What if the Pope recognized his need for Sex Ed 101? Musings on Benedict’s Condom Comments

Pope Benedict said in a new book that condom use can be used by male prostitutes seeking to stop the spread of AIDS. This “exception” is based on the notion that such sex is non-reproductive and thus the condom acts as “disease prevention” rather than contraception.

This is because contraception, according to him, is akin to murder. When asked about the churches stance on contraception and abortion, he said “How many children are killed who might one day have been geniuses, who could have given humanity something new, who could have given us a new Mozart or some new technical discovery?”

Hey, guess what, Mr. Pope? Sperm are NOT children, nor are eggs. (Nor, for that matter, is an embryo or fetus.) Pretty scary that someone who equates contraception to killing children has so much global sway. Guess it’s not surprising giving his heinous 2009 comment that condoms CONTRIBUTE to rather than HELP PREVENT the spread of AIDS.

So, I am wondering, can pedophiliac priests also wear condoms?  Does he comment on THAT in the new book? And isn’t this RAMPANT problem more akin to “killing children” than using contraception for fuck’s sake?!?!?!

What if you are no more than a walking womb?

My recent post at Womanist Musings ruminated about the plethora of monstrous mothers that grace our screens and pages.  From Beowulf right up to Precious and Coraline, the monstrous mommy has threatened us with her sMother love.

This bad mommy meme was evident as well on last night’s episode of Lost, which depicted Claire as going knife-happy on Kate due to her mommy induced craziness. The episode even hints that bad Locke is bad cuz his mommy was a nutter. Sheesh!

The emphasis on woman AS mothers that Lost perpetuates (as I write about here) is in keeping with a cultural notion of females as not much more than walking wombs.

The female as most important in relation to reproductive capacity is also evident in the never-ending reproductive rights battle writ large most recently in the healthcare debate.

If, when, and how a woman becomes a mother is still a defining component of that elusive mantle of ‘womanhood.’ Then, once one finally achieves this supposedly crowning glory of femininity, one can do no right but will be depicted as crazy mom (Lost) or abusive mom (Coraline). The only way to be championed for this role it seems is to be perfect mom – or white, heterosexual, money-privileged, and good-looking AND willing to mother not only your own children, but the entire world (The Blind Side).

Will, this womb has got walk now, I have mothering to do…

What if god is pro-life?

(Warning: Precious spoilers follow)

Walking my dogs in my scarily conservative neighborhood yesterday, I came across a “God is Pro-Life” bumper-sticker. I don’t think I have seen this exact permutation before. I have seen lots of messages of the “don’t be a baby-killer” or “choose life” variety, but claiming mainline knowledge of god’s ‘pro-life’ stance in bumper sticker form was a new one.

If this god entity is indeed pro-life, wouldn’t that mean that s/he would be pro all life, including the life of the mother? So when the mother’s life is put at risk by carrying a pregnancy to term, which life does god choose? If the well-being of the mother’s life and the lives of her existing children will be threatened by carrying the pregnancy to term, does god choose the life of a few cells over and above the lives of several already existing humans?

I get that there is a lot of debate over when “life” begins in utero, but can anyone rightly claim a pregnant female is not also a life worth choosing and protecting?

These thoughts make me think of the film Precious and how abortion is never mentioned as an option in that film – indeed, the baby is presented as sort of saving Precious’s life. However, we must think of the context in which Precious has her children. Both are a result her father raping her with her mother’s knowledge, and both are used by Precious’s mother in her attempts to continue her welfare payments (another problematic storyline that furthers the ‘welfare queen’ stereotype). In this instance, the life of the (future) children is chosen and the livelihood of Precious’s mom is protected – but what of Precious herself? If not for the intervention of teachers and social workers, her life would have continued to be decidedly NOT ‘pro-life’ but all about abuse, sexual assault, poverty, and mental anguish. Moreover, the film, like the wider ‘pro-life’ stance, glosses over the complexity of whose lives society deems worth saving. As this post points out, the film “invisibilized patriarchy, cast the system as a hero and not an actor responsible for the conditions of oppression in which Precious lived and survived.”

