All Articles Tagged "women’s rights"
Why I Dig Janelle Monáe And The Impact She Is Having On The Music Industry As A Non-Conforming Woman Of Color
It’s 2013, and with some Grammy nods under her belt, a chart-topping song w/the band Fun., a contract with CoverGirl, and a slamming new single, “Q.U.E.E.N,” Janelle Monáe is a glow in the middle of a music industry dim with pre-packaged clones.
I was especially grateful for the new single after seeing much of 2013’s first quarter music attention go to self-indulgent tunes. “Q.U.E.E.N” an electrifying women’s empowerment anthem, asks the tough questions about women’s rights and our ability to simply be who we are – no questions asked. The beat is sick. Monáe’s rap is beyond dope. And the video reintroduces her with a new edge but the same black and white baseline of authenticity. With humility that is severely lacking and heartfelt commitment to honoring those who paved the way, Monáe almost seems too good to be true.
I was immediately taken with Janelle Monáe back in 2009 when I watched her perform her thought-provoking single, “Sincerely, Jane” on NPR. Her black and white ‘uniform’ as she calls it stood out amidst an entertainment industry that begs skin and stilettos to move units and grow fame. Her lyrics weren’t the same old narcissistic drivel we were used to. No, there was depth to this young lady and I dug it.
I thought: How is she doing this? How is her star consistently rising without a racy video? Without suggestive lyrics? Without being romantically linked to another star?
Simply put: Her gift makes room for her. Watching her rise on the music scene, you can’t help but to respect her even if you don’t necessarily vibe with her genre of music. Looking at the body of work, the poise, the performance, the image, the lyrics – you see someone who decided a long time ago not to yield to the ‘packaging’ of the industry. Instead, Monáe decided to fold her heritage and eclectic style into her music. With musical talent in spades to boot, she’s done a great job of branding herself.
At the most visible layer, we see a young woman who isn’t conforming to standards of how a female artist should behave or be ‘packaged’ in order to be a star. But the story beneath her black and white attire and thought-provoking lyrics is steeped in a background that many of us know firsthand.
Accepting her award at the 2012 Black Girls Rock! Celebration, Monáe recounted her days as a maid when she took her first steps toward becoming a music artist. She also held a spotlight on her mother, stepfather and biological father for their pride in their working-class roles as janitors, garbage men and mailmen in the poorest county in Kansas City, Kansas. Understanding, accepting and appreciating the legacy of pride in what most consider menial occupations, Monáe was compelled to do the unconventional for a music sensation – wear a uniform. And it absolutely makes sense. It’s honest and compelling in a way that invites us to remember our own heritage. No matter where she goes, who she meets, how long she performs, what awards she is given – she can look at herself, look inward, and be reminded of who she is at her core and the values she learned from a working-class background.
Another thing to love about Janelle Monáe is that she is the definition of a beautiful woman of color. She has reminded us of what it actually means to be beautiful. Having become the newest addition to a long list of gorgeous CoverGirls, Monae’s face is hard to look away from. How revelatory is that? It’s not her curves we’re staring at. We’re breathless at her beautiful face and her warm personality. We’re focused on her lyrics and how deeply we can identify with them. We’re thrilled by the exhilarating performance she gives whenever she graces a stage. We notice and are enthralled with Janelle Monáe because of who she is, not her cup size or how racy her videos are. She is beautiful because she chooses not to be packaged for male gratification. There is nothing about her that is suggestive or lewd in an attempt to sell records. She’s simply open, honest, creative and ripe with multiple layers of talent.
A true musical role model our babies can emulate like this little Q.U.E.E.N:
And then, this one:
And this one:
Peace to Janelle Monáe for being a colorful example of ALL the possibilities.
La Truly seeks to encourage thought, discussion and change among young women through her writing. Follow her on Twitter: @AshleyLaTruly and AboutMe www.about.me/latruly.
Photos courtesy of via iheartthreadbared.wordpress.com, Pinterest and via ecobeautybytes.com.
Our country is pretty progressive. After all, we have a black president, have had multiple female Secretary of States, and openly gay people in many areas of leadership. Yet in some parts of our country, some people still seem to be hesitant to appoint women to pastoral positions in the church. What’s up with that?
