Top 6 Out-of-Touch Hobby Lobby Demonstration Signs (and Why they’re F*cked)

Yesterday, I went to the Supreme Court with the other National Organization for Women interns to protest the ruling on Hobby Lobby which gave employers the right to discriminate against women and deny them healthcare. Pro-choice and pro-women’s health organizations were well represented at the court, with NARAL, the Feminist Majority Foundation, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, and others showing up en masse to voice our disapproval.

Of course, the other side showed up to celebrate. Were are the Top 6 examples of uninformed and misguided rhetoric the right uses to undermine women’s health and women’s rights.

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The Philomena Project Fights Injustice in Ireland, but what about the US?

A few weeks ago, I volunteered at the Feminist Majority Foundation’s Annual Global Women’s Rights Awards in Los Angeles. This inspiring event celebrated individuals who have contributed to the advancement of women’s rights across the globe and who demonstrate strength and activism in the face of injustice, and this year’s honorees included Philomena Lee and Jane Liberton of the Philomena Project.

Does the name Philomena sound familiar? That’s probably because of the award-winning movie that came out in the winter of 2013 that tells Philomena’s (true) story.

As a teenager growing up in Ireland, Philomena knew nothing about the birds and the bees, and when she got pregnant, she was sent to a Magdelene Laundry. At these Catholic institutions, which existed across Ireland, countless young women pregnant out of wedlock were taught to be deeply ashamed in themselves, were held captive for four years during which they did hard labor (for which they were never paid), and their children were stolen from them, sold to American adoptive parents for a profit.

Not only were these women’s liberty, dignity, and family taken from them, but even after release they were never given information about the whereabouts of their children, making reunification next to impossible.

The Philomena Project is an organization that seeks to raise awareness about the Catholic Church’s inhumane treatment of women in Ireland, and to create a support network to help reunite women and children. Philomena is a courageous woman to come forward and share this painful story with the world, and is an example of the great power of transforming silence into language and action (as theorized by the amazing Audre Lorde).

At the Awards event when it was stated that the last of these workhouses remained open until 1997, the crowd gasped. We were all appalled that such a blatant violation of human rights could have continued until so recently. How could the imprisonment of women for the “crime” of having immoral sex, the forced slave labor, and the ripping apart of families possibly have continued for so long unquestioned and unchallenged?

As much as we should celebrate the accomplishments of The Philomena Project, we must also realize that those same human rights violation are all happening in the United States today within our prison system. Continue reading

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“Teach them a lesson”: Rethinking Justice in the US

Despite the US being the self-proclaimed land of the free, according to The Sentencing Project, an organization that does research on and advocacy about our criminal justice system, the US has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. In 2013, 716 out of every 100,000 individuals were incarcerated, meaning that over 2.2 million people are currently behind bars in our country’s prisons and jails.

The prison population in the US wasn’t always so enormous, but since the 70s, it has increased by 500%. This massive increase is due to policy changes that began in the 1980s including the “War on Drugs” and “tough on crime” policies such as mandatory minimums and three-strikes laws. Unfortunately, many studies show that the War on Drugs is failing, and is doing more harm than good by damaging communities while providing no real resources to help the problem of addiction.

But despite the fact that our “tough on crime” policies are not working, we continue to pour resources into the prison system and  building even more prisons and jailsStudies show that states now spend more on incarceration than on education.

While California spends an average of $50,000 per prisoner every year, we spend less than $10,000 per student, meaning that we invest more in punishment than we do in education.

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How do you say “Emergency Contraception” in Wolof? Access to EC Abroad

As those of you who know me personally are aware, I just got back from a semester abroad in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, a former French colony in West Africa.

In the days leading up to my departure in August, I funneled all my excitement and nervous energy into packing. What should I bring? How long to my skirts have to be? How much bug spray do I need?

About to step into what seemed like a totally different world, I had no idea what I would really need, or if I was bringing the right stuff. And in the frenzy of the transition, of course all of the students on my program forgot something pretty important (for me, it was an umbrella, which would have been super useful during the 2 remaining months of the rainy season).

Luckily, there was something that I knew I couldn’t forget: emergency contraception.

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Pregnancy Pricetags, Impossible Choices: Women in the US Are Between A Rock and a Hard Place

Recently, a NYTimes article revealed the huge – and often hidden – costs of having a baby in the US:

From 2004 to 2010, the prices that insurers paid for childbirth — one of the most universal medical encounters — rose 49 percent for vaginal births and 41 percent for Caesarean sections in the United States, with average out-of-pocket costs rising fourfold, according to a recent report by Truven that was commissioned by three health care groups. The average total price charged for pregnancy and newborn care was about $30,000 for a vaginal delivery and $50,000 for a C-section, with commercial insurers paying out an average of $18,329 and $27,866, the report found.

Women with insurance pay out of pocket an average of $3,400, according to a survey by Childbirth Connection, one of the groups behind the maternity costs report. Two decades ago, women typically paid nothing other than a small fee if they opted for a private hospital room or television.

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Lets Get Feminist

It was the third week of my weight training class, and I was struggling a bit on bicep curls when the coach came up to me and suggested, “Why don’t you try that with lighter weights so that you don’t build muscle?” I wasn’t sure how to respond other than nodding politely and ignoring him. Why would I even be in a weight training class if I didn’t want to build muscle? Is it really that hard to believe that a woman would want to be strong?

From the very first class, I felt like my weight training coach was giving me mixed messages. On the one hand, he was saying “Women aren’t as strong as men,” and on the other hand he was saying “Women don’t want to be strong.” This frustrated me to no end. Which was it? Was I biologically doomed to weakness and inferiority, or was it that I shouldn’t even try to get stronger in the first place, that I somehow craved weakness? Why was he so convinced of and vocal about my weakness when it was his job to help me get stronger, not to push me down?

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the Final Frontier’s not looking super Feminist… Sexual Dominance as Leadership in Star Trek

A few nights ago (over the summer gahhh sorry. better late than never, right?), I headed to the theater to see Star Trek: Into Darkness, and as usual, I went into the film a bit wary of how women would be portrayed, but mostly just excited to see a good action flick with space ships and explosions. I was not at all disappointed about the space ships and explosions part, this film is really action packed and overall a fun watch… but there were a few moments that really threw me off, and made the film less enjoyable.

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