Category Archives: The Politics

What The Wire Taught Me About SexEd

If you knew me in High School, you know I had no need for SexEd while I was a teenager. I was hyperbolically academic, awkwardly clothed in thrift store cardigans and my role model was Rory Gilmore. And despite the fact that I’m pretty sure I masturbated embryonically and definitely had a strong curiosity in the subject of sex, even if just pixilated hypothetical sex, there was no way I was getting laid while I still roamed the hallowed halls of Preble High.

Yet somehow when my best friend decided to start having sex our senior year, I knew to google Planned Parenthood and look up the local number. I also knew the advantages of condoms versus the pill. And I knew you could get gonorrhea in the throat from a blowjob.

To this day I’m slightly baffled how I knew all this since I had a) never had sex and b) had never had SedEd. Although I’m foggy on many of the details of where my virgin self picked up all these details I’m pretty sure the knowledge came from three distinct sources: 1) Whatever information I could glean from the internet after my parents went to bed that would satisfy some of my growing curiosity for the birds and the bees and s and m 2) peers who usually were informed by older siblings or open hippy parents, god bless them or 3) in a few particular cases, specifically the gonorrhea in the throat example, Lifetime movies.

As I watched the fourth season of The Wire this weekend from my sick bed, I realized not all kids are as lucky as I was. For starters not all are blessed with braces and post-pubescent baby fat; some teenagers are attractive and can indeed attract sexual partners. And with this attraction comes all the complications of sex but with none of the formal or informal education.

I realize The Wire is not real life but after watching a recent local TV report about the lack of SexEd in Chicago, I’m beginning to believe it is not so far off. In addition to the “horrifying” fact that Chicago’s young people have the highest rate of gonorrhea in the U.S. (which also means Chicago has the highest rate of reporting and treating of that STI), the report also examines the schools’ role in this “epidemic.” A CPS grad, who is interviewed in cognito because of the extreme stigmas associated with underage sex, says she didn’t learn anything about sex, pregnancy or STIs in school. She learned about these things instead via first hand experience, aka two pregnancies and a Chlamydia infection.

It seems that whether we are in a fictitious Baltimore, or home sweet home in Chicago, we ignore teen sex. We pretend our 14 year olds aren’t having sex because it is easier to think of them as children than as complex human beings with a range of desires and emotions. Other than being naïve, this is dangerous.

Luckily there is a statewide movement to educate Chicago youth with age-appropriate SexEd. A bill called the Comprehensive Health Education Act or HB 3027 is currently looking to gain support in the IL legislature for a vote. A fact sheet is available on the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health website.

To be totally honest, I wish 14 year olds weren’t having sex. Looking back at my 8th grade picture, I’m sporting a Tommy Hilfiger shirt I wore about every 3 days, braces with bright yellow rubber bands and an uncomfortable smile of someone not quite used to their own skin. Looking back, I’m delighted I had time to grown into my skin before rubbing it against someone else’s.

But not everyone is fortunate enough to have my bad fashion sense and awkwardness; not everyone’s journey is my own; some teenagers are going to have probably awkward terrible 5-minute sex. We can’t stop this and realistically we don’t always need to stop this as it is part of growing up. But we can educate these little humping bunnies along the way so they stop passing around gonorrhea like some smuckers lip balm. We can give them more than some passed down information from siblings or inferred knowledge from American Pie. And for the ones not curious enough to WebMD “safe sex” we can give them the information in a handy worksheet, hopefully with smiling sex organs cartoons.

Something struck me at the end of the Chicago TV report. When asked what she wished she had learned, the CPS grad listed the basics, information on STIs and pregnancy but then she also added one more thing. She said she wish she had learned “self esteem, everything a woman needs to grown.”

It is this last bit that you can’t absorb from the glow of the internet nor from snippets of lifetime movies. It is this last bit that took me years to personally learn after years of confusing messages from the media about sex.

