{divergence} I’m just a girl

When asked about the meaning behind No Doubt’s “Just a Girl”, Gwen Stefani explained that it was about her struggles against the restrictions placed on her – specifically – because she was female. Every woman I’ve met has at least a half-dozen stories of some kind of injustice or imbalance she encountered in the workplace, at a party, at school, or in the home. It’s like the ridiculous double-standard that a man who’s dating four women at the same time is a “stallion”, yet the woman who does the same is a “slut”. It’s not just the Madonna/whore complex, it’s our cultural unwillingness to treat women as though they are members of society valued equally with the men.

Between last week’s Supreme Court ruling that shreds the protective protest barriers around medical clinics that offer abortions and yesterday’s ruling that allows large companies, like Hobby Lobby, to “opt out” of offering certain kinds of birth control due to “religious objection”, women are more under fire than ever. At a time when over 62 million women aged 20-64 are employed all over the country (roughly one-fifth of the entire US population), it seems like we have a value that’s less than zero. We are not defined solely by our breasts, our uteruses, or our vaginas any more than men can be summed up solely by their penises. The fact that we have brains or spines seems to be completely missing from the conversation.

Will letting “closely held corporations” opt-out of the contraception mandate reduce healthcare costs or the employer insurance burden? No, not quite. Large corporations like Hobby Lobby are typically “self-insured”, meaning that they pay health insurers an administrative fee to get cards and (effectively) rent their network. They get to design their health insurance benefits. BUT, when the government points at insurance companies and says that they have to cover the cost of contraception as a fully-covered benefit when their customer won’t have to foot the bill directly, insurers have to pay for that SOMEHOW. That means increasing premium rates for everybody (and that “administrative fee” goes up, too). Hobby Lobby gets off paying for it this year, but it’s baked into their administrative fees next year…and the year after that…and the year after that…(as well as everyone else’s, since they effectively raised everyone’s rates so they would get to pay less). Nice, eh?

So, does restricting access to low-cost birth control further the pro-life cause? NO. According to a study published in 2012, providing free birth control reduces abortion utilization dramatically. The irony is painful in more than one way, and it shows the short-sightedness of these litigants like Hobby Lobby.

Are birth control pills only for women who want to have sex without consequence? NO. A 2001 study discussed the health benefits of birth control pills in alleviating the negative effects from dysmenorrhea (aka “REALLY BAD PERIODS”) and pain from endometriosis. I can also say that I went on birth control pills to control my periods; they were irregular and sometimes debilitating without the introduction of the hormone therapy offered by the pills I took. And anyone who thinks that IUDs are just for preventing pregnancy just doesn’t know how the female body works. Honestly, people, TAKE AN ANATOMY CLASS, WILL YA?!

Are corporations people? HELL NO. 

I don’t want my daughter to grow up in a world that’s got less freedom and less opportunity for her than the one I grew up in. When I was a child, I was lucky enough to have a mother who worked in management – who showed me the value of education and hard work as a means to a successful, productive adult life. Seeing her example, it never occurred to me NOT to go to college and NOT to get a job and NOT to try to succeed in whatever I did.

I want my daughter to grow up, and then live her productive, successful adult life in a world where she’s valued. I want her to live in a world where her gender is simply a box to check rather than a box that contains her. I want my son to have a healthy respect for all women (not just his sister), and treat women with the dignity they deserve. I’ve never told my kids that one of them could do something the other had no shot at, that one of them was destined to succeed and the other would be great if they can just get married and reproduce. This is 2014, not 1914.

I choose choice. Options. There must be options. There must be freedom. And someone else’s religious freedom doesn’t get to stomp on my freedom to have those choices. So I will continue to exercise my choice by consciously boycotting organizations that have hurtful views, that carelessly aim to pick apart our society until we are nothing more than a homogeneous, mindless pen of sheep.

Are corporations people? NO. But I’m a person – with disposable income – and I vote.

Don’t EVER count women out. Don’t EVER count ME out.

“I’m just a girl” is one hell of a war cry.

