Sticks and Stones

I recently read an open letter that a professor from Oklahoma Wesleyan University wrote about being “thin-skinned.” The letter is here. It was pretty painful to read, in all honesty, at least from my perspective. Dr. Piper’s letter really just added to what I was already thinking about, because political correctness is a popular current topic, and people are specifically talking about political correctness on college campuses and the negative effects it has on students.

In Piper’s letter, he spoke about a student feeling offended by a Christian sermon about love, and how this student was really feeling his conscience. According to Everett, sermons are supposed to make people feel bad, because it reminds them of their sins and their needs to repent. I don’t agree with that at all, and see it as a really Puritanical fire-and-brimstone kind of mindset, but I’m not here to judge one person’s view of religion.

The issue is that he conflates political correctness and valuing others’ sensitivities to needing to develop a thicker skin. He says, “Anyone who dares challenge them and, thus, makes them “feel bad” about themselves, is a “hater,” a “bigot,” an “oppressor,” and a “victimizer.” Piper uses really strong language here, language associated with actual oppression and victimization. By doing this, he erases people (students) who actually need refuge from oppressive language: black students, queer students, students with disabilities. The list goes on, and he invalidates them, saying that the oppression they feel is akin to that student not wanting to listen to his conscience.

The reason why we use politically-correct language is because we, as humans, realized that the words people in our past created were used to oppress people. White men created language for black people to separate and dehumanize them; heterosexual people did the same for LGBTQ+ people; so too did able-bodied people for people with cognitive disabilities. These words were designed to hurt people, both emotionally, but more importantly, physically. These words give excuses for people in privilege to harm those different from them, different from white, heterosexual, cisgender, upper-middle class, able-bodied men.

BUT THEN: Upon this realization that language meant more than just insulting people, and that words had real, lasting, harmful effects, we CHANGED it. We created new language, inclusive language, so we could stop hurting the people we had. Language evolves this way because humans come to new understandings about words and how their usage affects others. When Dr. Piper says that students need to toughen up, he is allowing oppressive language to stay in his institution, and completely removing real victimization from view.

I could go on forever about this, because creating safe spaces is my goal in life and everything I do, and as a survivor, I understand the absolute necessity of providing resources and giving students opportunities to remove themselves from potentially-harmful situations, which can be caused simply by bringing up triggering topics. I don’t want to get into trigger warnings though, because that is something completely different.

The issue at hand is political correctness, and if you want to use offensive language and get angry when people lash out at you for it, you might as well be Jerry Seinfeld. But that’s putting it really lightly. Dr. Piper’s argument is that students need to remember that old adage: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” He doesn’t realize that he is speaking from both a position of authority, and a position of privilege. Maybe that worked for him, maybe toughening up was all he needed to do, but for black and queer students, hurtful words can lead to broken bones. He should do well to remember that.

The Aftermath

I have been trying to figure out how to respond to the Colorado Planned Parenthood shooting that took place on Black Friday. When I first learned about it, I was devastated, but didn’t feel any attachment because it occurred over a thousand miles away. That distance seemed to function as my safety bubble. I sympathized with the victims, but didn’t see the connection this had to me.

I don’t know how I missed it, though. I work at Planned Parenthood as a volunteer and intern. This shooting could have taken place where I work. Although that probability is unlikely, just because my location doesn’t offer abortion services, there is still a chance it could happen. That is, frankly, terrifying. I don’t like to remember that bad things can always be nearby, but it’s just naive to believe that this bubble can’t be popped.

However, I feel angry, more than anything. I’m angry that the hatred of Planned Parenthood has extended to acts of violence, once again. While it is unclear what the suspect Robert Lewis Dear’s motive was for shooting, in interviews he mentioned “baby parts,” and revealed his pro-life (anti-abortion) ideology. I think it’s pretty safe to say that this crime was motivated by the intensity of that belief. I’m angry that people are praising this man’s accused actions. It is all really frustrating, and I don’t know if minds will ever be changed. What this demonstrates is a lack of respect for the lives carrying those fetuses. They are whittled down to the supposed life inside them. I’m angry about this whole thing and the larger issue it frames: Pro-life versus Pro-choice.

I refuse to let this anger fuel hatred though. To do so would be pointless and would only make me more like Lewis. Right now, working at Planned Parenthood and refusing to let my fear drive me away is the greatest action I feel that I can take in this struggle. I work somewhere where I am truly needed, and where I can offer and receive support. Knowing this helps me to channel my anger and frustration into positive energy.

I don’t want to see things specifically as Pro-life versus Pro-choice, because I think that things are a little more complex than that. I really just want to understand what can make a person lash out so blindly. Or maybe I don’t want to peak into that darkness. I can only hope that as we move forward from this tragedy, we will find ways to prevent it from happening again.

I Guess this is an Op Ed? In Response (And Solidarity) to Kelsey Miller’s Article

This is the post where I mention that I am decidedly pro-choice. I feel like that is probably obvious, but I’m stating it explicitly because it’s necessary to know going forward. Also worth mentioning: this blog post is in response to an article my friend found on refinery29.com. I just had too many feelings reading it (as per usual) and needed to get those out. You should check out the article, because it is pretty great.

