Sunday, May 29, 2011

Oh, Ohio

Ohio has been my home now for about 17 years, which is the vast majority of my life. There are certain aspects of the state I have come to expect: the ever-changing and chaotic weather, the hot and humid summers, the cold and snowy winters, the incredibly vast array of people you can find across the state, the beautiful small towns and countrysides. And the religious nuts.

Ohio was home to Touchdown Jesus along I-75, before the stature was struck by lightning and burned to the ground. Every time I take I-71 South to visit my family, I pass by two large billboards declaring "HELL IS REAL" and declare the 10 commandments on their opposing faces. I also recall there being scandals in Cincinnati about the Hustler billboards along I-70 South, being deemed of the city's sin. Not far from where I live, on I-76, there was a billboard for the May 21st Rapture, funnily enough, on its opposite face was an ad for a local strip club.

I am not surprised by these things. This is in fact the Midwest, and much of Ohio is agrarian still. This is still a state based on the blue-collar worker, which is more likely to be religious. I accepted that long ago. There are certain bastions of reason, beacons in the darkness, lying in Columbus, Cleveland, and a small light from the Cincinnati Museum Center, attempting to enlighten that dark and backwards town. Those places, those communities, give me hope and help me to feel like I'm not quite a total outsider here in this beautiful state I love (no, really, I do).

But then, this shit pops up:

Sigh. In case you can't tell from that little PSA, two of the stickers have the slogan, "With God, all things are possible." Dammit. I've voted for the "I (Ohio) Voting" sticker, as I've always thought it was kinda cute that Ohio is shaped similar to a heart (our slogan used to be "Ohio, The Heart of It All!").

Anyway, go vote. You'll need an Ohio zip code. Like 44240. Or 
45482. Or 43291. Or even 45230, which funnily enough is a Cincinnati code, and Cincinnati is arguably the most conservative developed area of the state. And where I lived for 10 years before my family and I fled. So go. Vote. Keep me and other Ohioans from being handed an obnoxious god sticker on election day.

Atheism and Compassion

My friend Laurence was kind enough to direct me to a lovely article on Atheism and Compassion that I thoroughly enjoy. Blackford very beautifully and clearly illustrates that religion does not have a monopoly on morality and ethics, as individuals simply mold their religious beliefs to fit their own moral boundaries.

Ideally, atheism and secularism have the advantage of holding reason-based positions, rather than positions dictated by dogma. Blackford uses abortion and euthanasia as great examples of compassionate positions that are independent of religious belief.

Blackford does a much better job than I at illustrating the point, and he does in a somewhat biting, but readable and very nicely written manner. Go check it out.

Also, speaking of compassionate atheists, for those who have been following the Damon Fowler debacle, you'll be happy to know that currently, over $25,000 $31,000 in scholarship funds have been raised for him by the secular community after he was essentially chased out of his home town by the townspeople and kicked out of his own home by his parents. His older brother is bringing him to stay with with him in Texas. It is great to see this brave kid getting the support he needs. People try to criticize the secular community for not being as well organized and lacking the structure of religious organizations when it comes to helping out our own. But what these critics fail to acknowledge are the thousands of years head-start that religious entities have on us.

I like to think that despite our relatively recent organizing and community building, we're not doing too shabby.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Dead Space

My apologies for a lack of material lately. Real life  took over for a while. While I've been gone, I've been working, been rear-ended (I'm fine), and started an incredibly intense two-week studio intensive course in printmaking, creating artists's books and ephemera. The course is highly demanding, but a lot of fun and incredibly informational.

To make up for it, you can read about a Kansas rep that compared rape to car insurance and getting a flat tire. NOW (National Organization for Women) is sending him spare tires as a result of his remarks and voting record. I figure it's the least we can do.

Also, yesterday in NYC there was a protest in response to the acquittal of two NYPD officers despite overwhelming evidence that they raped a woman, falsified business records, and committed burglary. However, they were convicted of three counts of official misconduct and fired from their positions, and the woman is filing a civil suit for $57 million against the city and its officers. The defense was incredible; she was too drunk to really remember what happened, but drunk enough to consent to sex. You can't have it both ways people. The "but she was drunk" defense wins again, which is sickening and outrageous.

