Archive | Racism RSS feed for this section

16 and Pregnant, Season 5, Episode 1: The Recap

20 Apr

We’re recapping 16 and Pregnant, Season 5!  The first episode of the season starts with Maddy, who’s 16 and from Tinley Park, Illinois. You can watch the episode online here



Megan: Should we start by talking about why we wanted to write about this, besides that we secretly love watching reality television?

Chanel:  I always feel like a terrible reproductive justice activist when I watch this show. I think one of my reasons for wanting to recap is to place an RJ lens onto it, if that’s possible.

M: I totally agree. I think there is a lot of possibility, and when I watch it I always find myself rooting for the moms to be able to make their own decisions without the adults in their lives telling them that they’ve messed up. But when I was thinking about us wanting to watch this for those reasons, I was also thinking about why this show is still on and why so many other people watch it? What do we see in that narrative put out by MTV to scare and shame young people? Why are we fascinated by that as a theme and willing to watch it happen over and over again? Why do people want to see that and not the story we see through our frameworks?

C:  We need to see young women as being incapable of making good choices. Like,  no matter what, I’m not sure M could have made a choice that would have made the audience feel okay about her getting pregnant. Sex is wrong and terrible, and young women are stupid and irresponsible. I think that’s pretty ingrained into our narrative.

One thing MTV has done is bust up the idea that it’s young women of color who get pregnant as teens-the girls on this show are mostly white.

M: That’s true. But while they’re defying the stereotype that it’s only poor girls of color who are getting pregnant, it’s also blocking those girls from seeing their own experiences. So we’re also choosing the narrative of middle-class white girls over low-income girls of color.

C: AGAIN. And perpetually.

M:  As Gretchen Sisson says more eloquently than I have stated here: “Teen Mom will depict an argument with a romantic partner in great detail, but consistently overlook the real sources of struggle that lots of young mothers face: constant stigma and ridicule, lack of social support, and the challenge of accessing public benefits.”

On that note, let’s get into it.

C: The Other Baby, Maddy’s half sister Alyssa, has ears that stick out and is therefore a full on distraction for me.

M: Oh poor thing! One night stand. That is rough. Wait…haven’t we already had a baby named Aubrey?

C: SO MANY Aubreys. I think this is 3?

M: I hope this guy shows up to the doctor’s appointment. It’s such a positive thing to have the boyfriend at the ultrasound appointment. Can you even imagine being 16 and then getting pregnant with someone you just met and then having to figure out what you’re going to do? Like, I couldn’t even deal with just figuring out how to dress appropriately and what to decorate my locker with, let alone plan my entire future family. I don’t think I could have handled it.

C: Cody-“I should have paid more attention in health class. I should have used a condom.” Now would not be a terrible time to mention that it’s also  important that the girl be able to say, “Hey, maybe put on a condom?”

M: Wow, Mom is laying on the shame here.

C:  Oh my gd, Maddy’s mother. SHE CAN STILL BE A LAWYER.

M: Here’s the thing, it’s not going to “be a long time” before she’s going to get to do what she wants to do. Because right now she wants to be a mom. Maddy is more “responsible”-sounding than Mom at this point. She’s able to hold both that she did something she would consider a mistake and also own up to that she can’t change the past and now sees a new vision for herself. That’s a pretty adult thing to realize. But Mom is stuck in this “either/or” thinking.

C: There was an episode a few seasons ago where the girl’s dad was also like, “Hi, just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean you have to live with the dude.” Also, here we are again with the “He ruined your life.”

M: Yeah. I just want to yell at them, “YOUR LIFE IS NOT RUINED”. And then give them hugs. I know I’m going to just keep saying this over and over but how responsible are these kids being? They are not romantically involved but their relationship has evolved to be this mutually-beneficial partnership where they are trying to figure this out together.

C: The word “responsible” in these situations always scares me. There are a lot of ways to be responsible, right? Abortion and adoption  are also examples of being responsible.

