Archive by Author

Call To Action: Twitter Allowing Blatant Racism in Promoted Tweets

17 May

If you’re a twitter user you know that it allows organizations to buy promoted tweet space, wherein a tweet of that organization’s choice is put onto a network of users’ feed and marked as “promoted.” Usually, you’ll see a brand like a Coca Cola promote a tweet with a link to an external site that, naturally, promotes their product. The concept is pretty straight forward.

This morning, a link to a promoted tweet made it into my time line that caught my attention. Here’s the tweet (trigger warning: violence, racism. H/T to @TheAngryFangirl for the screengrab). CNSNews is the company that paid for the promoted tweet, a Christian news organization that produces and posts anti-choice material. The tweet contains wildly misleading and inaccurate information and its violent language is triggering.

Does Twitter have standards or do they just take money from anyone? Should Twitter have standards, and what should they be?

Yes, Twitter should have some basic standards.The racist nature of the tweet should have disqualified it at the outset. If that didn’t ring some alarm bells, they should not promote patently false information that is deceptive and misleading. Basic decency asks why no one considered the tweet to be inappropriate or offensive.

I started a petition on Change.org asking Twitter to remove the offensive promoted tweet and update its promoted tweet policy to disallow racist content. Please sign and pass along.

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What The Onion Said About Rihanna and Chris Brown Was Wrong

7 May

Trigger warning for domestic violence

The Onion’s attempt at satirizing Chris Brown’s attack of former-girlfriend Rihanna is triggering, dangerous and hurtful. There are some here at Abortion Gang that feel what The Onion wrote was brilliant, but I disagree. The Onion’s use of violent imagery and triggering language in the title and article remove the focus from Chris Brown and place it squarely upon the survivor, Rihanna. I also contend that writing stories about Chris Brown under the guise of satire is exploitative and perpetuates the dangerous notion that in the years post-abuse, jokes and commentary are fair game when in fact, they are almost another attack on the survivor.

1) The Language Is Triggering 

The article read like torture porn, like a sadistic turn through the author’s sick mind, a demented stroll through the horrible way women die from an attack. The title was triggering enough, “Heartbroken Chris Brown Always Thought Rihanna Was Woman He’d Beat To Death,” because nothing triggers flashbacks of abuse like “beat to death,” and I guess that is what gets the clicks, too. Everyone knows what Chris Brown did to Rihanna that night, he beat her savagely in a close and confined space. She was unable to get away as he sped about in the car . As a person who’s been there, in that passenger seat withstanding another attack, that space is a special kind of hell. The one where you consider throwing yourself out of the speeding car to get away from the flying fist and vicious words.

2) Not Everyone Knows This Is Satire

The Onion fantasized about another attack that ends in death without adding a trigger warning. (Yes, a trigger warning. And if you read the preceding sentence and fix your mind to type, “but you know it’s satire and you know The Onion is dark… just don’t click,” do not type. You’re victim-blaming.) I think there are many, many people, survivors and otherwise, that do not actually know that The Onion is satirical news site. WIth a click and without realizing it, a person reading an article that says, “Despite all the ups and downs, I was so sure Rihanna was the one I’d take by the throat one day and fatally assault…” could be triggered. They may not realize what they’re reading is a dark satirical take on Chris Brown’s re-acceptance into mainstream popular culture after such a savage attack. That hurt that results from being triggered, a small reliving of the abuse a survivor has endured is pain I never wish upon anyone.

The Onion doesn’t always distinguish itself from the other douche-bag jokesters on twitter and facebook with their sexist jokes and vapid commentary on current events. And yes , I do recognize that the vapidity they espouse is a satirical representation of our social response to many of these current events, but that’s not something many are going to get.

3) The Article Is Exploitative

Instead of focusing on Chris Brown, The Onion’s target of the satirical piece was Rihanna. This directly contradicts what my counterpart Kaitlyn has written. If The Onion was truly brilliant, they would find a way to write satire about Chris Brown being an abusive boyfriend without typing one word describing another attack on Rihanna. Because the whole article was about the ways Rihanna could have died by Chris Brown’s hands the satire is lost and the joke’s on Rihanna. She’s re-victimized . This is exploitative and it disgusts me to no end.

4) It’s All For the Clicks

Readers are triggered, and The Onion knows it. While Kaitlyn maintains that The Onion has gone to a dark place after Newtown, I think the shift has been meticulously planned and executed. The Onion is trolling for clicks and attention. The more outlandish stories they publish, the more buzz–both bad and good–they generate. I think they have realized that the more pointed and critically brilliant satire loses many of their readers and they are releasing increasingly inflammatory material to appeal to the least common denominator in readers.

