NACB and ACLU file for information on emergency contraception policies at Indian Health Services

Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault

Happy Women’s History month, y’all! Just a reminder in between everyone’s celebrations of dead, racist white ladies (sorry not sorry!) that we’ve still got a long way to go reproductive justice-wise.

Over 1 in 3 American Indian women will be raped in their lifetime. American Indian women are 2.5 times more likely to be raped than other women in America, and in at least 86 per cent of the reported cases of sexual assault against American Indian and Alaska Native women, survivors have reported that the perpetrators are non-Native men.

This is especially awful considering that 90 percent of Indian Health Services (IHS) facilities do not provide emergency contraception to the Native American women they serve (NOTE: everyone deserves access to emergency contraception, regardless of whether or not they are survivors of sexual assault). Even at facilities that do provide emergency contraception, the long wait and the fact that clinics are closed on the weekend can prevent access to EC within the 120 hour period that it is effective. If the closest IHS clinic doesn’t carry EC, finding a commercial pharmacy can be incredibly difficult given the rural locations of many reservations. For some, the cost of travel alone prevents access to EC.

Just the cost of EC itself is a barrier across the board for all populations and definitely related to race and class. It is recommended to keep emergency contraception in your medicine cabinet as a precaution, but how likely is it that every person capable of becoming unintentionally pregnant can shell out $50 on a medication that they don’t need immediately to survive? That could be used for groceries, gas money, medication for children. For low income Native women, IHS is often the only way to access affordable health care.

Issues of reproductive justice for American Indian women are particularly relevant here in Oklahoma. Oklahoma has the second highest population of Native American people in the US and has 38 federally recognized tribes. Over half of the 63 IHS pharmacies surveyed by the Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center in the Oklahoma City, Albuquerque, Aberdeen, S.D., and Bemidiji, Minn. service areas that carried Plan B, but many of these pharmacies did not have the pill available over-the-counter. A NAWHERC study found that only 11 percent of the pharmacies surveyed carried emergency contraception over the counter, about half carried emergency contraception but required a prescription and a doctor’s visit, and about 43 percent of the pharmacies contacted did not carry Plan B at all. There is no uniform policy because of issues of whether the government or individual tribes are in charge of individual IHS clinics, as well as problems with funding and policy implementation.

The good news is that ACLU and NACB just filed a Freedom of Information Act request with IHS seeking information on policies governing access to over-the-counter emergency contraception at IHS facilities and demanding action from the government.

Carly is dragging herself through her last semester at OU.

Rodeo Roundup: “pro-choice” shmo-choice

Hello hello! I’m super excited to be here doing the roundup for the first time for y’all!

On Tuesday, the lovely folks at National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) published their study on “413 criminal and civil cases across 44 states involving the arrests, detentions and equivalent deprivations of pregnant women’s liberty between 1973 and 2005.” They’ve proved just how dangerous it is to legally define embryos and fetuses as citizens with legal rights. Yay!

Of friggin’ course, the same day that this study was announced, Oklahoma Rep. Mike Reynolds introduced YET ANOTHER Personhood bill in the state senate. Thanks a lot, jerk.

scullysigh

The good news is that Pearl’s coverage of Rep. Reynolds awful decision making was quoted over at RH Reality Check. Pearl and OK4RJ are internet famous! People pay attention to what’s happening in Oklahoma! YES.

This mediocre, misleading poll about Millennials and Roe came out, and Rep. Ron Mendive of Idaho made a rude comparison between legalized abortion and sex workers. Sex workers are people! They deserve respect. And it’s about damn time the GOP stops comparing things that are unrelated!

farnsworth

Please. Just stop it, guys. You’re perpetuating discrimination against sex workers. And embarrassing yourselves.

In more bad news, a new report by the Center for American Progress found that the Citizen’s United decision has had not-so-good effects on state courts. Surprise, surprise, the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity are spending tons of money to maintain reproductive oppression. Hm.

Planned Parenthood announced this week that they will no longer be using “Pro-choice” to describe themselves because they’re “concerned that the pro-life/pro-choice framework for abortion doesn’t resonate with the general public that holds many more conflicting positions on abortion.” This is great news! There’s a reason we use reproductive justice as a framework at OK4RJ instead of calling ourselves pro-choice.

That’s all I’ve got, y’all. The best news is that Take Root is getting even closer!

Carly wants you to go to Take Root so bad. Go register. You won’t regret it.