M: So true. We throw around that word like there’s a morally right and wrong way of being and no gray area. When I was 16 I couldn’t even function in my own home let alone move to an unfamiliar environment with a baby. That is scary shit.

C: Other Baby is the real star here. Sorry, Maddy.

M: What is the plot I’m supposed to be paying attention to? Adorable Baby? Staring at camera?

C: “The only time we ever left his house was to buy a pregnancy test.” Real talk.

M: High school dates: Still as awkward even if you having a baby together.


M: After Maddy raises her baby and takes her first gender studies class she is going to be so impressed by the way she handled this situation and refused to submit to the patriarchy.

C: There’s always stuff on this show about girls going from size zero to size 14 or whatever while pregnant. No one is ever a size 14 originally.

M: Yeah, and the size difference is always talked about like it’s the worst possible thing.

C: Here I will apply my creepily encyclopedic knowledge of this show and point out that Jamie in season 3 asked her doctor  if her stretch marks would go away when asked what she was most worried about. It’s normal, I know, but the emphasis is still bothering me.

M: Is this the appropriate time to mention that my cats really are into this right now? Or they want dinner. It’s one of those.

C: Cats love MTV.

M: You’re really missing out on this nail polish commercial where models rub their hands all over men’s faces.

C: Is it disembodied hands? Or can you see the models’ faces?

M: Disembodied, obviously.

C: Of course. Faces are superfluous. Especially on women.

M: As soon as you see faces, you think “people” with “minds”.

C: Just cut to the chase! This is about nail polish! AND MEN..

M: Not just any men, “alluring men”, says Youtube. I don’t know about you, but I’m sold.

C: I will be buying a lot of this nail polish. You are working, capitalism.

M: You just get me, MTV.

C: Oh, here comes Cody’s patriarchy induced temper tantrum.(re: Maddy wanting Aubrey to have her last name.)

M: The way that the men/boys act and fight about the last name stuff just reminds me about how the patriarchy hurts everyone. It makes people feel like they have to hold to these systemic ideals, and when those ideals are not met it makes people feel bad, like something is being taken away from them and like they’re not in control.

C: Yes! And not being able to show that something (a lady, a child, etc) is YOURS is threatening. It undercuts your masculinity.

M: Now is the only part where I feel old and yell, “Are you seriously telling them you’re not moving in via text?” Is that what the kids are doing these days?

C: Ughh. This makes me want to get a lawn so I can tell kids to get off of it.

M: I support Maddy in her decision to do what’s best for her and move into the environment where she feels most comfortable and supported, but if I were Cody and his mom, I would have preferred receiving that information in person. But I am not 16 so what do I know!

C: What do we know about on line classes in high school and if they keep ple from dropping out?

M: It seems like a great model to me, but I’d be interested to hear more about it. There must be data on it somewhere.

C: I really like M’s dad pushing her to do what’s best for her. And I’m reminded of how much of a role class plays in all this. I mean, her dad has an extra room in a house.

M: Yeah, an extra room and enough income to be able to feed two additional people!

C: Do we think Maddy’s jeans came with those holes?

M: I like how we’re not judgemental about teen moms but we are judgmental about teen fashion. And methods of virtual communication. And baby names.

C: I mean, I’m not made of stone.  So, do we have closing thoughts?

M: I guess mine are that the show is trying to paint Maddy as an irresponsible teenager who got herself into a serious and terrible situation that she can’t get out of, but I think there’s another more powerful narrative that she faced getting pregnant as a challenge instead of an obstacle, was able to stay true to herself, and has a solid vision of what she wants her future to look like and what she can accomplish.

I think we should end by sending some love and well wishes to Maddy and baby.

C: Agreed. (Maddy, I’m sorry about what I said about your jeans.)


We’ll be back with another recap next Sunday! 16 and Pregnant airs Mondays at 10/9 c. 


Abortion Gang at CLPP 2014

14 Apr



Bloggers from Abortion Gang recently spent 3 days at the radical glory that is the CLPP conference, and we tweeted up a storm! You can find the tweets by searching #CLPP2014 on Twitter.