In the past decade we have put major educational resources towards abstinence only education and classes that are proven not only ineffective but also teach girls that if they have sex they are like sucked candy and that they need to be like quiet maidens.

The Comprehensive Sex Ed Bill isn’t just to teach kids to put a condom on a banana or how you can get knocked up even if he pulls out, it is to teach kids that sex has dangers and consequences but also ways to manage risk; that sex is a physical act between consenting people who respect each other; that sex is sex is a part of life, not your whole life; that sex does not make you used candy.

Really this bill is undoing the damage of a decade of bad lifetime movies and worse abstinence – only education programs. It is the kind of education I wish I had had so I was so shocked and disgusted the first time I saw a penis (at age 35 for my future children) and it wasn’t yellow and curved to the right.

For a glimpse into SexEd done right, check out this NYTimes article.

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Filed under Feminist Rant, Sex, T.V., The Politics

Rahm’s new Chief of Staff a woman without children who hosts dinner parties

Accodording to the Sun Times, Rahm’s new chief of staff is the “smart and thick skinned” Theresa Mintle. In addition to the flattering descriptions as  a “well-organized workaholic” Sun Times felt the need to further delve into Mintle’s personal life by voicing an opinion on her personal decision to not have children.

“She is married to architect Mike Toolis, chairman and CEO of VOA Associates. The couple have no children, which is probably a good thing, given the 24/7 job that Mintle is inheriting.”

The article also commented on her ability to host dinner parties and give her girlfriends the “tough love” advice they need.

In addition to being patronizing, the Sun Times article is completely irrelevant to Mintle’s new position. The article is just another piece of evidence showing how the media needs to catch up and realize women in leadership positions have more of a story than their children and dinner parties.

Read the full article here.

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New Threats to Access to Abortion in IL

Last month was the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the supreme-court decision that gave American women access to the safe abortions. For the past 38 years, abortion has been legal, at least on paper. Being 25, I can’t imagine a United States of America where abortion is illegal; nor I can imagine a United States where the abortion isn’t a highly controversial topic impolite for dinner conversation but appropriate for graphic posters outside medical clinics.

But while abortion is legal, little by little, access to abortion has been restricted over the past 38 years. States have made abortions after 20 weeks illegal, they have made it financially challenging for clinics to receive funding or they have put mandatory wait times between consultations and abortion procedures.

Illinois is no exception. This month the Agriculture Committee of the house will bring a bill HB1919 to the floor. The bill will require abortion providers to show patients an ultrasound of the fetus before an abortion is performed. The bill will then require patients to wait one hour before the procedure can be performed. It is obvious that this bill has no medical relevance. An ultrasound is not necessary for an abortion nor is forcing a woman to wait an hour is a paper gown before receiving a procedure she and her doctor has decided is necessary. This bill will put an extra burden on abortion clinics who already have more demand than time available.

ACLU is hosting a Rally for Choice: Women are not livestock event in Springfield 15 March 2011

For today’s young American women, who may have had an abortion or who may need an abortion in the future, an America doesn’t exist where abortion isn’t illegal. Yet every year politicians chip away a little at what constitutes legal. And quite frankly, it just isn’t their decision. We may not know a world without abortion but we know we want to keep access to abortion available for ourselves, our friends and for future generations. On Tuesday March 15th there will be a Rally for Choice in Springfield. Take the day to voice your opinion and to tell the state legislation that women’s choice does not belong on the Ag Committee’s agenda. Register here on the ACLU website.

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Filed under Events in Chicago, Reproductive Rights, The Politics

Walk for Choice! Young People Show Up To Support Choice.

I have never been a great chanter. I blame it on my inherent lack of rhythm as a white person; screaming slogans while rhythmically hoisting poster board has never been my strong suit, not even in my hippy college days.

Going to my first pro-choice rally in Chicago this Saturday, I was naturally nervous that my awkward inability to chant, “Ho! Ho! Hey! Hey! Women’s rights are here to stay!” would expose me as the novice marcher that I am. I practiced some traditional slogans the night before. “Hey! Hey! Mister! Mister! Get your laws off my sister!” I repeated into the mirror until I had sufficiently mastered the elegant prose.

