“It’s Women’s Day, Rudy.”

7 03 2012

I’ve hardly had time to put away the decorations from last year, but once again, International Women’s Day is upon us! Before we get started, am I the only one who thinks of that episode of The Cosby Show when Rudy gets her first period, and they all go out for “women’s day?” Just me? All right.

The theme this year is “Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures.” To which I say: cha-ching! I love those things!

I might have mentioned once or twice that my favorite work to do is with my teen girls’ groups. These groups are fun, challenging, different each time, and important. There is something special about bringing a room full of teen girls together and telling them that what they have to say really matters.

Feminism is an integral part of working with girls. We can act like it’s an option, but it’s really a requirement. Trying to help them deal appropriately with their anger, improve their self-esteem, make good choices, have safe sex, live peacefully with their parents, or anything else would be a lot easier if they weren’t already considered a bit less worthy, simply because they are girls.

It seems especially important since we’re living in a country that is still debating birth control. You know, that stuff that lets you have fewer than seventeen kids? And in which a man with millions of listeners saw fit to publicly declare that an intelligent, civic minded, possibly sexually active law student was a “slut” and “prostitute” because she thinks that universities and employers should not have the right to determine what medications the insurance she pays for will cover.

I just need to get this out, and then we can move on. The entire thing is bull shit. The next person who says, “Well, why should I pay for your birth control?” is getting a foot directly in the ass, as that is the orifice that they are talking out of. We are talking about INSURANCE COMPANIES, not taxpayers, paying for medication. We’ve had enough sexism and misogyny, we don’t need outright lies. Taxpayers do pay for birth control–it’s called Medicaid, everybody. The country hasn’t crumbled into the sea and been sucked into the fiery pits of Mordor just yet, so I think we’ll survive a private insurance mandate.

Oh, and I don’t care if you say birth control is not preventive medicine. Doctors say it is. Insurance companies cover it when not blocked by squeamish employers. That’s kind of it.

I’m also sick of all the false information being spread about birth control. Our kids are misinformed enough, we do not need politicians and drooling radio hosts further confusing them. It’s been said a million times now, but apparently it hasn’t sunk in. IT DOES NOT MATTER HOW FREQUENTLY YOU HAVE SEX, IF AT ALL, YOU STILL TAKE ONE BIRTH CONTROL PILL PER DAY. Rush Limbaugh is thinking of condoms…or Viagra…or those other pills he’s known for being so fond of, I’m not sure.

But way to mislead young people, and make them ashamed for taking control of their reproductive health. Yes, better to just have sex without protection. We wouldn’t want people hearing about my prescription.

Whether or not our girls have ever even heard of Rush Limbaugh (I’m sincerely hoping they haven’t) they are living in a society that has given him a platform. In a society that punishes women for speaking out about their rights and sexuality by shaming them for being sluts. A society that publicly admonishes a woman for daring to have sex, because that’s bad, but then says she should let men watch, because it’s cool when men do it.

Or something. It’s so convoluted I have trouble keeping up.

Working with girls to get them to recognize their own value and worth as women in this society is often an uphill battle. It is complete with peaks and valleys, which I present to you now.

Valleys:

14 y/o: “Wait, you can say you were raped even if you’re married? That’s stupid.”

Yes, so silly. If you say yes once, you say yes always, everyone knows that! And your body is there to be used by a man as he sees fit! I’m going to rock in the corner for a bit.

13 y/o: “My teacher was saying that like, if you get pregnant, it’s your responsibility, so like, you have to have the baby. So that’s why abortion is illegal.”
SJ: “OK. That might be what your teacher feels. But we all know that abortion is legal, correct?”
13 y/o: “No, I don’t think it is.”
SJ: “It definitely is. It’s been legal in this country since 1973.”
13 y/o: “Really? That doesn’t make sense, how is that possible?”
SJ: “I’m not saying you have to run out and have an abortion. But it’s really important to know your options.”

Teenage girls in America, many of whom have mothers who have had abortions (trust me) don’t know their rights. That is how demonized and muddled this issue has become. Scary.

15 y/o: “Miss, if a girl is giving head in a stairwell, she’s a slut! It’s ok to call her that!”

Fine. Now we’ve degraded her, and remained suspiciously silent about the boy involved. Are we better people yet?

“You should consider what people are going to think if you dress a certain way, because you might get a reputation. People will think you’re a certain type of girl.”

That was from my co-leader. Because if there’s one thing teen girls need to consider more, it’s what others think of them. And there are very few, very clearly defined types of girls.

Peaks:

15 y/o: “Do you guys notice that we get in more trouble for fighting than boys do?”
13 y/o: “Yeah, they expect them to be aggressive but we’re supposed to be perfect angels. It’s not fair.”

Wait…yes! That’s a double standard! And you’re noticing it on your own!

16 y/o: “Sometimes I think girls say they just got caught up in the moment and had sex because they don’t want to say that they wanted to do it. Like, because people will think they’re slutty. But that’s not slutty. And if you think about it and prepare then you’ll use condoms.”

No shame in wanting to have sex, and condom use?! High five!

14 y/o: “Slut is such a stupid word, can we please not use that in here?”

We should TOTALLY not use that stupid word in here!

15 y/o: “You know, I think I finished an entire bottle of ranch dressing in here tonight, but I don’t even care.”

It’s not groundbreaking, but comfort is important.

14 y/o: “Yeah, but whatever you do and however you dress someone is going to have something bad to say about you, so you might as well do what you want.”

Accurate.

The valleys, the downfalls, the moments that make me want to tear my hair out, have so much value, even though the peaks are what keep me going. Without that being presented, we can’t counteract it effectively. Feminism, and challenging the status quo, is a point of view that these girls are really not hearing.