The Myth of the "Objective" Crisis Pregnancy Center Report

I”d like to take a moment to direct your attention to this steaming pile of BS recently published by the New York Times. In it, Pam Belluck writes from Texas to let everyone know that Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) are gaining influence in our current climate of reproductive oppression (not her words). CPCs are (usually) Christian-run organizations that receive federal dollars to lie to and coerce pregnant people. They intentionally set up shop right next to actual reproductive health centers, and are vague about their anti-abortion status. They rarely have medical staff, and provide medically inaccurate literature. This includes the long disproved myths that abortion causes breast cancer, depression, and suicide.

For more information about what one CPC is like in Oklahoma, I”d recommend Jessie”s post about her visit to one. As proof for all of you logo-centric assholes demanding citations from ~*science~*~, here is a link to the Guttmacher Institute”s fact sheet on abortion in the US, which includes an entire section on the safety of abortion. Calm down and read it before you leave comments about how I”m pulling this all out of my butt.  Now I”m going to try to calm my rage, take some deep breaths, and break this down for those of you who maybe don”t see what”s wrong with this story.

1. CPCs have been around for a LONG time. “Citizen Ruth” has an extensive scene set in a CPC. If CPCs were around long enough to make fun of in friggin” 1996, I don”t really see why this article was necessary, other than to advertise for Crisis Pregnancy Centers while omitting legitimate concerns about their coercive (or even abusive) Join us to start playing over 100 of the best casino games. treatment of pregnant people.

2. Belluck does mention that many medical professionals contradict the information distributed by CPCs, but she hardly emphasizes the degree to which this is true. Entire paragraphs about how CPC”s are the new “darling of the pro-life movement” followed by ONE sentence like “An American Psychological Association report found no increased risk [for negative psychological effects] from one abortion” is not good enough.

3. Belluck does point out that “In 2011, Texas increased financing for the centers while cutting family planning money by two-thirds, and required abortion clinics to provide names of centers at least 24 hours before performing abortions. In South Dakota, a 2011 law being challenged by Planned Parenthood requires pregnancy center visits before abortions.” However, she completely fails to draw the link between these laws, as well as CPCs receiving federal funding, and the violation of the Establishment Clause. If abortion providers are required to provide names of CPCs, which are almost always Christian, what do they do with clients who aren”t Christian? Hell, these people think that the only religions that are worthy of being included on their check-off form are “Christian, Christian (Catholic), None, Other, Wicca.”

willow

“Yer either a real Christian, a fake Christian, or a WITCH!”

4. Why the ACTUAL FUCK is the only reference to race in one two-sentence blurb about how CPCs want to target Black and Latina women and compare abortion to lynching? What about the objections the people at SisterSong – and other organizations for people of color – have to these comparisons?

5. Belluck also includes a lengthy description of what CPCs consider to be an “abortion-minded” or “abortion-vulnerable” person. This would be all well and good if she would actually examine and analyze this critically. According to Belluck, “[One CPC”s] checklists consider a woman “abortion-minded” if she “has an abortion scheduled regardless of how tentative she seems” or asks questions like “ ‘How much does an abortion cost?’ ” And the rhetoric surrounding “abortion-vulnerable” people implies that pregnant persons who intentionally remain pregnant really can”t be trusted until they carry to term. Many pregnant people have been harassed months after their visit to a CPC (often by phone), even if they decided to carry to term, just to make sure that they stay pregnant.

6. Oy vey, the regionalism. Why is Texas the state that Belluck has chosen to focus on? Usually, Oklahoma comes up with this crap before Texas anyway. It”s like Texas has become the dumping grounds for everyone to talk about how conservative the South is, while ignoring other states and the entire Midwest.

Goddammit, NYT. That was really disappointing.

stopsayingwords

Shhh….no words.r.

Carly is almost finished knitting her first sweater. She”s really excited about it. She”s also dedicating this post to Tova Tenenbaum. I know that sickening feeling  that comes when asked about your relationship with Jesus.

