Thank God my husband is too compassionate and egalitarian to criticize this “Day Without a Woman” strike – AKA another day where Matt Walsh is woefully wrong

[A response to this.]

Yesterday was the “Day Without A Woman” strike. The idea was that women were supposed to abandon their jobs, their families and their household duties for the day in order to protest how we elected a man to President who has bragged about sexually assaulting women and how even in 2017 women are still unequal in this country.

As was the case with the Women’s March in January, most of the people involved in this demonstration are VERY sure why they’re involved. They saw their country elect a man who said he could grab their genitals and get away with that, and it makes them feel unsafe, unrepresented, and just plain mad as hell. From my conversations with my fellow feminists who either supported or participated in this strike/boycott/it seems most of them KNOW that they’re speaking out against very real and lived INEQUALITY.  When asked how they’re unequal, they are able to articulate very compelling reasons from their lived experiences of all the little ways every day in which they are marginalized, oppressed, ignored, abused, misrepresented, and devalued by modern society. So for once men have to pick up the slack for women instead of the other way around.

The organizers of this protest had concise, consistent, and articulate messages about what they aimed to accomplish yesterday and their goals for the future. Those goals are very connected to women’s issue’s because women’s rights are human rights.

The official unity principals, which serve as the foundation for yesterday’s strike, include a women’s right to access reproductive health care and have her and her doctor make decisions, not conservative asshats with a blog, LGBTQIA rights, immigrant and refugee rights, and environmental health. It’s clear why these issues were included in the Day Without Women platform because women are affected by every single one of these issues every.single.day.

A few thoughts on today:

1. Serious, productive women have to put up with inequality every day even though they don’t have time for that nonsense

Women do most of the unpaid work in this country, whether that’s raising families or caring for their aging Baby Boomer parents, and are expected to do that work with very little support from their male partners WHILE ALSO WORKING A FULL-TIME JOB.  Because men have the option to opt-out of this work because they know the women in their lives will pick up the slack, ensuring their lives will continue on basically as normal for the most part. When you get the feminist mom demographic to go on strike, you really are grinding the social engine to a halt because feminist moms are raising their children, participating in activism, carrying the loads for their families, and working outside of the home, and boy howdy, do they know how to organize and get shit done.

Days like yesterday make me even more thankful for my husband, who grew up in a generation and religion steeped in patriarchal control and he still rejected gender roles and has chosen to be an egalitarian partner and committed father with great enthusiasm. My husband can’t even say the word “feminist” without feeling so grateful that he has was raised by a strong woman, was taught how to respect women by his father, is the brother to some strong-ass women, is married to a tough-as-nails woman, is raising two daughters to be strong women, and raising two sons to reject patriarchal control and respect the hell out of women.

When I asked him what he was doing to commemorate “A Day Without Women,” he told me he was going to wear red to work, support the women in his office who would like to participate in the action, and donate to causes that directly impact the lives of women. He’s far too much of a grown, mature, adult man, to denigrate women, to mock their protests for more rights, and not support every woman’s effort to gain more equality. And thank God for that.

My recommendation to any young woman discerning marriage: ask your prospective husband how he feels about modern feminism. If he laughs, RUN FOR THE HILLS. The last thing you want is to be married to a misogynist who expects you do all the emotional labor in your family, raise your children with little to no support, while he reaps all the benefits of your hard work and never has to lift a finger. Praise Jesus.

2. This once again benefits the women it’s supposed to help.

Fortunately in the education system, mature feminist Baby Boomers make up a significant percentage of the staff at many public schools, particularly on the east coast. That’s why some of the biggest school systems in America shut down yesterday to accommodate the hundreds of feminists who value their equality and know that fighting for their rights means they are fighting for the rights of their students as well. Again, women’s rights are human rights.

Unfortunately because of lazy and sexist men and their harmful, non-family oriented policies, thousands of working mothers, many of them low income, will be forced to call out of work or shell out money for childcare. The women who would have liked to participate in yesterday’s events and who couldn’t afford to take part in them, will be the ones who pay the price, because men sure as hell won’t. The Patriarchy will keep humming along as normal, oppressing our nation’s women by enacting laws that take away women’s reproductive rights, marginalizing the already oppressed, taking away the rights of trans women to use the bathroom, paying women of color even less than they pay white women, refusing asylum to refugee women, failing to protect women who are currently experiencing domestic or sexual violence, manspreading and mansplaining, while misogynist, conservative men sit in their Ivory towers looking down at women complaining for not using their inside voices like the nice ladies to. As usual.

3. The men married to women need to step up.

Many articles have been written over the past week explaining what men can do to support yesterday’s strike. As it turns out there was and is a lot they could/can do. They can pick up the slack with childcare. They can support  the women in their office if management tries to punish them for their participation. They can march with them and provide security against the men who wish to enact violence to them. If they’re attorneys, they can provide their legal services for free to those women who were arrested for protesting. They can teach their sons and daughters about consent. They can not grab the genitals of other women just because president trump bragged about it. They can speak out whenever a sexist joke or story is told. They can listen to their wives when they tell them about their experiences with inequality AND BELIEVE THEM even if they have never experienced it themselves. These can and should be doing these things today and every day. Sadly, a depressingly low number of men will not do any of these things even though patriarchy hurts them as well. Even sadder, is when women denigrate the work of other women by criticizing their tone or tactics, etc. because women are the gatekeepers of patriarchy and the only real way to have power as a women is through soft power.