Women are the backbone of many churches. We attend services regularly and we continually contribute our time and money to an institution that theologically seems to want little to do with us. The church would be non-existent without women, but somehow the powers that be haven’t caught a clue.
I grew up in a small Baptist church where women were expected to be seen and not heard. Women had no business in the pulpit and were often delegated to domestic roles in the church, such as being a caregiver or cooking all of the potluck dinners. None of the women vocalized an issue with their roles, which could be one of the many reasons why the notion that women have little value in high positions in the church still exists.
I’ll never forget a conversation I had with my mom in which she told me she had no desire to have a female pastor over her church. Her statements hurt my feelings since I aspired to be an evangelist and would love to see a strong black woman preach the word, and on more than just Women’s Day and similar events. Sadly, I figured that my mother is not alone in her feelings and that many people are just not enthused by women who hold spiritually authoritative roles. Although I can’t change her views, I can’t help but wonder why my mother and others like her feel that women are spiritually incapable of holding the same leadership roles in the church as men.
There’s a verse in the bible about women being silent in church that everyone likes to misquote to support their views of women being inferior in church matters. It’s in 1 Corinthians 14: 34: “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.” The problem is that those who like to use this verse to reinforce the opinion that women shouldn’t be pastors don’t take the historical context into consideration. Women didn’t have rights and opportunities we have now, so it was commonplace for women to be silenced in church matters. But we’ve come far, and if we know the word, have studied it, had the proper education and are ready, why should we be held back? I’m also offended by the fact that there are educational institutions like seminaries that readily take money from women knowing full well they will not permit them to be pastors. If women aren’t good enough to lead than our money shouldn’t be good enough either.
In the end, it’s time for the hypocrisy to end so that the church can progress in the right direction once and for all. Men aren’t the only ones who can deliver the word of God in a powerful way, so it’s time for those who still would prefer for us to cook the Sunday dinners, sing in the choir, watch the children run around and do those things only to get with the times.
Beyonce has teamed up with the Chime For Change Campaign to launch an initiative to help girls “run the world.” While Beyonce is involved, the masterminds behind the campaign are actress Salma Hayek and Gucci creative director, Frida Giannini. Already up and running is a new Facebook page and a two-and-a-half minute video spot announcing their new female empowerment campaign reports the Huffington Post.
“The initiative aims to raise funds and awareness in support of projects for girls and women around the world, through sharing ‘powerful stories’ about inspiring females,” wrote Vogue.com’s Sarah Karmali, who noted that further details of the campaign were announced by Hayek at the TEDxWomen luncheon at Bryn Mawr College.
It was actually Hayek and Giannini who came up with the idea. There will be a series of ten short films, narrated by Hayek and set to new music by Beyonce. The videos will depict inspirational stories of women across the globe. There will be a slew of celebrities involved: Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Arianna Huffington (Huffington Post founder) among them.
Chime for Change encourages people throughout the world to support girls’ and women’s projects by enabling citizen philanthropy and is the first crowdfunding platform dedicated to advancing the lives of girls and women.
“I have always felt strongly about equal opportunity for women… It’s up to us to change the statistics for women around the world,” Beyonce told Vogue.
According to HuffPo, Beyoncé’s involvement may help put to rest criticism of her lack charitable pursuits. “Last year, the singer’s altruism came into question when actor Harry Belafonte accused her and husband, Jay-Z, of turning their backs on social responsibility,” writes the site. In turn, Beyoncé’s camp sent a list to the Wall Street Journal of the singer’s charitable acts, including co-founding a multi-purpose community outreach facility in downtown Houston, donating $100,000 to hurricane Ike relief in 2008 and performing at MTV’s Hope For Haiti Now! benefit.
While perusing Instagram sometime last week, I came across a very interesting post by an old colleague that was meant to put a few people on blast. He didn’t write what I’m about to say, but rather, he reposted it on his own Instagram profile because he felt the message was one that needed to be shared with as many people as possible. It went something like this:
“B***hes be screaming #teamnokids but forgetting to mention #team 10 abortions !!!”
At the time that I read the post, it was late, and I was chugging down some chocolate milk. (What can I say? It knocks me right out.) But let me tell you, I was so close to spitting my milk out on my phone after reading his post that it’s not even funny. I don’t personally know many women who’ve acted loud and proud like this when it comes to abortions, but I do know a few women (whether they know that I know or not) who’ve terminated pregnancies, some multiple, so I was shocked to see someone put folks on blast on something as trivial as Instagram to discuss such a serious issue. But hey, I guess the individual did have a point.
After the post sat for a few minutes, people started commenting. Many were saying “preach” and “sad but true.” But there was one girl who could speak for #teamabortion, and she had no regrets or sadness about the decisions she made in the past. In fact, she seemed kind of proud when she said in front of his many followers, “Team 4. AND.,” as if to say, “AND WHAT!?” After my colleague said what was on everybody’s mind in response to her (“OMG!”), he told her that she could have kept that little tidbit of information to herself. Her response? “Just saying. Ain’t my fault so many have tried and failed to trap me lmao.” Surprisingly enough, another woman joined in on the thread and agreed with her: “Werd. Rather that than be a rachet a** baby momma.”
I read these three comments over and over again, hoping what I was looking at was a joke. And when I realized these women were dead serious, I cut off my bedroom light, snuggled up under my covers, closed my eyes, and thought to myself, “Wow, the world is definitely going to hell in a hand basket.”
When I shared this story with some friends, they couldn’t believe it to be true, but it was as real as real could get, and very sad at the same time. I would be lying if I said that I don’t judge people from time to time, because we all do, even when we try not to. And while I can’t personally hold a grudge or be upset with another individual for the choices they make with their body and their children, I was hoping we could all have enough sense and tact to know that bragging about the number of times you’ve terminated the life of a baby and that you feel you dodged a bullet is beyond disgusting. While I’m all for women having a choice in what happens with their reproductive organs, I’m disappointed that this choice is so often used as a replacement form of birth control and is now so common that you can joke about it, in public, on social media, with your name attached to your profile, and not feel any kind of way about it. Has the idea of not being “trapped” by the responsibilities of motherhood at an inconvenient time that much of a relief to some that such procedures are now a friggin’ joke or have no emotional impact on us at all? If so, that’s a doggone shame.
In high school and college, I heard about classmates having one or two abortions, and then going on like nothing ever happened. I’ll never forget when one of my cousins told me about a girl she knew who had an abortion. Hoping to be the one to take her home and help her through what she assumed would be a tumultuous time emotionally, my cousin went along with this girl as she made one of the biggest decisions in one’s young life. After the procedure was over, the baby was gone, and the drowsiness had worn off, she tried to stay with the girl and be a shoulder for her. When she asked her how she was feeling and if she wanted to talk, my cousin said that this young lady perked up like someone asked her if she was ready for ice cream, and proceeded to wave off the whole thing like it never happened. She was “free.” And to this day I know (because the friend has said so) that she sleeps around recklessly because she can, pretending she’s the black Samantha from Sex and the City when she’s really a hot mess.
I’m not trying to throw the hammer down on any woman for doing what she has to do, because I know (or at least I hope) the decision to have an abortion is tough. Plus, only you know what you would do when faced with an unwanted pregnancy at the worst possible time. But I can’t help but be disgusted at people using something that serious and sometimes traumatizing for others and joking about it to be defiant because they can’t handle the truth. While you don’t have to turn into a “rachet a** baby momma” if you don’t want to be one, at least do yourself and these unborn children you’re throwing away a favor and get on a consistent form of birth control. We’ve all made mistakes and had to make tough decisions, but it’s not cute to brag about them; Because while you’re trying to make a joke out of something as serious as an abortion, you’re making a fool out of your damn self.
After months upon months upon months of campaigning around the country, we’ve finally reached the most important date of the year (No, not my birthday). It’s election day. This morning I woke up at the crack of dawn, brushed my teeth, put on my warmest jacket and walked to the community center in my neighborhood to vote. Thankfully, because I got out so early, I was able to vote in less than 25 minutes. All I had to do was deal with the usual confusion (i.e., which lines to stand in, clearing up what assembly district I’m in, etc.) and I was out and on my way to work. As I looked over the ballot I was reminded of the four men fighting for our votes to be president, and when I looked over at the Republican ticket with Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s name on it, I couldn’t help but wonder why a woman–black, white, green, purple, whatever–would vote for these men.