Advice for Baby-Killin’ Hussy Queerdo Reproductive Justice Activists Going Home for the Holidays

I’m sure that if you’re queer and/or into reproductive justice, live in Oklahoma (or anywhere else in the South or Midwest), and come from a conservative family, you know that coming home for the holidays can be less of a relaxing break with your family and more of an exercise of patience. As in, holding yourself back from telling everyone off, driving your car into the house, and then running screaming into the night. So I’ve compiled a short list of hypothetical situations many of our readers may be in, and how to best respond (or not) for your own self care.

laughinglisa

WE’RE GONNA GET THROUGH THIS

Situation 1.) Family members making sexist, cissexist, homophobic, racist, etc. etc. etc. jokes or otherwise problematic statements in front of you.

Solution: Assess your individual situation. If you are in legitimate danger or mentally exhausted from constantly calling people out, just stay quiet. Your mental health matters more than putting yourself in danger for the sake of educating someone who won’t listen.

quitef inished

“Are you quite finished?”

That being said, if you do think you can safely call out your family without negative repercussions, good Lorde DO IT AND HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE. If this will lead to incessant teasing, don’t engage. But if you do decide to engage, use humor! Cope with sarcasm! You can be critical in a way that prevents fighting and guilt trips, and you’ll be able to blow off a little steam.

Situation 2.) Nosy Relative constantly asks if you’re a ~*~LESBIAN~*~ because  a). your haircut b). you’re single c). your Women’s and Gender Studies degree or d). you’re interested in activism (this applies to any other invasive accusation about your sexuality or gender identity).

Solution: Politely tell them it’s none of their business. Then ask why they’re so invested in who you’re sleeping with anyway?? You can take the shame angle if you can’t get them to shut up. Tell them you’re family and that’s gross! You don’t need to deny or affirm their accusations at all. You’re not obligated to disclose intimate details from your personal life just because the person asking raised you, gave birth to you, or got you a Christmas present this year.

Situation 3.) Obnoxious Political Relative wants to start a debate over Obligatory Holiday dinner. They egg you on about abortion, “the gays,” “reverse racism,” gun control, or anything else controversial that they assume you’ll disagree on.

Solution: Again, distract with humor or sarcasm. Shut that down quickly if you don’t have the energy to engage. YOU DON’T OWE THEM A DEBATE. They just want to see you get angry.

Situation 4.) Family gives you shit about your career choices.

Solution: If they haven’t already found out that you work for your local abortion fund, vaguely describe your job as something to do with “health care.” If your family does know what you do and just makes rude comments about how much money you make (or not) or calls you a “feminazi” (BARF) anyway, just tell them that what you do makes you happy and that should be enough for them. Then change the subject!

I cannot stress enough that everyone’s family is unique. You know what is the best way to survive extended time with family. I’m coming from a family that mercilessly makes fun of each other as a defense mechanism to avoid becoming the next victim. I don’t know what your messed up family dynamics are like.

I do have to say that self care will help get you through this, regardless of what your family is like. Make time for Google hangouts or Skype with your chosen family. Especially if you end up having a family blow up (ie you get in trouble for calling Uncle Marty a Fucking Racist Asshole or your parents react negatively to you coming out). Getting enough sleep will ensure that you have 8-10 hours alone. It will also help keep your anxiety down, ensuring that you are more resilient and can put up with the onslaught of bullshit. If you have close friends nearby, make time to hang out with them in between family events. If there are little kids in your family, hang out with them! The two year old will watch cartoons with you and idolize you regardless of your politics. Take deep breaths. Remember that soon the holiday season will be over and you can go back to eating and watching Netflix alone in your apartment.

Carly hopes your family time is pleasant and doesn’t require copious amounts of meditation. She also wants you to know that she had to take a huge break in the middle of writing this because her five year old niece wanted a manicure.

Martyr: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Hello hello! I’m getting really gross feelings about anti-abortion rhetoric (yes, again), so today I will be rage-bloggin about pro-life folks’ self perception as martyrs. Particularly white, Christian, cis, straight, etc. pro-life folks. The ones with all the blinding privilege.

The more time I spend keeping an eye on (read: internet stalking) anti-abortion groups, the more I see rhetoric reflecting their identity as radical martyrs. A horrifying (and hilarious) example of this would be people posting photos of themselves wearing racist anti-abortion t-shirts with captions describing themselves as “political dissidents.”