Mothers should be supported in self-care and filling up their own well so that they can continue to care for their families. This is called maternal feminism. If that means leaving their family for a whole day as a political statement, what a wonderful role model she is to her children in standing up for her rights.  Workers usually go on strike because they believe, rightly or wrongly, that their employer is oppressing them. If you’re going on strike from your family, is that because your children and husband are oppressing you? PROBABLY. Why isn’t your husband supporting you more? Why are your children expecting you to do everything for  them? Why isn’t every member of your household responsible for the upkeep of that household? Why isn’t your partner being a better parent to your shared children?

I’m so glad that my  husband isn’t a Matt Walsh type. It makes me feel pangs of by-proxy-embarrassment for his wife for allowing their children and herself to be disrespected in this way.

What can a husband do for a wife who wants to go on strike from the family? PICK UP THE FREAKING SLACK. He can show that he is committed to being a better partner by being a leader in changing his actions to be more respectful, accommodating, and supportive of his wife.  He can be a man, in other words.

4. YOU AREN’T EQUAL. DON’T EVER STOP UNTIL YOU ARE.

Women need to absolutely and 100% protest for equal rights because they still do not have equal rights.

  • The Equal Rights Amendment still hasn’t been passed after 40+ years.
  • Women still make remarkably less on a dollar than the men, and even less if they’re a woman of color.
  • Only 3% of rapes are ever prosecuted and just last year rapists like Kobe Bryant were lauded as heroes because they can put a ball in a basket good.
  • Women cannot hold positions of ministry in many churches.
  • Rapists can sue their victims for custody in most states.
  • About 4,000 women die each year due to domestic violence, and 75% of the victims were killed as they attempted to leave the relationship.
  • The number of American troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2001 and 2012 was 6,488. The number of American women who were murdered by current or ex male partners during that time was 11,766. That’s nearly double the amount of casualties lost during war.
  • Women pay more for common household items than men to. Just ask your shampoo bottle, shaving cream, BIC pen.
  • Women are underrepresented in government. Only 20% of Congress is comprised of women.
  • Women are in the minority in business, accounting for only 17% of board members and 15% C-suit executives, and 5% of CEOS at Fortune 500 companies.
  • Women are the minority in news media.
  • Women still shoulder more of the household burden, much like Matt Walsh’s poor wife. Working moms are more likely to be saddled with childcare duties than working fathers, even if both spouse work equal hours. And they’re also more likely to bear the burden of doing chores around the house.
  • Female soldiers face alarming rates of rape and harassment.
  • Young women experience inequality in high school sports.
  • Retired women are twice as likely as retired men to live in poverty.
  • Women of all age are more likely than men to live below the poverty line especially single mothers with deadbeat ex-spouses who don’t pay child support.
  • In STEM fields, women make up less than 30% of employees.
  • Human trafficking is a crime that vastly affects women.
  • Women suffer the worst when poor water quality and sanitation is jeopardized because of menstruation.
  • There is a luxury tax on tampons, which if you didn’t know, are a necessity not a luxury.
  • 1 in 5 women in the United States have been victims of sexual assault in their lifetime compared to 1 in 71 men.
  • 1 in 7 women have been stalked by an intimate partner during their lifetime compared to 1 in 18 men.
  • 1 in 4 college women are being sexually assaulted before they graduate, forcing them to delay their education or drop out of school, while schools participate in cover ups. We have an epidemic of sexual assaults on college campuses.
  • Women face rampant discrimination and harassment in the workforce, like being kept out of leadership roles or certain fields entirely, not being properly accommodated or supported while pregnant or after giving birth, and sexual harassment is a major issue is non-female dominated fields.
  • Feel free to add to the list in the comments section.

[Statistics sources here, here, here, and here]

Feminism is the only thing that has ever offered help. This, perhaps more than any other reason, is why everyone should take feminism seriously. Especially today and every day thereafter until there is gender equality for every woman and girl.

Feminist are out there fighting for everyone’s equality. Please join us.

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Medical Marijuana and the LDS Church

Medical marjiuana.jpg

On Friday, February 5, 2016 the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints opposed a bill in the Utah legislature brought forth by Senator Mark Madsen that would make Utah the 24th state to legalize medical marijuana. citing unintended consequences that could come with use of the drug.

And I am angry.

I grew up being taught that the LDS church was politically neutral. Every election season a letter is read over the pulpit in every Ward in the United States written by the First Presidency emphatically stating that the church keeps out of politics.

However, this past legislative session in Utah has proven that the church’s long-claimed stance of political neutrality is false. Most people outside the state don’t understand how one religion, no matter how prominent, can have such an effect on state policies. But it does. Most of the state legislators identify as LDS and as any LDS person will tell you, when the prophet speaks, you listen, and you do as you are told. Obedience above conscious.

The reason for opposing medical marijuana?

Unintended consequences.