I will posting more on artist's books and ephemera soon, when I have a little more time on hand.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Rapture Day Confessions

Well, now that everyone is full aware that the supposed Rapture was a load of bull, we can get back to the real world. We laughed around the office about the ridiculousness of the whole thing. I was mildly surprised that there were a few of my coworkers who were completely unaware of what the Rapture hype was all about, of even what the Rapture is. Being in and for the most part from the Midwest, it is mildly surprising to me when I meet people completely foreign to even the basics of Abrahamic mythos (Adam and Eve, Noah, Moses, Solomon, etc). Perhaps I take for granted my education, but I would think that being inundated with literature and other cultural references to those stories is nearly unavoidable in the culture in which I live. To me, knowing the Judeo-Christian myths is just as important to understanding many themes in the arts (art, literature, film) as being familiar with Greek or even Norse myths. But like I said, I feel that my feelings on that are in large part due to my privilege.

The Rapture nonsense was (and sorta still is) an odd experience for me. Those who know me know my stalwart convictions against superstition of any kind and my religious background with my family. I have been separated from my Christian beliefs since roughly my sophomore year of high school (I went through a long "spiritual" phase until a couple years into college), and yet from time to time I feel those familiar twinges nagging at me. This Rapture craziness made them more apparent to me than normal. While I recognized the guy who came up with this scheme was delusional at best and a con man at worst, some deep dark part of my mind reverted back to my childhood fears; what if the Rapture does happen? What if the Beast does arise from the sea? And so on.

I fully realize the absurdity of these thoughts and banish them as soon as they arise. But years of living in an environment in which we left birthday presents for Jesus on the Christmas tree and Satan was a very real threat in my mind to my wellbeing have left their mark. I remember being made to say my prayers every night, and they scared the living daylights out of me: "As I lay me down to sleep/ I pray the Lord my Soul to keep/ And if I die before I wake/ I pray the Lord my Soul to take." There was more than one occasion of me waking up in the middle of the night in tears, terrified of dying in my sleep and God not taking my Soul to heaven, and my grandmother having to calm me enough to get me back to bed. That sort of shit leaves its mark. So every once in a while, the familiar thoughts and fears from years of habit return to the forefront of my mind.

No worries though, I have no intention of ever returning to that fear-mongering faith, or any other. While those old habits die hard, I realize that they are exactly that- habits of thought. I do not believe them or put any stock in them. Knee-jerk reactions from a long ago held set of beliefs do not equate to thinking any of this nonsense is real. I know better than that.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

PZ Gets It Wrong

I do adore PZ Myers, and I mostly agree with what he has to say. But every once in a while, he gets it wrong (like his post on Halal slaughterhouses abroad and somehow linked them to slaughterhouses here in the U.S., that operate in entirely different and much more humane ways). He occasionally jumps the gun before using his skepticism properly.

Sure enough, he's done it again; this time with purebred dogs. His initial point is true: inbreeding is bad. If you do not introduce new genetics into a bloodline, severe deformities will arise. This has led to certain diseases being common in breed lines. Large breeds tend to have hip and back problems. Brachycephalic dogs (such as pugs, English bulldogs, and Pekingese, and so on) often have breathing issues due to problems with soft pallets. These are known and acknowledged problems in the show-dog world. A great deal of reputable breeders here in the States are actively involved with dog genetics and are on the cutting edge of canine medicine.

PZ, you got it wrong. That "documentary" is full of downright wrong information. For example, the documentary attempts to show the "dangerous" progression of some breeds to extremes. They do this by showing an old painting of a Dachshund next to a modern show dog, saying that the dog's legs have been bred shorter, to the point of causing pain for the dog. There are two problems I have with this: The first being that you can still find purebred dachshunds today with the proportions shown in the old painting (also, painters get proportions wrong all the time, so it is not a very accurate depiction of the dog). Some dogs have shorter legs, and some have longer legs. There are longer legged dogs that are show dogs. To say that all dachshunds look like the dog they show as the "modern" dog, and none look like the "older" dog is ridiculous. The second problem I have is the way in which the mention the breed's propensity for back problems makes it sound like any and all purebred Dachshunds will have back problems, which is not true. The breed is know to have back issues, so many breeders will not breed dogs that they know have back problems because doing so would weaken not just their own bloodline, but the breed as a whole.