A lot of lip service is paid to what in my day was called “girl power” (even when I was 13 and the Spice Girls were massive, I thought it sounded a bit silly.) You’re tough, you’re strong, girls rock! While it’s fun, a lot of it is meaningless. People are very often not talking about the real issues with girls, and educating them on issues that affect them. These girls aren’t stupid. They’re young, they’re easily influenced, but at the same time they’re smart, and they know on some level when they encounter inequality. Talking to them and introducing the idea that things actually can be different is an amazing gift for all of us.

So please, let’s try it this women’s day. For Rudy Huxtable, if no one else.


Actions

Information

10 responses

8 03 2012
swgrrl78

One of my happiest moments working at a women’s residential center is when we talked about what bullshit the double standards were in the world and the “a-ha” moments during group. Times when I/group members have laid out the ways in which the system is set-up to have such unrealistic and contradictory expectations for women and then condemn them when they don’t fit into these little boxes. You can literally see their bodies relax and some of the guilt and shame leave..at least for a minute..”You mean everyone’s problems are not my responsibility/fault?!” “You mean I am not worthless for not measuring up to everyone else’s bullshit standards and ideals?!” I’m allowed to say “Do it your damn self.” and “Here’s what I want/need.” One of the final groups I did with the women, they were talking about the group overall and started speaking to one another about needing to start having each other’s backs because the man (more or less) benefits when we are taking each other down. Now if I could just have those group members spread the word among society.

10 03 2012
socialjerk

That’s awesome! I always feel like they’re kind of aware of it, so it’s such a relief to hear that others notice it too. Keep up the awesome work!

10 03 2012
Sir michael

if you do not mind I would like to share some balance to an obviously liveral based argument. I’m not a republican either, i’m an independant. I agree with you that women need to strive for the best and I have no problem with women doing anything they want. I just want to see it on a level playing field. the quickest minority seems to be the average white male. men have dominated and oppressed women for a long time and it’s not right. however, what I have discovered is that many feminists seems to want what I call equal rights by special favor. if you think that the insurance company will swallow up the addtional cost to birth control (most of which every major city and several minor provide through free clinics.) you are sadly mistaken. I have no problem paying for contraceptives and birth control for women as long as you send a little of the money my way. I want pro life literature in an abortion clinic. it’s only fair right? i mean you want you message out there, so I want mine too. a level playing field. Or, how about you pay for men’s helath issues too? free prostate checks. etc. I applaud your vigor and passion. i just ask that you truly play on a level field. equal rights for equal right. because women seem to get a bend in the rules and men are held to the tehter to face things on merit. i want equality. but I want real equality. if a man is better qualified for a woan for a position then he should get it. if the woman is better qualified then it should go to her. merit based. why don’t feminists ever fight for that> and what about like guys like Bill Maher. he calls Sarah Palin a “S” and a “C” all the time. does anyone ever condemn the left when they chide? all I want is equality.
I love you blog by the way.
sincerely ,
Sir Michael
http://www.briandamageandeggs.blogspot.com

10 03 2012
socialjerk

The idea that you can easily get birth control at these free clinics is a widely propagated myth. I’ve been to those “free” clinics, in New York City, which is as major as it gets. At best they offer a sliding scale. It’s a great service but the idea that they’re handing out hormonal contraceptives on street corners is simply not true. Plus women in rural and suburban areas need services as well. I support free public health care for everyone, women and men. The difference between me and the people against the insurance mandate is that I think health care should be between an individual and his or her doctor. I don’t deserve to judge what qualifies or doesn’t.

I also support merit based hiring, school admissions, everything, of course. People say feminists aren’t fighting for that and as a feminist and an activist I don’t see that anywhere. I think people are choosing to see what they want to see.

As for “pro-life” propaganda in abortion clinics, with all due respect that’s ridiculous. Abortion is a safe and legal procedure and the government should not have an interest in changing a woman’s mind. Should the government be talking men out of getting those prostate checks?

People condemn Bill Maher constantly. I don’t know why people are acting like he’s gotten a free pass when that issue has been discussed ad nauseum. Bill Maher is not a particularly important part of my life, and he did not go on anything like the three day vicious tirade that Limbaugh did. What I really dislike about what Limbaugh did (aside from it being crass and disgusting) is that when people disagree with women, they (right or left) tend to attack her based on her sexual history, her looks, her not being lady-like, those sorts of things. Rather than merit. I also support merit based political attacks 🙂

Thank you for reading and enjoying the blog. I’m glad you can do that even though we disagree on some things, and that we can disagree civilly.

10 03 2012
sarah

Nothing you just said makes any sense. You think it’s better for free clinics (the government) to pay for birth control than private insurance companies? The government is funded by taxpayers whereas the insurance companies are funded by the very people using the medication.

And “men’s health issues” ARE paid for already… what are you even talking about? Do you pay out of pocket for your prostate check because your employer won’t let your insurance company cover it??

10 03 2012
socialjerk

This is one of many issues that’s been so muddled by talking heads and BS that I think a lot of people don’t know what they’re talking about.

10 03 2012
a female person

if religious leaders start asking that their institutions be exempted from providing insurance that covers prostrate screenings because men should have to suffer prostrate cancer as a punishment for sex, i’ll be there with you fighting for those screenings. until then, i don’t see your analogy at all.

10 03 2012
a female person

oops “prostate,” not prostrate.

10 03 2012
sarah

I’m always amazed and saddened when time and time again “feminism” is presented as some alternative way of thinking, even by people who see men and women as equal (in theory at least). I don’t know what most people think feminism is. When I hear people saying “I’m no feminist, but…” I want to say: Do you think men and women deserve equal treatment by employers and the law? Then you are a feminist.

10 03 2012
socialjerk

It is very sad. We should all be proud to be feminists

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: