yourself.  You’re simply going to have to come to terms with whatever it is that you are, or, rather, however it is that you are.   Another one of my teachers recently said to me, “K,  you’ve got to realize that you’re just fine.”  There is nothing to complain about.  She gets impatient with me when I start to make excuses for my inability to do the poses the way I want to.   And who could blame her?

At any rate, just finding out that the fires of the mind were normal seems to have settled them down.  That is, I’ve done nothing different but I feel better.   But that’s not entirely true.  I have done something different.  I’ve made a more conscious effort to pay attention to myself and to accept whatever I find here.

Honestly, I’d like to lose weight.  But the journey seems to be taking me to the mirror of self-acceptance and away from the mirror of self-criticism.  Maybe the weight will come off, maybe it won’t.  It’s more important to me to feel good–supple, flexible, strong, and calm– than to feel thin.   For now.  In general.  Thinness is way overrated anyways.

Day 19

Day 19.  It was good to hear that F M, who is also on day 19 in the challenge, had a lousy day today, especially since I have been having some pretty crummy times in class lately.  She’s a roller-derby queen.  I think her real name is M.  She doesn’t like it as much as her derby name, Fannie Mayhem, which, you have to admit, is pretty cool.

I liked her the first moment I saw her.  She has a beautiful smile, great teeth, very white, which she flashes a lot at you.  Her face lights up when she speaks, and she looks at you directly, usually with a smile.  Plus she is very frank.  She announced to all of us in the locker room in the very first week that she had to do this challenge because she has gained so much weight since she started skating.  And then she told us exactly how much she weighs, and how old she is, and other things, like what it’s like to be in the roller derby.

Anyway, she’s great.  And it is great to be able to say to each other, today is day x….  But I think she’s going to stop at Day 30, which will be hard for me, since I’ve taken the challenge for 100 days in a row.

I had to do it because I’m pretty lazy, and would come up with all kinds of reasons not to go if I hadn’t publicly announced that I was going for the big run.  My name is up on the poster board in the studio, and every day I get to put a sticker to mark off my accomplishment.  Since most of the names up there are followed by 90 or 100 or more stickers, my little run of 19 lady bugs, happy faces, gold coins, and penguins looks pretty short.  But it’s longer than it was a week ago.

As I’ve probably mentioned, I’m doing this primarily out of curiosity.  To see if my body will change, as everyone assures me it will, to see HOW it will change, and to see if I can do something for 100 days straight.  It’s a long time for me to stay in one place.  I can’t even leave for the weekend.

What else.  I’m starting to make friends.  Mayhem and four other women from the roller derby signed up at the same time, all on a groupon.  They’re quite a bit younger than I am.   I like imagining how it might be to be a roller-derby skater, at my age, roaring around the rink, smashing into women, getting all my aggression out.  I think I’d like it a lot.  I wouldn’t shave the sides of my head, as Mayhem has, but I’d enjoy drawing attention to myself in other ways, by wearing some ridiculous pink outfit, for example.

What’s interesting is finding out who all shows up every single day.  A certain solidarity builds up over time.  What’s more interesting is that the people who do show up every day are not all incredibly skinny.  Some of them are quite round, even rounder and fatter than I am.

Maybe because you really do get incredibly sweaty–I mean the sweat streaming off you patters on your mat like rain, and your face gets really red in the heat, if you have a complexion like mine, and you have to pull your hair back into a pretty tight pony tail to keep it from driving you mad–and because it is impossible to look good doing this, the practice does not appeal to princesses or glamour girls.   Many of us may indeed look glamorous (and yes, the teachers certainly do) after getting cleaned up.  But you don’t see the kind of women you often see in gyms who appear to be wearing brand-new, tight, sexy little outfits every time they show up, and who actually wear make-up on the floor.   It would be severely stupid to wear mascara or foundation to bikram.