Another example they use is the Bull Terrier (you may know them as the Target dog, or Spuds McKenzie, or General Patton's dog, Willie). This I have a problem with, as I own a Bull Terrier and have done extensive research on the breed over the years. The documentary shows a dog they claim to be a primitive Bull Terrier, and (again) a "modern" version of the dog. The major problem that was a red flag to me here was the image they chose of the "old" Bull Terrier. The dog they chose is not a Bull Terrier. It is an entirely different dog called an English White Terrier, which was one of the foundation breeds of the Bull Terrier and several other modern terriers, but is now extinct. The Bull Terrier as we know it has been bred with many other dogs and over time developed a unique, egg-shaped head. The only detriment this has for the dog, is that it has made their eyes smaller over time, reducing their vision.

If the people making this documentary can't even take the five minutes of research it takes to discover they are calling two entirely separate breeds the same damn dog, there is something wrong. They also make a completely outrageous claim that the Rhodesian Ridgeback's famous ridge is a result of Spina bifida. Seriously? Are they fucking insane? The ridge of the Rhodesian Ridgeback is essentially a cowlick; it is caused by the hair on the dog's back growing the opposite direction of the rest of the dog's coat. That's it. Genetic diseases the dogs are known for are thyroid conditions, dermoid sinus and hip dysplasia (a common ailment among larger breeds).

The list goes on. PZ even goes so far as to claim that dog shows are on the same level as puppy mills in regards to animal abuse. This is ludicrous. Puppy Mills are horrendous, awful institutions that are based around the systemic confinement of their dogs and over-breeding in squalid conditions, with no concern whatsoever for the animals. Puppy mills are terrible. The breeders and handlers in dog shows go to extreme lengths to ensure the wellbeing of their animals. These dogs have the best care possible, the best diets, well-exercised, and pampered throughout their show careers and onward. That genetic issues have come up is recognized and being dealt within the AKC and UKC associations. That The Kennel Club of Britain chooses to ignore these issues or chooses not to discipline or revoke the licenses of breeders that do not follow their strict health and genetic screening standards prior to breeding or showing an animal is an entirely separate issue. To accuse those that have the most to lose in genetic dog diseases of not caring is ludicrous.

Breeds are not universally recognized. There are differences in the standards, recognized breeds, and breeder oversight practiced by the KC, AKC, and UKC. Some breeds and dogs can not be shown across association due to these differences. That someone would take the problems in management from one association and apply it to all of them is a stretch at the least.

Are there bad breeders? Yes. Do certain purebred dog breeds have predispositions for certain diseases? Yes. However, these two facts do not mean that all of the show dog world is apathetic to the plight of their dogs after decades of unregulated breeding practices. It especially does not mean that problems that exist in the show dog world in England exist here in the United States. Don't get me wrong, I do not think that the dog show world is perfect- it has a lot of problems. I for one prefer to adopt my animals than buy from a breeder, as there are more than enough pure and mixed breed dogs out there that need loving homes.

I own a purebred Bull Terrier, who has AKC papers and comes from a show line. She was sold to us even though her head was not to conformation, and could never be shown. But she has been a loving family companion over the years. We also have a mutt, a shepherd/lab/pit bull mix that found us (she showed up in our front yard one summer morning) that we adopted and love and care for just as much as our Bully. To apply bad logic, and say that somehow an inherent abuse has been applied through the breeding of one of my dogs just because she is purebred, but not the other because she is a mutt, is ridiculous. Blanket statements based on bad information can lead to bad lines of logic, as PZ has shown.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Learning to To Live

At the age of 10, I was diagnosed with moderate Chronic Clinical Depression. I had shown symptoms since I was much younger. I can remember the overwhelming feelings of sadness and isolation all my life.

For about 6 years, I successfully hid a serious problem from everyone, including my therapists: I was self-mutilating. I would lacerate my arms, torso, and legs as a way of lashing out and trying to deal with the overwhelming pain I felt inside. By manifesting my mental anguish into a physical pain, I somehow thought it would help me. Then, I got lazy, and my guard dropped, and my stepmom discovered some of my wounds I had inflicted on myself. It started a long, painful and difficult round to getting the more intense help I needed.

My mental illness was exacerbated by a period of abuse that occured in my early teens. My self-image and perception of the world and my relationships to other people were warped to reflect the trauma I experienced. I also hid that damage as well. I hid so much from so many people.

But why? Why would someone who knew they were ill, who knew that what they were experiencing was not healthy, purposfully hide the severity of their illness from loved ones and healthcare professionals? Did that person want to be sick? Did they want to feel the way they felt?