Check out Abortion Gang bloggers @chaneldubofsky, @annapopinchalk, and at @PProvide, as well as @graceishuman,@OpinionessWorld, @AbortionChat,  @RBraceySherman@poonam_pai ,

@SisterSong_WOC@LeahDoolittle@KimberlyInezDC@aimeett and others.


Stay tuned to Abortion Gang for more blog posts on CLPP!




The Round Up

28 Mar

Here’s what some of us at Abortion Gang have been paying attention to lately:


Most of my reading has been for classes but this week we are talking about conscientious objection and with the Supreme Court cases coming up this has been one of my favorite break downs of what’s at stake in this decision:

Kaiser does a great job of outlining how this case isn’t only about contraceptive coverage and religious freedom, but also whether corporations should be considered people and the implications this case could have on corporate law.



I’m reading my friend Tiffany’s post on why she’s fasting to support immigration reform:

Steph and Chanel’s piece  on abortion stigma and culture change at Cosmo:

Latest Hyde blog post from Andrew Jenkins at Choice USA:

Taja Lindley on RH Reality Check about queer women & sexual health:



I’ve been reading about abortion access in Latin America using resources at the Guttmacher Institute and an article from RH Reality Check called The Politics of Abortion in Latin America.

I’ve been watching the hysteria from the anti-abortion zealots over the coathanger necklaces from the DC Abortion Fund , and am giddy at the thought of how much DCAF has been able to capitalize on the negative publicity to help women in need. Looking forward to being able to spot fellow supporters on the street and be able to match up our necklaces like a secret handshake. This is my personal favorite blog post I’ve seen.

I’ve been reading up on the Hobby Lobby birth control case, and am looking forward to standing outside of the Supreme Court in DC on Tuesday with other women’s healthcare supporters as oral arguments are heard.

In NC, we had a hell of a year in 2014 with a Motorcycle Vagina law that threatened to close every clinic but one, a wonderful clinic in the furthest corner of our state called Femcare (if you have a short memory or live under a rock, catch up on Motorcycle Vagina here and here.)  With the 2014 session starting in less than two months and NC feminists waiting at the doors to find out how our general assembly will continue their path of destruction, Femcare’s owner has decided to retire and put the clinic up for sale. Planned Parenthood has announced plans to open a health center providing abortions in the same town and we await further developments.  There is a lot of uncertainty and some genuine concern about making sure one of our most dedicated NC providers is treated well.



How to write an apology after saying something racist

30 Dec

There have been many instances recently in the news where white folks have been called out for saying or doing something racist. Many people have also issued apologies that have attracted additional criticism, most recently Ani DiFranco. I was upset by the tone of her apology, so I thought I would detail a few guidelines that have been helpful for me in thinking about getting called out for racist behavior. I hope this will be helpful for others too.

1. Listen to what people are saying and practice self-reflection

This seems self-explanatory, but it’s easy to get caught up in the online whirlwind and feel overwhelmed. That’s normal. Read other’s responses thoughtfully, make sure you grasp people’s views, and take breaks when you need to.

Try to understand the disappointment, frustration, anger, and outrage. Take a moment to sit with the criticism and use it to think deeply about yourself, your position, your power, and your words.

If you feel yourself getting defensive, that’s normal. It’s tough to think about yourself perpetuating something hurtful. We are all human and we make mistakes, but it is up to us as people in positions of power to use our power to change oppressive systems. When you find yourself getting defensive, think about why you are getting defensive. Does it have to do with yourself, your values, what other people believe in, and their perceptions of you? Does it have to do with you not wanting to admit that you were wrong? Does it have to do with feeling like people aren’t seeing you for who you really are? Identifying the root of your defensiveness will help to unpack what you’re feeling and respond genuinely.

