She’s a woman first, a rape victim second so she must not have any rights.

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The “war on women” has been tagged as an intentional ploy by the Right to disable the rights of women that my mother and so many others fought so hard to obtain decades ago. But when many people hear “war on women” they think it’s just some crazy feminist on her soap box again, spewing nonsensical things that apparently don’t matter anyway. My friend and blogger extraordinaire, Lauren‘s mother wrote an Op-Ed in Jacksonville, FL yesterday and some of the comments that followed were heinous. Her Op-Ed was titled: War on Women Shows we Have to be Vigiliant. Our rights are being hacked left and right. Republicans are trying to crawl up my vagina and into my uterus (how’s that for a visual, Romney?). I cringe every time I go to the “women’s rights” tag on Google News to see what new and psycho law is on the table to destroy women’s freedoms. Yesterday, I came across one that made me vomit in my mouth and scream. You cannot tell me the war on women isn’t real and absurd after hearing this story.

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Reader’s digest version: (Oklahoma City) A mother brings her 15 year old daughter to the hospital after her daughter was raped. The daughter was turned away without treatment. Why? Because the hospital said they did not have any Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) on staff to conduct a rape kit. The mother and daughter requested emergency contraception and the doctor refused saying it was against her beliefs.

There are many things wrong and horrifying with this situation.

#1: A 15 year old girl was raped and refused a rape kit because there was not a SANE nurse on staff. First of all, I have been an advocate for rape victims for several years and I have accompanied many girls to the ER for their rape kits. I will be the first to admit when the curtain opens and a familiar SANE nurse is standing there with an empathetic look on her face that calms the both of us, it is a HUGE relief. I know the victim is in good hands — as good of hands as she can be given the circumstances. But if a SANE nurse is unavailable and I accompany a victim to the hospital, another nurse ALWAYS comes in to conduct the rape kit. There are comprehensive of step-by-step instructions inside of the rape kit. Now, I don’t recommend that every victim see a nurse that is literally reading the directions of this medical procedure — it’s not comforting to say the least — but the rape kit is done and that is what is most important. So it is bullshit that this hospital just turned her away because there were no SANEs on staff. Second, let’s think about WHY there are no SANE nurses on staff? Because funding for sexual assault and prevention services have been chopped from state and local budgets nationally and SANE nurses are forced to be on a rotation between hospitals or they have been cut from hospital staff all together. Way to go Republicans.

#2: ““I will not give you emergency contraceptives because it goes against my belief.” I am sorry but since when do doctors get to put side any HIPPA laws or oh I don’t know, medical science and let their own personal religious beliefs dictate treatment for a patient that walks into their ER saying she was raped and asking for emergency contraception?  Perhaps this girl’s rape wasn’t an “honest rape,” right, Ron Paul? Oklahoma is one of several states who has passed or is in the process of passing a law that says doctors can refuse emergency contraception based on religious beliefs. ABSURD. The consequences of this law are so dangerous. Republicans, you look down upon teens getting pregnant and boast abstinence only to try and save teen moms — yet you won’t give a victim of rape who is a mere 15 years old emergency contraception to prevent her from having to carry a child that she was forced to create. The contradiction cannot be any clearer.

Every ounce of my being hopes that Obama will remain President and will stop clinging to Federalism and start protecting the universal rights we are entitled to. My vagina and uterus are my own, GOP. STAY THE HELL OUT.

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Homophobic Parents Exploit Child to Publicize Anti-Gay Beliefs

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Have you had the unfortunate luck to come across and watch the viral video of a no-older-than-five-year-old stand in front of his congregation and sing “I know the Bible’s right, somebody’s wrong…ain’t no homos gonna make it to heaven?” No, well you should watch it here because you probably don’t believe that a young child would sing that nor would a parent ever allow his child to sing that. So watch it here.

Horrified? Nauseous? Furious? All of the above? Yeah, me too. I am not naive to the fact that there is an on-slaught of anti-gay commentary and beliefs floating around this nation. But this child is not old enough to even understand the words coming out of his mouth. He is not old enough to understand the hate and ignorance attached to what he is singing. All he is old enough to do is hold a microphone, regurgitate a horrific song that his homophobic parents taught him, and get excited and positive reinforcement when his entire congregation gives him a standing ovation of cheers and appreciation. If this parents did not brainwash their child and just explained the meaning of the song, I can guarantee you the child would not agree.