OK, some of the yoginis flaunt their incredibly thin bodies in incredibly tiny shorts and bras, but that is not because they’re showing off but rather because they want to have a little fabric next to their skin as possible.   And plenty of the fleshier women wear the same sort of thing.  It’s not pretty.

I am vain, so I suffer the extra cloth.  I just can’t stand to look at my stomach muffining out over my shorts just yet.  Maybe I’ll get there.  Probably not.

O, and, I’m not really losing weight.  Maybe a pound.  Maybe six pounds.  I was scarily over-fat just before starting, and dropped five really fast.  But they were the kind of pounds that you pack on in one day and lose right away.  Water weight?  I don’t know.  I am down one pound from the amount my body seems to have stabilized at for the past year.

Got to run now to see my incredibly thin therapist.

Republicans wage class warfare for the rich

Meteor Blades, a writer for Daily Kos, has composed such a cogent, brief summary of the current economic situation in the United States, that I want to reproduce it in full:

Recession definitely over for some

by Meteor Blades

Tue Oct 05, 2010 at 07:22:03 AM PDT

As noted in Banana republic last week, the Census Bureau reported that 49.4 percent of all income in 2009 went to Americans in the top 20 percent of the population – those making $100,000 or more a year. The top 5 percent of Americans got 22 percent of total income. On the other hand, people falling below the federal poverty line earned 3.4 percent. The poorest of the poor, those under half the poverty line, have hit record numbers. The rich-poor ratio clocked in for 2009 at 14.5 to 1, a big jump in the continuation of a skewing that makes the U.S. the most unequal in income among the developed democracies.

There are plenty of other grim statistics in the Census reporttoo, except for those folks on the top of the heap. At the Center for American Progress, Michael Linden and Heather Bousheydug into them and found one interesting tidbit. While every income category – rich to poor – took hits during the first year of the Great Recession, in 2009, the upper 5 percent managed to average an increase in their income of $1800, and the upper 20 percent boosted their average income by about half that.

The other quintiles saw their incomes continue to fall.

Median household income continued to slide from 2008 to 2009, falling by $335. In fact, the median household has lost almost $2,200 in annual income since the recession began. That is the largest two-year decline in at least 35 years and amounts to a drop of more than 4 percent.

For people in the bottom quintile, most of whom fall under the federal poverty line, the situation, already bad, worsened for the third year in a row, putting one out of five children into poverty and lowering the already low average income of their parents by another 3.3 percent.

What is the Republican response to this growing income inequality and steadily worsening impoverishment that has put the rich-poor ratio at its worst level in the past 110 years? Dumping the minimum wage for the poor. Cutting taxes for the rich to create jobs overseas. Trashing Medicaid. And putting a $2000 deductible on Medicare.

Sounds like a plan. But be sure not to call it class warfare.

  • ::
  • Looking for work or having a baby? Leave the country: The Global Gender Gap

    Of all the interesting and depressing statistics that the authors of a recent Newsweek essay on sexism at work–U.S. men still earn 20 per cent more than U.S. women do–the following seemed most important to reiterate:

    The Global Gender Gap Index—a ranking of women’s educational, health, political, and financial standing by the World Economic Forum—found that from 2006 to 2009 the United States had fallen from 23rd to 31st, behind Cuba and just above Namibia.

    The report measures how countries distribute their resources and opportunities between women and men.  That means it also measures how various countries continue to treat women as less than human beings.   It measures “hard” statistics in four “pillars” of civilization:

    1. economic participation and opportunity: “hard” statistics measuring what women and men get paid for relatively equal work; the ratio of women to men in positions of leadership (bosses) and workers;
    2. educational attainment: girls’ and boys’ access to education and literacy rates;
    3. political empowerment:  the ratio of women to men in positions at the highest levels of government;
    4. health and survival: life expectancy of women and men and  sex selection at birth.

    Scores in each of these countries measure the level of sexual equality and freedom for women.  Women have more liberty in 33 countries than they do in the United States.

