MSNBC: Double standards in sex scandals

MSNBC: Double standards in sex scandals

I have a piece at MSNBC today, about gendered double standards in political sex scandals:

When men are drummed out of office for a sex scandal, we lament their lost potential. Anthony Weiner had such promise, we groaned. David Petraeus was so brilliant, we sighed. Now they’ll never get to fly as high as they might otherwise have, as high as they should have. When Weiner relinquished his seat in the House of Representatives, the Washington Post mourned his “squandered political promise.” When Eliot Spitzer resigned, his colleagues rued his “promise lost.” In his own resignation press conference, the former “Sheriff of Wall Street” himself said, “I look at my time as governor with a sense of what might have been.”

In political sex scandals, women are not lost potential. They are punchlines and punching bags, and then they fade away into obscurity. The women these men were caught with, whether they were trading explicit Twitter messages or having a sexual relationship with the president in the Oval Office, become guaranteed laugh lines. If we know their names, if we remember their names, it is because we mock them. Monica Lewinsky! Chuckle, chuckle. Paula Broadwell! Giggle, giggle.

At the time, we laugh at the men, too, of course – we joke about “hiking the Appalachian Trail” and make sly asides about going “all in,” – all the while knowing that the men could bounce back, given a few years. The women, as The New York Times reported recently, will not be so lucky. The New York Daily News ran a photo of Ashley Dupre, the woman with whom Spitzer was caught cheating, with the headline “Hi, ho Eliot!” He’s running for comptroller; she’s still a “ho.”

You can read the whole thing here.

Advertisements
MSNBC: Access to information is the newest front in the abortion wars

MSNBC: Access to information is the newest front in the abortion wars

I have a piece at MSNBC today, about the newest front in the abortion wars: access to information. Several states have enacted or are trying to enact laws that require doctors and teachers to straight up lie to the people who take their impartiality for granted. Ohio has passed a law that yanks funding from state-funded rape crisis centres that counsel pregnant rape survivors about abortion.

In North Carolina, public school health teachers will, in all likelihood, soon be required to lie to their students, telling them that having an abortion will endanger future pregnancies. North Carolina’s SB 132 would require schools to teach seventh graders that abortion is a “preventable cause of preterm birth” (in addition to smoking, drinking, drug use, and inadequate prenatal care). There is no medical evidence to support this claim. The World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Pediatricians, and the American Public Health Association “have all uniformly concluded that abortion does not cause prematurity,” according to one doctor’s testimony.  North Carolina’s Republicans, however, do not seem to care about scientific facts.

In Ohio, access to information will now be restricted for rape survivors who are pregnant and facing the prospect of carrying a rapist’s child. The abortion restrictions–passed through amendments to the new state budget–make clear that no rape crisis center that receives state funding can counsel rape survivors about abortion. As I wrote here earlier, this is a gag rule reminiscent of the one the Bush administration imposed on health centers it funded in the developing world. This means that such centers are forced to choose: remain open, offering only some of the necessary information to survivors of rape, or shut and provide those people with no information or services at all. And it means that rape survivors who are pregnant as a result of rape will not be told about steps they can take to avoid carrying their rapists’ babies.

Kansas, thanks to laws passed earlier this year which have just gone into effect, will now restrict access to information for students and for patients. Doctors who perform abortions are no longer permitted to participate in sex education in public schools. They are also legally required to lie to their patients, telling those who seek abortions that after 20 weeks of gestation, fetuses can feel pain, a claim without scientific backing. Additionally, they must tell patients that “the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.” Doctors are also legally required to inform their patients of a link between abortion and breast cancer–a link that the National Cancer Institute insists is non-existent.

You can read the whole thing here.

MSNBC: Celebrating freedom? In five states, the government can force a woman to give birth against her will

MSNBC: Celebrating freedom? In five states, the government can force a woman to give birth against her will

I have a piece at MSNBC today, about the five states that have implemented stringent new abortion access laws this week, a move that coincides with the celebration of America’s independence.

This week, Americans will celebrate the Declaration of Independence and recognize their nation’s growth from a rebellious colony to a fifty-state global superpower. But in five of these fifty states, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were curtailed for many people this week as their state governments enacted new restrictions on abortion access.

As Rachel Maddow noted on Monday night, there is little political action to speak of in Washington, D.C., at the moment. Right now, the action is in the states. And if you’re in a red state, it’s abortion restriction time.

In Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, and South Dakota, states in which it was already quite difficult to obtain an abortion, it just got even harder. Like Ohio, which last Sunday implemented a handful of abortion restrictions, most of these five states have erected several different kinds of roadblocks between constitutionally protected healthcare and the citizens who want to access it.

You can read the whole thing here.

MSNBC: Ohio Republicans deny women their constitutional rights

MSNBC: Ohio Republicans deny women their constitutional rights

I had a piece at MSNBC yesterday, about Ohio’s new sweeping reproductive healthcare restrictions, which make it the worst state in the country in which to seek an abortion.

What does it look like when seven men ignore seventeen thousand of their constituents?

It looks like this: Ohio’s Republican Governor John Kasich, flanked by six other men, signing the state’s new budget into law and, by doing so, catapulting the Buckeye State to the number one spot on the Nation’s Most Restrictive Abortion Laws list.