Such oppressive conditions, sadly, are not only the stuff of films. Many young females will be raped, sexually assaulted, physically and mentally abused. Many will become pregnant not by choice but by force. Many more will become pregnant due to lack of access to (let alone education about) contraception. Is this god so often referred to by those wishing to curtail women’s reproductive choices ‘pro-life’ when it comes to these females?

The hypocrisy of claiming to be ‘pro-life’ while ignoring the lives of females the world over whose lives are harmed by patriarchy and its attendant systems of racism, classism, sexism and too many other isms to mention is just too much to swallow. When will this battle, fought on the front of the female body, ever end?

What if you want to focus on something else besides crazy James Dobson’s cult commercial on Superbowl Sunday?

There has been excellent and inspiring critique around CBS’ heinous decision to air the anti-choice ad bankrolled by Focus on the Family. I really like NARAL’s call to use social networking sites to spread the word about the importance of NOT focusing on this add tomorrow. (To read the call about updating your facebook status and twitter feeds with posts showing your support for pro-choice, go here.)

During the superbowl, I will choose not to focus on CBS, the football machine, nor FonF’s anti-choice ad. Instead, I will focus on spending time with my kids and ensure we discuss the importance of reproductive justice and pro-choice legislation/activism. My daughter deserves the right to make choices about her body and its reproductive capacity. My son deserves to live in a world where all humans are supported to make the best reproductive choice for their bodies and futures.

I do have to admit that Like Elizabeth Gilbert of Mother Jones, “I have a general, albeit sometimes irrational, distaste for quarterbacks.” She explains her distaste as follows: “There’s something about their deified status, the fact that they’re often positioned as Great White Hopes on mostly black teams…”

I agree, and would add that my distaste includes all of football, not just quarterbacks. My dislike is fueled by the history of rape, sexual assault, homophobia, misogyny, and violent masculinity linked to the football machine. It is also fueled by my personal history – I was dragged unwillingly to all my older brother’s football teams as a kid.

I realize my stance lands me in the “anti-American” camp according to some. (That’s ok, because I don’t put much truck in nationalistic patriotism…) I imagine I am in the minority for insisting my son NOT play football – I don’t want him ending up with serious injuries like my dad, brother, nephew, and cousin. Neither do I want him to be part of a sport that too often seems to glorify aggression and the “tough guise.”

So, like Gilbert, I am happy to weigh in on the Superbowl add abortion debate and come down on the side of this-is-yet-another-reason-football-sucks…

As Gilbert notes, the poster boy of the anti-choice ad, Tim Tebow, is known for “declaring his virginism and etching bible passages into his eye-black for every game.” Charming.

The ad is sponsored by the scary, scary Focus on the Family cult, headed by the anti-choice deity James Dobson.

The ad will reportedly include testimony from Tim’s momma who will wax emotional about how wonderful it is she chose life – or chose to have the now mega money making handsome Timmy. I would wager (did I just use a Palin word?!?) that the ad will NOT include details about maternal mortality rates or other icky details about how “choosing life” often also means choosing generational poverty let alone frames future children’s lives as more important than the lives of existing women.

The ad is even more odious considering it features a woman who “disregarded the advice of her doctors and risked death to give birth to the Football Messiah” (as noted in this excellent post). What else the ad probably won’t share is that Pam Tebow had constant medical care, something most of the worlds mamas-to-be don’t share (especially if they don’t share Pam Tebow’s white skin privilege).

The controversial ad was made even more contentious with the news CBS refused to run an ad from ManCrunch, a gay dating site. As Michael Rowe writes at Huffpo,

“The network’s rejection of it merely highlights the obvious: that CBS had already decided where its ethical priorities lay when they accepted the commercial from Focus on the Family last week. Those priorities clearly don’t lie with women, or with progressives, or with any group that happens to find itself on Focus on the Family’s no-fly list.”

No, their priorities lie way, way, way on the right side of the bed, on the same side as Focus on the Family. I don’t wish to sleep anywhere near that side of the bed and I sure as heck wish it wasn’t so crowded.