    Women have the most liberty in the following countries: Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, New Zealand, S. Africa, Denmark, Ireland, Philippines, and Lesotho.

    Women are least free in the following countries, in descending order: Morocco, Qatar, Egypt, Mali, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Benin, Pakistan, Chad, Yemen.

    Why does the U.S. score so low? The statistics don’t look so bad at first, especially when you look at education.

    We’re at the number one spot, with Iceland, when it comes to literacy.  93 per cent of our girls and 92 per cent of our boys are in primary school.  96 per cent of our women get some education beyond high school, while only 68 per cent of our men do.   Still, gender equality in U.S. literacy rates is no greater than it is in Mongolia, Cuba, Honduras, Latvia, and Nicaragua, so it’s hard to brag.   Consider the fact that, in Kazakhstan, women hold 63 per cent of the tertiary (beyond high school) teaching positions, while only 45 per cent of the tertiary teachers in the US are women.

    Men overwhelmingly dominate positions of authority in U.S. institutions of higher education. There.  We’re not feeling so smug now, are we?

    Things also look  not too terrible in category one–employment.  After all, 69 per cent of US women work, compared to  81 per cent of U.S. men.  But the average woman makes only $25,613, which is paltry compared to the average man’s salary: $40,000.   In Iceland, where 83 per cent of the women work, and 89 per cent of the men (it seems the Scandinavians DO have a stronger work ethic in general), women earn $29,283 compared to $40,000 for men per year.   There are even statistically more women in positions of authority in the workplace–bosses, managers, and senior officials–in the US than in Iceland.

    In short, fewer U.S. women have access to paid work, and those that do get paid a lot less for the same kind of work than in other countries. Men are still powerfully discriminating against women in the U.S. workplace.

    It’s rather humbling–and quite infuriating–to find out that women in 16 other countries–including Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and Mozambique–have greater economic equality and opportunity, compared to men, than they do in the U.S.  Canada is way ahead of us in providing jobs and equal pay for women, and Uzbekistan is ahead of Canada.

    When you get to category 4, political empowerment, it becomes very clear that men are making most of the laws in our country:  women hold only 24 per cent of our high-level (ministerial) office, while 76 per cent of the high-ranking officers are men.  In Iceland, women occupy 36 per cent of high-ranking positions.  But they have also had a female head of state for 16 of the last fifty years, while we have never had one.

    What really brings the US down in this study of equality between men and women around the world?   You guessed it: our abysmal health care system.

    Maternal morality rates are a very good indicator of how a country takes care of its people, especially women.

    HAVING A BABY?  LEAVE THE COUNTRY:  Women are  more likely to die in childbirth in the U.S. than in Austria, Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and the Netherlands.

    11 out of every 100,000 women who give birth in the U.S. die.  In Iceland, 4 of every 100,000 women die.   Okay, so we’re way ahead of Yemen, where 430 out of every 100,000 women, or Nepal, where a startling 830 out of 100,000, die giving birth.

    Humane health care is the sign of humane attitudes, not wealth:  Women who have children in the U.S. receive far less support from government and private sources (like employers) than they do in 39 other countries, including Guatemala, Barbados, Columbia, Mauritius, Mexico.

    Here’s the really startling statistic that shows that our failure to provide health care results in many more teen mothers than in other countries:

    In Iceland, as in all countries that offer universal health care, or nearly universal health care to its citizens, only 14 out of 1,000 adolescents give birth. In the U.S., where  religious extremists who oppose giving women their constitutional right to make their own health care decisions, 41 out of 1,000 adolescents have babies.

    How many of those 15-19 year olds are ready to be mothers, do you think?  And what kind of health care are those new mothers and their children getting?  How likely are those children with babies to get a higher education? How likely are they to fall into poverty?

    I’m still mad and I’m still writing.

