Friday, January 21, 2011

38 years of Roe vs. Wade

This post was written for NARAL's sixth annual Blog for Choice Day.


Whenever this time of year rolls around, I’m reminded of an argument I had a while back with a former college roommate about Roe vs. Wade.

After I explained to her why the state of reproductive health care is still such an important issue--even thirty-some years after Roe vs. Wade--she looked at me and said, “Chill out, Amelia. Abortion isn’t going anywhere.”

“You’re right,” I replied, surprising her. “Which is why it should remain a safe and legal procedure for women who need it.”

At the time, I was a nineteen-year-old freshman at Saginaw Valley State University--a small school in the middle of a cornfield. (Now in my fourth year of school, I’ve since transferred to Wayne State University in Detroit.)

I was frustrated as hell. Tired of conversations like the one I’d had with my roommate, I wanted more than anything to know that I wasn’t alone in worrying about the state of Roe vs. Wade. The 2008 presidential election was just a few short months away.

So I picked up a copy of Gloria Feldt’s book _The War on Choice: The Right-Wing Attack on Women’s Rights and How to Fight Back_. All I had expected to get out of reading it was a much-needed affirmation of what I already believed in. But I got much more than I’d bargained for.

Feldt offered so many examples (some without even realizing it) of how women’s reproductive rights are jeopardized. Her book was published in 2004, one year after then-president George W. Bush signed the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. Hopeful, Feldt had hypothesized that the US Supreme Court would fail to uphold the ban. Reading her words four years after they were published, I knew that she was wrong. For on April 18, 2007, the Supreme Court had indeed upheld it.

_The War on Choice_ made me angrier than I’d already been when I first picked it up off the shelf. It also made me feel 100% justified in being so vocal (arguments with my roommate be damned), and inspired me to keep fighting.

And there’s still so much to fight for. Recently, NARAL graded each state on its support of a woman’s right to choose. My home state of Michigan received an F. Classy. Illinois, meanwhile, received a B-. I have friends in both states who have had abortions, and know that the friend in Illinois had to deal with a lot less anti-choice bullshit than did my friend here in Michigan.

If we’re ever going to succeed in eliminating all of the bullshit, it’s especially important to put faces of real women on the issue. And because of the recent shift in Congress, we’ve got no time to lose. Props to the three women who recently shared their abortion stories on MTV’s episode of 16 and Pregnant, “No Easy Decision.”

Reproductive freedom has long been on my radar, but is now more than ever. An anti-choice governor was recently elected in my state, and the new Speaker of the House is anti-choice as well. And people like them are wasting no time checking things off their to-do list. (Repeal of health care, anyone?)

But the election this past November wasn’t a total loss. What about that huge pro-choice victory in Colorado? Such victories can (and must!) happen elsewhere. (And isn’t Colorado the birthplace of the Purity Ball? Come on, people. Anything is possible!)

Michigan may have gotten an F from NARAL, but that doesn’t mean everyone in Michigan is anti-choice. I’m sure as hell not. There are brilliant, dedicated feminists everywhere--including schools like SVSU. (Hi, Dr. Rich!) If you’re stuck in a cornfield somewhere (like I once was), speak up! Our silence gives fuel to the anti-choice movement.

Roe vs. Wade is in greater danger than most realize. I wasn’t “wasting my energy” on worrying about it during the 2008 presidential election. And I’m not wasting it now, though I really ought to be spending that energy on actually doing something about it.

Women who, like me (and ahem, my former roommate), were born in the US after 1973, have never lived in a time/place where abortion was illegal. And I hope we never will. But that’s really up to us. Just because we were lucky enough to have been born with the right to a safe and legal abortion, that right may not always be there for us. (If you’re not convinced, do some research on abortion laws on individual states. Michigan’s not the only one that got an F from NARAL.)

While I plan to drink myself stupid in celebration of Roe vs. Wade on its 38th anniversary tomorrow, I recognize that I have a responsibility: not only to those whose efforts made the passage of Roe vs. Wade possible 38 years ago, but to to my peers and to future generations of women who, I hope, will always have the freedom to choose what to do with their own bodies.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Blog for Choice Day 2011

The 38th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade--the Supreme Court case that legalized abortion for women in the US--is fast approaching.

To commemorate it, NARAL is hosting its sixth annual Blog for Choice Day this coming Friday, January 21 (one day before the anniversary of Roe). I'm going to participate. If you have a blog, I hope you will, too.

This is my first time taking part in this particular blog event. But having participated in Fair and Feminist's "THIS IS WHAT A YOUNG FEMINIST LOOKS LIKE" blog carnival this past August, I'm really looking forward to it. That was one of the coolest things I've ever been lucky enough to do. I was glad to have the chance to dialogue with other young feminists. A great sense of community developed that day, which has motivated me to keep blogging since. I can't wait to see what good will come out of NARAL's Blog for Choice event.