It is absolutely disgusting that this child’s parents and his faith community would exploit the child to publicize their anti-gay declarations. I am all for people having their own faith and beliefs, but when it outwardly attempts to negate people’s rights — in this case homosexual rights — at the expense and exploitation of an innocent child, I draw the line and so should the rest of the faith-based community that this family and congregation belongs.

I do not consider myself to be religious, but I went to CCD, I am baptized and confirmed. What I have taken away from the 10 years of religious education and up-bringing that I do have is that God is up there shaking his head at all you hateful, homophobic fools saying that homosexuals are not going to Heaven. God preaches love for all and considers it to be a sin if you do not love all. So perhaps we should be singing:

“I know God is right and homophobic, ignorant fools in Greensburg, Indiana are wrong. Ain’t no homophobes gonna make it into heaven.”

Though this congregation and the parents of this child allowed this to happen and taped it because they thought it was meaningful, valuable, and truthful — all it has done is mobilize gay rights activists to speak out against it and make them look like ignorant people filled with hate. Job well done, Apostolic Truth Tabernacle Church.

Hey look, women STILL don’t matter.

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Nearly two decades ago this country saw a major shift in the protection of women’s rights when the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was passed under President Clinton in 1994. The bill was drafted by the office of then Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) — now our current Vice President (for those who haven’t turned on the TV since 2008). VAWA was re-authorized in 2000 and again in 2005. Women are more protected and more safe due to the provisions in the VAWA.

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It is up for re-authorization again and unfortunately it is not surprising that the Republican party is trying to destroy women’s rights rather than promote them. The bill should be addressing the high rates of domestic violence being committed against Native American women, ensuring that LGBTQ victims have equal access to services, and make college campuses safer than ever. Well, that’s what the Senate decided on anyway in April. But yesterday, the House of Representatives had different plans. They stripped away the protections for Native American women. Also, an abusive partner can now use his partner’s (victim) immigration status as a tool to manipulate and control the victim. This leaves women more at risk. It would also negate confidentially that helps many women leave their abusive partner. Why have Republicans controlled the House to make these changes? They claim the current VAWA facilitates “immigration fraud.” I’m sorry, how is protecting a woman from violence and potential death considered fraud? Oh that’s right, because Republicans just want to deport people and could care less about their rights.

As of now, immigrant victims can apply for U Visas if they are cooperating with law enforcement. However, the bill coming out of the House yesterday would limit these visas to only those women whose cases are actively under investigation or currently being prosecuted. This shouldn’t be a newsflash, but the U.S. criminal justice is pretty damn slow — especially when the victim is a foreign-born woman who clearly and sadly is not valued or respected in our country. So this leaves an immigrant victim of DV waiting for her case to be active and therefore exposing herself to potentially more harm at the hand of her abusive partner who is now pissed that she has come forward. Furthermore, because this new bill would no longer streamline her case to specially trained individuals in DV, instead, she would be forced to go to the local immigration office to report her abuse. Now she is more at risk of deportation and not protection.

Two organizations that are strongly lobbying for reforming the VAWA are Voices of American Immigration Fraud Victims and Stop Abusive and Violent Environments — organizations that are directly connected to the ‘mail-order’ bride industry.  Over 320 advocacy groups opposed this bill yet it still passed. That is a very scary demonstration of power right there. It terrifies me that groups like this have enough pull and money in representatives pockets to gut the VAWA. Canada, you may have a new resident or two pretty damn soon.

I am graduating with my master’s in social work in three weeks with plans to pursue a career in the violence against women movement. Generally speaking, workers in the VAW movement make less than other social work professionals. Why? Because VAW services are at the top of the list of being cut when state and federal budgets are re-evaluated. For example, the city of Chicago currently budgets $0 to rape crisis centers. What does this tell me? It tells me that decision makers still do not value women. The fact that the House has vomited this horrific excuse for a re-authorization of the VAWA tells me that women do not matter. Of course this Bill is going to be vetoed by Obama — I mean, how can it NOT when his VP is Joe Biden. But the Republicans sitting in the House are absolutely going to influence changes to the VAWA of 2012 and I can promise you they won’t be good changes.