    The Hard Road to Freedom

    What does it all mean?  And why am I still ANGRY?  Why are the National Organization of Women and NARAL, our nation’s strongest advocates for women women’s health, upset?

    The mostly male members of the House and Senate managed to bring a little sanity to our insane health care system last night.   With nearly all Republicans voting against health–which in my book amounts to the same thing as voting for death– the Democrats took a first and very timid step towards better health care for all Americans last night.  But they caved into right-wing demagoguery and big-business interests anyway.  When will they learn?

    Here’s how this bill, if it is allowed to stand, will reduce the liberty of women in our country:

    1.  It will severely curtail women’s access to abortion.  Employers and employees will now have to write two checks EVERY MONTH, one for health care, and another for an “abortion rider,” if they want to have coverage for abortion.

    WHY THIS IS BAD:  Before the bill, 85 per cent of insurance companies covered abortion without stigmatizing it.  : it imposes new restrictions–burdens and cumbersome procedures–that will effectively limit women’s access to choose, which is exactly what the religious zealots and terrorists wanted all along.

    2. It will effectively cement the power of the Hyde amendment, which is not an established part of the law, but rather a measure tacked on to the appropriations bill every year.  Why?  Because the President agreed to issue an executive order that will lend the weight of his office to the anti-abortion measures included in the bill.

    WHY THIS IS BAD: It shows us that the guys in government are willing to trade away women’s rights to get what they want.  The end does not justify the means. By strengthening the Hyde amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortion, this order weakens women’s constitutional right to choose to end unwanted or dangerous pregnancies.

    3.  It will allow insurance companies in the health exchanges to discriminate against women and the elderly, most of whom are women, to charge women and the elderly more for health care –if the pool of people to be covered is greater than 100.

    WHY THIS IS BAD:  It penalizes women for being female.  In the case of elderly women, who are poorer because they’ve been discriminated against in the workplace for their entire lives, it redoubles the penalty against women for being female.

    4. It imposes cruel and unreasonable limits on health care coverage for immigrants.  Legal residents must wait a for five years to be eligible for Medicaid and other assistance, and undocumented workers cannot even use their own money to purchase health insurance through an exchange!

    WHY THIS IS BAD: It’s racist and classist and backwards.  We are a nation of immigrants, and every one of us deserves equal access to health care.   And by the way–did you know that 25 per cent of all Black people in American immigrated to this country at the end of the 20th century?  So this policy is going to hurt, badly, at least 25 per cent of Black women in our country today. That’s shameful!

    A good end does not justify bad means.  You can’t achieve justice for all by trading away the rights of some.

    But WHY AM I STILL PISSED OFF?  Because religious extremists and religious terrorists are steadily eroding our basic freedoms!!!

    Women have a basic right to bodily integrity and subjectivity.  By limiting our rights to the governance of our own bodies, by telling us that women do not have the ability or the freedom to choose what happens to their own bodies–a right they would never dare to take away from men–the lawmakers are attacking women’s fundamental rights to subjectivity, to personhood, to liberty.

    I’m mad because these guys don’t care about my freedom, about my liberty–in fact they’ve shown me again and again that they’re perfectly happy to treat me as a less human than men, less entitled to basic freedoms than men.

    Not enough Democrats and Pro-choice Republicans seem to be getting this message:  Women’s basic liberties are  falling under the monster-truck tires of the demagogues and the religious terrorists, who are determined to grind women into the mud.

    These people are not just against health care, not just against abortion, they are against WOMEN.  (And on Stupak’s resolute disregard for women, especially for Nuns, see Jodi Jacobson).

    And yes, some of these extremists and terrorists are women, but that means nothing.  Women have historically traded away their liberties in exchange for financial and emotional support from men–Women are not the only group of oppressed persons who believe what their oppressors tell them to believe, and who would rather take the lazy road of slavery than the hard road towards freedom.

    Let’s all of us stop going along with the people who hate women.  Let’s all of us get on that road to freedom.