HAHA

HAHAHAHA

I thought this was obvious but apparently it still needs to be pointed out: Oklahoma is a red state. It is BY FAR safer to identify as an Evangelical Christian pro-lifer than to identify with any other group. There is literally NOTHING radical about being against abortion here. Occasionally someone may call you a Jesus freak or disagree with you, but that is hardly the same thing as systemic oppression. If your beliefs are part of the dominant power structure where you live, it is highly unlikely you will be persecuted for expressing them. Pretty much every politician in Oklahoma is Evangelical. Go Google “churches in Norman, OK.” THEY’RE EVERYWHERE. I can think of 10 within 2 miles of my house in Norman already, and I’m Jewish. There are more Christian run crisis pregnancy centers in Oklahoma than actual reproductive health clinics. It’s not like WASPs are in the minority here. No one’s going to throw you into a lion pit for being a Christian, but a whole lot of y’all are acting like someone’s about to.

I frequently have to convince my family back home in St. Louis (a tiny blue spot in Missouri, also a red state) that I’ll do my best to avoid getting shot for talking about abortion or being non-Christian in this environment. Considering that the majority of people in Oklahoma are conservative and Christian, I really don’t think anti-abortion “activists” know what it’s like to actually, legitimately fear being “disappeared.” To receive death threats for openly discussing your health or profession, knowing that nine times out of ten going to the police for protection will only make things worse.

You sweet, summer children. If you had to experience even half of what non-Christians, queer people, people of color, and other marginalized groups experience living here, y’all would have a meltdown in about five seconds. My dorm was vandalized my freshman year because I had Hannukah decorations. All the Jewish stars were covered in crosses drawn in permanent marker. I have close friends who can’t come out at work because they work for small, local businesses and know they would be fired. Most anti-abortion folks have no idea what it’s like to deal with micro aggressions. They’ve never had to overhear people say racist, cissexist, or other terrible, oppressive things about their identities and then have to make the call whether or not to use their energy on teaching someone or endangering themselves that day. Those are just examples of psychological violence. It has been and can get much, much worse. How can you be a martyr if you’re supported by the majority of people around you?

Carly is preparing to hibernate for winter. She will never stop making outdated pop culture references in her posts.

So You Want To Be An Activist: Introverts Edition

Since the OK4RJ blog was revamped last October, I’ve been advocating for reproductive justice as a regularly contributing blog writer despite my inner/outer shy girl being way intimidated. I’ve also been active with the Student Organizer’s Collective (SOC) at the University of Oklahoma. Because of the support and encouragement of OK4RJ and SOC friends/organizers – who are actually The Best – I pushed past the shy thing once more and spoke on the Religion and Reproductive Justice Panel at the annual Take Root: Red State Perspectives on Reproductive Justice conference last February. I basically talked about this again, because Lorde knows it needs repeating.

Learning to take care of and respect myself and my needs as an introverted activist is how I became comfortable enough to regularly contribute to the OK4RJ blog and eventually speak on a panel at Take Root. It is crucial to empower young people to be activists if we want to continue building the movement and resisting burnout and turnover. But because we live in predominately conservative areas and have likely been socialized to be non-confrontational (particularly women), it can be really difficult to get started with activism in the first place. I want to dedicate this post to my fellow introverted, shy Oklahomans and red state residents. Here’s a list of suggestions and tips for reproductive justice-minded introverts and the people who work with them.

anxiety cat

The face of the future of this movement

“Activist” is not a one-size fits all term:
There is often an image of activism that includes having to be out in public, speaking to strangers all while being 100% articulate and being able to stand up to those that will try to remove you from your rally, counter protest, etc. First of all, remember that you can promote reproductive justice and be an activist without putting yourself on the spot every day. If you are uncomfortable in a highly visible situation in which you will need to be speaking alone, you don’t have to force yourself to do it anyway. I know that for a lot of us growing up in conservative areas, there can be hesitation to speak out when you know from the get go that the majority of the people around you will question your values, intelligence, and right to speak. Adding that on top of a naturally introverted personality who has been trained to “catch more flies with honey than with vinegar,” breaking past your own socialization can be the biggest step to becoming an effective activist. Remember that activism can take many forms. For example, if writing is the way that you prefer to communicate, write.

look how awesome we are

THEY AREN’T MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE!

Within our OK4RJ community, one particularly helpful practical strategy we’ve used is to make sure to go into a protest knowing who is comfortable speaking with the media or police. Extroverts: keep an eye on your shy friends. If you see them getting harassed by violent anti-abortion activists, come over and help them out. They may be having a harder time standing up for themselves under pressure, and even just your silent presence and support can help make them feel assured enough to assert themselves.