To summarize the article I am responding to, author Miller interviewed and sat in on a group of students who identify as “Pro-Life Millenials.” In addition to this, the author researched statistics and information about pro-life millenials, to corroborate her evidence about them (and to write a credible piece). The title of this article struck me, and I was instantly drawn to it, because I am interested in exploring thought processes that differ from mine, and because there are just some things I don’t quite understand. Anti-choice mentality is one of them.

I grew up in a Catholic family. I was baptized at 3 months old, and went to church nearly every single Sunday after that day. I attended Catholic school from third to twelfth grade. Suffice to say, I am more than familiar with pro-life rhetoric. When I was sixteen, I identified as pro-life, because killing babies is wrong, obviously. To affirm this identity, I participated in the March for Life. There were thousands of people stamping through the streets of DC shouting chants like, “No, Obama, yo mama chose life!” (Really, this was an actual thing.) Walking among these people, shouting these pro-life things, shaking my pro-life poster, I felt the collective anger of the crowd. I was angry too, but couldn’t figure out why. I watched horrifically-graphic videos of abortions, passed by grotesque pictures of dead fetuses, took in all of this hate and sadness and it overwhelmed me. I think this is probably when I decided that it was time to start investigating my beliefs a little further.

On the walls in my high school, on billboards lining the major US highways, on picket signs outside of Planned Parenthood during 40 Days of Life, on priests’ lips are these words: “Respect life.” An issue as complex as abortion gets boiled down to the adherence of God’s law that, “All life is sacred.” The problem with this thought process is that there are multiple lives to consider in some cases of abortion, but in most, there is only one. Hint: the one I’m referring to is NOT the baby’s life. That’s right, when it comes to abortion, the only life that should matter is the woman’s. This is of course a biased opinion, but I base it on the scientific fact that life doesn’t start at the moment of conception. Though this goes against religious doctrine (at the very least, Christian/Catholic beliefs), a scientific fact is what determines whether or not abortion is safe and necessary for the woman*. Late-term abortions are pretty rare, and most abortions occur early on in the pregnancy (More data about those is found here. The material is a bit unsettling though, please view at your own discretion. Also, resource for fetal development here).

*Or uterus-haver (it’s important to use gender-inclusive language when referring to pregnancy)

I put some of that information in as a precursor to this next bit because it is important to move beyond this “abortion=baby murder” mentality. If you can’t think openly about abortion and pro-choice ideology, you might as well close this now.

I mentioned earlier that lots of pro-life rhetoric doesn’t consider the pregnant person. Abortion is about much more than a baby’s life or death: it is about whether or not a pregnancy is safe, as well as whether or not the pregnancy is wanted or feasible.*(I am going to refer to pregnant people as women for the sake of brevity, but please know that not just cisgender women can get pregnant.)* Abortion is a viable option for pregnant women who cannot support children because of their present financial or health circumstances, or simply those who are not ready for parenthood. In many cases, the reasons for abortion benefit both the woman and the potential child. Would it be better for a woman with an unsteady income to have a child that she is unable to feed and appropriately provide for than to abort the fetus and take care of herself?

Low-income women are typically removed from conversations about abortion. While it is true that adoption exists and is an option, a woman struggling to provide for herself cannot also provide for a developing fetus. She would put additional stress on her body, creating a high-risk pregnancy that could potentially endanger her health, as well as the health of her baby. It is also important to note that intersectionality needs to be considered in order to see every aspect of this issue; low-income women of color would suffer more than low-income white women if abortion were eradicated.

I feel like I’ve been throwing a lot of stuff out about abortion. This is probably well-known information, but it bears repeating because it is highly important. Getting back to Kelsey Miller’s article: There are tons of points that the main interviewee, Emily Wilkinson, makes and honestly, all of them make me angry. She throws out a bunch of bogus statistics about Planned Parenthood, discusses why there aren’t pregnant college women on campuses (which is actually not true) and why that is a problem, and then gets to birth control and contraceptives. As to the remark about pregnant women on college campuses: it is hard enough to be a full-time student, taking a full course load and balancing a social life with getting enough sleep and eating properly. Add a pregnancy to that and it’s enough to send any person spiraling into a breakdown. While it’s certainly possible to be a pregnant college student, in most cases, this is not an ideal situation. I do agree that there aren’t many resources for pregnant students (although I haven’t personally explored this), but I don’t think that that causes abortions. Unplanned pregnancies stem typically stem from unprotected sex, which is common on campuses, especially when alcohol is added to the mix. A great way to prevent abortion is to prevent potential pregnancy (duh?) by using contraceptives. But of course, the “true blue pro-lifer” is against contraception because it makes pregnancy more difficult. Wilkinson says to use the rhythm method to know when your body can conceive. She puts the onus of preventing pregnancy entirely on the woman, which is a lot of responsibility and frankly, not fair. If it takes two to tango, and life begins the moment a sperm fertilizes an egg, then can’t we argue that sperm is life? Why is this solely a woman’s responsibility? I would be curious to know Wilkinson’s thoughts on masturbation, because there are definitely a lot more potential babies dying in tissues and socks than in condoms. But I digress.