Do we really want to support a publication that consistently publishes hateful language about black women ? Do they really deserve a pass when they publish a fictional account of a black woman’s death-by-beating ? Absolutely not.

The Onion says it is humor, some argue it is satire, but an article about Rihanna being beat to death by her abusive ex-boyfriend is triggering, exploitative and not critical commentary. I support satire and criticism of Chris Brown. I do not support and fail to find the satire from a publication that editorially fantasizes about the beating death of a black woman.

#98: On Jason Collins and bravery

29 Apr

When Jason Collins, an NBA player for the Boston Celtics, wore the number 98 last season , sports fans would have thought nothing of it. Collins’ journeyman status in the league probably led most to believe that wearing the number 98 meant the team he played for just ran out of numbers to assign.

What we didn’t know is that Jason Collins picked the number 98 for a particularly special reason. He wore that number in honor of Matthew Shepard, the college student beaten and ultimately killed for being gay in 1998.

Today, Collins wrote an article for Sports Illustrated stating, “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.” He is male-professional sports’ first current and active athlete to come out. I have nothing but joy.

That moment when two things you care deeply about collide in a good way and you exhale. That moment when you hug your son and share the news. That brief moment of hope that infuses an otherwise weary soul. This is me, right now, typing with tears streaming down my face.

Collins wrote, “Some people insist they’ve never met a gay person. But Three Degrees of Jason Collins dictates that no NBA player can claim that anymore. Pro basketball is a family. And pretty much every family I know has a brother, sister or cousin who’s gay. In the brotherhood of the NBA, I just happen to be the one who’s out.”

And if there was a question about what the reaction would be amongst that brotherhood of the NBA, here are just a few tweets sharing the reaction from some folks on twitter:

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Screen Shot 2013-04-29 at 3.48.17 PMScreen Shot 2013-04-29 at 3.48.06 PM

 

I could paste in several more responses like this, positive, supportive, non-judgmental responses from some of the top athletes in the world. Who said the NBA had to be a breeding ground for homophobia? It may just be that there is a certain level of projection from the old-boys-club sports media on homophobia being rampant in sports, because judging by the news and reactions, I just don’t see it. Things are changing rapidly and for the better.

Today, I can finally say, is a good day. Thank you to Jason Collins for your bravery.

New Pope in Rome But Same Anti-Contraception, Anti-LGBT Policies Will Endure

14 Mar

There had been black smoke for days, a signal from the conclave of cardinals that they had yet to decide the new leader of the Catholic Church. Yesterday morning as those of us on the west coast were heading to work, reports came in that white smoke now billowed from the Sistine chapel, a new pope had been chosen.

Meet Jorge Bergogolio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, now known as Pope Francis I . As the Bishop of Argentina, he opposed Argentina’s leadership on birth control access, he is anti-abortion, anti-condom, and anti-LGBT* rights. A new pope, but no new policies. As he enters the papacy, he has a host of scandals and abuse issues to address.

those problems included reforming the Roman Curia, handling the pedophilia crisis and cleaning up the Vatican bank, which has been working to meet international transparency standards.

Pope Francis is the first Pope from the Americas, and it is said that his election indicates the Catholic Church’s focus on the global south. He grew up in Argentina as the son of Italian immigrants and studied to be a chemist. He has been known for his love and constant study of philosophy. On first look, he may appear a fresh choice for the Church. Upon closer inspection it is clear that the new Pope is more of the same.

For women and families in the global south, new efforts from a conservative Pope Francis’ church could spell disaster. The Catholic Church has previously denounced spreading information about wearing condoms, and have resisted calls to widen access to contraception in poor countries. With the election of this new, more conservative, Pope, all hope that the Church may change their ideology is lost.

While he is known for modernizing an Argentinian church considered to be among the most conservative in Latin America, he is also known for his strict views on morality — having staunchly opposed same-sex marriage, contraception and abortion.

He has called adoption by gay parents a form of discrimination against children — a stance that was publicly criticized by Argentinian President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

There you have it, more of the same. And while the new Pope is renowned for his HIV /AIDS work and his outward showing of compassion for the poor, his policies are no less hateful.

Poor Women, Abortion Access, And Fighting Anti-Choice Legislation

11 Mar

In this week’s edition of Totally Not Surprising News: restricting access to abortion services makes women upset, doesn’t change their mind about having an abortion.