To sign up and get a badge for your blog, click here.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Three cheers for pubic hair!

With this lovely anti-fur ad, PETA's basically inviting me to write a raging blog post in defense of women's body hair.

At first, I thought sa-weet. The idea filled me with glee. It's fun to offend haters who piss me off, especially when I'm doing it for a good cause... like, you know, equality.

But then I started thinking about it, and I'm angry. Not just because of the ad, or the double standard when it comes to women's body hair, but also because why the hell should I even have to explain to the PETA folks how this is offensive? I mean, do I really need to defend myself for choosing to neglect my body hair? It's not like I'm harming anyone. (Let's flash back to seventh grade, when a couple of dudes a year ahead of me noticed my legs and told me that I looked like a "gorilla." I like to think that they were just jealous of the fact that I had more hair on my legs than they had on theirs.)

I can't possibly be the only one who finds this ad blatantly offensive. Because I'm sure as hell not the only one who isn't exactly diligent about keepin' my pubic hair trimmed.

If you know me well, odds are, you've heard my tirade on eyebrows. But in case you haven't, here's how I feel about it: They're fucking eyebrows, man. Not exactly #1 on my list of priorities. So what if they grow to look like furry cats sleeping on top of my eyes? That's not really how I like them to look. But I've let them get to that point many times. I don't have enough patience to pluck them, so the state of my eyebrows generally depends upon the amount of money in my bank account. And given that I'm a twenty-something liberal arts major, well. You know how it is.

Apply that attitude to all of the hair on my body. I deal with it when it's convenient for me to do so, or when it gets too outrageous for me to tolerate any longer. It's my body, after all.

Don't get me wrong: I feel just as awesome as anyone else after I get a new haircut, eyebrow waxing, or what have you. But that's just it; in the end, it comes down to how I feel about it, not whoever the hell's going to be (or "supposed to be") looking at me. (And don't even get me started on what this ad says about who I'm "supposed" to impress.)

Despite my refusal to base my appearance on the approval of others, I've still got many wonderful friends and a pretty healthy sex life. (And this, of course, is how I know that I'm not the only woman who doesn't put trimming my pubic hair at the top of my to-do list!)

If you'd like to hear from another such woman (as you might still need to be convinced that we do, in fact, exist), okay. I'll leave you with an awesome poem by Alix Olson called "Armpit Hair."

Monday, January 3, 2011

Cardinal Sins in the spotlight

During the 2009-2010 school year, I was the editor-in-chief of an art & literary magazine called Cardinal Sins. It's been in existence since 1981 and is published twice annually, during the fall and winter semesters at SVSU.

I found out today from my former faculty adviser that the winter 2010 issue (my last as editor-in-chief) received a first place award from the American Scholastic Press Association. :-)

This really says very little about me (even though my editor's note--which referenced something like seven Lady GaGa songs--was pretty awesome). It's more about my editorial staff and the others who found themselves tangled up in this project (like Katie Karnes, a graphic design major whose ability to reason with Adobe InDesign saved us from a huge technological mess).

Being in charge of Cardinal Sins was the most exasperating thing I've ever done. The experience forced me to question my entire career path. If I may be 100% honest, I found it incredibly unfulfilling at times, so much so that I questioned why I'd ever taken the job in the first place.

That isn't to say that it was an entirely negative experience--it wasn't. It just isn't something I'd like to do again. I'm glad that Cardinal Sins gave me the opportunity to figure that out as an undergraduate, while I'm still in a good position to change my mind.

It's about damn time I learn to have faith in my abilities--including my ability to recognize when I'm not as happy as I could be and move on to something else.

As editor of Sins, I shared an office with Sara Kitchen, editor of The Valley Vanguard--a student newspaper on campus (the two of us are pictured above). Whenever we'd find ourselves still working in the office after 10 p.m. on a weeknight, we'd listen to this song and lip sync with gusto.

Add that to the list of things that made this whole experience worthwhile.

Ridiculous, but worthwhile.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Books I read in 2010

I didn't read very many books this past year, but am trying not to be too hard on myself about it. After all, I discovered a bunch of blogs, and therefore, did read stuff, even if it's not the kind of reading material I can post on Good Reads.

Speaking of Good Reads, I thought I'd make a list of all the books I read in 2010, since it has kept track of that for me all year. I won't comment on all of them, but will add a few words about some that I didn't blog about when I read them initially.


_Goldengrove_ by Francine Prose (2008)

_The Devil's Arithmetic_ by Jane Yolen (YA, 1988)
This Holocaust story bears a striking resemblance to a book that was published six years later, in 1994. Han Nolan's _If I Should Die Before I Wake_, like _The Devil's Arithmetic_, is also about a girl who travels back in time and experiences life in a concentration camp. I think I like Nolan's book best, but am biased, because I'm the biggest Nolan fan on Earth. If there's anyone out there who has read both, which do you prefer and why? I'm curious.