No. No one I have ever heard of or met wants to have depression. The overwhelming black hole of dispair that fills your mind is something that no one would ever want. The reasoning for myself, and others, who deny treatment, or hide the severity of their illness is complex and multifaceted. For me, it was a combination of a warped perception of the world (including my self-image and my relationships), strained relationships with adults and authority figures, and an intense feeling of shame that kept me from revealing how sick I was.

I have heard many sufferers of depression say that they feel ashamed of their illness, or they feel very isolated, like no one understands; or that they are broken, that something is wrong with them and they should just seclude themselves away. A great deal of this is the illness itself talking. Depression is a terrible illness because it is self-sustaining: the very symptoms of depression cause depression. So feelings of loneliness, feeling ashamed, feeling like you're broken, are all exacerbated by the illness.

Because of these reasons (and many others based on the individual), people often do not seek the help they need- or they refuse help because the help they have sought thus far hasn't made the difference they had hoped it would. With depression, you get accustomed to the sadness; it starts to feel like something that resembles normal. Except that persisting feelings of depression aren't normal. Treatment is needed in order to properly cope with the illness. Untreated depression is very dangerous and lead to death- either through direct suicide or through the sufferer's neglect of their health to the point of no return.

Treatment is a difficult and time-consuming process. It requires regular meetings with a healthcare professional, and some form of therapy. That therapy can be chemical or habitual, but the therapy is needed. Often times, there is resistance put up on the part of the person with the mental illness to receiving treatment. They will find any and all excuses to avoid getting the help they need. I went through that stage, but I have managed to keep my depression for the most part in-check with habitual therapy. There are certain things that I know I can not or should not do because it could be a depressive trigger. I purposfully orchestrate my environment and relationships to be the safest they can be and to lessen my exposure to triggers. I have done this with much practice for many years, to the point where it is now habitual and it takes little to no thought to perform my little preventions every day. Even so, when things get too hard, I know when to seek outside help.

For some people, nonchemical therapies are not enough. My friend JT relies on a little pill every night to keep his illness (anorexia accompanied by depression) in check. This pill performs wonders in that it increases his quality of life and allows him to live free of a multitude of anxieties that before would have sent him spiraling out of control. I recently saw a wonderful episode of 'Glee' wherein one of the characters finaly seeks help for their mental illness. She tries  to say she doesn't need help, because her OCD is part of who she is. The doctor she is talking to says a wonderful line: "Your illness isn't who you are; it is preventing you from being who you are." That line struck me as beautifully true and to-the-point. Not everyone can rely on habitual therapies to allow them to be themselves, so they must rely of drugs that force their illness into submission. Those drugs don't change them, they allow them to be free.

My illness does not define who I am. I am not the illness that has been a burden on me my entire life. I am my own person, with interests and passions and dreams and goals. My depression has at times been a hinderance to my ability to experience who I am. Seeking treatment is painful and a lot of hard work, but going untreated is far too dangerous. The stigma in our society is that having a mental illness means you are weak, that you chose to be sick. We hush up whenever someone's illness is addressed. It is something that we are ashamed of. That shame has dire consequences

I have lost friends, family members, and classmates to depression. My family at one point could have very likely lost me as well had I gone on hiding how sick I was. I contemplated suicide countless occasions, planning for the right opportunity to carry out my various plans of how to end my life. Seeking treatment, no matter how hard it may be, no matter how hopeless it may seem, is always the right course of action if you or someone you know is suffering from any mental illness.

Sometimes, we need some help in learning how to live.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

I have been lucky in my life to have had strong mothers. While I was primarily raised around men, the women of my family are some of the strongest and most empowering women I have ever met. I am also lucky in that since my parents are remarried, I have a multitude of strong women to look up to.

My mother, step-mother, maternal grandmother, paternal grandmother, step-grandmother, and various aunts have surrounded me and influenced my life in both subtle and overt ways. They are strong women, and not-so-strong women. I have heard and seen the choices they have made in their lives and strive to learn from them. So, I wanted to give these mothers of mine a shout-out and a deeply heartfelt "Thanks!":

Thank you for teaching me to stand by my convictions, but never be afraid of admitting I'm wrong.

Thank you for raising me to be proud of being a woman, and that there is no shame in my gender.

Thank you for instilling a deep sense of justice in me, looking out for those who are less fortunate than I.

Thank you for teaching me (albeit with some difficulty) that no one can impose a sense of self-worth on me. I need to love me- others do not.

Thank you for pounding me with the lesson that I need to be comfortable in my own skin.