{divergence} The Supreme Court got it WRONG about abortion clinic buffer zones

I usually try to keep my politics off my blog, although lord knows that as someone with a degree in Political Science, it’s not like I don’t have opinions. There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to offend, and there’s another part of me that doesn’t give any thought to what other people think. If they choose to disagree, that’s their right.

So here’s where things get murky.

In the Supreme Court decision yesterday on the matter of McCullen et al. v. Coakley, the Supremes decided that the 35 foot buffer zone around clinics providing abortions in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was a “burden” on free speech. The law was intended to provide a safe space, a bubble – if you will – around clinics so that patients and employees of the same would be able to enter and exit without undue disruption. You know, like people screaming bloody murder in their face. Or, perhaps, people actually murdering someone, which is what was the impetus for the buffer zone in the first damn place.

Here’s the thing: I don’t trust that the pro-lifers will be respectful now that the bubble has been burst, and I can only hope that Governor Deval Patrick, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Attorney General Martha Coakley make the effort to put more protections in place while the State House finds some other way – perhaps following New York’s lead of a 15-foot buffer zone – to rebuild a safe space.

Not all women who go to Planned Parenthood or other reproductive services clinics are there for abortions. And even if they are, abortion isn’t illegal. Harassment and intimidation, if not illegal, are really fricking tacky. Murder: definitely illegal. So, if we’re going to go on record as to who seems to like committing the crimes, I’m willing to point the pen squarely at the pro-lifers.

Operation Rescue leadership and long-time clinic protestors praised the Court’s decision, salivating at the opportunity to “educate” women about their choices. Strangely, their “education” only involves one choice…which, if you’ve ever learned how to count, means a complete LACK of choice. Choice implies more than one option. And if you have to educate by screaming, foaming at the mouth, intimidating, and frightening people, then you need to re-evaluate your curriculum. Do you want to know what goes on inside these clinics? Healthcare. Women interacting one-on-one with a clinician about their bodies and their health. Those conversations and anything that takes place inside those four walls are for no one else’s ears and eyes; HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) is supposed to take care of that.

What would be great is if all of those people who choose to spend their time harassing the patients and staff of these clinics would refocus their efforts on helping the children who are already in this mortal coil and left behind by all sorts of circumstances, including parents completely incapable of taking care of them. There are kids in need of safe homes, clothing, food, education, and nurturing. Why aren’t they helping those kids?

And if we want to talk about freedom, how come “freedom” only gets to apply to taxes and guns but my uterus is up for grabs?

In the interest of full disclosure, I will say quite truthfully that – as of this point in my life – I’ve never had an abortion. I’m a mother of two children that I love more than my own life, and it was my choice to have them. And it was my choice to become a parent. And it was MY CHOICE to do what I did such that I have two wonderful kiddos. I would never in a million years want someone to have their CHOICE revoked by someone else, and – as I’ve already said – CHOICE necessitates more than one option. We don’t live in the world of “The Handmaid’s Tale” yet, and I hope we never do.

Women aren’t things. We’re people. We have brains and thoughts and feelings, and we are more than breasts, a vagina and a uterus.

To Operation Rescue: why don’t you rescue people who are really in need of saving? Put that effort towards fully funding Pre-K, donating money and time to The Greater Boston Food Bank, or shoring up finances for the tangled web of homeless shelters and soup kitchens around the Commonwealth.

To the leaders of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: I trust you to set this right and to fix the mess the Supreme Court has made. Please act swiftly, before something terrible and totally preventable happens thanks to some whack-job being emboldened by a misguided Court decision.

To the Supreme Court: shame on you for showing a complete lack of support for women and their right not only to “free speech” but to freedom from intimidation, harassment, and violations of personal space.

And finally, to everyone else: you don’t have to agree with me, and I respect your right to have a different opinion. That’s the joy of choice and the societal burden that comes with free speech. Choice requires more than one option, and no amount of bullshit “free speech” arguments will change that the people who challenged this law did so with the motivation and intent to do harm to these clinic patients and staffers, to limit these women and their freedom. And that, my dear readers, is just NOT okay.

It’s just not okay.