You mean like people suffering from chronic, debilitating, and painful diseases getting relief?

You mean like people who do suffer those painful diseases not becoming addicted to the opioids their doctors prescribe because that’s all doctors can do legally?

You mean like people being high all the time on THC? NEWFLASH – these same people are high all the time. On opioids.

And because they are having to ever increase their opioid use with no legal proven alternative available, it is leading to some patients becoming addicted. Utah has an insanely high opioid usage rate as well as heroin rate. The Utah Department of Health has noted that Utah has an experienced a more than 400% increase in prescription drug use injuries and death in the last decade. An average of 21 Utahns die a month due to prescription drug overdoses. Utah ranks 8th highest in prescription drug overdose deaths in the United States.

Marijuana isn’t the drug you should be worried about, LDS church.

Heavy opioid use for chronic pain also leads to liver damage, digestive difficulties like not being able to keep food down and chronic, and bowel damaging, constipation.

I’m sure the LDS church leaders believe this is a moral issue, so I have to ask…

What’s so moral about letting people suffer?

No one has ever overdosed on Marijuana.

I could see if this were legalizing recreational marijuana use why the LDS church would be opposed to that and taking a strong stance against it.

But this is about medicinal use in oil form. Mormons love their medicinal oils. I’m sure if doTerra was pushing this, all the prominent MLM owning Mormons would jump at having it legalized.

Luckily Senator Madsen is not kowtowing to the incredible and inappropriate overreach of the LDS church into state politics. He has proposed 8 amendments to the law that he hopes will alleviate concerns to the Bill.

Anecdotally, when my mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer in August 2007. She opted for chemotherapy treatments to extend her life and it was awful. She threw up constantly. She couldn’t keep any food down, thereby becoming dehydrated. She was in constant pain. Her doctor prescribed for her Marinol to help increase her appetite and deal with the nausea chemotherapy caused. Marinol is one of the cannabinoids.

I wish I could sit down with the leaders of the LDS church and describe to them what it was like to watch my mom suffer an absolute nightmarish hell during her last 3 months on this earth. I wish I could tell them what it was like to sit with her in her hospital room watching her writhe in pain, wake up and look at me with panic-stricken eyes that reminded me of a wounded animal, and beg me, BEG ME, her second daughter, someone she called “girl baby” and nursed at her breast until I was 15 months old, BEG ME to go find someone to kill her. Please tell me how you would feel to have your mother, a light and sunshine to everyone she knew, be suffering so much she begged you to find someone to take her life.

You know that scene in Terms of Endearment when Debra Winger is in the hospital dying of cancer and her mother, Shirley MacClaine, goes and screams at the nurses and demands they relieve the suffering of her dying daughter? Yeah, that was me.

Please tell where the dignity is in letting dying people suffer when oil from a plant…A PLANT that God planted in the ground.. can alleviate suffering? Why are those who aren’t suffering constantly asking others to do it when they have no idea the pain that is involved?

On another anecdotal note, I’m old enough now to have several friends who suffer from various chronic, painful diseases:  Fibromyalgia, Lupus, Rheumatoid arthritis, Anxiety, Erytohmelalgia (or Mitchell’s syndrome), and numerous other autoimmune disorders. THC has been proven to alleviate the pain and other symptoms that these debilitating and painful diseases cause. Prescribing people who are suffering ever-increasing amounts of opioids is unconscionable, and I would argue, ammoral.

So I’m begging the leaders of the LDS church to do the right thing. I was always taught growing up in church to do the right thing and let the consequences follow. I was taught to be honest in my dealings. I was taught to put the pain and suffering of others above my own comfort. Please LDS church, practice what you preach. Again I ask,

What’s so moral about letting people suffer?

Overwhelmed

I am overwhelmed by the response of my last post, Oh, please, about my experiences as a liberal in a church where most members predominantly identify as conservative.  When I wrote it, I didn’t think anyone would read it.  I didn’t think anyone would care.  Like I say in the description of my blog, writing is my therapy.  I just needed to write it and get it out there, and after that I thought I would just go along with my day.  I’ve received more hits on that post in the last 2 days than I’ve ever had in the almost 5 years I’ve been writing this blog.

What I want to say is thank you.  I’m overwhelmed with gratitude to everyone who thought this post was worth reading, worth sharing, and worth taking the time out of their day to share a comment with me.  I’m overwhelmed by how many people here and on Facebook said it resonated with them, that they identified with something I wrote, and that it made them feel less alone.  The truth is, I felt very alone when I wrote it.  I didn’t expect the fall-out from the election and I was shocked by how many people I love and respected were writing/saying disparaging things about anyone who didn’t vote for Romney.  It felt like once again I was a Mormon on the outside and a Mormon not worthy to sit at the same table with my fellow brothers and sisters in the faith.  I heard the echos of past telling me once again I was not a good enough Mormon.  And it wasn’t for something like sin, but for not voting “the right way.”

So thanks peeps, old peeps, and new peeps.  Thank you to those who were able to read about my experiences, my thoughts and feelings, my perceptions about my own life, without judgment and an open heart.  I’m going to put this week behind me and move forward in a positive direction.

Oh, please

I know that Tuesday night’s election results were very discouraging for a number of my friends.  I know a lot of them, mostly Mormon, invested a lot of time, effort, (possibly money), and emotion into Mitt Romney winning the Presidency.  Well, he didn’t and now they are left with a lot of questions and disappointment.  I’m very sorry for that.  I know how they feel.  It’s exactly how I felt in 2000 and 2004 when I had to lick my wounds after the person I voted for for President didn’t win.  In fact, I probably feel more disappointment on election day more often than they do every 2 or so years because, being a blue liberal in red Utah, no one I ever vote for wins.  Except that one time I voted for John Huntsman for a second term as Governor.  Out of 10 or so races this election day only one person I voted for won.  One.  That’s it.  And yet, being a blue liberal in red Utah, I’ve learned and dealt with since 1996 (the first time I could vote) how to very quickly accept reality, move on, and get on with my life.  And I can do it without demonizing or casting aspersions on my fellow citizens for not being as “intelligent” as me to mark our ballots the same way.  I mean, there is something to be said about being a gracious loser and a gracious winner.

And as hard as it is for my Mormon friends who voted for Mitt Romney right now, I’d like to invite them to walk in the shoes of a Mormon who doesn’t fall in line with the status quo politically speaking.  Have you been told you should be excommunicated for your political beliefs?  Have you had family members call you names, write you hateful emails, or unfriended you on Facebook because of your political beliefs?  Has anyone ever suggested to you to your face or in the written word that you should have your temple recommend taken away and face disciplinary counsels for your political beliefs?  Have your friends posted things on Facebook saying that the way you vote is a vote for Satan, is an evil choice, or are not righteous because of which box you marked on your ballot?  All of these things have happened to me and not just this election cycle.  Some of these things have been said to me since I was a teenager.

Being a liberal Mormon means swallowing your pride, biting your tongue, and putting up with your fellow brother and sisters in the Gospel judging you on a regular basis.  It’s enough to make me want to move out of the country where my fellow Mormons don’t define their faith with their politics.  But I stick it out because I love my friends and my family.  My feelings for them have nothing to do with who or how they vote.  We expect children playing sports to be emotionally mature enough to accept the outcomes of wins and losses, congratulate each other on the game played, without throwing temper tantrums or accusing the other side of cheating/being evil/stupid.  And yet, I haven’t seen many grown adults behaving this way since Tuesday night.  I understand the disappointment…what I don’t understand is demonizing your friends who voted differently.   Let’s cool it with the hyperbole and vitriol, please?  Oh, pretty please?

I’d like members of my church to please read the statement the First Presidency of the LDS Church released the night of the election.  Mormons care very much about what their leaders think, say, and behave.

The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued the following statement Tuesday:

We congratulate President Obama on winning a second term as President of the United States.

After a long campaign, this is now a time for Americans to come together. It is a long tradition among Latter-day Saints to pray for our national leaders in our personal prayers and in our congregations. We invite Americans everywhere, whatever their political persuasion, to pray for the President, for his administration and the new Congress as they lead us through difficult and turbulent times. May our national leaders reflect the best in wisdom and judgment as they fulfill the great trust afforded to them by the American people.

We also commend Governor Romney for engaging at the highest level of our democratic process, which, by its nature, demands so much of those who offer themselves for public service. We wish him and his family every success in their future endeavors.

If church leaders aren’t making any prophetic judgments about the end of the world due to an Obama presidency, then it’s members probably shouldn’t either.  If the LDS church leaders aren’t casting aspersions on the President or calling him the anti-Christ, then it’s members probably shouldn’t either.

Finally, I’d just like to say to my conservative friends, I’m sorry you are disappointed by the results of Tuesday’s election.  I’m sorry that you’re sad that who you wanted to win didn’t.  But please, stop calling me names or questioning my testimony or righteousness for voting differently than you.  And I’ll give you the same courtesy in all the local elections that didn’t turn out the way I wanted to or the next time a Republican is voted in as President (which I’m pretty sure will be in 2016 since that’s usually the way the cookie crumbles).  I don’t think you’re evil, or stupid, or unrighteous, or all the other things I’ve been accused of the last 48 hours.  I think we as citizens all vote our conscience and I respect you all enough to know that you are all thoughtful, intelligent, researched people who are doing what you think is right.  So am I.

I’m going to continue the long-standing LDS tradition of praying for my leaders to make good choices and decisions regardless of who is in office and whether or not they represent my values.  I hope you can do the same.

A political rant: Demonizing “the other” side

We have two weeks and one day until the election and I can pretty well say most of us are sick of it.  Sick of it.  I can’t listen to another debate, see another political ad from any candidate in any election, or read another Facebook post/rant/status about it.  I wish this was November 7th already and the outcomes of all the elections were known so I could go back to my regularly scheduled life.  I don’t want to rant about politics and this isn’t about politics per se, but about people thinking their political beliefs are so important that anyone who doesn’t agree must be stupid/evil/the reincarnation of Hitler.

