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23 August 2009 @ 01:55 pm
The National Marriage Boycott - a student-driven group of individuals pledging to not marry until the Defense of Marriage Act is repealed.

Pot Vs. Booze - we all know that marijuana is not as dangerous as alcohol. Would legalizing weed reduce alcohol abuse?

Is it okay to beat your wife? A surprising new poll reveals that, globally, most people think so.
15 April 2009 @ 04:19 pm
From Advocate.com:

A community reacts to the death of 11-year-old Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, who committed suicide after months of anti-gay taunts …and little action from his school.

Sirdeaner Walker, who has survived domestic violence, homelessness, and breast cancer, knew death could come suddenly -- but she could not have predicted it would find her 11-year-old son first.

Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover was a sixth-grader at New Leadership Charter School in Springfield, Mass. There, many of his classmates were initially strangers, as few of his friends from Alfred Glickman Elementary followed him.

On April 6, Sirdeaner Walker came home, walked up the stairs to the second floor of her home, and saw her son suspended from a support beam in the stairwell, swaying slightly in the air, an extension cord wrapped around his neck, according to police. He apologized in a suicide note, told his mother that he loved her, and left his video games to his brother.

Walker said her son had been the victim of bullying since the beginning of the school year, and that she had been calling the school since September, complaining that her son was mercilessly teased. He played football, baseball, and was a boy scout, but a group of classmates called him gay and teased him about the way he dressed. They ridiculed him for going to church with his mother and for volunteering locally.

"It's not just a gay issue," Walker said. "It's bigger. He was 11 years old, and he wasn't aware of his sexuality. These homophobic people attach derogatory terms to a child who's 11 years old, who goes to church, school, and the library, and he becomes confused. He thinks, Maybe I'm like this. Maybe I'm not. What do I do?"

His birthday, April 17, falls this year on the 13th National Day of Silence, a day on which individuals observe vows of silence for students bullied at school.

But instead of silence, Walker wants action from the school, which she said continuously ignored her, chalking the situation up to student immaturity. She said that every day her son left for school, he walked into a "combat zone" assigned to him because of his inner-city address. But he would not point a finger at specific classmates for fear he'd be called a "snitch."

Walker said that she is angry with teachers and administrators for not taking action, and she called on the state of Massachusetts last week to probe the school, hoping she might prevent other children from feeling as her son did.

"A lot of parents don't know the avenues open to them. A lot of parents don't know where to turn," Walker told The [Springfield] Republican.

In the days following Walker-Hoover's death, parents and community members have grown increasingly critical of the school system's approach to bullies and peer abuse, further fueled by administrators refusing to comment to local media.

Hilda Clarice Graham, an expert on bullies and a school safety consultant with International Training Associates, said students often use assumed sexual orientation as a main weapon against one another. "It's the hammer that hurts the most and is the most vulnerable and hurtful thing going," she said.

Nearly half of children between the ages of 9 and 13 have been bullied, and nearly 10% of those students say it happens on a daily basis, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In a 2007 Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network study, 86% of LGBT students said that they had experienced harassment at school during the previous year.

Days prior to Carl Walker-Hoover's suicide, he confronted a female bully who verbally accosted him. The event served as an apparent catalyst to Walker's suicide. The school's response was to have the two students sit beside one another during lunch for the next week to encourage conversation.

Graham says the school's response is not ideal because "for mediation to work, there must be equal power." She said bullies' goals are to hurt, and to depend on them to feel remorseful is not an effectual way to deal with them -- that victims are at a disadvantage when trying to make peace alone.

Graham added that schools should handle bullying on a small scale to avoid large-scale responses to tragic events.

"It's the most dramatic call to action a school can receive," she said. "Parents want a guarantee that this will never happen again."

Many residents came out in support of the Walker family in a school-sponsored vigil last Thursday night. Walker says school officials didn't invite her to the event. She said she heard from others but chose not to attend.

School superintendent Alan J. Ingram said on Thursday that cases of bullying must be addressed quickly and fairly, but added that many of the state's charter schools are autonomous and have their own policies. He said 11 of the system's schools have bullying-prevention programs, but most operate in elementary schools.