Abortion activists have known for a while now that bills that require waiting periods and mandatory sonograms, including trans vaginal ultrasounds, don’t change the minds of women seeking an abortion. A recently released study from the University of Texas Austin, University of Alabama Birmingham, and Ibis Reproductive Health reveals that 1/3 women felt upset after mandatory waiting periods and increased regulations. A gross majority of women reported that forced waiting periods and ultrasounds did not change their mind.

But that’s okay, these committed conservative lawmakers keep passing laws that restrict access to abortion because Jesus and God and Guns and Fetus and Sanctity of Life, but not the sanctity of women that are living and poor children and women of color because that would be SOCIALISM.

The study suggests that waiting periods have nothing to do with women’s health, as preliminary results of the study indicate an increased negative impact upon women. The impact is particularly felt by poor women and women of color. Minority women in Texas suffer more from the restrictions, a fact that highlights how race, class, and access to abortion intersect to reinforce a monstrously oppressive system.

This news came days after Arkansas legislators instituted a 12 week abortion ban. Any woman seeking to exercise her constitutional right to have an abortion in Arkansas now is shit out of luck if she’s more than 3 months along. In a state with some of the highest rates of poverty in the nation, including a 23% poverty rate amongst children and a disturbing 40% poverty rate amongst African Americans, restricting health care access to the most vulnerable is downright evil. Would it kill them to pass some laws to take care of their record number of poor and starving children?

Considering that women often do not even realize they are pregnant until the tenth or twelfth week, the new ban is in essence, a full abortion ban. Thinking about this is mind-numbingly terrifying. I don’t want to drop into a ball of terror but this stuff is getting disturbingly close to A Handmaid’s Tale and I’m becoming less able to deal with my rage. Our rights are systematically going out the window like yesterday’s trash.

State by state, women’s rights are being rolled back in the name of deliberately misleading notions of women’s health. For instance, as if they did not want to be outdone by Arkansas, news is breaking that another restrictive abortion ban bill is making its way through the Kansas legislature.

Even our activism is being hijacked. The word “choice” has been used against abortion access and reproductive justice to sell an idea that women need an ultrasound and waiting period to “make the best choice.” Sean Hannity of Fox News recently argued that women should have the “choice to protect themselves from a rapist with their guns.”

I can’t emphasize enough that these bills are mainly impacting poor women. The Lilith Fund, an abortion fund that provides money to women that cannot afford an abortion on their own, reported on twitter that in “2012, 74% of the women we helped on our hotline were already mothers and 85% were women of color.” In Texas , Republican Gov. Rick Perry and the conservative legislature blocked thousands of poor women from access basic health care in their quest to de-fund Planned Parenthood. Family planning clinics have been forced to close because Perry directly cut their funds. Cutting funding leads directly to cutting services for women, particularly poor women, and women of color. No money, no care.

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How having an abortion made me a better parent

30 Jan

What makes a person a good parent? I don’t know the answer for everyone, but for me, it means that I’m committed to teaching my son how to be non-judgmental, confident, and caring. It also means teaching my son the importance of education for himself and for all people, to talk about human rights, and to emphasize that he should always try to be open to new ideas and to spot and challenge certain forms of group thinking.

If I had another baby screaming at night, the creeping feeling of utter aloneness would be worse than I have ever experienced–I can almost assure anyone that. To raise another human being, alone, would not be a confidence building feat in myself, and thus I know with utter certainty that instilling confidence in my son would be difficult.

To have another child would be to fail at giving all that I can to my existing son.

When my son was 3 years old, I was newly divorced having finally escaped an abusive relationship. I was depressed, broken, and very lacking in any sense of self. Who I was and what I wanted from life seemed foreign. I was floating around like a ghost in my father’s house, too angry to talk to anyone without yelling, and barely able to make it up each morning to get into work. I had dropped out of college, and I felt like nothing but the biggest failure ever. This time of my life still haunts me for a number of reasons, not the least of which being how emotionally closed off I was to the people rooting for me: my son, and those closest to me in my family.

I went out a lot, drank too much, and although those things aren’t inherently wrong or bad, the alcohol made me especially careless with sex partners. It was as if I cared so little for myself that making my partner wear a condom during sex didn’t really matter.

One afternoon, I was sitting at my desk in the cramped and lifeless cubicle that I used to joke was “as barren and lifeless as my soul,” when suddenly I felt the urge to eat. So I grabbed a bite of my half eaten Subway sandwich, chewed, and promptly bent over the trash to throw it all up. I went home sick, not because I felt physically ill, but because I knew now what I had been trying to deny: I was pregnant.

I didn’t even take a pregnancy test for another week because I wouldn’t get paid until then and no, I didn’t have a dollar to buy one from the Dollar Tree. I was that broke, and had just emptied my change jar into my gas tank and purchased a few kitchen staples so my son wouldn’t starve. When I finally did take that pregnancy test, it was positive immediately, as I knew it would be. I wasn’t upset, or shocked, or any other emotion beside absolutely terrified.

I could not be pregnant, I did not want to be pregnant, I felt to be pregnant would be like dying for nine months.

After consulting with a doctor, who confirmed with another pregnancy test that I was in fact pregnant, she told me “you have some options, “ and I replied, “ when can I schedule a termination?”

She said quietly, “ you need to wait to schedule with us for at least twenty four hours.”

My mind screamed and my eyes dried up because I wouldn’t cry in front of her and have her think this was a tough decision. I wanted to say, “lady, I have been here before, literally and figuratively, and I know in the deepest depths of my soul what I am going to do, so get the appointment book and write!”

I thanked her and walked out alone, sat in my car, slumped, before I called my boss and said,

“I’m pregnant, can you see which days are going to work for me to take off so I can get an abortion?”

Boss: “Oh my gosh, are you okay? Sophia, why didn’t you use a condom!?”

“Because, I don’t know, but I know I’m not going to be pregnant so which days work for the department for me to be out. One day off should be fine, I just don’t want to schedule for a day that ya’ll need me to be there.”

Boss: “we’re in the middle of open enrollment. Um, I’m leaving on Friday for some broker meetings, so try if you can to schedule a few weeks out. Just one day , though? Is that enough?”

“Yeah, should be, I don’t really know though. I’ll fill out a request for time off, I’m just going to put medical leave as the reason.”

Boss: “okay, good luck.”

She was a wonderful boss, and I stay in contact with her still, years after leaving that god-awful place. We were always close and she shared my pro-choice sentiments. I always told her , as she told me, that an unplanned pregnancy would be terminated, that I just couldn’t emotionally, physically, or financially care for another pregnancy or human being. I called her then because she was the only one available in that moment that I knew would listen to me and be at least a little supportive.

Although she is my friend, her response was very much a boss-like reaction. I was needed at work to cover for her absence and do my work on time for our clients, and any absence would be troublesome. Hence her suggestion that I schedule things a few weeks out. This is typical and most certainly a barrier for many people seeking to make time to have an abortion.

Because I did not want to wait 24 hours to schedule an appointment, I called around to the many Portland-area clinics that perform abortions and asked for openings and pricing. The consensus was that an abortion without anesthesia would be about $300 cheaper, and the abortion pill being approximately the same price as non-anesthetic D & C.

I had heard from a family member that the abortion pill was awful for her, so I scheduled an appointment for the non-anesthetic procedure 2 weeks out, the same day I would be getting paid. The entire check did not cover the almost $500 cost, so I sold some clothes and purses to Buffalo Exchange to just barely meet the cost. I knew that I wouldn’t be paying my bills that month and that I would probably have to ask my dad for some money, but I didn’t care. I was relieved to have the appointment scheduled and was finally able to get some rest.

I have written before about the procedure itself, so I won’t rehash that in full detail. It was painful, and a bit awkward as the doctor talked openly about miscellaneous topics, but it was no where near as traumatic or as painful as childbirth. The antibiotics and pain meds they gave me put me to sleep quickly and I had my dad pick up my son from pre-school. I told him that day that I had a kidney infection (I have suffered from those periodically throughout my life) and locked myself in my room. When I woke the next day I called sick into work, eliciting a big sigh from my boss and serious guilt on my part, but I just wanted to rest and sleep.

That month, I asked friends and family for money. Twenty dollars here, twenty dollars there to meet all my missed bills and payments. The stress of the financial sort is always awful, but this time, doubly so. During that time, it elicited a gnawing feeling of guilt and treason as I lied to family members in order to get a few dollars to pay for groceries, feeling as if I couldn’t be honest with them about where my pay check had gone.

Those bubbling notions of worthlessness were only kept at bay by one simple fact: I was not pregnant.

Even though an abortion can be a serious thing for some people, I felt nothing but relief and happiness afterward. I hugged my son tight and took him to the park the weekend after my procedure. We laughed, and giggled, he read a little to me and I read a little to him.