Recently a friend of some of my mutual friends made headlines in her town, Nacodoches, Texas, when the Democratic Party of Nacodoches County asked if they could put up some Obama signs on her fences because her house is at the corner of a major intersection.  Being Obama supporters they agreed and quickly the signs were stolen by an immature person(s) with unknown motivations, other than to be total buttmunches.  Heather and her family invited people to come over this last Friday night for a sign party where people could hang homemade signs.  The truly shocking thing was when the local paper ran this story, there were comments in the comments section that actually threatened violence against her family.  Violence!  Because she and her husband aren’t voting for their guy.  I’m sorry, but this is the most unAmerican piece of bull crap I have ever heard.  It doesn’t matter who her family is supporting, she doesn’t deserve to be “target practice” like some comments said.  There are two bright spots in this story.  One is that Heather’s community came together on Friday, mostly made up of people she had never met, to make signs and hang them together.  The next day, according to Heather’s facebook status, the official signs were stolen and the homemade signs were ripped to pieces creating a large mess in her yard.  The second bright spot  is what Heather wrote on Facebook about a family who came to help clean up:

“So grateful.  Ardent Romney supporters (husband, wife, teenage son) just stopped to ask what they could do to help us. They offered to clean up today’s mess or be part of a round-the-clock neighborhood watch to keep this from happening again.  Brent (Heather’s husband) said they were welcome to put up a Romney sign. He said he wasn’t interested in hanging a Romney sign; he was only interested in helping us protect our right to support the candidate we want.  Score (another) one for protecting the political process!”

In one week Heather has witnessed the worst her community has to offer and the best.  Three cheers for the pro-Romney family for doing the American thing, the right thing, and putting politics aside to help out Heather’s family and state that they had the right to hang signs on their own property supporting their candidate of choice.  (You can find Heather’s story here).

Seriously people, have we become so divided, so effed in the head that we actually think that anyone who doesn’t agree with us is therefore against us and deserves to be harassed, have their private property destroyed, and threatened with violence online?  Seriously, who are we?  How is this acceptable?  And spare me the stories of people who have had Romney signs stolen.  I know this happens on both sides and I’m only using Heather’s story as an anecdote to prove a point, and because she is someone I sort of know.  She could be a Romney supporter and this story would still piss me off.

In these times of 24 hour “news” channels, instant access to information on the internet, and the ability to filter out any opinion that does not match our own, we have become a people who have chosen sides against each other instead of with each other.  We are all still Americans no matter who is in the White House, no matter how many seats belong to which side in Congress, no matter who your mayor is, and no matter what yard sign currently occupies your neighbor’s lawn – WE ARE ALL CITIZENS OF THE SAME COUNTRY!  That is the fundamental truth.  We don’t have to agree!  We don’t have to believe that only our side has the right answers!  But we have to get along.  But we have to respect each other as actual human beings with thoughts, and feelings, and lives, and experiences that might not match our own but inform the opinions of others.  I’m sick, sick, sick of all this bipartisanship!  It doesn’t matter who I cast my vote for when I enter into that voting booth (and thank goodness we live in a country with secret ballots).  What matters is that I’m your neighbor no matter what I don’t deserve to DIE because I didn’t choose the same candidate you did.

Not to mention, there are more than two freaking sides in this country.  We have gotten lost in this ridiculous two party system and it’s a major flaw of our political system.  There are actually more than just Democrats and Republicans and a huge diversity of thought among our citizenship.  I’d like to see a debate with ALL the candidates running for President.  Until then, it gives the impression there are only two teams and if you’re not on our team your wrong, wrong, wrong!   And the constant bickering over who is right, who is wrong, who said what, what word was used,  is driving me nuts.

Knowing that who I vote for for President doesn’t matter because I live in Utah and it’s obvious the electorate is going to go for Romney, I’m actually thinking of voting for a third party candidate this year.  Not because I’m against Romney (I am) and not because I’m for Obama (I am), but I’m more against this bull crap of teams, choosing sides, you’re an idiot if you didn’t choose mine.  If you want to see a list of ALL the candidates running for President you can check out this list.   I’m actually considering supporting the Stein/Honkala ticket because their values/positions/beliefs are more in line with mine.  And isn’t this what we all should do?  Support the candidates who actually reflect our opinions/values/beliefs instead of holding our nose and voting for the candidate who doesn’t piss us off the most?  And having more than one political party with actual political clout would cut down on all this two-sided nonsense that only seeks to divide us as citizens of this country.  It actually makes us look bad to people outside of the country who see political pundits and candidates quibble, yell, and pick at the semantics of words and argue over who is the more evil.  Seriously, this the example we want to set for the rest of the world?

I have plenty of political opinions of my own, but I never thought that my opinions somehow impacted someone else’s life.  I don’t care who you vote for…why the hell do you care so much about who I do?  What’s it to you?  When I go into the voting booth it’s just me, myself, and my conscious and the only person I have to answer to is myself.   The same goes for you.  So lay off me if you don’t like political beliefs.  I don’t give a crap, why should you?

I promise you, all those of you who hate the other guy, it doesn’t matter who wins the Presidential election on November 6th…the world will still go on.  If your guy doesn’t win, it doesn’t mean the end of civilization as we know it and if you think that, you’re seriously jaded.  The most important elections are the local ones anyway because those are the ones that have the most direct impact on your actual life.

Stop demonizing the other guy.  Especially if the other guy is your neighbor.  Stop saying a vote for the other guy is like digging up Hitler and making him President.   Stop saying that the world will suddenly come to an end and everything bad that can and will happen if you don’t vote for the guy on my team.  Stop freaking stealing yard signs just because you don’t want that person to win.  Please, please, please be like the Romney supporting family in Heather’s community who put politics aside to help their neighbor.  These people get it.  It doesn’t matter who your neighbor is voting for, it’s about how you treat that neighbor.

I know Martin Luther King, Jr. was talking about segregation and civil rights when he said this, but I find it particularly poignant now that we as a public are at each other’s throats over the “other guy.”

“We must learn to live together as brothers, or perish together as fools.”

I am a Welfare Queen

I didn’t want to weigh in on the Mitt Romney 47%-of-the-country-is-a-bunch-of-government-dependent-lazy-good-for-nothings controversy but I just can’t bite my tongue any longer.  This post isn’t directed at Mitt Romney or about what Mitt Romney said or even about Mitt Romney.  It’s about the people who believe him and are now posting socio-economic discriminatory things on Facebook/blogs that really have me steaming.  And I just have to say

It is completely hypocritical for you to complain about those taking some form of Government Assistance when you have yourself!

I write this after someone I know who is on Medicaid, because they have medical issues and are self-employed, complained that those they deem as “welfare queens” should only receive temporary aid from the government and we should institute a system that helps people become self-sufficient instead of dependent.  Well, I agree with them but the ironic thing is we already have that.  What they think of as “welfare” is called TEMPORARY Assistance for Needy Families.  Yeah, that’s right…it’s right in it’s name…temporary.  Federally, those receiving TANF can only access it for 5 years total for their entire lifetime.  However, it varies state to state and each state can decide how to distribute that.  I live in Utah where TANF can only be accessed for 3 years total in a person’s lifetime.

I invite anyone who doesn’t understand welfare and more importantly the welfare reform that took place 16 years ago in this country to do more research on the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996.  To get started you can view this cursory outline of it on Wikipedia.  And why do I know so much about this Act?  Besides being a social worker, I spent an entire semester researching this policy for my Policy Class a few years ago (and this policy has not changed in those 6 years), specifically the TANF portion.  Forgive me if I believe I might know more about this than the average person spouting off about “welfare queens” on Facebook.

So what’s up with the title of my post, right?  Surely Risa is not a “welfare queen.”  No, she and her husband both have good jobs, make more money than the average middle class family, live in a nice house in a nice neighborhood, and don’t appear to have any wants or needs.  And that is true.  Now.  But let’s rewind seven years ago.  And Risa and the hubs were working crappy full-time jobs that barely kept a rented roof over their heads.  Daycare costs were high, working back breaking jobs weren’t getting them anywhere, and they often borrowed money from Risa’s parents just to have milk in the fridge.  Then the hubs got a new job that made more money than the two of them combined had before and Risa and the hubs decided that since she was only 2 years away from having her BA in Social Work to send her back to school.  So Risa decided to quit her full-time job and go back to school full-time until she finished (Risa likes to say God decided because she received a very clear and direct prompting on this matter…if you believe those sorts of things like Risa does).  And Risa and the hubs, GASP!, took government money in the form of Pell grants to pay for her tuition.  During this time, Risa and the hubs’ children qualified for reduced school lunch.  Another government program!  And they took it, because they could afford a 40 cent lunch but not $1.50 lunch every day.  And once Risa graduated from college, the Pell grants ended.  And once the hubs started moving up in his company and making more money their children no longer qualified for reduced school lunch and Risa and the hubs started having to pay full-price, which was a great blessing to them that they had the money to do so.  (Okay, all this talking in the third person has gotten very annoying).  Let me assure you, all of this aid was very, very temporary and allowed us to better ourselves and our situations to become, dun dun dun, self-sufficient!  Wow, wasn’t that the goal of these programs?  The Pell grants allowed me to finish my education so I could better myself and my family’s situation and the reduced school lunch program helped our children eat lunch during school hours without breaking the bank.  And now that we’re in a better situation, we don’t need these programs anymore.  They were temporary.

And because of this, I will never, ever criticize someone for utilizing a government program because, a) I’m not an expert in their lives and I don’t know their specific situations or their specific needs, b) you can’t judge someone from their appearance and just because they don’t look like what we stereotypically view as a “welfare queen” doesn’t mean they don’t really need those services provided, and c) it would be completely and totally hypocritical of me to complain about the person in line in front of me at the grocery store using food stamps, or the new mother receiving WIC, or the pregnant woman accessing pregnancy Medicaid, or the recently laid off person accepting unemployment insurance, or the disabled person accessing Social Security to that they can, you know, live, or the elderly couple living on a fixed income of Social Security (which, by the way they paid into their entire lives and I resent it being called an entitlement when it should be called an earned benefit), because me, myself, and I at one time benefited from a government program.  However, that hasn’t stopped a lot of people I know who have accepted public assistance at one time complaining about others who do.   I know what it’s like to struggle and sheepishly fill out the conspicuous pink form that enables your children to received reduced school lunch, and I will never, NEVER, fight against or try to deny or complain about a fellow citizen who might need help in a different way.