Abortion is a really traumatic thing for a woman to go through; this is another argument Wilkinson makes against abortion and it is flimsy, at best. Just because something is traumatic, that doesn’t deem it unnecessary. One of Planned Parenthood’s many functions is providing aftercare for abortion. This includes physical check-ups, as well as access to counseling to ensure emotional well-being. Defunding Planned Parenthood, as many pro-life people want, would take away this comforting system. I could list so many other things that are just as traumatic, if not much more, than abortion but that cannot be done away with because they are a part of life. I won’t, but I could.

I’ve mostly just been ranting at this point, because, like I said, too many feelings on this topic. My lasting impression of Miller’s article, and my reason for this post, is that pro-life people are growing in number. They are younger (millenials) and they are using different tactics to sway beliefs, and that is scary. I recently started volunteering for Planned Parenthood and I have already seen, first-hand, the necessity of this organization and the necessity of abortion. I view abortion as a reproductive right, and access to abortion and contraception as human rights. Bodily autonomy is what we call this, and when you let an embryo determine a fully-formed human’s life, you tell that human that they don’t matter.

In sum, abortion is not about a fetus, it is about a person’s right to choose whether or not they want or can be pregnant. Stop making it about the fetus.

It Just Made Sense/Political PARTY

I’m pretty much at the point in my life where I can’t NOT have a blog. Especially because I have little-to-no publication experience and I want to work for a blog, it is important to start documenting my thoughts and experiences as a young feminist.

I think I want to start with a political post, because the upcoming election has been plaguing my thoughts for months now. I was sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room, absentmindedly watching the news when Joe Biden came on. The headline read, “Biden not running for president.” My first thought was, ‘Thank god,’ but I wasn’t called in to my appointment so I kept watching. Biden spoke at length about the reasons behind his refusal to run. While these were largely related to his grieving process-losing Beau seems to have really taken a toll on him-he brought up cancer research and how near and dear it is to his heart. Something that I didn’t know, and that I didn’t ever take the time to think about was Biden’s work with breast and other types of cancer research. He talked about how he “would have liked to have been” the president that got rid of cancer. That’s a pretty incredible notion, and one that currently does not seem plausible. But Biden has a lot of faith in science, and he honestly swayed me a bit too. I can’t exactly pin down why I never liked Biden. Maybe it was his television persona, which was goofy and never appeared to help the country in any way. Maybe I just have weird feelings about old men and he struck me as the type to hit on college girls at keynote speaker events. Either way, something about him always hit a nerve for me; I didn’t see his appeal, though many of my friends did.

However, seeing him speak to the public about how he wasn’t running for election and hearing the poignancy of his remarks, I have to say that he has started to win me over. Just a little, though: I’m certainly not ready to pick up a cardboard-cutout of the big VP as of yet. But who knows? Maybe in the next 5 years he will decide he’s ready to run (if he’s still alive? I feel like I should say that, though I don’t know how old he actually is), and if he does, perhaps I’ll vote for him.

While I’m on the subject of the upcoming election, I think it’s important to mention where I stand right now: I’m feeling the Bern. But isn’t it a feminist’s duty to vote for the ONLY FEMALE CANDIDATE? Surely she would make immense strides for sex and gender equality and further the progression of reproductive rights and equal pay, etc.? I’m not so sure, to be quite honest.

I think that Hillary Clinton is a strong, independent woman and having such a figure in politics is important, yes, but voting for Clinton doesn’t seem like a feminist thing to do. Let me explain why I feel this way: 1) Hillary Clinton is a liberal feminist. She has worked her way into male-dominated spaces and created visibility for women where there is none. This is great, and no one will deny that her work will benefit political women for years to come. Yet liberal feminism seeks only to gain access to flawed social structures and institutions, rather than expose the reasoning behind those flaws and learn how to recreate social institutions that promote equality. Basically, this means that liberal feminists only want to insert themselves into high-paying jobs and jobs that are typically all-male. They only want to look at the surface level of sex inequality, rather than the deeper roots of it. Hillary is not going to try to dig below this surface; she only wants to break the glass ceiling. And more power to her, but that’s just not something that I want from a president. 2) Clinton is not going to push a feminist agenda with her presidency. I think we all knew this one, but it demands mentioning again. Because she is the ONLY female candidate, not only is running for presidency (which is hard enough as it is), she is running as a minority. There are people who already want her to fail, simply because she is a woman. Preexisting biases prevent her from running with a feminist agenda, or even an agenda that remotely benefits women or minorities. She has to work TWICE as hard as her fellow candidates, and she has to make a lot of promises that probably won’t be kept. This is typical when a woman enters into politics; she has to be an “every man” sort of politician, and she needs to show that she can represent the entire population of America, as well as make decisions for it. While I think she has a lot to offer the country, I won’t be voting for her simply because she is a woman. And because I simply don’t agree with some of her stances, I won’t be voting for her at all.

I will definitely write a post about Bernie Sanders in the future, but right now I need to get back to the essay I’m writing, so that’s it tonight.