_Push_ by Sapphire (1996)

_Schooled_ by Gordon Korman (YA, 2007)
I loved this book so much, and don't know why I didn't blog about it at length when I read it ten months ago. It reminded me a lot of _Stargirl_ by Jerry Spinelli. It's about a teenager (Cap Anderson) who has lived on an "alternate farm commune" all his life. And when his grandmother (who is his legal guardian) is injured, he is forced into foster care and attends a regular high school for the first time.

Culture shock ensues. He has no concept of money. And when he is elected class president, he's put in charge of organizing a school dance. The principal, in an attempt to teach him how to be financially responsible, gives him a checkbook. Cap realizes that checks make people happy. And in a completely altruistic attempt at making his classmates happy, he writes large dollar amounts on a bunch of checks and gives them away.

That incident (among others) really struck me, and made me realize that although we may think we hold certain values/beliefs, the society in which we live really limits the extent to which we practice that. Cap Anderson, having come from a totally different lifestyle, lived by what he believed better than anyone else. It was really sweet (and also really sad to see how he suffered for it).

_Number the Stars_ by Lois Lowry (YA, 1989)

_My Sister, My Love: The Intimate Story of Skyler Rampike_ by Joyce Carol Oates (2008)

_A Face in Every Window_ by Han Nolan (YA, 1999)
I loved this book because it affirmed my belief that it's okay to have an alternate definition of family; you're not just limited to blood relatives. An uptight teenager named JP finds himself living in a house full of social outcasts when his mother wins the house in a contest and invites a bunch of lonely strangers to move in. I don't think I've ever read a book with such a colorful and affecting cast of characters. And I loved watching JP learn to accept and love all of them.

I am so glad Han Nolan writes for young adults. She is using her talent to make the world a better place.
I can't say it enough: If you haven't read her books yet, get with the program already. (There. I've just made your New Years resolution for you.)

_Household Saints_ by Francine Prose (1981)

_The Robber Bride_ by Margaret Atwood (1993)

_Voyage in the Dark_ by Jean Rhys (1934)

_Hang a Thousand Trees with Ribbons: The Story of Phillis Wheatley_ by Ann Rinaldi (YA, 1996)

_Keep Smiling Through_ by Ann Rinaldi (YA, 1996)

_Crazy_ by Han Nolan (YA, 2010)

_The Letter Writer_ by Ann Rinaldi (YA, 2008)


_Slut! Growing Up Female with a Bad Reputation_ by Leora Tenenbaum (2000)

_To Be Real: Telling the Truth and Changing the Face of Feminism_ edited by Rebecca Walker (1995)

_Slouching Towards Bethlehem_ essays by Joan Didion (1968)

_Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History_ by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (2007)
A lot of people have criticized this book for covering too much ground in too few pages. It did read a lot like a survey course in history. But I loved it. There were a lot of resources in the back of the book for more in-depth information on the topics covered. And because I am a nerd, I sure as hell poked around on the Internet/in the library learning things after I finished reading this. So I'll count it as a win.

_Zami: A New Spelling of My Name_ by Audre Lorde (1983)
I loved this book for so many reasons and can't possibly list them all here. What's funny is that this is a good example of how books teach me things I don't expect to learn when I first start reading them. Take, for instance, the definition of "biomythography." That's this book's genre. At first, I thought that was something Lorde made up (I had even expected an explanation similar to the one about the symmetry of her name). But no. When I Googled the word, I found a list of other "biomythographies" instead of a definition.

_When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple_ edited by Sandra Martz (1991)

_Click: When We Knew We Were Feminists_ edited by Courtney Martin and J. Courtney Sullivan (2010)

_Cunt: A Declaration of Independence_ by Inga Muscio (1998, 2002)

_Rose: Love in Violent Times_ by Inga Muscio (2010)
I actually wrote a lengthy post about this, but Blogger decided it wanted a midnight snack and ate it. I'm still too upset to redo it. But I'm sure I'll get over it eventually, and when I do, the post will go up. Suffice it to say for now that I liked this book a lot. I was drawn to it because it was published very recently (in it, Muscio quotes former BP CEO Tony Hayward saying he'd like his life back). Goes nicely with my recent need for new and relevant information, yes? I've been a blog-reading fiend all year.


_The Best American Poetry, 2009_ edited by David Wagoner (2009)

_Book of Longing_ by Leonard Cohen (2006)

_Beautiful Rust_ by Ken Meisel (2009)

_Beauty Breaks In_ by Mary Ann Samyn (2009)

_Mother Love_ by Rita Dove (1996)