Tuesday, January 22, 2008

FGM - A Scary Tradition.

The New York Times published a seriously disturbing article and photo essay about female genital mutilation. The top three reasons to control women (however, the folks backing the procedure see these as benefits) by physically cutting off a part of their labia:

“One, it will stabilize her libido.
“Two, it will make a woman look more beautiful in the eyes of her husband."
"And three, it will balance her psychology.”

And while I understand that certain processes are cultural, FGM is downright oppressive, no matter what religion or tradition it is dressed up in.


Monday, January 14, 2008

News Roundup

In a world where LGBT folks have extremely limited legal rights, and those who are further marginalized because of their socioeconomic status, Maryland is making huge strides by opening up a pro bono legal clinic to ease some of the burden of partner breakups, homelessness due to family abandonment, custody and foster care issues and more.

The identification of one's gender is an ongoing public debate, and really, the "traditional" dichotomous mentality should be abandoned. Private and public institutions ought to step up to the plate and make all environments safe for those who identify as transgender, including this Massachusetts community college, which recently denied Ethan Santiago of a locker in the men's room because he "still has some female anatomy." And a solution is not simply to point to an unused room:

"Let's put you where people won't see you, where people won't find out . . . like I'm some kind of dirty little secret," Santiago said, describing administrators' reaction to his gender identity. "I'm not in the closet. I'm not afraid."

He makes a good point here. Not only should gender-neutral facilities exist, but accommodations should be made in the general-use facilities as well. Ostracizing folks who are comfortable with whom they are is unfair, and perpetuates ignorance. Not allowing this man to come into the men's locker room means that every single time he goes to the gym he has to negotiate, justify, and come out again and again; a process that can certainly not be comfortable.

Passionate Feminism

Novelist Isabel Allende talks about writing, women, passion, feminism at TED2007, which stand for Technology, Entertainment, Design, and is a conference that brings together people from those three worlds.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Chastity belts for young women?

I have not seen the movie Juno, but this New York Times writer takes an interesting perspective on teenage pregnancy. Well, maybe not all that interesting, but it certainly puts up a few bars on reality.

The author of the piece makes a good point that choosing to go forward with a pregnancy or not, and later deciding if adoption is a viable option or not, is not an easy thing to do:

“As any woman who has ever chosen (or been forced) to kick it old school can tell you, surrendering a baby whom you will never know comes with a steep and lifelong cost. Nor is an abortion psychologically or physically simple. It is an invasive and frightening procedure, and for some adolescent girls it constitutes part of their first gynecological exam. I know grown women who’ve wept bitterly after abortions, no matter how sound their decisions were. How much harder are these procedures for girls, whose moral and emotional universe is just taking shape?”

But instead of pointing to stats, in reference to something such as the outrageous data showing how abstinence-only education does nothing but perpetuate problems and self-loathing among young people, she jumps on the wagon of finger pointing:

“We, too, have a deep commitment to girls, and ours centers not on protecting their chastity, but on supporting their ability to compete with boys, to be free — perhaps for the first time in history — from the restraints that kept women from achieving on the same level. Now we have to ask ourselves this question: Does the full enfranchisement of girls depend on their being sexually liberated? And if it does, can we somehow change or diminish among the very young the trauma of pregnancy, the occasional result of even safe sex?”

The answer to the question is a resounding YES. Of course women should be sexually liberated, and that also means a progressive society that fosters protection via openness, contraception and the freedom to truly choose destiny…even if that person is not yet a legal adult.