It baffles me. It really really does. To every Republican out there who has tried to get inside my vagina, uterus, and now is trying to destroy rights of marginalized populations such as immigrants and LGBT through the vehicle of the VAWA, I want you to look your daughter, wife, mother, sister, niece, aunt, and grandmother in the eye and tell her all the reasons why you think she should not be protected. Oh what’s that? The women in your life aren’t immigrants or part of the LGBTQ community? Well I’m sorry but the women in your life are no better than these women so get off your high horse and start implementing EQUALITY OF THE LAW.

If you are as disgusted by the VAWA that came out of the house yesterday, join the fight against it.

 

 

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A Sad Excuse for Journalism by the New York Times

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I always say that if I could re-do my graduate career, I would have at least also pursued a master’s in journalism in addition to my social work degree. Unfortunately, I’m not prepared to accrue more excruciating student loan debt, so I have not pursued this. But every time I read a horrible news story — and by horrible, I mean horribly written — I cringe and regret not getting a journalism education so I could actually write professionally and responsibly about the topics I care so passionately about.

Take, for example, a story two days ago published in the… no, not the Huffington Post… The New York Times! The gist: a transgender woman (born male) was killed in a suspicious fire early Saturday morning in Brooklyn, NY.

Let’s talk about it.

First, the article opens with

She was 25 and curvaceous, and she often drew admiring glances in the gritty Brooklyn neighborhood where she was known to invite men for visits to her apartment, her neighbors and the authorities said.

My first thought: Why are you telling me that this poor victim of a fire was “curvaceous” and attractive? Why do I need to know she was known to have men over her apartment (like it’s a bad thing)? Oh… it’s because she is a transgender woman born male. I don’t learn that until the 6th paragraph. But it sure does put the first paragraph in context for me. The authors of the article — two males — are victim blaming RIGHT off the bat. FANTASTIC. The article goes on to explain the suspicious nature of the fire so it MUST be because she was attractive — despite being born male, right? — and invited men over .. which for people who are ignorant to transgender issues, would think that Lorena is gay — INSERT SHOCKED FACE.I hope you’re picking up on my sarcasm here.

The authors then found it necessary to find witnesses, neighbors, and friends of Lorena who would further describe her attractiveness, tell me how she allegedly had a rib removed to make her so “curvaceous” as we learned initially, and to inform me of her participation as an escort.

A neighbor said,

She was always on her laptop posting ads about herself. Still, she was a nice person.

Because women in escort services are not nice people? Oh, thanks for that lesson NY Times. And again, why does it matter that she was or was not in an escort service? Oh right, the authors are victim blaming. Duh.

Then I get to learn about what was found in the debris:

Among them were wigs, women’s shoes, coins from around the world, makeup, hair spray, handbags, a shopping bag from Spandex House, a red feather boa and a pamphlet on how to quit smoking.

Again, why do we care? We don’t… but the victim-blaming authors who are ignorant to gender issues and diversity care. It baffles me that this is what journalists think the public wants to read. Further, it terrifies me if this is what the public wants to know when a woman dies in a fire. But wait… this isn’t the norm of facts to report? You mean the New York Times doesn’t always tell us about the victims looks, companions and visitors to his/her home, or the sexual behaviors he/she may or may not have exhibited? Well no, they don’t.

I did a search on the NY Times to see how other journalists have written on fires that took people’s lives. Consider this story: “Woman’s Daughters and Parents Killed in Connecticut Fire.” This story paints a very said picture of a woman who lost her young daughters and parents who were about to celebrate their 49th anniversary in a fire that destroyed her house. The authors chose to quote the deputy fire chief:

We have not had a loss of life like this since back in the ’80s, where there was also the loss of five people. I can’t remember anything like this.

Yes, the authors of the Connecticut Fire are different than those of the Brooklyn fire, but the principle remains: Al Baker & Nate Schweber (authors of Brooklyn fire article) chose not to write an article depicting the sadness of this fire and loss of life because they clearly do not see a value to Lorena’s life. They told society that transgender people are not valuable and that their life choices can lead to travesties, such as an apartment fire taking their life and endangering others.