I am reminded of the childrens song “Ten in the Bed.” I wish we could all roll over and knock this ad out of CBS’ bed, that’s for sure. Let’s at least keep airing our voices and proudly share our support for a woman’s right to choose. Let’s focus on creating families where female lives and choices are valued just as much as those of football heroes…

What if…? Short Takes 12/14/09

1. Watched last week’s Xmas episode of The Office and LOVED Phyllis as Santa. Michael, being his regular (cis)sexist self, mocked her as “Tranny Claus,” insisting HE be Santa yet again. Phyllis rocked as Santa! Yeah for female Santa (and gender-queer Santa)! As for Mrs. Claus, I am damn sure she does a lot more than make cookies.

2. Obama gave himself a B+ on Oprah? Hmmm, methinks there is a bit of grade inflation going on. I gave him an A when he entered, especially as he jumped on repealing the Global Gag Rule. But his top student status declined from there. For effort, maybe a C-. For war cry, an F. For being in bed with bio-pharm, big corps, and those who love empire, an F. Don’t think this all averages out to a B+. Better luck next semester, Obama!

3.While if I had my way, we would figure out a way to eradicate the necessity for the military rather than fighting for equality within the military, I understand the need to transform the existing system until we can obliterate it (much like with patriarchy). One area in dire need of transformation in the military is the hyper-masculine ethos that translates into a rabidly sexist war machine. Not only does this result in the sexual assault of 71% of women in the military, it means they are treated like crap when they return home from service. They don’t get the “you’re a hero” attitude nor the resounding welcome into the warrior-hero boys’ club. Nope, instead they are rendered invisible yet again, treated as if all they did in Iraq was brew the coffee, keeping the homefire at the base burning. (For an article discussing the treatment of female vets, go here.)

What if you are on GW’s Xmas* list this year?

For my coverage of GW’s generous gift giving, I am drawing on the article by Tim Dickinson, “Bush’s Final F.U.,” from Rolling Stone. (Read the full piece here.) As Dickinson details, Bush is leaving a plethora of parting gifts to “screw America for years to come.”

What are some of these gifts?

Well, if you make your bucks in the oil industry, Bushy has a special treat, 2 million acres of land in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming for you to pillage! If you are more of a coal tycoon, you no longer need worry about pesky air-pollution standards. If you’re a factory farmer, guess what? All that icky waste can be dumped right into local waterways thanks to GW’s generosity.

What does Bush have under the tree for those who make their ka-ching from polluting? Well, rules about emissions of lead have been lessened and, as a bonus gift, hazardous waste can now be recycled or burned as fuel. Never mind that this will increase cancer-causing air pollution, it’s the thought that counts.

If you do actual work for a living, sorry, but Bush ran out of gifts before he got to you. In fact, he found it necessary to take away the ability to take time of for medical conditions. He also took away more of those annoying rules that help to protect workers form toxic chemical exposure. But, it you drive a big rig for a living, you can now drive for 11 hours a day and up the number of big truck crashes and driver death tolls. How festive!

If you are on Medicaid, sorry, but your vision and dental care had to be taken out from under the tree. Co-payments have been raised. You all must have been naughty this year.

Got a vagina? Well, Bush has a big old lump of coal for you. Under new “conscious laws” (discussed further in this post), healthcare workers can now refuse to supply you with birth control prescriptions, to participate in abortions (even participating in making appointments for them!), and can determine whether or not they feel like giving you any services related to reproductive health and family planning. So, if you have a vagina, an STI, or are a non-heterosexual, plan to have your reproductive justice go up even further in smoke in 2009.

However, if you like the idea of an Orwellian state, Bush has got a special treat for you this year. More domestic spying! Joy to the world!

Unfortunately, as Dickinson’s article details, most of these gifts will be very difficult to return.

Oh, if only the Who’s down in Whoville could make Bush’s heart grow as they did for the Grinch. Alas, seems like GW’s heart may not be two sizes too small, but rather, non-existent.

(With thanks to Feministe for alerting me to the Dickinson piece!)

*As a non-religious person who loves the holidays nonetheless, I always write Xmas in this way – for me, it is not about “Christ” and thus I avoid this way of spelling the holiday… BTW, for an interesting take in how the birth of Christ narrative is hardly unique, see Zeitgeist.