Thank you for encouraging my obnoxious habit of saying exactly what is on my mind without apology for expressing myself.

Thank you for encouraging my choice in higher education and future career path (and not freaking out when I applied to colleges for art, after 12 years of insisting on being a paleontologist).

Thank you for showing me that being "the nice girl" can be boring.

Thank you for being my shelter in the storm that has been my life at times.

Now for individual Thanks:

My Mom: Thank you for insisting on being my mom despite the distance. You have always been there when I needed you, no matter how far away you were. I'm glad that despite that distance, we were able to have a stable relationship through all these years.

My Step-Mom: Thank you for being Mom On The Front Lines, dealing with me when things got tough. When you initially found out about my abuse, you took it so gracefully; you didn't push or pry, you just wanted to know who. That was exactly what I needed then, as I wasn't in a place to talk about it then. Your understanding meant the world.

Oma: Thank you for being one of the few that knew how to get through to me, how to handle me, how to reign me in in my rage as a child. Your incredible patience, compassion, and love was sorely needed and missed many times over the years. You always knew exactly the right words to say and things to do to calm me.

NaNa: Thank you for taking me in when my world fell apart. Thank you for trying to be a parent all over again when my dad and I showed up on your doorstep. Despite our conflicts, I know you have always had good intentions.

GaGa: Thank you for adopting me as one of your own when my dad married your daughter. Even though I am not your flesh and blood, you have always treated me as such and done your best to include me in your family. I couldn't have asked for a more welcoming family to be brought into.

These women have had direct hands in shaping my views of the world and my life, and I owe them the world.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Moving On Up

My friend JT is moving on up in the world, and has moved his online presence to a newer, shinier space on the interwebs. I encourage you to go check it out and say hello!

Apparently Republicans Hate Women

At least, that is the only logical conclusion I can draw from the House passing H.R.3, a super restrictive bill that addresses ER treatment of pregnant women (it would permit ERs to refuse life-saving care to pregnant women if that care would injure or kill the fetus), private insurance coverage of abortion (and how it would take away tax exemptions if private insurance money is used to cover abortion), and inserted some pretty awful language about statutory rape. Other people smarter and more articulate than I have written extensively about this whole debacle. Luckily, the Senate still has to look over the bill, and Obama has promised to veto it. Good. He should if he has any empathy for human existence.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What Osama Bin Laden's Death Means

Unless you have been living under a rock, I'm sure you have heard about the raid in Pakistan that killed Osama Bin Laden, the most wanted man in the world by the U.S. Many are now wondering what this will mean for the U.S., the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, terrorism, and the world at large.

From where I sit, there will only be one direct result of Bin Laden's death: He will be seen as a Martyr. There will be no sudden end to Islamist militarism and terrorism. The seemingly endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will not come to a screeching halt. Nothing in the world will change other than Bin Laden will be viewed as a martyr by those whose cause he directly supported, and they will become even more devout in their desire to eradicate Western mentalities.

There seems to be, from what I can garner from various news sources and blogs, to be two conflicting mindsets about this event. There is one camp that is overjoyed at Bin Laden having finally been found and executed (even though reports are saying he wasn't executed, but killed in the firefight). This camp feels that justice has been served, and that a sworn enemy of the United States has been put down at last. The other point of view is one of a reactionary sadness, where the celebration of the death of a person is seen as a sad state of affairs in our psyche as a nation. If we truly do enjoy the deaths of our enemies, how does that make us any better than them?

These are both understandable points of view, and I empathize completely with where they are coming from. However, I am in a seemingly small third camp that is just sort of sitting on the sidelines, waiting for the ruckus to calm down. Personally, I am somewhat ambivalent about the whole thing. September 11th was nearly a decade ago. There has been so much that has happened in the mean time. To me, it really isn't about Osama Bin Laden anymore. He became to the American psyche what the Boogeyman is to a small child: some untouchable, ultimately evil force that is out to get us, and if we could only scare him out of his hiding place and give him what he deserves, everything would be okay. There has been a lot of bloodshed since 9/11/01; many times over the number of people killed on that fateful day.

On one hand, I find myself agreeing with those that mourn our countrymen celebrating the death of another human being. On the other, I understand the closure this will give to so many who were/have been affected directly by that horrible day. This is not to say I no longer care or remember 9/11. I remember that day quite clearly. I remember sitting in my English class, as the school was put into lockdown. The principle came over the P.A. system, saying that something had happened in New York, an explosion, and they were trying to figure out what to do. 