It’s ok to say “no”:
In my own experience, I’ve found that acknowledging your needs as a shy, anxious, or introverted person can do wonders for your self care and make you feel much safer. If you are being harassed by an anti-abortion protestor and you do not want to engage with them, don’t. You don’t owe them a damn thing. You can repeat “I do not want to speak to you. Please leave me alone” or any similar variation of that statement that works for you. Yes I realize that sounds robotic and cheesey but having a statement you can remember even when you’re feeling panicked can make you feel better. If anything, you know you have SOME sort of response. You can walk away. It doesn’t mean that you’re weak or too timid. It means you respect yourself enough to not torture yourself by putting up with their bullshit and triggering your own anxiety. Don’t be ashamed to set limits for yourself.

I recommend saying this anytime that it is true

I’ve also found that over time this approach has helped me to feel more empowered and more comfortable in situations that would typically drain my energy. I can explain that I do not wish to engage in Justice For All’s scripted “dialogue,” for instance, but I would be happy to teach them about reproductive justice if they are interested. I wouldn’t have developed that ability without the help and support of my OK4RJ friends or without respecting my own limits.

Communicate your needs to the group:
Part of respecting those needs includes making sure that the other people in your activist community are aware of them. It can be difficult to bring up at first, but making sure you have the support of more outspoken activists can make your involvement and interactions within your organization much more comfortable and effective. Soft-spoken people often have a harder time with inter-organization communication than more extroverted activists. If other members of your organization know you tend to have social anxiety or just be a more quiet person in general, they will be better able to help you. They can make sure you aren’t being interrupted or ignored in meetings by others (who are often well intentioned), and it will strengthen your organization if everyone is watching out for each other’s self care. You deserve to be heard even if you express yourself quietly.

Fostering this type of environment will increase involvement from people who may be too shy to have attended meetings or events in the past because they aren’t already close friends with other activists. I know when I first became involved with OK4RJ I had worries about other volunteers and writers disliking me as a person and feared contributing and expressing myself. Clearly this was a result of my own anxiety and not because anyone at OK4RJ is a Big Scary Meanie.

Anxiety-inducing situations can be opportunities for personal growth:
I can tell you now, it is worth pushing yourself to go to meetings and events, and it is worth communicating your needs to others. Just because you are nervous speaking out doesn’t mean you always will be, and it absolutely does not mean that you can’t be an advocate for reproductive justice. If anything, I’ve found that the more I work in reproductive justice, the more outspoken I’ve become.

Carly just gave herself The Feelings by accident.

Help help, they're being oppressed! Hobby Lobby files federal lawsuit to avoid birth control coverage for employees

Good news and bad news everyone. The good news is that today I get to rage/blog about my favorite topics: reproductive justice, the Christian right”s version of “religious freedom,” and (indirectly) knitting. The bad news is that Hobby Lobby filed a federal lawsuit against the “Obamacare” contraception mandate. As a knitter and reproductive justice activist who has, on occasion, spent more money on yarn than food in a week, this is really upsetting news for me. At least I”ve used their yarn to knit a cozy for my “whore pills” (as Jessie calls them) and for yarnbombing?

Anyway. The owners of Hobby Lobby, the Green family, believe that covering birth control and emergency contraception for their over 13,000 employees in 14 states violates their freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

Carly reacting to Hobby Lobby “losing their freedom”

LOLOLOLOLOL GOOD ONE GUYS

The lawsuit is justified by the Greens because their “religious beliefs forbid them from participating in, providing access to, paying for, training others to engage in, or otherwise supporting abortion-causing drugs and devices.” This situation would be hilarious if it weren”t actually true, given the fact that birth control pills and emergency contraception are not “abortion causing drugs.” Out of the 13,000 Hobby Lobby employees, I doubt all are Evangelical Christians like the Green family. I”m sure that many of them want or need access to contraceptives for a variety of equally valid reasons regardless of their faith, or lack thereof.

I feel like I am constantly having to say this in other posts I”ve written, but apparently it needs to be said again. Christians are not being oppressed just because they aren”t allowed to force everyone around them to live by the same rules they do through legislation.

Being unable to deny your employees access to vital reproductive health care is NOT restricting your religious freedom or freedom of best online casino speech. Hobby Lobby is an Evangelical Christian organization based out of Oklahoma. They are the majority. In a country that has an establishment clause in its constitution to prevent theocracy. Hobby Lobby employees shouldn”t have to choose between healthcare and employment, and NO ONE should have to live by Christian theology if they don”t want to.