Needless to say, I am extremely disappointed in this sad excuse for journalism.

Slow Clap for Mr. President

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I apologize for being MIA lately — between graduate school, graduating in less than a month, moving, interning, job searching, life has become a wee bit crazy. So much has happened in the news that I’ve said “man, I need to blog about that” but alas, I never did. I mean, Tan Mom! Are you serious? Oh and the picture floating around of Hilary Clinton not wearing makeup… top news right there. And did you hear allowing women to vote was the worst decision in the nation’s history? North Carolina made a really stupid mistake, too. I could write on a-many of things, but I’ve decided to reflect on a status that I saw on Facebook. It reads:

If you believe President Obama doesn’t know how to help our economy or believe in the tenth amendment or the rule of law, you will not be sidetracked by this gay marriage issue.

By the way, I think now is a good time to just say THANK YOU MR. PRESIDENT! (more on that in a second).

Now, I am not here to debate President Obama’s ability to better our economy and disclosure: I had to look up the 10th Amendment (hey, it’s been a while since A.P. Government, okay?). Right, duh — FEDERALISM. Okay, so I’m not here to argue pro or anti Federalism either. What I am here to do is to address what I believe to be a huge downfall of our bi-partisan system that is so eloquently reflected in this Facebook status. Thank you Social Media.

What this status implies is that the economy trumps all other social good — in this case, social good being equality. Historically and generally speaking — I am not saying this is an absolute — Republicans have focused on fiscal issues (i.e. the economy) and Democrats have focused on social good. Well, unless of course you consider the Republican’s strong efforts to get inside my vagina and uterus (yep, that IS what she said) — that was definitely a focus on “social issues.” This dichotomy of priorities is why we never progress and our economy fails and our morals and values slip away. We can never agree on either “hot topic” as my ladies on The View would say. So how are we supposed to improve the economy, grant rights to states, and promote social good and equality? That’s right, we can’t.

President Obama endorsing same-sex marriage after a travesty of a decision coming out of North Carolina is HUGE. But I think we need to unpack what it really means and consider it in this dichotomy and why we can’t get anything done. He made a public statement saying that he used to think civic unions would be “sufficient” but that he has come to personally realize that same-sex couples should be allowed to get married. In a society that still holds very strong homophobic beliefs that violate the rights of the LGBTQ community every day, this is a very brave statement to make. The first of any President to do so. And his competitor for president, Mitt, said in Oklahoma City on Wednesday that he believes marriage is between a man and a woman. He has strongly supported this belief for well… forever. Indeed, there are political underpinnings to this statement that President Obama made. It was a strategic announcement. But words are not as loud as actions. Don’t get me wrong, I am VERY happy that he has made this endorsement. I hope the nation heard it loud and clear. But at the end of the day, I believe Obama is going to comply with those 10th Amendment rights and say it is up the states. If you’re not following along closely, that means that he has supported equality in theory but will not implement it across the nation. I’d say that is a huge loss for the United States. He’s yet to say it — but it’s my prediction.

Equality should not be up to the states to protect or not. I mean, how backwards does that really sound? Don’t worry, people in Illinois are allowed to be treated as equals but you people in North Carolina, let’s face it — you’re not deserving of equality. And Obama has just conceded to the political sphere and this dichotomy holding us back. We can never just focus on the social good – EQUALITY – nor can we ever make a sound moral decision without some political attack or underpinning. Therefore, we’re stuck in a society where people’s rights are compromised for the well-being of a political environment and presidential campaign.

Decision-makers heads are so far up the asses of the next guy to vote for them that they haven’t been able to actually READ the research. You know how I know this? Because people are STILL clinging to the false assumption that a child needs a mother and a father. No, actually, research shows having a two-parent home is a protective factor. Never said anything about MOTHER and FATHER. Ya know why? Because research has yet to show 1) an inherent value in having a mother and father 2) that same-sex couples are a harm to children.

My hope for our country as we embark on yet another presidential election is that somehow, someday, the blinders are removed from every politician, money is stripped from their pockets, and Democrats and Republicans alike can sit at the same table and have a productive, coherent, and intelligent conversation about these issues. Until then, I am not going to give a standing ovation to Barack yet. For now, I’ll give him the slow clap.