Peter J. Daboul, the newly elected chairman of the school's board of directors, said the board will have an emergency meeting to review the circumstances surrounding Walker-Hoover's suicide. He said the school follows the Springfield Public School System's protocols for dealing with bullies.

For now, Walker says she worries about her son's best friend, a heavy girl with whom Walker-Hoover would have lunch. Walker said the girl is still teased for her weight. "By whatever means necessary, I'm going to get the message across that the taunting has to end in the schools," she said.

More information and video.

As someone who was suicidal in grade school and junior high, and someone who was ostracized by classmates, this story really hit home for me. The sad thing is, there's really not much that teachers and administrators can do. They can stand up for bullied children, but they can't be everywhere at once. As long as kids are learning hate at home, they're going to bring it to school with them. And it seems like even this child's suicide hasn't made these kids feel remorse. What is it going to take?
25 March 2009 @ 09:21 am
Right-wingers refer to emergency contraception (also known as EC, also known as Plan B) as "the abortion pill" but it is not the same thing as Mifeprex or RU-486. EC will not terminate an existing pregnancy. EC will not work if a woman is already pregnant. EC is a higher dosage of the same hormones found in birth control pills. EC, when used within 5 days of unprotected sex, can significantly reduce the risk of unintended pregnancy.

Every women can use a back up method. No contraception method provides 100% protection. And sometimes, mistakes happen – a condom breaks, a diaphragm slips, a woman forgets to take her pill. Or she has sex when she didn't plan to – or want to. In fact, women who use a regular birth control method account for just over half of all unintended pregnancies.

Emergency contraception gives women a second chance to prevent pregnancy. But they need to know about it and be able to get it in time. Even though the FDA has made Plan B available over-the-counter to women 18, the high cost of EC - usually between $40-60 in pharmacies nationwide - is a continuing barrier to access.

Here are some ways that you can get involved. There's a Facebook Group you can join - for fans of one-click activism.
Today the National Abstinence Education Association is having their annual Capitol Hill lobby day. They're planning on meeting with legislators to ask them to continue funding ineffective, inaccurate, misleading and dangerous abstinence only education.

Amplify Your Voice has the full story and a call to action:

This is where you come in: the progressive blogosphere, the reproductive justice community, and youth advocates. We have to make sure that the NAEA's message is not the only side of the story that Congress hears tomorrow. For every lobbyist that a representative gets in their office tomorrow morning, we need 100 letters from our side to counter them.

I urge you to send this letter to your Congressperson, asking them to defund abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.

After a decade of these ineffective programs spending $1.5 billion to misinform and endanger the sexual health of countless youth, it is time to finally bring change to Washington and America.

Via Feministing.
05 November 2008 @ 03:35 pm
Did anyone else feel a tremendous sense of relief at around 11pm last night? It feels as though some small segment of the population has finally come around. I feel cautiously hopeful. I know Bush will probably pardon his cronies and issue a bunch of bullshit executive orders in the next two months, but after that... America stands a chance. That doesn't mean we won't blow it. We probably will. But we have a chance, for the first time in eight years. And that feels good.

Now that a Democrat is preparing to take over the White House, I feel free to worry about other things. I'm not too worried about local politics in New York - or Illinois for that matter. My rage and snarkiness have outlived their usefulness, and their welcome. It's time to start using the energy I've been wasting on defensive rants for something that's more productive. I'm not sure what that will be. But I know it's time for a change.
30 May 2008 @ 09:27 pm
"It's easy to articulate a belligerent foreign policy based solely on unilateral military action, a policy that sounds tough and acts dumb; it's harder to craft a foreign policy that's tough and smart. It's easy to dismantle government safety nets; it's harder to transform those safety nets so that they work for people and can be paid for. It's easy to embrace a theological absolutism; it's harder to to find the right balance between the legitimate role of faith in our lives and the demands of our civic religion. But that's our job."
-- Barack Obama in "Tone, Truth, and the Democratic Party."
28 May 2008 @ 01:12 pm
In the aftermath of my Jane Austen post, this is what I've been thinking about:

Any man who is threatened by your intelligence, your success, or your wit is a waste of your time. I'd rather be single for the rest of my life than have a relationship with someone who felt threatened by how brilliant, talented, and funny I am.