Remember that it’s not your fault that you have grown up in a society that taught you that saying what you said was OK. It’s OK to feel embarrassed; you should feel embarrassed. Use that embarrassment to educate others, and to remind yourself that you will not make the same mistake twice.

2. Use your embarrassment to be a role model

Admitting that you’re embarrassed, you made a mistake, and that you were wrong sets a powerful example to others that you are a thoughtful person who respects others and is working to better our racist society. This is a much better message than something that comes from a defensive place where you are trying to justify your words. Self-reflection before apology is critical.

It’s hard to apologize, especially when your remarks were unintentional. But remember that it’s not the intent of your words that people are attacking. It’s the meaning and the effect.

3. Respect and elevate people of color’s voices.

As white people, we cannot say that what we said was not racist if others say that it is. That is called perpetuating racism, and it means we are using our power to erase and ignore the damaging effects of our words.

We are not experts on racism, no matter how much antiracist work we do. We live in a racist society, but we do not live with the daily effects. That is not our experience and we will never fully understand it. Our job is to use our power to give voice to others, not to shut them down.

4. Apologize

Hopefully, after taking the time to listen and reflect, your apology will be honest. Do not apologize because you feel as if you are being forced to. That is not helpful. Apologize sincerely. Admit that you are wrong, and do not apologize unless you feel like you’re ready and that it’s from the heart.

Also, the words “I’m sorry” are generally appropriate.

Building a Racial Justice Movement

20 Aug

By Rinku Sen. Crossposted with permission from Colorlines.

This week, the nation will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom with events in Washington, D.C., and many other cities. A hot summer of race news—Moral Mondays to preserve voting rights in North Carolina, the efforts of the Dream 9 to expose the vagaries of our immigration policy, and those of the Dream Defenders to undo Florida’s Stand Your Ground law—have led many to speculate on whether we are at the start of a new civil rights movement.

We are definitely at the brink of something. I hope that it is a racial justice movement, one that builds on the legacy of civil rights while bringing crucial new elements to our political and social lives. We have a chance to explore fundamental questions like the nature of racism, what to do with the variety of racial hierarchies across the country, and how to craft a vision big enough to hold together communities who are constantly pitted against one another.

Using the racial justice frame allows us to fight off the seductive, corrupt appeal of colorblindness, which currently makes it difficult to talk about even racial diversity, much less the real prize of racial equity. Such language also allows us to move beyond the current limitations in civil rights law to imagine a host of new policies and practices in public and private spaces, while we also upgrade existing civil rights laws at all levels of government. Finally, the modern movement has to be fully multiracial, as multiracial as the country itself. The number and variety of communities of color will continue to grow. If allof our communities stake out ground on race, rather than on a set of proxies, we will more likely be able to stick together when any one of us is accused of race baiting.

The Need for Plain Speech

We cannot solve a problem that no one is willing to name, and the biggest obstacle facing Americans today is that, in the main, we don’t want to talk about race, much less about racism. Our societal silence makes room for inventive new forms of discrimination, while it blocks our efforts to change rules that disadvantage people of color. Unless we say what we mean, we cannot redefine how racism works or drive the debate toward equity.

Americans define racism as individual, overt and intentional. But modern forms of racial discrimination are often unintentional, systemic and hidden. The tropes and images of the civil rights era reinforce the old definition. People taking on new forms constantly look for our own Bull Connor to make the case. We can find these kinds of figures. But there’s inevitably debate about whether they truly hit the Bull Connor standard, as we can see in popular defenses of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Gov. Rick Scott. Politicians, employers and public administrators have all learned to use codes for the groups they target.

The notion that all racism is intentional and overt is a fundamental building block of the false solution of colorblindness.

The obsession with examining the intentions of individual actors in order to legitimize the existence of racism undermines efforts to achieve justice. This is because the discussion of racism in the U.S. is devoid of any mention of history, power or policy. The person who notices racial disparities in health care, for example, is vilified for so-called race baiting, while someone like Rep. Steve King is virtually unchallenged when he puts up a sign referring to the State Children’s Health Insurance Program as “Socialized, Clintonesque, Hillary Care for Illegals and Their Children.” Hey, he didn’t say Latino illegals, so that’s not racist.

Fifteen years of brain research have revealed that ignoring racial difference is impossible, and that most human beings are unconscious of their biases. Thus getting people to acknowledge and change their biases voluntarily is often very difficult, and if it does happen, is insufficient to address the institutional problem.

Even people who don’t dismiss the need for race talk entirely often have the wrong end goal in mind. They encourage respect for diversity, or multiculturalism. Those are both good things. But neither one is the same thing as justice. It is entirely possible to have a diverse community, city or workplace that is marked by inequity. In restaurants I’ve worked in and observed, the white workers in the dining room get along perfectly well with black and Latino workers confined to the kitchen and dishroom, but they are not in an equitable situation. In being explicit about working on racial justice, our modern movement has a chance to push past the diversity goal and define justice.

Continue reading

#SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen Tweets and Posts to Help You Shut Up and Listen

16 Aug

The big news in online feminism this week is the #solidarityisforwhitewomen hashtag, created by Mikki Kendall (@Karnythia), by which the frustrations and righteous anger of women of color is being directed, with a side of (justified) snark, at Big White Feminism. The catalyst for this eruption may have been the latest Hugo Schwyzer flounce off the internet and subsequent fallout, but the wounds go much deeper, as 65,000+ tweets will attest.

Here at Abortion Gang we – white folks and people of color alike – are struggling to put words to our varied reactions. In the interest of being allies we wish to amplify the voices of women of color who have spoken out through this hashtag by highlighting some of their work on these topics in the past. Here are some #solidarityisforwhitewomen tweets with links to relevant writing on race and feminism by the tweeter:

Sydette @Blackamazon / My Machete Never Faltered








Lauren Chief Elk @ChiefElk / An Open Letter to Eve Ensler







Grace @graceishuman / 10 thoughts…on mental illness, abuse, and survivors









Flavia Dzodan @redlightvoices / Yes, this is about race









Rania Khalek @RaniaKhalek / 40% Of White Americans Have Zero Non-White Friends










Aura Bogado @aurabogado / A tale of two best friends










Angry Black Fangirl @TheAngryFangirl / On Hugo Schwyzer’s defenders










Shanelle Matthews @freedom_writer / On #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen; Feminism Is Not Black And White










Child of Zora @EvetteDionne  / The Burdens of Black Motherhood










Ayesha A. Siddiqi @pushinghoops / You, Me, & Chris Brown










Feminista Jones @FeministaJones / While My Sisters Gently Weep

Feminista Jones








For brief background on the hashtag and on the history of racism in the feminist movement, see this great HuffPost Live segment with Mikki Kendall & Tara Conley. For more on the history of racism within online feminism, see brownfemipower’s tumblr.

Everyone is fighting a hard battle

15 Jul

A guest post from a writer who wishes to remain anonymous. 

On the 4th of July, walking to the metro to catch a train home, my coworker was hit by a drunk driver. She passed away on Wednesday.

What I mean to say is, over the course of the last week, some drunk asshole killed a young woman who was dedicated, funny, fierce, hard-working, loving, and utterly beloved. I hardly know how to begin to grapple with what has happened. My world and my every day have turned inside out. The most ordinary things can leave me panicking, or gasping for breath, or crying, or just plain sad, or utterly grateful.

“Everyone is fighting a hard battle,” my roommate often says, a reminder that when someone shoves into me at Penn Station and mutters under their breath, or criticizes what I’m eating or wearing, or tells me they would never do a thing I do – “Oh I could never do that…” – in a way that passive-aggressively implies that what I’m doing shouldn’t really be done – in short, when people are rude, and ordinary, and difficult, that we are all struggling internally with so much more than anyone outside of us could ever see. We battle moment by moment with our demons, our experiences, our identities, our heartbreak, our subject-positionality; we spend every day of our lives battling and reconciling our own reality. Everyone is fighting a hard battle. It is so easy to forget.

I thought of it this morning as I made room in my aching chest for the grief I feel over the George Zimmerman verdict in the murder of Trayvon Martin. This verdict sits in some of the space in my mind and heart and body not occupied by my anger at the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, my eagerness over Alison Lundergran Grimes’ nascent campaign to unseat Mitch McConnell, my still-present sadness over the shooting of the children who attended Sandy Hook Elementary School, my rage over the Texas state legislature’s decision to discount the voices of the people their policies will directly impact, my ongoing joy over the defeat of DoMA, and, in this moment above all else, my seemingly infinite heartbreak over the loss of my coworker.

I am allowed to be sad and angry at everyone in the world for not grieving as I am right now. I am allowed to be sad and angry that everyone isn’t feeling my precise feelings, that everyone isn’t preoccupied with the memory of a bright and beautiful young woman, but it won’t do any good. I could be angry that people think the death of a young celebrity is more important than utter lack of justice for a young black man, but I’m not. I don’t get to decide what is important for other people, or judge how they spend their love or their grief or their energy or their time or their devotion. I can understand anger and frustration over other people’s priorities, but I won’t support it. I won’t condone it or tell you it is right. Everyone is fighting a hard battle.

Grief, anger, political will, activism – these are not zero-sum games. Making room for one or the other or three at a time is neither a failure nor a success. Grappling with multiple identities that simultaneously exalt in victory and fall to their knees in defeat within you is everyone’s reality: everyone is fighting a hard battle. Your battle is unique and you – and only you – fight that battle, and it is lonely as fuck. But you are not alone.

I support you and I love you. I do. I want you to experience your grief, your anger, your joy, your need and your reality on your own time, in your own way. I want you to heal; I want you to do whatever you must do to heal. I hope when you heal you can pick up and continue your fight; I understand if you can’t. There are days – and god, friends, yesterday was one of them – where I think I can fight no more. But I trust you. I trust that when I can’t fight, you will. I trust that when I can’t talk about structures of racism that are killing children, or the violence killing young gay men in my city, or the ignorance and hate tearing women’s lives and bodies apart, that you will do it for me. And when you can’t, when you’re too tired, I will do the same for you. Trust me.

When you can’t run you walk. When you can’t walk you crawl. And when you can’t crawl…

You find someone to carry you.

Mr. Waverly: Intimate Partner Violence and Blackface

18 Oct

A few weeks ago, a young student in New Hartford, NY was beaten to death at the hands of her boyfriend. This little town happens to be extremely close to where I attended college and the story hit home. There are many of us who bear witness to domestic and intimate partner violence in our lives and the lives of our loved ones, yet, this issue still seems to be taken lightly.

Everyone remembers when Chris Brown badly beat Rihanna back in 2009 and how some people believed she deserved it, while others believed she didn’t–in any case, the issue was largely made light of in various venues. Now, at a high school in Waverly (close to Binghamton, NY which is also close to my college), students at a pep rally made light of both domestic violence and blackface in an attempt to win the title of “Mr. Waverly”.

Now, I don’t blame students for this–I think the skit was insensitive both for its making light of racism and domestic violence. However, the administration at the school should have done its role as an educating body to enlighten students about the historical background of blackface and the ramifications of intimate partner violence. It sickened me to read some of the current students’ feelings regarding the skit: that it was not racially insensitive, that nothing was wrong with it, etc. Even the comments below the CNN article argued that no one would be upset if a man dressed up as a woman and that other skits in Hollywood have made light of the situation as well.

Just because current students, alums, and readers of the article don’t find the skit offensive does not mean it isn’t. Making light of racism and intimate partner violence renders complacency and apathy when one has no personal connection to racism or intimate partner violence (not that you need a personal connection to either to care).

As an educator, I charge school districts around the country to educate their young students about racism, sexism, and intimate partner violence in an effort to have students maintain sensitivity and awareness, even when it’s simply for a high school pep rally.