Green family, you don”t have to worry about being attacked because you aren”t a Christian. You don”t know what it”s like to have your home vandalized for not being Christian, to be afraid to disclose your upbringing with a new acquaintance for fear of conversion attempts, alienation, or worse, violence. And not everyone has the class privilege to “just work somewhere else” if they can”t afford their prescriptions and their employer refuses to cover them in their insurance plan. Comparing insurance coverage to these examples of religious oppression is just sickening. You have no idea what having your religious freedom violated feels like. You don”t get to use your religion as a free pass to do whatever you want.

Carly has a crush on Dana Scully and loves cartoons, if you couldn”t already tell. She really wishes there was an ethical way for her to access affordable yarn, because dammit if Hobby Lobby is getting any more of her money.

Really, Angel Dillard? Reeeeaaally?

Surprise! I’m here to rant about rhetoric surrounding domestic terrorism again! Unfortunately for everyone, this discussion is still relevant. Last week, a Georgia clinic was firebombed during office hours while patients were still inside the building. It’s only been a few months since Texas state senator and open supporter of Planned Parenthood Wendy Davis’ office was firebombed. These two examples are NOT the only time this has happened this year, either. This time, instead of talking about how anti-abortion terrorists are typically written off as crazy, I want to call out the use of religious freedom as an excuse for violent threats and behavior.

Currently, Angel Dillard is being prosecuted for violating the FACE act by threatening Dr. Mila Means. Dr. Means has been trying to open the first abortion practice in Wichita since Dr. George Tiller was murdered just over three years ago. Dillard told Means in a letter that abortion opponents will “know your habits and routines. They know where you shop, who your friends are, what you drive, where you live,” the letter said. “You will be checking under your car everyday — because maybe today is the day someone places an explosive under it.” Dillard is also a public friend and supporter of Scott Roeder, the murderer of Dr. Tiller. Dillard originally claimed that her letter was not actually threatening because she didn’t “intend to carry them out.”

what is wrong with you

Really, Angel? Really?

I smell bullshit, y’all. Now she is saying that her letter was “divinely inspired,” and therefore constitutionally protected religious speech. It’s unlikely that any judge will actually value Dillard’s right to freedom of speech and religious expression over a physician’s right to safety from terrorism (I hope). Ruling in Dillard’s favor will only encourage anti-abortion extremists to push further, hiding behind their mainstream religion.

Y’all know that freedom of speech and freedom of religion aren’t get-out-of-jail-free cards, right? Constitutional protections for religious freedom were established to keep the government from establishing a theocracy and to protect religious minorities. Do you think a person who is Muslim, Jewish, or of any other faith would be able to get away with this? Angel, you are part of the majority and in danger of “inspiring” another one of your hateful, creepy ass Army of God followers to kill again. You are not the one who needs protecting.

Carly isn’t ~always~ yelling about religious fanatics. Sometimes she has other thoughts, I swear! Right now the rest of ’em are consumed with reading Game of Thrones and despair over not having internet at home and therefore not being able to watch Netflix anymore.

Good Lorde: Enough with the periods already

Hi, hello, what’s up? I want to take this special time of the month when I get to blog at OK4RJ to talk about how we talk about periods (haaa, time of the month. Pun intended. I hate myself.). You know all of that stuff from second wavers, your mom, Your Aunt Diane, etc. about how your period makes you a WOMAN and now you are EMPOWERED and we are here because of THE BLOOD OF OUR MOTHERS and this is your MOON TIME? I want to problematize the shit out of that conversation.

Why is the word abstinence on this oy vey

Happy Menarche!

This idea that you have to love your period to be a “real” feminist or a “true” woman is total bullshit and really harmful. It’s also cissexist and ableist as hell to assume that ALL women menstruate. Placing so much emphasis on menstruation and biology as the basis for womanhood excludes transwomen. It furthers the trope that trans* people can never really be the gender that they identify with unless they have the “authentic” body parts or biological processes. Transwomen are women, whether they menstruate or not. While I personally can’t speak for trans* people, I would imagine all of this emphasis on menstruation is probably pretty fucked up for transmen as well. Telling everyone who gets a period that you have to love your body, your period, and your womanhood really isn’t helpful if you get a period but don’t identify as a woman. Any push for authenticity quickly turns into identity policing.

Not all ciswomen menstruate, either. People with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), people who have gone through menopause, had hysterectomies, or have various other health issues may very well never menstruate. Are they any less of a woman? Do they not still have a stake in access to reproductive health care? People with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) can have excruciating pain, depression, irritability, and even thoughts of suicide related to their period. Expecting us to just love every single cycle is bullshit. I don’t feel closer to Mother Gaia when I’m bleeding so heavily I can’t sleep without a pad and a tampon and still bleed through my sheets. Even if someone who menstruates has able-bodied privilege, they still might not exactly enjoy their period. And that is okay. It’s not always a fun process.

It’s possible to not be totally enamored with your period while simultaneously recognizing that menstruating doesn’t make you inferior, dirty, or impure. If you feel empowered by your period, great. Good for you. I’m sincerely glad that you aren’t ashamed of your body or in pain. But don’t tell me I’m a bad feminist because I hate my period, don’t police the identities of trans* people, and just check your privilege in general. Reproductive justice is about so much more than whether or not people want to have abortions. Reproductive justice needs to include trans* people and people with disabilities, including reproductive disorders.  It is about so much more than able-bodied, cisgender women.

Carly got her first period in a mall dressing room in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky. Her cousin Rachel had to explain how to use tampons so she could still go to Matthew’s Bar Mitzvah pool party without the whole mishpucha publicly congratulating her on becoming a woman. Rachel just graduated from Washington University in St. Louis and Carly is super proud, and still grateful.

OK4RJ Does CLPP, Has All the Feelings

I don’t even know how to begin organizing my thoughts about attending the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Conference (CLPP) for the first time with OK4RJ. Like Jen, I also attended the Transfeminism and Reproductive Justice panel and am convinced that Katherine Cross is the human incarnation of grace, poise, and general badassery.  Sandra and Jen‘s panel Nothing About Us Without Us: Rural Organizing for Reproductive and Environmental Justice was great.

Commiserating about our anger at being pigeon holed into a panel on rural activism even though there are large urban centers in Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Alaska was great, too. I got a little teary-eyed when Jen and Sandra explained how awesome our activism is and how strong we are (damn right I’m bragging) even in the face of potential social isolation, violence, and complete bullshit from the coasts about how they’d rather die than live in Oklahoma. Having this discussion reminded me why I do what I do and gave me renewed energy to come back to Oklahoma and keep going.

Probably the biggest highlight for me was the Disability Justice, Feminism, and Reproductive Rights panel. Martina Robinson killed it talking about the Medical Industrial Complex and Merry Nicholson explained why groups like Autism Speaks are seriously problematic (no one with autism is involved in any of their decision making…what the hell?). Mazique “the Beast” Salih problematized the rhetoric of “visibility” for being ableist, when really what is needed is mutual recognition, and shared her own experiences.

cold stuntin

"SORRY I'M NOT SORRY" - MIA MINGUS

Mia Mingus asked us to interrogate our fear of disability and fear of our bodies. We need to bring bodies back into our activism. Being able to ignore what is happening with your own is a privilege. Making activist spaces physically more accessible is important but not enough. It’s a tool and not a cure. We need to interrogate how we define health and why our bodies are defined by our ability to produce capital. The connection between disability justice and captialism blew my mind, y’all.

We also discussed the connections between being taught to apologize for our bodies as women and queer people on top of being expected to apologize for any disabilities or physical needs we may have. This panel was a game changer for me, and I only wish we had had more time for discussion. I wish that every reproductive justice conference could devote that much time to disability justice and how it intersects with reproductive justice.

"reblogging this ok4rj post brb"

"SORRY I'M NOT SORRY" - BEYONCE

CLPP was also an amazing community building opportunity. I feel even closer to everyone at OK4RJ. Some of the best moments of our trip to Amherst included doing our nails in the Econolodge, going wide eyed and dancing every time Beyonce played during meals, meeting up with Dentonite feminists (HEY Y’ALL), making new connections, and yelling about how we will never apologize for our bodies or needs again during the seven hours spent at the airport in Connecticut. I may or may not have been delirious from exhaustion and feelings by that point but it was still one of my most radical, meaningful experiences.

Carly is still recovering from her CLPP adventures.  She came back with a whole lotta feelings and even angrier than before (apparently it WAS possible!). You can follow her on Twitter, but she just got a Pottermore account so don’t say she didn’t warn you.