“Women hold up half the sky”

Today while being a domestic goddess (unwillingly, mind you), I turned on a YouTube channel to have something on in the background as I worked.  I turned on an Oprah episode (I know, how cliche!), and all of a sudden, I stopped working to watch.

It’s an interview with the journalist Nicholas Kristof and his partner, Sheryl WuDunn, about their book: Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.

I was most struck by this statistic, taken from their book’s foreword:

It appears that more girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the battles of the twentieth century. More girls are killed in this routine ‘gendercide’ in any one decade than people were slaughtered in all the genocides of the twentieth century.

Hearing information like this takes my breath away.

Earlier this week, Jerry and I (along with some friends) attended the Governor General’s lecture that commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Canadian Bill of Rights.  Michaëlle Jean may be a governmental figurehead as GG, but she’s also an amazing advocate for women and First Nations peoples.  Her talk was inspirational, and I really wished Emma was old enough that I could have taken her along with me to hear such a woman speak.

During the question and answer portion of the talk, the first person to stand and speak was a man who was clearly upset with Jean and the panel of university faculty/students who were advocating for womens’ rights as human rights.  He incoherently rambled a rant that essentially boiled down to a concern that women were attempting to domineer their way in society as a vindictive attempt of establish a place of feminine power over men.

Of course, no one took him seriously. [Jean’s later response to his question was priceless: “domination is destruction — not only that, it’s boring.”]

I’ve had some issues with the whole mens’ rights movement, and while part of me wants to take it seriously (especially when it concerns fathers’ rights), there’s another part of me that thinks all of it is pretty silly, especially when compared to the plight of most women in the world.

I think I need to read this book, and maybe forward it to some of the mens’ rights advocates I know.  *That* could lead to some really interesting conversations over a beer!

history in the making

Today U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled AGAINST Proposition 8 in California, clearing the way for the case to make its way to the Supreme Court.

I’m just DYING to read his entire ruling, but I’m just so swamped right now between

  • teaching/marking/meeting with students,
  • gardening,
  • planning the Freethinker Family Camp next weekend,
  • applying (and being ACCEPTED!) into Celebrant training,
  • mamahood,
  • and the occasional few hours of sleep I can grab.

So — until I can sit down and savor this human rights victory, I’ll enjoy the few snippets I read online, like this one:

The evidence shows that the movement of marriage away from a gendered institution and toward an institution free from state-mandated gender roles reflects an evolution in the understanding of gender rather than a change in marriage. The evidence did not show any historical purpose for excluding same-sex couples from marriage, as states have never required spouses to have an ability or willingness to procreate in order to marry. FF 21. Rather, the exclusion exists as an artifact of a time when the genders were seen as having distinct roles in society and in marriage. That time has passed. (113)

And, this one:

Moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbians.The evidence shows conclusively that Proposition 8 enacts, without reason, a private moral view that same-sex couples are inferior to opposite-sex couples. (135)

The clincher:

Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples. Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. (138)

Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick’s reflects on the judge’s decision, and writes:

It’s hard to read Judge Walker’s opinion without sensing that what really won out today was science, methodology, and hard work. Had the proponents of Prop 8 made even a minimal effort to put on a case, to track down real experts, to do more than try to assert their way to legal victory, this would have been a closer case. But faced with one team that mounted a serious effort and another team that did little more than fire up their big, gay boogeyman screensaver for two straight weeks, it wasn’t much of a fight.

For one of the most inspiring moments of the day, watch Rachel interview the lawyers behind defeating the Proposition, Ted Olsen and David Boies:

What a great day for equality.  I cannot wait until I’ll be able to be a Celebrant at a same-sex wedding.

Pragmatically pro-life

In an article “Libertarians Realizing Rand Paul Is Not One of Them“, there was an interesting section on Paul’s extreme anti-abortion views.  The quotes from the article are originally found in this Reason.com article by Jacob Sullum.  Rand Paul supports “any and all legislation that would end abortion or lead us in the direction of ending abortion,” including “a Human Life Amendment and a Life at Conception Act as federal solutions to the abortion issue.”

Part of the power of the pro-life position is in its rhetorical positioning of supporting “life,” and of course it sounds good to say “life begins at conception.”   There’s even rhetorical power in claiming that “abortion is murder” and that all such procedures should be banned — but what does it PRACTICALLY mean to hold such positions?

Sullum quotes this report by Ari Armstrong:

The logical conclusion of abortion bans is that government agents should forcibly restrain women to prevent them from getting abortions. After all, if abortion is murder, as advocates of abortion bans routinely claim, then driving down the street to obtain an abortion is morally and legally equivalent to driving down the street with a loaded shotgun to blow your neighbor’s head off. Police have every right to arrest and forcibly restrain threatening individuals. If abortion is murder, then a woman who declares her intent to get an abortion has threatened murder and must be strapped down if necessary to ensure delivery.

But a fertilized egg is not a person. A fertilized egg does not properly have the legal rights of a born infant. Abortion is not murder. Women have every right to take birth control drugs or obtain an abortion. Abortion bans place a woman’s body under the control of the government and threaten to unleash a heavy-handed police state.

This is the tack I like take when I’m talking to people who are anti-choice — mainly because I think it’s important for anyone to be able to recognize the logical outcomes of the position you hold.

I also like to point people to this NYTimes article Pro-Life Nation, that describes the quality of “life” for women in the country of El Salvador (the only country in the world whose Constitution codifies “life begins at conception”).

I’m not out to change people’s minds when it comes to this issue — but I am out to make sure people understand the reality behind the rhetoric they’re spouting.

When pro-life really means pro-death (or: anti-woman)

For all my pro-life readers out there, I’d really like to hear your thoughts on this case: Hospital Nun Excommuniated for Allowing Abortion.

The background:  last year, a woman in Phoenix received an abortion in a Catholic hospital.  This patient was 11 weeks pregnant, and had a severe life-threatening condition that would have killed her had she not received the procedure.  Before the abortion, her case was reviewed and scrutinized by a hospital ethics committee, and they all decided that this was the right and life-saving thing to do in this situation.

So looking at this particular case, what is the appropriate pro-“life” response to a situation like this?  I can already hear one of my (rabid) pro-life friends respond to me by saying, “God is in control, and you should trust him to save both the mother and child.”  (Usually this platitude is followed up by a vague reference of a story of a friend-of-a-friend who had a negative diagnosis but continued on with a pregnancy to have a positive result.)  And you know, saying that “God is in control” sounds really nice  — but when faced with impending death, I wonder how willing you’d be to take a bet on dogma over reality.

The reality in this woman’s life was that she was going to die unless she had an abortion.  It probably wasn’t a happy choice for her to have to make, but it was a choice she was glad to be able to have medically available.

It’s situations like these that remind me of the importance of being able to trust women when it comes to reproductive issues.  If a lawmaker passed a law in Arizona’s capital that outlawed all abortions, where would that have left this woman and her family?  Sure, passing such a law may have made the lawmaker score big points with his conservative donors, but his feigned concern over preserving “life” would have meant DEATH for this woman.

As horrible as you may think abortion is, it’s cases like these that convince me that these procedures need to ALWAYS be available for women to consult.  I’m so tired of hearing the anti-choice talking point that most abortions are done out of “convenience,” as if a woman wakes up one day — 7 months pregnant — and decides she doesn’t want to go through with mamahood.

But I digress.  The moral dilemma over this Arizona woman’s story doesn’t just stop with her decision.  The local Catholic church decided to righteously weigh in on the situation, and the role a Catholic nun played in the saga:

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, head of the Phoenix Diocese, indicated in a statement that the Roman Catholic involved was “automatically excommunicated” because of the action. The Catholic Church allows the termination of a pregnancy only as a secondary effect of other treatments, such as radiation of a cancerous uterus.

“I am gravely concerned by the fact that an abortion was performed several months ago in a Catholic hospital in this diocese,” Olmsted said in a statement sent to The Arizona Republic. “I am further concerned by the hospital’s statement that the termination of a human life was necessary to treat the mother’s underlying medical condition.

“An unborn child is not a disease. While medical professionals should certainly try to save a pregnant mother’s life, the means by which they do it can never be by directly killing her unborn child. The end does not justify the means.”

For those of you keeping track at home:

  • Repeatedly rape and take advantage of young children in your charge = a transfer to another parish, the covering up of your crimes, intimidation of your accusers, promotion, etc…
  • Save the life of a woman by performing a legal medical procedure = EXCOMMUNICATION

Just stunning.  How can anyone want to continue to be a part of a such a corrupt (and misogynistic) institution?