Aside from the irritating flip flopping that I’ve noticed by Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan depending on the audience they’re in front of, I’ve been more disturbed by the smug statements these men have made about hopes to eventually overturn Roe vs. Wade (by electing Anti-Roe vs. Wade justices in the future), and the hope to ultimately determine what a woman will do with her own body. Over the past few months, I’ve heard the words “abortion” and “rape” come out of the mouths of more men than I would prefer, and all of them, Republicans, seem to think that they know best about what to do with the body of another individual based on their own religious beliefs. While I view the life of a child as being beautiful and deserving of the right to live and thrive in this world, I can never say what decisions I would be willing to make under certain circumstances; circumstances that include carrying the child of a person who impregnated me through rape, or carrying a child that I possibly wouldn’t survive bringing into the world. I would want the right to choose what’s best for me and my baby, not to be told what choice I have to make by legislators.
And if that’s not enough, these men plan to defund Planned Parenthood should they win. While some like to assume that people only look to Planned Parenthood for abortions, according to the Huffington Post, abortions only make up for about three percent of what the group does. The health care provider allows many women without insurance to get the contraceptives they need, to get the STD and HIV tests and sex education they should have, and more. As someone who has used Planned Parenthood’s resources in the past, and in going, having seen the many young women who utilize the organization’s resources, I can say that to defund them would hurt so many women whose income isn’t as lavish as someone like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s.
I’ve seen Mitt Romney stand in a room full of people and be asked about what efforts he would make to bring about equal compensation in the workplace between men and women, only to watch him ignore the question and instead talk about binders full of women and the jobs he helped women working with him in Massachusetts get. I’ve heard him use language to claim that a lot of the gun violence occurring in this country is the cause of single parent homes and not how easy it is for folks with no good sense to buy and handle a weapon. And though he has done all this, there are a number of women out here, mothers at that, who are voting for him. Do you think you will never find yourself in the circumstances that women who need the resources of Planned Parenthood and have to make sad choices are in? I’m sure most people don’t think they will be, but only God knows what this life will hand you. If you’re one of those people who favor Mitt Romney, know that I’m not trying to question your womanhood, and you don’t HAVE to explain anything to me, but it would just be nice to understand what it is that I’m missing about him that you see. Why does a man who wants to take away our options to choose, who doesn’t make an effort to discuss equal pay efforts but is quick to talk about letting people choose whether or not we can or can’t have our children, doesn’t care about women of low income and pretty much just says what he thinks you want to hear but will tell another crowd something else deserve your vote? By all means, take advantage of the opportunity to cast your vote and make your voice heard, but know that you deserve better in these next four years, and as a woman, I don’t think Mitt Romney is the person who can provide that.
Hey, just saying.
“If I always remember, then I’ll never forget and make the same mistake twice.”
Elise*, 22, paused for a moment, staring at nothing and no one in particular as she recalled the moment she was having an abortion performed. While visiting family in New Jersey, she was introduced to a guy through her cousin. The two hung out a lot, resulting in them sleeping together. She left New Jersey to return home to Maryland, before starting college in Miami, only to find that she was pregnant at 18 years old.
“I knew what I had to do. It wasn’t one of those things you think about more than once,” she says, with a heavy sigh. “I was scared, but there was no turning back, you just do it. I was squirming at first, and the doctor told me, ‘If you squirm again I can’t take this out.’ I laid still and just beared with the pain as he sucked it out. When he was done, I watched him pour it down the drain.”
She opted to stay awake during the operation, in order to teach herself a lesson.
Elise’s story is not unfamiliar to many young women. According to Abortion.org, 50% of women obtaining abortions in the U.S. are younger than 25: women aged 20-24 obtain 33% of all abortions; teenagers obtain 17% and girls under 15 account for 1.2%.
Women’s rights has taken center stage in the current presidential election. And, with that, the controversial issue of abortion has become an incessant point of conversation.
While President Barack Obama fully supports a woman’s right to choose, his opponent does not. Softening his initial, aggressive stance, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said he would back laws in support of protecting life. Earlier in the presidential race, he said he wanted to cut funding for Planned Parenthood and appoint judges to overturn Roe vs. Wade.
When Elise had made her decision, she went to Planned Parenthood to have her abortion performed. The procedure cost around $300. Elise says Planned Parenthood is a good resource for those who need it, and even believes the abortion numbers would be higher if taken away.
“It’s not your decision,” says Elise, referring to the constant debate between politicians over a woman’s right to an abortion. “If I had kept my child, I would not have been able to go to school, to better myself, and provide a life— and then I would have been a statistic. My parents would not have helped me, and then I would have been looking around—mad at the world, when it was my fault.
“They’re not the ones who are quick to be a statistic,” said Elise, about the Republican party’s stance on the issue.
According to The Alan Guttmacher Institute, the most common reasons women receive abortions are due to interference with school, work, not wanting to be a single parent and not being able to afford a child.
Though this happened years ago, there are times when Elise is reminded of her decision.
“Every now and then I get a baby killer text message or phone call,” she says in reference to the guy who impregnated her. He wanted her to keep the child, but offered no assistance in wanting to help raise their child.
She now takes birth control pills and whenever she is in a relationship, she always uses protection. As of now, she’s undecided about whether she wants children someday.
Elise resides in Maryland and is finishing her last year of college. She hopes to own her own event planning business in the future.
*Name has been changed.
Kerry Washington Writes Op-Ed Piece About Why She’s Down For President Obama–And Why You Should Be Too
While everyone prepares for tonight’s last debate (thank you, Lord!!!!!!!), Kerry Washington was somewhere writing a deep essay on why she supports President Obama in his quest for a second term. Washington has had the President’s back for a while now, even speaking at the Democratic National Convention to get the word out. In a thought-provoking piece, Washington said she is inspired by his support for women’s rights and women’s health, as well as the fact that he seems to be working for the people–all people. Being a man raised by a woman, he seems most concerned out of both candidates in doing right by us:
President Obama knows the importance of women’s rights and women’s health. He was raised by a single mom, and he has been surrounded by smart, strong women ever since—he’s married to one and he’s a father of two. So for our president, women’s issues aren’t just political, they’re personal for him as well.
When President Obama made the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act the very first bill he signed—he did so because he believes the hard work of our daughters is just as important as the work of our sons. He fought for Obamacare so women can access quality, affordable health care. He put two more women on the Supreme Court because he believes women should have an equal voice in the decisions being made at the highest levels of our democracy. And he knows we still have work to do.
I think the most interesting part of Washington’s piece was the part where she pointed out the things Mitt Romney has NOT committed to, and of course done his famous flip flop on over and over again. I’m sure you all remember in the last debate how Mitt Romney didn’t answer the question about equal pay and instead talked about how he helped women get jobs in general. That Mitt, always beating around the bush:
There are a lot of answers Mitt Romney still hasn’t given women. Why won’t he stand up for equal pay? Why won’t he support renewing the Violence Against Women Act? And while I am surprised that Romney won’t commit to those things, I’m even more concerned about what he will commit to.
Two weeks ago, Romney told a newspaper that eliminating a woman’s right to choose isn’t part of his agenda. Within two hours, his staff had to correct him, confirming that, yes, the real Mitt Romney would “of course” support legislation to restrict and deny that right. Romney can’t hide that he once called Roe v. Wade “one of the darkest moments in Supreme Court history,” and has pledged to defund Planned Parenthood. Romney also supported one bill that would turn women’s health decisions, like having birth control covered in our health plans, over to our bosses, and he even once said he’d be “delighted” to sign a bill that banned all abortions.
Washington concluded her op-ed letting folks know that it’s important for us, women especially, to go out there and get our voices heard this election season, or we run the risk of losing so much.
“We, the people, especially us women, have to make sure our leaders know how we feel, what we think and what we care about. Together, we need to stand up for the kind of America we want—one where women and girls are equal, strong and proud, and where we all have a president who has our back.”
Check out the rest of Kerry’s piece via The Daily Beast and get enlightened.
I can’t tell you how badly I want this election season to conclude. Hearing the lies and the lack of information about how folks are going to improve the conditions of ALL people has become frustrating at this point. But I definitely agree with Washington about her points on women’s health and rights possibly being snatched from right under us if Romney is elected. As inconsistent as he’s been over the last few months, if not years, it confuses me how some can ride so hard for Mitt and not the President, a man who has four years under his belt already (and not to mention Osama Bin Laden’s head on his record).