The funny thing about Mitt’s statement about the 47% is that many, many young BYU and/or Mormon families accept some sort of government aid so that they can go to school while raising families.  Because not all of these families can just sell stock, like Mitt, to pay for their educations and families at the same time.

This article at Addicting Info pretty much sums up how I feel about those who demonize the poor.  However, there are a lot of swears that are not suitable for those with delicate sensibilities.  

Abortion and the Republican Platform

Abortion is a highly volatile subject.  I refuse to believe that there are any easy answers and I really don’t appreciate black and white thinking when it comes to reproductive choices.  I have to say, I’m am extremely concerned about the Republican platform’s new stance on abortion that they just adopted at the Republican National Convention last week.

I want to make it clear that I’m not pro-abortion.  I would like to see less abortions performed and less unwanted pregnancies.  The Republican platform says that abortion should be outlawed in all cases without exception.  I find this to be extreme, especially since my own church (which Republican nominee, Mitt Romney belongs to) discourages abortion but makes exceptions for rape, incest, the health of the mother, or viability of life of the baby outside of the womb.  You can find the LDS’s official stance on abortion here.

And yet, Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan believes that rape is just another means of conception.  That a woman who is raped and becomes pregnant should regard that pregnancy as a gift.  Although I’m sure there are some women who do, who is he to decide how an individual woman should feel about her own sexual assault and resulting conception?  Senator hopeful Todd Akin even has gone so far as to say that women can’t get pregnant from rape.  What astounds me about all these men talking about and trying to out-law abortion in all cases is that they will never experience becoming pregnant from a sexual assault.  (Yes, I recognize men can be raped.  The statistic is 1 in 7 boys/men are raped/molested/sexually assaulted in their lifetimes.  The point is they can never become pregnant through rape).  Unless they have a personal understanding of how it feels to become pregnant after a sexual assault they have no business telling women who have how they should feel, what they should do, and that they are protecting these women from their bad choices because they know better.  And I find it extremely ironic these extreme abortion policies come from a party that espouses wanting a small government and one that stays out of an individual’s freedoms and choices.


Another thing that bothers me about the Republican platform’s stance on abortions is they think that outlawing abortion is going to magically protect life.  Roe v. Wade wasn’t the beginning of women having abortions; it was the end of women dying from abortions.  Women will have abortions whether they are legal or not because they have been doing that since the beginning of time.  Does Paul Ryan really want to see the re-emergence of back alley abortions?  Women who use hangers or go to shady doctors with little to no medical training who use a dirty knife and a folding table?  Who’s life is Paul Ryan interested in protecting?  Certainly not desperate women who make desperate decisions in desperate times.

This is why I am so annoyed by the pro-life versus pro-choice labels.  They aren’t nearly nuanced enough or accurately describe the complexity of abortion.  First of all, no one who is truly “for life” can also be for war, for the death penalty, or for abortion doctors being killed.  Once these legislators start caring about these babies once they’re born by not cutting funding to programs like WIC, Medicaid, TANF, subsidies for daycare and housing, food stamps, etc., then I’ll actually believe they care about the life of these children they’re so desperate to see born.  Not caring about the quality of these children lives and not supporting the parents you’re forcing to bare these children is not “pro-life.”  People who feel this way need to change the name of their stance to “pro-birth.”

And I hate the way the women who seek abortions are characterized.  It is estimated that one in three women have sought an abortion in her lifetime.  That means very likely someone you know has had an abortion.  The fact that women who seek abortions are villainized as these evil sluts who have sex with no conscience and use abortion as a form of birth control is disingenuous at best.  I’m not disputing that women like these exist, I just don’t believe they are accurate representation of all women who seek abortions.  She is the scared teenager who is not ready to be a mother and cannot emotionally handle a pregnancy; she is the girl who has been raped repeatedly by her father/step-father/grandfather/uncle/cousin over the course of her life; she is the woman in an abusive relationship who does not want to be tied to her abuser or get in a custody battle with him; she is the woman who desperately wants her baby but it has died in her womb and the medical term for extracting the dead fetus is called an abortion.  Banning abortions in all cases means this last woman would have to carry the fetus in her womb until it expels itself on it’s own risking infection and her life.  Senator Ryan, why aren’t you pro the life of this mother?

There are alternatives to abortion, and I believe that we as a society, if we truly want to see the rates of abortion decreased, should embrace them over extreme legislation.  It has been proven that comprehensive sex education and access to birth control reduce the rates of abortion (as well as delays the age at which teenagers begin to have sex and reduces the rates of STDs among teenagers).  And yet, most of these “pro-life” legislators also want to ban sex education except if it is “abstinence only,” outlaw some forms of birth control they don’t believe in (IUDs, the birth control pill), and defund programs like Planned Parenthood, which prevents more abortions than they’ll ever perform.  These legislators need to get real about their stance. If they’re anti-abortion and anti-anything that has actually been proven to prevent abortions, what they’re really interested in legislating is the sexual activity of unmarried people (it needs to be said, married people have abortions, use birth control, and seek health services from Planned Parenthood) and they want to be the morality police of this country’s citizens.  I’m sorry, but this is a free country and you can’t legislate the morality or moral conscience of the public, nor it is your right to choose the morals and values of people you don’t know.

Often when the subject of abortion comes up I hear from pro-lifers, “well if she doesn’t want the baby she should just give it up for adoption.”  I have never seen in all my years of working with expectant mothers  a women decide to place her baby for adoption because she couldn’t be bothered and didn’t want the baby.  Yes, I know women like this exist who are chronically pregnant and have placed numerous babies for adoption; I just have not seen them be the majority of women who place their child for adoption.  Just like abortion, adoption is often talked about with little nuance.  Just like abortion, adoption is fraught with moral ambiguities.  No one gives any thought to how hard it is to actually grow a child in your womb for 9 months, bond with that child, give birth to it, and then hand it over to someone else to raise.  Unless you’ve actually sat in a room and watched a woman relinquish her rights to her child and then place that baby in another mother’s arms, you really have no business suggesting adoption as an alternative to abortion without knowing those complexities and moral ambiguities of adoption.

For instance, little thought is given to the grieving mother left behind in the wake of adoption.  Yes, I know lots of women who placed their babies 10, 20, 30+ years ago who are doing great, have had great lives, no regrets, and feel like placing their baby for adoption at that time in their life was the best choice they could have made.  However, if you do even a cursory search of the plethora of birth mother blogs out there you will see wounds that have not healed and lives that are irreparably altered.  The bloggers at First Mother’s Forum advocate abortion over adoption because of what they have experienced. I believe a lot of this grief can be mitigated through extremely open adoptions where contact is maintained throughout the child’s life.  However, a lot of adoptive parents are uneducated about how important open adoption is for the well-being of their child and the people who gave that child life.  I’ve seen a lot of long-term open adoptions that work and this is one of the only cases where I believe adoption should be considered as an alternative to abortion (obviously when drugs and abuse are in the picture and a woman does not to have an abortion, adoption is a great alternative to being raised by a drug-addicted or abusive parent).

Another way adoption is fraught with moral ambiguities and is not always the best alternative is no one gives a thought in these abortion discussions to how it feels to be “given up” for adoption.  Back when open adoption was not the norm and it was replete with secrecy and social stigma, all an adopted child knew was that his or her first parents abandoned them and that they were left to be raised by strangers (even if this wasn’t the case, an adopted person was not allowed to know their birth parents or why they were placed for adoption).  An adoptee’s history and heritage was erased and replaced by a new one.  Again, there are a plethora of adoptee’s blogs out there telling the world just exactly feel how it feels to be adopted.  Why aren’t we listening to them?  In some states, adoptees don’t even have the right to have access to their original birth certificate.  Another argument for why open adoption in the right circumstances, the the right adoptive parents, and for the right reasons is always best.

I do not want to come off as anti-adoption by any means.  I am very pro-adoption.  Adoption can be a beautiful, wonderful thing if done right and for the right reasons.  Expectant mothers should never feel coerced by social, cultural and religious pressure into placing their children for adoption.  Women and men should be given accurate information about all their choices and their consequences.  Adoption should not be for-profit and it should not be fueled by a population of desperate people desperate to have babies and will pay any price (adoption is a billion dollar a year industry) to get them.  Adoption should always be about finding homes and families for children who need them, not finding babies for people desperate to have them.  The adoption industry has a history of deception, unethical practices, and lies and thankfully there are people out there who are honestly trying to improve this without personal motivation of  monetary compensation (one of the main reasons I work where I work no matter what anyone else thinks or says about that).  This is why I ask people when suggesting adoption as an alternative to abortion to please do your research and know what you’re talking about before you make it seem like adoption is a panacea for abortion.

To sum up, there are no easy answers or quick fixes when it comes to human reproduction, especially when it was unexpected or unwanted.  There are nuances, complexities, and most importantly real people in real difficult situations who should be allowed the freedom to consult with doctors, their partner, experts, and their God about what they should do, not a legislator with no medical experience, knowledge, or empathy for their situation.  I believe the Republican platform on abortion should be condemned for caring more about those who haven’t been born than those who are actually living and giving no thought to the real people they are hurting with their extremist policies.  Mitt Romney, you’re better than this.

Edited to add:  You can access the GOP’s official Platform here.  This is the wording regarding the “right to life” as said by the GOP in their own words.  “…we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion or fund organizations which perform or advocate it and will not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage.”  As you can read, there are no exceptions mentioned.  If they wanted to have exceptions to abortion in their platform, they should have explicitly outlined them.  They didn’t.  Which leads me to believe that they are not for any exceptions at all.  If they meant something different, they should have written something different.  Also, I do not agree with not subsidizing health care clinics, like Planned Parenthood, who perform abortions as part of their services.  These clinics often perform many more health care services, which are vital to the health of a woman.  Including annual pap smears, cancer screenings, birth control, sexual health education, and STD screenings.  Abortion is only 3% of Planned Parenthood’s services and it seems ludicrous to me to shut down a health care clinic over a minute portion of their services. Like I said, the platform is concerned about the life and health of the unborn, but not the people already living who depend on these services.