Any tradition that values women based on their partners instead of their individual identity isn't worth preserving. Let's continue to demolish this tradition. Unmarried women are not objects of mockery. They're role models to women who refuse to sell out their dreams.
27 May 2008 @ 10:16 pm
I just watched Becoming Jane with my mom. It's not bad. It's not great, either. But there's an interesting moment when Jane talks with a contemporary "authoress." Mrs. Radcliffe remarks that it's horribly embarrassing for her husband to be married to a woman with a literary reputation. Jane says (I'm paraphrasing), "But surely it must be possible to be a writer and a wife?" Mrs. Radcliffe says, "Oh, yes, it's possible. But it's never easy."

Florence King wrote, "The witty woman is a tragic figure in American life. Wit destroys eroticism and eroticism destroys wit, so women must choose between taking lovers and taking no prisoners."

Even today, with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler making a killing at the box office, there are always people lining up to write articles about how women supposedly aren't funny. (They're morons, but they're out there.)

Anyway, Becoming Jane did make me want to read Pride and Prejudice again, and find out more about Jane Austen's life. I happened to find this poem:

You could not shock her more than she shocks me;
Beside her Joyce seems innocent as grass.
It makes me most uncomfortable to see
An English spinster of the middle class
Describe the amorous effects of "brass,"
Reveal so frankly and with such sobriety
The economic basis of society.
-- W. H. Auden, Letter to Lord Byron (1936)

Can you dig it?
27 May 2008 @ 02:06 am
After observing the backlash and victim-blaming leveled against a young Georgia woman attempting to pursue justice after being sexually assaulted by her ex-boyfriend, I have a question for the people who took her rapist's side.

Considering the hell that rape victims must go through to press charges against their rapists, why would anyone lie about being raped?

I've talked to several women who have been sexually assaulted who decided not to go to the police because it would be so incredibly traumatic and horrific. Many rape victims describe the process of seeking justice as "being raped all over again," and being "forced to relive a nightmare." They face victim-blaming and ostracism. They put their loved ones through the hell of watching them suffer and feeling powerless to stop it.

Here are some answers I have heard:

Myth 1.) Women "cry rape" for the attention.

There have to be easier ways to get attention. You could threaten to jump off a building. You could try out for "American Idol." All of these would be less traumatic than an invasive post-rape examination and being interrogated by hostile police officers. Rape victims get a lot of negative attention, sometimes more than their attackers.

Myth 2.) Women are vindictive by nature, and "cry rape" to damage the lives of men who have hurt them.

Let me tell you, there are easier ways to get even with a man who's hurt you. You can write angry poems about him and post them online for his new girlfriend to see. You can spray-paint "premature ejaculator" (or similar) on his car. You can hire a cheap hit man. I'm sick of all this "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned" nonsense. I've faced a lot of rejection in my life. I mean, look at my picture, for crying out loud. Yeah. I've been so angry that I took a dying houseplant and tore it to pieces in a parking lot in front of a crowd of on-lookers. But I've never been angry enough to falsify a police report.

What other explanations have you heard - or even believed - for why a woman would lie about being raped? Let's hear them. I'm ready.

But first, maybe you should read this and this and the documents provided on this page, and this and this...

And maybe you should talk to a friend who has been sexually assaulted. Maybe you should ask her about her experience with the criminal justice system - or, why she didn't go to the hospital or to the police. And then try to give a reasonable explanation why a woman who wasn't raped would be willing to go through that.

I do believe people are innocent until proven guilty. But rape survivors face obstacles that no other crime victims face. If I went to the police and said I'd been robbed, no one would say that I was "asking for it." No one would ask me if I'd given away money willingly in the past. No one would say I was "crying robbery" for the attention or in order to blackmail the criminal.

Coming forward about a sexual assault is probably the hardest thing I hope you'll never have to go through. So maybe you should give survivors a little benefit of the doubt.