On rally day, I downed a pot a coffee and headed for Daley plaza ready to impress the masses with my in-sync vocals.  As I blended into the hundreds of pro-choice demonstrators and prepared to shout, I realized the majority of marchers surrounding me were young people, like me, and many of them were quiet.

I admit I was expecting a showing of middle-aged feminists with flowers braided into their hair shouting slogans about their vaginas. But the crowd that surrounded me was in their 20’s with bright orange t-shirts thrown over their Northface jackets. Some had banners and were shouting slogans but many were just holding signs and occasionally waving at beeping cars that passed.

As we began to walk through downtown Chicago, I found myself not chanting but waving to encouraging drivers and downtown tourists. My fellow marchers were Planned Parenthood employees, students from the suburbs, a feminist from Iowa and a family who wanted to show their kids what civic engagement looks like.

The crowd was young and diverse.  As one passerby noted, “There are a lot of dudes here.” There were also children, a few dogs and one distinctly colored 5-inch mohawk. And although some came prepared with whistles, signs and impressive lung capacity, others just seemed to show up.

I realized marching that this isn’t the 70’s and social progress isn’t about the strength of your chants. From Egypt to Daley plaza in 2011 it is just about showing up. Young people especially are filling the proverbial and physical squares around the world, and whether or not they are chanting something, they are all saying we have something to say.

There are a number of ominous budgets cuts headed to Congress right now. Everything from Planned Parenthood to PBS to Americorps is being threatened. You don’t need to practice slogans from the 70’s to support these causes. It is 2011, folks. Update your Facebook status, tweet it, blog it, sign an on-line letter campaign, text a donation, or just show up. As for me, I’m going to blog my support of for Planned Parenthood and save the chants for when they are really necessary, like the next Justin Bieber concert: “Bieber Fever! Bieber Fever”

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Filed under Events in Chicago, Reproductive Rights, The Politics

Gail Collin’s describes Republican’s War on Women

Gail Collin’s is a personal hero of mine. Her recent op ed piece about Republican’s War on Women describes the current illogical political jargon so perfectly I have nothing to do but copy and paste:

“Our legislative slogan for 2011: Let Them Use Leeches.

“What is more fiscally responsible than denying any and all funding to Planned Parenthood of America?” demanded Representative Mike Pence of Indiana, the chief sponsor of a bill to bar the government from directing any money to any organization that provides abortion services.

Planned Parenthood doesn’t use government money to provide abortions; Congress already prohibits that, except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. (Another anti-abortion bill that’s coming up for hearing originally proposed changing the wording to “forcible rape,” presumably under the theory that there was a problem with volunteer rape victims. On that matter at least, cooler heads prevailed.)”

Read the full article here

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An eye for an eye, a mass of cells for a doctor’s life

You can’t “kill” a mass of cells in a women’s uterus but in South Dakota it is A-Okay to kill a full grown adult. A new bill would make killing an abortion doctor legal if the intent was to save a fetus. Who really thinks this is a good idea?

Read the article here

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Filed under Low Brow, Magazine, Reproductive Rights, The Politics

Abortion’s Common Ground: It’s Not Your Decision

For as long as I have been alive, abortion has been legal. It has also been one of the most divisive issues of my generation, not just in the media, politics or in the church but within my own circle of friends. The majority of my friends are pro-choice yet what we would do personally if we became pregnant, the decisions vary widely.

But no matter what each of us feel individually, we all understand it is not our choice to decide what another person should do with her uterus, her 9-months and her future. This is the common ground we all stand on. Although personally we all have different values, we know our values are not somehow better than anyone else’s.

This is the major common ground missed in most abortion arguments. In light of the recent horrific news about an illegal abortion clinic in Philadelphia, Salon’s Rebekah Kuschmider reminds readers that this common ground still exists.

Kuschmider remarks that “Societies over the course of human history have tried to put all kinds of different regulations and rules on sex but in the end, pretty much everybody does it. And you do not have the right to impose your personal sexual morals on anyone else. You don’t. It’s rude. So please don’t try.”

She continues to confirm that indeed the human race has sex and sex produces pregnancy. She encourages society to change the way we look at sex, reproductive rights and the attitudes we hold towards women and sex.

“Telling young women that having sex makes them “bad” is a good way to totally undermine their self-esteem if they do have sex and lead them to make poor choices about it,” Kuschmider says.

While my friends and I  have these conversations about abortion “what ifs,” we also have discussions about the best type of birth control, which condoms are most enjoyable as well as what positions we like and what makes good sex great. And just as we would never tell a friend that liking “doggy style” is just weird and wrong, or perfering ribbed condoms is immoral, we would never say the personal decision to have an abortion is right or wrong.

Read Kuschmider’s full article here

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Filed under Feminist Rant, Low Brow, Magazine, Reproductive Rights, The Politics

Please Carol, Stop Talking!

Carol Moseley Braun at the candidates forum

Carol Moseley Braun: first African American women in the U.S. Sentate, first female senator in IL, U.S. ambassador to New Zealand, and now officially first-class word vomiter.

For those lucky Chicagoans who haven’t heard, Moseley Braun called one of her rivals a “crackhead” during a candidate forum. She then went on local news not to apologize but to back up her claim. Read the NPR summary here.

Although I’ve never been a huge Carol fan, after today I just feel embarrassed that this is the female candidate for Chicago Mayor. Sure politicians slip up and say the wrong thing but to repeat the mistake over and over shows a serious lack of judgement. At this point I think Carol would be doing herself a favor if she learned the phrase “no comment.”

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NY Times why is the “normal, average” life of the speaker’s wife considered news?

New York Times headline: “Speaker’s Wife Emphasizes ‘Normal, Average’ Life”

The New York Times big news flash today was that Mrs. John Boehner was a totally average, normal, nothing special, kind of a gal.

I rhetorically ask you NYTimes: Why is this news?

I’m sure there are plenty of other women out there who are not totally average, normal, nothing special and may I add boring kind of gals.  How about a few headlines about them?

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Abstinence Only Lessons: Girls should keep their opinions to themselves

In Advocates for Youth most recent scary Carebears from abstinence only education youtube video, one rosy-cheeked teddy bear explained to her elder teddy bear how one abstinence only lesson preached the age-old wisdom that girls should be seen (preferably in tight revealing, but not too revealing clothes) and not heard (especially when it involves opinions, shows intelligence or may make a man look stupid).

In this heart-breaking, feminist-cringing lesson, girls are told that the prince leaves the princess after she gives him too much good advice about how to kill dragons. From deadly poisons to the effectiveness of rope over sword, the princess knows the ins and outs of dragon slaying and uses her vast knowledge to help the prince. The prince annoyed by this vast knowledge, leaves the princess for another maiden less vocal in her dragon-killing opinions. We assume the mute maiden and pompous prince live happily ever after or at least until a dragon comes along and kills them both.

image courtesy of fundraw.com

Although I tend to think this lesson is an extreme and probably a product of a bleeding red state, it still emphasizes the harm of abstinence-only education especially in reinforcing gender stereotypes which have not been useful since the days of dragon-slaying.

And more than being harmful to all the little potential feminists of the future it teaches the OPPOSITE of what abstinence only education claims to teach. The lesson tells girls to not express their opinions or use their knowledge when it comes to making life-changing decisions with a partner, like perhaps the decision to have sex. So when a prince says he wants to have sex with the princess she should not protest with her knowledge of potential risks, she should go along with the prince’s decision.

So the moral of this abstinence-only fairy tale is either you voice your opinion and you end up a lonely bitter princess in a decaying tower or you don’t and you end up a knocked-up maiden with gonorrhea. Oh the joys of being a princess.

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Filed under Feminist Rant, Sex, The Politics