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Our Reality: Teen Parents Telling Their Own Stories

As I waste my life on Twitter, quite a few Kickstarter projects flow through my stream.  Most of them are by celebrities with established fanbases, or people creating games or art which is laudable to be sure, but few have piqued my attention like that of Our Reality, a new project helping teen mothers create their own media which is being put together by blogger Avital Norman Nathman and Carrie Nelson.  You may remember Avital from such things as her blogging at The Mamafesto, her writing for Ms. Magazine, The Frisky and many others.

I recently emailed Avital a few questions to talk some more about the project.


Breaking human trafficking out of the supply chain in US government contracting

Last week, President Obama issued a rather critically important executive order that attracted little to no attention in the US, perhaps because it didn’t deal directly with domestic issues, which are the all-consuming subject of interest for many people. The order, though, was important on a global and national relations scale, and it marked a key policy shift for the administration and the nation. In the document, the President not only clearly said that human trafficking would no longer be tolerated in the vast supply chain used by US government contractors around the world, but also set out clear guidance for accountability at all steps of the supply chain and what kinds of behaviours were and aren’t allowed.

Naturally, the GOP is whining about it. They claimed that the executive order ‘undermined’ a bipartisan bill that’s been slowly grinding through Congress, thereby taking fame and glory from the Republicans involved in the bill, even though, as the ACLU points out, the order can’t stand on its own, nor is it intended to. The End Trafficking in Government Contracting Act is still needed to create stronger penalties and a better mechanism for tracking contractors involved in US government work around the world in order to identify and swiftly act upon human rights violations.  (Continued)

Crisis Pregnancy Centers are the future of reproductive health in Texas

Rick Perry has been on a crusade to limit access to reproductive health care in Texas, and so far, it’s been going pretty well for him. Especially in regards to Planned Parenthood, notorious hotbed of sin, which he’s trying to run out of the state. Last week, we got a taste of what he envisions as the perfect future of reproductive health services in Texas, and it’s terrifying.

In many ways, it honestly reminds me of a dystopian novel:

Tiffany Pardue, The Source’s Media Coordinator, took me on a quick tour of the facilities. They were stylish and lovely, with indirect lighting, sepia flower photographs printed on canvas, and pink, olive and brown painted accent stripes on the wall. One could see why Wenz had claimed when women first walk into The Source they’d breathe a sigh of relief. Pardue showed me the counseling suites, exam rooms, and ultrasound rooms, called “Window to the Womb.” These each featured or will feature a 46-inch flat-screen plasma TV mounted directly in front of the exam bed.

Is anyone else creeped out by this fetishisation of idealised pregnancy? Because I am seriously creeped out by it. Writer Emily Deprang is describing The Source for Women, a crisis pregnancy center in Houston that was honoured by a visit from the governor for a ribbon-cutting ceremony next week. Perry stressed that he sees the group as the future of reproductive health in Texas, and he’s delighted to be part of it.

“The opening of this latest medical center will enable you to spread your message,” he said, “and do your vital work, on a significantly larger scale in the years to come.”


Tea Party practices its voter intimidation skills for November in Massachusetts

Massachusetts held a Democratic primary recently; you might have missed it, in a haze of other election news and everything else that’s going on. But something really, really important happened there, and it wasn’t just who won the election. It’s something that didn’t get nearly as much coverage as it should have, even in progressive media, where there are growing concerns about what, exactly, is going to happen when we hit the polls in November.

Tea Party members turned out in Worcester, MA to intimidate voters with a variety of tactics including filming them, challenging their credentials, making false claims in fliers, and criticising Spanish speakers. Their reasons for organising the campaign were extremely transparent, and also lay the blueprints for more to come; they were responding to a massive voter registration campaign that had the audacity to attempt to get more low-income people and historically disenfranchised populations on the rolls.

At the same time, Tea Party members are organising a poll watching campaign they’re calling ‘True the Vote‘ in November. This nakedly partisan organisation aims to augment traditional voter suppression tactics like distributing false information about elections and the polls with policing polling stations, an activity allowed in 39 states. Groups like this one are actively lobbying for restrictions on voting rights, like the voting ID laws creeping across the nation, and they’re also hitting the ground with campaigns like Code Red, specifically and obviously targeting minority populations.


Feminism has abandoned me

I know feminism, as a movement, doesn’t particularly care about me. At least not anymore than any other political and/ or social movement. After all, it is merely a collective, a lose label under which anyone can more or less take a place as long as they uphold a few basic tenets (and even then, Sarah Palin dares call herself a feminist). So, it’s not that I have been abandoned by a caring lover that is mindful of my feelings or my preoccupations. If anything, I have been abandoned by the absent mother figure that never paid much attention to me. For me, these days, feminism is the kind of mother that would encourage me to play frisbee with a broken beer bottle and smoke joints at 8 AM with my morning coffee. You know, the kind of parent who never gave a shit about you.


Coming Undone

“Kalimera nanna, te kanis?” I ask, as I walk through the door.

She gets up, slowly, to greet me with a hug and a kiss. “Sit down, love, sit down,” she says, waving away my question.

She’d told me, years ago, how much she hates the Greek word for grandmother, yia yia. “Ya ya” she said, making a face. “Nonna would be better, if I were Italian.” She doesn’t remember that conversation anymore. She doesn’t remember much, anymore.


Stop justifying abortion

Either you believe abortion should be legal and we need to protect access to safe, compassionate, and confidential abortion services, full stop, or you want to fall right down the slippery slope of moral relativism and directly into the hands of conservatives. You do not need to justify abortion because a pregnancy endangers the life of a patient, because a pregnancy is the result of rape, because you think certain people shouldn’t be allowed to have children, because you think a fetus carries disabilities, or for any other reason.

Every time a progressive justifies abortion, one of those horrid ‘lamenting the preborn killed by pinko commie scum’ websites gets another set of animated sparkling angel wings and a dreadful midi. (Continued)

Free labour is never truly free

Despite the fact that the rest of the world celebrates labour on 1 May, the United States, ever determined to be contrarian, chooses to observe Labour Day on the first Monday of September. Today, it seems fitting to give a shoutout to all the people who work tirelessly in labour organising to make the workplace happier, safer, fairer, and more dignified for all workers, whether they be picking strawberries in the fields of California’s Central Valley or working on high-end negotiations for the Department of State.

No matter what a worker’s identity or origins may be, that worker deserves respect in the workplace. With the assault on labour and workers’ rights in the United States, many of the gains made in the last century have become very fragile, and there’s a slow growth in awareness of the fact that labour victories must be continually reinforced to keep them. A new appreciation for what the labour movement has wrought is developing in many communities that didn’t think about these issues before the economic meltdown forced them to realise the impact of labour on their daily lives.

Today is also a day when I think of the people who are working on Labour Day—those who keep the vital systems we need moving in motion, like doctors and nurses, bus drivers, firefighters. And those who must work because they have no choice, because they cannot afford the time off and they work for workplaces that don’t observe the holiday; restaurant staff, retail clerks, other service workers for whom the calendar never pauses. (Continued)

Hate, fear, and rhetoric: The labeling of hate crimes in the United States

Two weeks ago, the news exploded with a shooting at the Family Research Council which injured a security guard in the arm. Conservatives immediately went on the attack, labeling the shooting ‘terrorism’ and a ‘hate crime’ and zeroing in on the fact that the shooter was associated with a gay community centre, creating the image of a rampaging army of armed queers preparing for war. They demanded immediate action and swift justice.

The FRC even tried to complain about its listing as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and a number of other organisations followed suit, demanding to be delisted because they claimed it made them ‘targets.’ They disliked, they whined, being compared to the KKK. The implication was that radical activists were scanning the list to work up a plan of attack; which explains the recent string of bombings, shootings, hate mail, and other actions directed at groups on that list. That didn’t happen, you say? Oh, my mistake.

Conservatives are attempting to catch the left in a gotcha here; they argue that people up in arms about acts of terrorism and hate crimes committed against minority groups should also be up in arms about this. Yet, they’re choosing to deliberately override some extremely important context in service of their end agenda.


Lives worth living: Disability, abortion, and slipshod ethics

I’m still seething over this post at Reproductive Health Reality Check, in which I am essentially informed that my life has so little value, is so not worth living, that I was such a burden on my father to raise, that I should have been aborted. Things like this are why I have problems interacting with the mainstream reproductive rights movement, which seems bent on using us as a tool just as much as the right is. In this piece, in which not a single actual living disabled person appears, the author proceeds to lay out an argument for abortion for disability that has, rightly, gotten the disability community up in arms.

It starts with a very dismissive, snide, flip introduction in which the author effectively says ‘read this or not, I don’t really care, but don’t hate me!’ The key sentence of the introduction tells you a lot about what is to follow: ‘I believe that abortion of a disabled fetus can be a compassionate choice made for morally sound reasons, and does not at all conflict with the respect due to disabled people.’