Oh wait, I know why (and I’m sure you do too), but that’s a whole other story for another day.
What do you think of her comments?
By Tracy Weitz
Once again during last night’s townhall presidential debate, even as the important subject of birth control was raised multiple times, there was a complete omission of the critical issue of abortion from program. Yes, it was raised during last week’s vice presidential debate. Yet, while the moderator Martha Raddatz did a fantastic job with the overall debate, her framing of the abortion question—and the answers it prompted–were disappointing to anyone concerned about the future of abortion care in the U.S and the not-quite-yet-quaint constitutional notion of a separation between church and state.
Let’s begin with a critique of the question. Reinforcing the idea that abortion is mainly a personal and religious issue, Ms. Raddatz asked how the candidate’s religious views have shaped their positions on abortion. While potentially interesting at a forum on personal introspection or while playing Trivial Pursuit, this was a debate concerned with what either Vice President Joe Biden or Congressman Paul Ryan would do as the second most powerful officeholder in a country in which 1.2 million women have an abortion every year. I personally don’t care whether they believe abortion is right, wrong, moral or immoral. I care about what they intend to do as policy makers. Interesting how only abortion, and not economic inequality, war and peace or other matters some relatively prominent Catholics (see: Pope) have talked about as important matters of faith weren’t—and almost never are—fit under the rubric of one’s personal faith.
The question that should have been asked was what policies the candidates support or oppose related to abortion. How would they use the apparatus of the federal government to further restrict or expand access to abortion care? Such an approach would have reminded the audience that while the decision to have an abortion is a personal one, how abortion care is financed, provided, and accessed are all public matters.
And if Ms. Raddatz wanted the question to focus on personal beliefs, she could have asked the candidates how they would treat a woman who told them she had had an abortion. Such an approach would have reminded the candidates that what they are accountable for in their personal lives is the level of respect or judgment they display toward women who have abortions. Abortion is not an abstract question about one’s philosophical beliefs, it is a real experience that is a part of many American women’s lives, and how the candidates intend to treat women who have abortions matters.
Then there were the responses. Needless to say, Paul Ryan ‘s position on abortion is well expressed in the dozens of dangerously extreme laws he has supported to restrict access to any abortion, including a bill that allow hospitals to deny emergency abortion care necessary to save a woman’s life. But he wasn’t asked to offer justifications for these Buchananesque social-policy ideas. Instead, he was allowed to get away with the assertion that his personal religious beliefs could explain hisprior policy record on abortion.
Yet Ryan’s willingness to now support a policy platform that will allow some abortions to remain legal, in order to become the vice president, went unchallenged. Why, Ms. Raddatz could have asked, when his future is at stake are compromises to his abortion position acceptable—but when women’s futures are at stake, are they not? Further Ms. Raddatz could have asked whether Ryan believes that women who have abortions when it is illegal should be criminally prosecuted. “So Congressman Ryan, how much time should women serve in lockup for having an abortion?”
Although Vice President Biden’s strongly affirmed that he cannot tell women what to do with their bodies, he offered no proactive support for women’s access to care. He reinforced the idea that abortion exists because of Roe v. Wade and that the future of abortion resides with the next Supreme Court nominations. But Roe v Wade is not the prevailing constitutional standard for abortion. Rather that was set by the 1992Casey decision, which allows the government to regulate abortion as long as it doesn’t create an “undue burden” for women (a standard defined about as clearly as pornography or the Romney/Ryan “tax plan”).
It is because of Casey that women are forced to delay their abortions due to waiting periods and have to listen to scientifically unsupported information about the harms of abortion, and that clinics must adhere to physical plant requirements that do nothing to improve the safety of abortion and everything to increase the cost. Biden stumbled in providing a simplistic answer to a complicated social issue. Sorry Joe, support for the right to abortion is not enough; I want to know what you are going to do to improve the situation for the women who need and have abortions. “So Vice President Biden, what are you going to do to expand access to abortion care for all women?”
It is time to ask politicians questions that will elicit differences beyond the simple milquetoast dichotomy that democrats “support a woman’s right to choose” and republicans “support life.” Terrific, we already know that. We need to know how they will treat women who actually have abortions and what they will do to reduce or expand access to abortion care.
This weekend, I was chillin’ on the couch, having a Law & Order marathon of my own, when this one particular episode came on that really caught my attention.
In season 12, episode 22 of Law and Order: Special Victims’ Unit, John Stamos, most know for the affectionately cute role as Uncle Jessie on Full House, guest starred as a manipulative womanizer, who fathered well over 20 children by 20 different women around the world. His tactic was simple: punching holes into condoms and then when the women showed up pregnant, he would shower them with reassurance that this “miracle” pregnancy was a good thing. And then after they gave birth, he was off to the next one to repeat the cycle again.
According to the character, Ken, he was not an evil man for fathering all of these children and lying to his baby mommas, many of whom never knew about his extensive reproductive history, but rather fulfilling his duty as a man to spread his DNA across the globe. Plus he loves children. Needless to say, he got murdered.
Now, the-who-killed-Ken question is not as relevant as the, oh-my-God-is-this-a-real-thing question, which I had me up half the night researching. And ladies, I’m sorry to say but reproduction abuse does exist. Reproductive coercion, also known as birth control sabotage, is the act of manipulation in which one person undermines another person’s birth control in an effort to bring about an unwanted pregnancy. Examples of this act include replacing birth control pills with fake pills, poking holes in condoms and diaphragms, blatantly flushing birth control down toilets, threats of violence and even passive coercion such as the ever popular, “you would do it if you love me” speech.
In fact, a phone survey by the National Domestic Violence Hotline has revealed that 1 in 4 women have claimed that a partner had pressured them to become pregnant. This rate includes men, who would force them into unprotected sex by refusing to wear a condom. Likewise, in a study published last year, as many as 75 percent of women, between the ages of 18 and 49, who had a history of being in an abusive relationship also reported some form of reproductive coercion.
This kind of makes sense when you begin to think about stories like 33-year old Desmond Hatchett, the man who fathered 24 children by 11 different women. Hatchett appeared in a Knoxville, Tenn., child support court to ask the judge for clemency because he was struggling to make ends meet at his minimum wage job. Many have blamed the women in this unfortunate situation however perhaps they didn’t know? What if, like the fictionalized Ken, these women were duped and coerced into reproduction?
Ratchettness…er…I mean, Hatchett aside, from a more global worldview, reproductive coercion has also been found to be a common denominator in the rise of birth rates within Somalian refugee camps. According to Women’s Network News, many refugee women have been pressured to procreate over and over again, as a way to soothe the embattled ego of war-torn men. In fact, the women who refuse the pressure to procreate often become victims of violence from their husbands within these camps.
Which leads me to ask? How come there are no laws on the books protecting women (and some men) from this kind of abuse? Like domestic violence and sexual abuse/rape, the victim often does not consent to what is being done to them. Likewise, reproductive coercion, which results in pregnancy and eventually birth, may make its victim feel trapped. With the addition of a new child the victim may now feel that they unable to provide for a child, especially if there are financial difficulties. Thus they become victims to control and further manipulation. Not to mention the increased vulnerabilities to sexually transmitted diseases including HIV and AIDS.
In our world, which continues to treat women’s bodies as property and value them as only mere vessels for procreation (see, our media and our political landscape, which uses women as political bargaining chips for further evidence of this phenomenon), some might be inclined to believe that reproductive coercion isn’t worth considering. After all, all women must eventually become mothers, right? But if women are ever to be seen as equals to men, we too must have a full say in our reproductive choice. That includes birth control, abortion, abstinence and the ability to exercise all three options without force.
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It’s a man’s world. A valid statement, which is precisely what makes it so darn controversial. Fair? Absolutely not, but it’s no secret that many societal structures, traditions and practices are stacked in favor of men over women.
But like the godfather of soul, James Brown sang about a man’s world, he made sure to acknowledge that, “it would be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl.” So while it may be a “man’s world,” it’s pretty clear when and where women rule.
Here are 7 ways women come out on top:
Otherwise known as, “show up and get free stuff girls,” ladies night is a nightlife staple men hate to love. Girls get in free, but he has to pay to enter. Then he’ll also pay for a girl’s drink. And although it doesn’t seem fair, he doesn’t complain, because when it’s ladies night he has plenty of options.