I have never felt true happiness and have struggled openly with depression and bi-polar disorder, but that weekend was a good one. I was so incredibly relieved to not be pregnant and I felt I had a fresh lease on life as a parent. Having an abortion saved me and made me a better parent.

Fast forward five years and I’m a college graduate, abortion rights activist, freelance writer, and career -with-a- 401k-and-savings-account woman who loves her work. My son enjoys an array of curricular and extra-curricular activities, runs around the neighborhood with his friends building tree forts and constructing launch-able spaceships in our back yard. He’s happy and joyful in a way I don’t remember feeling. His joy brings me joy, and while I continue to work through my depression and serious bouts of self doubt. I know that if I were to have had another child, five years old now, my son’s quality of life would have been decreased as would that of the child.

I spoke with my dad on the phone the other day about the pros and cons of entering law school or graduate school, and I said, “with my son, and I love him to death, but everything is twice as hard to do.” With another child on my hip, everything would be 4 times as hard. His response to me,” just because you’re a parent, and a very young one at that, does not mean you don’t get to have and to live your dreams. You can only control you. ”

A year after I had that abortion I broke my leg. My dad was there to cook and clean, take and pick up my son from school, and help out in general. He noticed a stack of papers on my desk with a sticky note reading, “to be filed.” So as I slept, he helpfully went to file them. He happened upon an itemized receipt for tax purposes from the clinic where I had the abortion. When I woke up, he asked me if we could talk , in that voice from your parents that indicates something very serious needs to be said. He showed me the receipt and said, “ I love you very much.”

Today, he gets it. As do many others in my family. They see first hand how things are hard for parents, single parents at that. My dad’s support on the phone was in part his way of asking me not to be too hard on myself. And he is right, because we can only control ourselves.

I sometimes imagine not being able to control whether I had a baby or not. To not be able to control myself.

It’s a nightmare I’ve had, where I have woken up in a panic feeling my belly, making sure I wasn’t eight months pregnant and waiting for that feeling of relief as my mind slipped back into reality.

Abortion, Parenting, and our Obsession with Judging Women

18 Jan

Breaking News! Princess Kate is pregnant, finally!
Breaking News! Kim Kardashian is pregnant, by Kanye!
Breaking News! Oklahoma and Texas cut funding to Planned Parenthood and abortion clinics close.

Okay, so none of the above events are breaking news. Everyone has been waiting for Princess Kate to conceive because that’s her main lot in life, apparently. Kim Kardashian is a perennial pop culture icon, her pregnancy a shock to some, and outrage to others because she’s not “mother material.”

Meanwhile, while twitter flutters with outrage and excitement about famous women having babies, anti-choice lawmakers push through increasingly extreme anti abortion legislation that is literally causing clinics offering vital abortion and reproductive health services to close.

Even after President Barack Obama’s resounding victory in November, the House of Representatives remains firmly in anti-choice lawmakers’ hands, and state legislatures across the country are led by anti-choice representatives and anti-choice governors who are all too eager to cut off access to abortion.

Poor women be damned, their policies say, and look over there, a princes is pregnant!

Don’t get me wrong, I think celebrities having kids is exciting and in some ways interesting. It’s no different to me than a coworker of mine coming into the office with her new grand baby, I coo and cuddle, and then continue on with my life.

For many, however, celebrity pregnancies are more than just a sweet moment, they are a distraction, and a reversion to judgement and unfair criticism of women. That judgement eventually trickles down, and reinforces long standing negative ideas about femininity and a “woman’s place,” in the world.

Indeed, over the last month and a half I have seen some of the most misogynist and patriarchal responses to celeb pregnancies and have seen people outraged at the “horrible woman” Kardashian reproducing, damn her, but no outrage at the increasing number of anti-choice injustice perpetrated across states like Texas, Virginia, Oklahoma, and Florida.

Enough judging women and their choices, more helping women, and respecting their choices. The sooner we as a community acknowledge and move on from celeb pregnancies, the quicker we can get back to saving clinics and advocating for increased access to resources is economically disadvantaged communities.

The more time spent criticizing famous pregnant women and wondering how they will get flat abs immediately post birth, the less time there is for helping women that are hurt by clinics closing and Planned Parenthood losing funds.

It’s truly a sad state of affairs when two celebrities are judged and ridiculed, lauded and loved for their pregnant state as if that’s the only thing that matters while women are routinely denied health services and choice across the country. We can and must do better.