The budget strips funding from Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading provider of reproductive healthcare, and gives that money to Crisis Pregnancy Centers, the pseudo-clinics that lure pregnant women with the promise of free ultrasounds and can then misinform them about abortions. That’s just the beginning.

You can read the whole thing here.

MSNBC: Lying to women with the “Women’s Right to Know Act”

MSNBC: Lying to women with the “Women’s Right to Know Act”

I have a piece at MSNBC’s Voices today, about a new Kansas abortion restriction bill that, among other things, requires doctors to lie to their patients:

The Kansas law would make it almost impossible for people seeking abortions to use their health insurance to cover the procedure, meaning they would have to pay between $500 and $775 out of pocket. Once they have found a way to pay for the abortion, their doctor will be legally required to read them a script that explains that abortion ends the life of “a whole, separate, unique, living human being,” whether or not the doctor believes that. Doctors will also be required to warn patients of a causal link between abortion and breast cancer, which no one who has read the relevant fact-based literature on the matter believes.

This bill is a travesty on multiple fronts. Through the bill, Kansas is enshrining sex discrimination into law by prohibiting the use of insurance funds for a medical procedure that is only required by female Kansans. That provision also will disproportionately harm low-income patients who are far less able to come up with out-of-pocket funds to cover an abortion.

Next, the bill compromises the integrity of doctors by forcing them read from a script they may not agree with and that defies accepted medical facts. Like so many other anti-abortion bills, this one chips away at access to a right that is constitutionally guaranteed. That is precisely the intent and the effect of the bill’s final provision, which also aims to harm the reputations of doctors by barring health professional who work at a clinic that provides abortions from speaking in schools.

You can read the rest here.

The Guardian: Whoever wins the White House, the war on choice goes on

The Guardian: Whoever wins the White House, the war on choice goes on

I have a piece at The Guardian today, the last of the predictive pieces before the inevitable postmortem. It’s about the grim reality that, even if President Obama and the Democrats score a victory today, the damage that has been done to reproductive rights will take years to repair.

In addition to legislative changes, the last two years have seen a shift in the national discourse around reproductive rights, in which positions that were once considered extreme – removing rape and incest exceptions from abortion bans – became mainstream Republican positions. In the space of just a few years, America has become a country in which an organization dedicated to defeating breast cancer pulls funding from clinics that provide breast cancer screenings in addition to abortions and STI tests, and where politicians with presidential aspirations discuss whether or not the birth control pill should be banned.

To those unfamiliar with these issues, it may seem as though the right’s fixation on rape, the pill, and ultrasounds has sprung out of nowhere. The truth is far more sobering. A generation ago, when my mother was a vocal young feminist, the pro-choice movement made slow advances towards decriminalising contraception and abortion – advances that culminated, of course, in the success of arguing a case before the US supreme court and securing 1973’s historic Wade v Roe ruling. Similarly, the right’s desire to throw up as many obstacles to abortion as possible – mandatory ultrasounds, waiting periods, higher costs, the impossible-to-meet requirements for clinics known as Trap laws – has been brewing for some time. Nor did the desire to target hitherto uncontroversial forms of contraception like the pill and the IUD spring fully-formed into existence in 2011. Of course, it was largely thanks to GOP electoral victories, fueled by Tea Party enthusiasm and extremism, that those plans were finally turned into policy.

Electoral advantages and groundwork aside, it’s my belief that the misogynistic hostility towards women’s bodily autonomy, the desire to turn back the clock on gender equality, is part of a reaction to the election of the nation’s first African-American president. The sense that America has rolled dangerously far down an undesirable road has not only brought out the hideous racism that until now had mostly lain dormant and covert, but has also fed a desire to undo what the left sees as progress toward gender equality and what conservatives view as the dismantling of everything they hold dear. The re-election of President Obama will, in all likelihood, serve to deepen that sentiment on the right.

You can read the whole thing here.

The Sydney Morning Herald: Republicans tune in to coded racism

The Sydney Morning Herald: Republicans tune in to coded racism

I have a piece in The Sydney Morning Herald today, about Mitt Romney’s prescription for the gun violence that plagues America, and the way Romney spoke about it in this week’s presidential debate.

When Mitt Romney was asked a question about gun control in Tuesday night’s presidential debate, the second of three tete-a-tetes he’ll have with President Barack Obama, he talked at first about laws. He said he wasn’t going to implement any new ones, and focus instead on better enforcement of the ones already in place. And then something odd happened. He started talking about single parents.

America needs “to tell our kids that before they have babies, they ought to think about getting married to someone”, he said. People were confused: wasn’t the question about gun laws? Why was he talking about “the benefit of having two parents in the home?” Why, if we want to bring down the stunning levels of gun violence in America, do we “need mums and dads helping raise kids?”

The people who were confused were the people who don’t speak Republican. Those who speak the language, who are attuned to the dog whistle racism of the American right – the coded language that speaks only to certain audiences – understood Romney perfectly. Yes, he said “parents”, and no, he didn’t mention any specific racial or ethnic group, but one needn’t be a psychic to know what he meant. What he meant was that poor black single mothers living in urban areas don’t raise their kids right. And that’s why, he claims, of the 13,000 homicides committed in the US last year, almost 9000 of them were committed with firearms.

You can read the whole thing here. And I have to say, there is something really thrilling about knowing that when my parents wake up in the morning, they’re going to go outside, get the paper, open it up on the kitchen table, and see an article by me. It makes me homesick, but happy.