What if Bush has morphed into an incurable STI?

(The “What if you could buy social justice” series will continue after the New Year. For your holiday pleasure, there will be some more “festive” posts for the next few weeks.)

While you might have thought you could rid yourself of Bush this January, it seems that he cannot be gotten rid of easily. Rather, like an incurable STI, he cannot be completely eliminated but keeps causing different symptoms in the body politic, symptoms that will continue once he vacates the oval office, symptoms that will effect  the US body for years to come, unless, that is, Obama and co. can “cure” the festering sores left by GW…

The most recent flare-up of the Bush Virus will cause all sorts of symptoms in the reproductive organs of the populace.  Allowing ANYONE employed in the arena of healthcare to refuse services based on a “right of conscience,” this ruling will lead to more unplanned pregnancies, more STI’s, less prenatal care, less healthcare for society’s ‘others’ – those with STIs, those in poverty, those who are not of the ‘idealized norm’ and may have, gasp, HIV and non-white skin.

Work at Wal-Mart but don’t like people doing the nasty? Refuse to dispense birth control! Work as a receptionist making appointments for patients but think “every child is a gift from God”? Refuse to give appointments to those abortion-seeking heathens! Work as a nurse at a school and don’t think kids should learn ANYTHING about sex except to ABSTAIN? Refuse to give reproductive health information to students!

The great thing about this 127-page ruling is that it will GIVE to everyone – not just women. While much commentary rightly focuses on how this is another knife in the back to the female populace, it is also a knife in the back (or groin) to ALL peoples as it will exacerbate STIs, unplanned pregnancies, and, yeah! it can even spread the virus of poverty further! Ensuring that those who can’t “shop around” for needed healthcare, it also ensures that those who already have the shit end of the stick will be given even more crap to deal with. Can’t afford healthcare or groceries? Well, guess what, now you can’t get your birth control prescription filled either, so hear is another glorious mouth to feed to help you and your future generations stay down in the poverty quicksand.

As Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL pro-choice America, puts it, “This horrible eleventh-hour rule is a reminder that even though Bush is on his way out the door, his anti-choice legacy will continue to harm women’s health and privacy.” Yes, even though he is on his way out the door, he is leaving women (and men) with a gift that will keep on giving, kind of like herpes.

P.S. For coverage of this issue on the Rachel Maddow show, see the video link at Blog for Choice here: http://www.blogforchoice.com/archives/2008/12/rachel-maddow-o.html

What if “traditional” wasn’t used as a catch all term meaning ‘good’ or ‘natural’? (Or, what ‘traditions’ should we vote to perpetuate come Tuesday…?)

If you have been on this planet long enough to learn how to read, you have likely come across phrases such as “It’s tradition” or “We’ve always done it this way, it’s a family/community/religious tradition” or “traditional family.”  In sayings such as these, the word ‘tradition’ is used to indicate something is good, right, natural, worth doing, etc. People say things like, “I will go to my mother’s for the holiday, it’s tradition” or “traditional recipe” or “American tradition.”

While there are many bad traditions, we don’t tend to talk about these things as traditional. For example, it’s quite traditional for many whites to raise their children to be racist and/or deny white privilege. Yet, we don’t tend to speak of the “white racist tradition.” It’s also tradition for boys and men to learn to degrade and objectify women — sometimes they learn this from their fathers, sometimes from their friends, and certainly from popular culture. Yet, we don’t speak of “sexist tradition.” It’s also tradition for the USA to rely on an exploitive labor system and an economic set-up that favors the very rich. Yet, we don’t say “the USA’s traditional to use slave labor” or “the tradition of keeping all the wealth in the hands of white male elites.” We don’t say these things because traditions are assumed to be good, to be things worth keeping.

Lately, the word ‘tradition’ is being thrown around a lot in relation to heteronormative concepts of family and marriage. Here in California, the “Yes on 8” camp (or, in other words, the we support homophobic hate crew) use lines such as “protect the traditional family” or “protect the tradition of marriage.” Here, ‘traditional’ is used as a synomym for “the right kind,” as in, “protect the right kind of marriage, not that crazy gay kind.” Notice that the Yes on 8 crew does not uses phrases such as “support homophobia, it’s tradition” or “it’s traditional to hate and exclude others who are not like us,” or, “save traditional marriage – keep the man in charge and the woman as property.” No, none of these “traditions” are named as such.

And, as a post at Straight Not Narrow notes, the Yes on 8 crowd seems to interpret the need to “keep traditions” quite differently than how Jesus might have characterized tradition. As the post notes, in the book of Mark, Jesus contrasts “the traditions of men” from “the commands of God,” and, not surprisingly, suggests that God’s rules are the ones to follow, not human traditions. Here is the quote from Mark 7:8-9:

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions.”

Now, I don’t personally believe in the bible, but for those that do, doesn’t the way Jesus characterizes tradition here not jibe with how the Yes on 8 crew is using the word? Tradition in the above is characterized as bad, as willful, as going against God. Huh, I may be on to something there. If “the traditions of men” are going against “the commands of God,” then upholding “traditional marriage” (as the Yes on 8 crew is doing) is actually hubris – it is taking the stance that “my tradition” or “my belief” is better than everyone else’s – including that of God, Jesus, etc.

A story about a ballot measure introduced in Olympia, Washington puts the hypocrisy surrounding the “traditional marriage” in stark relief. As reported at the SeattlePI back in 2007:

“Proponents of same-sex marriage have introduced an initiative that would put a whole new twist on traditional unions between men and women: It would require heterosexual couples to have children within three years or else have their marriages annulled.”

Gregory Gadow, who filed the I-957 proposition, claimed the initiative was filed “in the spirit of political street theater” with no real intention to actually put this into law, but rather  “to get this on the ballot and cause people to talk about it.” (See the full story here.)

Such “political street theatre” makes it abundantly clear that “traditional marriage” is touted as a good thing without much analysis as to what this really means. While it is ‘traditional’ for most marriages to result in children, does this mean that marriages which don’t are no longer real or valid?

Ideas surrounding “tradition” also circulate around California’s Prop 4 initiative. The Yes on 4 camp, that would like to limit reproductive rights, uses the platform of protecting “traditional family values.” However, as anyone who doesn’t live with their head stuck up their backsides knows, the ‘traditional nuclear family’ model in the US is rife with heinous and hypocritical ‘traditions.’ For example, the tradition of seeing the women in the family as servants, as property, as items to barter or ‘give away’ to men/future husbands. Or, the tradition of valuing sons more, of putting male’s education/goals etc first. While these traditions are thankfully waning, they are by no means under threat of extinction. If Prop 4 passes (and if the even more draconian Prop 11 in South Dakota passes(see here for more on Prop 11)), the ‘tradition’ of controlling women’s bodies and their reproductive capacities will be strengthened – or, in other words, we will be moving BACKWARDS in terms of equality, social justice, and reproductive freedom.

“Tradition” has also been used in the presidential campaign to promote racism and sexism. As Obama threatens the ‘tradition’ of white male rule, he has been targeted in extremely racist ways that feed on the tradition of white supremacist views that are still prevalent in this ‘free’ country. And, as the sexist coverage of both Clinton and Palin reveals, any woman, even when she is a right-to-lifer, weapon/oil/war loving darling of the right, is framed as a threat to the tradition of male/power privilege.

While some traditions are good, (like calling your dad on father’s day, or eating meals together as a family, or voting!) others, (like sexism, racism, homophobia) are abhorrent. While all people should have equal rights and privileges, equal opportunities, the right to marry if they choose, the right to control their own reproductive capacity, the right to run for office without being targeted by racist/sexist campaign propaganda, all traditions are certainly NOT equally good or right.

Thus, when something is touted as good because it is ‘traditional,’ let us all pause and think about what traditions we want to perpetuate and what traditions need to be axed. The ‘traditional family,’ ‘traditional marriage,’ and ‘traditional leaders,’  are not actually altogether good traditions, but traditions that work to limit access to privilege and power and that disenfranchise women, people of color, and non-heterosexuals.

Up with feminist, progressive traditions and down with traditions of hate! And, please, please consider what traditions you would like to perpetuate when you vote come Tuesday…