Eventually, we were sent home to our families. I sat with my step-mom on the couch, as we watched the footage of the planes flying into the towers over and over. We sat and clung to each other as we watched the towers fall, people running from the wall of ash and debris. I remember that we didn't cry, as we were too in shock that it was even happening. "This can't be happening," we kept saying, "This just can't be happening." Then they announced the plane that hit the Pentagon. Some time after, my family visited a military friend in D.C., and we saw the repairs first-hand. Then, there was the plane in Pennsylvania, and people didn't know whether or not it was related, as rumors were coming out that the passengers has crashed it, taking the craft back from more hijackers. I still choke up at the memories, and tears still bead at my eyes when I see the footage. The memories of that world-altering day have faded little in the passing decade.

So much has happened since then. I had a step-brother that would be sent off to a war that he would not return home from. I watched my dad, retired military, talk of rejoining (and my step-mom say that she isn't a soldier's wife). I watched my mom and step-dad sit with letters from friends whose kids were heading off to a land they had never heard of. I watched newscasts of protests, and speeches, and guns and planes, and my mom saying that this was nothing like the Gulf War she was in, that this would not be a hundred day war. So much has happened since then. So much has changed.

I don't really think that our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are even about September 11th anymore. Not really. They are about other, more complicated things that I only superficially understand. So the death of Bin Laden does nothing for me. I only see one more figurehead that those we are fighting will rally behind in his martyrdom, making life harder for those serving on the other side of the world. I do not celebrate this death, nor do I find contempt in it. It merely saddens me, as I know that it is not an end by any means. If there even is an end at all.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I Love a Good Smackdown

JT and PZ Myers are some pretty rocking dudes. And I do love when their fangs come out. I was laughing throughout the majority of this video.

Diversity in the Secular Movement

A great talk by some great people. Jen McCreightGreta Christina, and Debbie Goddard are all great speakers and great activists within the secular/skeptical movement(s). Having met and chilled with all three, I can confidently say that these three women are a few among many wonderfully competent women within movements that are generally run/seen as being predominantly comprised of Older White Males.

This panel is truly genius in that it is a panel about diversity that is.... DIVERSE!!!!!!!!! Amazing, huh? Having representatives from the respective groups that our movement is terribly lacking is a great improvement from past panels that have tried to address this issue.

The Expansion of High School Secularism

What I would have given if I had access to an SSA Affiliate in High School. Coming out as an atheist would have been a lot less lonely and difficult for me, I think. My friend JT Eberhard works at the Secular Student Alliance as their High School Specialist, and he has been a busy bee since starting there in January. He recently gave a talk in Boston that is quite excellent.

Link Dump

As you can probably tell, I'm having quite a bit of downtime between finals. I can only work in the studios at night, so my days are relatively open.

So here are some fun things from around the interwebs:

Outsiders are more successful. I was a total outsider in High School. I was a band nerd and didn't come from the "right" part of town, and my parents came from working class families. My dad had a middle-range white-collar job, while my step-mom took care of my sister and I. We didn't fit in where we lived, and we were generally miserable as a family during our time in that city. But I like to think I've gone much farther and done much better for myself than most of my peers from High School.

I teared up while reading this blog entry from a lesbian living in Damascus. Truly awe-inspiring.

A new reversable, non-hormonal birth control for men is being studied. It basically cripples the sperm and destroys their cell membranes. It's still a long ways off from being put on the market, but I'm glad that we're finally moving away from decades old science in the realm of contraception.

The Republicans' New Whipping Boy (Girl)

Given that the federal attempt to shut down Planned Parenthood (which I previously wrote about here) failed, it seems that now Republicans in power among the individual states are on the move to attack their new favorite whipping post.

In my neighboring state of Indiana, Governor Mitch Daniels wants to remove Medicaid funding of Planned Parenthood. Keep in mind that Federal law prevents Medicaid funds from being used to fund abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or the life of the pregnant woman is at risk. Which means that by making this move, Gov. Daniels is putting the health of millions of poor women on the line by severely limiting their access to annual breast, STI and PAP screenings, contraception (hormonal contraception is used to treat a variety of hormonal disorders) as well as pre and post natal care that is performed at some PP centers. PP spokespeople have commented as saying that should the bill pass, PP will file against it.

The bill also has a rider that would move the break-off time for receiving an abortion up to 20 weeks, several weeks prior to the federal limit of viability which is described by most doctors as several weeks after this mark.

Here in Ohio, we aren't much better off, considering that there is a "Heartbeat Bill" still going before the State Legislature. It more than likely won't pass constitutional review, as it violates the viability language of Roe v Wade. (Some may remember this bill as being the one in which a fetus was called to testify before the State Legislature. Neither of the two pregnant women who had agreed to be ultrasounded before the representatives showed.) My friend Daniel Sprockett wrote a column about how the bill was bad science, since heart cells will rhythmically pulse independently of a body.

But since when did the conservatives let science or constitutionality get in their way? :p.

Women Who Get Abortions

This, this, a thousand times, this. I love when researchers use to-the-point messages with well-designed delivery. See? Practical application of art and design :).

Monday, May 2, 2011

Take Back the Night

 Possible Trigger Warning
Disclaimer: This post has possible triggers present, and also vaguely addresses some of my own sexuality. If you don't want to read that stuff, please skip the portion of this post after the break.

On Thursday, April 28th, I attended my third consecutive Take Back the Night march, an event that seeks to raise awareness and fight against rape, sexual assault and abuse. A friend of mine from my secular student group attended with me, as he had never been to an event like this. Due to inclement weather, we were forced to move the event indoors at the start. There were speakers that told their own stories, as well as the stories of loved ones. There were simple narratives, short story formats, song, poetry, prose, and a couple short speeches. The turnout this year was remarkable, and I am happy to see attendance go up every year that I attend. Unfortunately I was not able to attend that actual marching portion of the event due to the inclement weather (with finals this week, I can't afford to get sick). I was also happy to see several men in the audience, as this issue is not just a women's issue.

It was fitting that the event be held that night, as during the day in my Human Sexuality class, we concluded our two class long address of sexual violence and coercion. For the most part, my classmates were with the program as to what constitutes consent, and ways to avoid being a perpetrator of sexual violence. However there were some comments that upset me and a few others in the class. We used the novels Speak (from the perspective of the victim) and Inexcusable (from the perspective of the perpetrator) and their characters to address these complex and emotional issues. At one point, an older gentleman that is a nontraditional student spoke that the victim in Inexcusable shouldn't have been surprised that she was attacked. I mean, both she and the protagonist were intoxicated, and she had done romantic-type activities with him earlier in the evening, and she was even sleeping in the same room with him! I mean, what was she thinking? This man admitted he has two teenaged daughters of his own.

At that point, my hand shot into the air. A few others spoke before my professor addressed me. "Perhaps," I said "we should focus less on what women need to do to keep from being raped, and instead focus more on what keeps men from raping in the first place." A novel idea, I know. We are always eager to blame the victim. Even our so-called methods of prevention subtly blame the victim: Don't go out at night, don't go out alone, watch your drink, don't accept drinks, and so on. We make it the victim's priority to keep from being violated, rather than keep the violator from violating in the first place.

The statistics speak for themselves:

- 1 in 6 women in the U.S. has experienced an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.

- Victims are 6 times more likely to experience some form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

- 93% of juvenile victims know their attacker. 2/3 of Adults know their attacker.

- 60% of assaults go unreported, due to feelings of shame, lack of faith in the justice system, or a belief that the victim will not be believed.

- Only 6% of rapists ever spend a day in jail.

- More than 50% of attacks occur within 1 mile of the victim's home.

- 43% of attacks occur between 6pm and Midnight.

1 in 4 women on college campuses will be raped before graduation. 90% know their attacker.

- Only 10% of college women report their attacks.

- One in twelve college-age men admit having fulfilled the prevailing definition of rape or attempted rape, yet virtually none of these men identify themselves as rapists.

- 43% of college men admit using coercive behavior to have sex, including ignoring a woman’s protest; using physical aggression; and forcing intercourse.

There is something wrong with these statistics.

That is why Take Back the Night, and other organization like it, exist. I was slightly disappointed in several members of my secular student group, as just the previous week, we had discussed sexual violence and its surprising prevalence. And the numbers don't lie. There is a problem, both here and abroad, with how quick we are to blame the victim, and in how complacent we are in just accepting sexual violence as a part of life. Education, activism, and prevention are the only ways we can turn the tide against a horribly accepted part of our lives.

My own story after the break.

Bin Laden Dead

Via Blag Hag: