Category Archives: US

“Boobie Wednesday” and the State of Women’s Health

Some time ago I wrote a piece on the Twitter phenomenon of “Boobie Wednesday” (#BoobieWed). When I first wrote the piece my intentions were to share my personal experience with breast cancer and to provide my opinion of women using shots of their bare or barely covered breasts as their avatar. In the time since that original post, almost a year now, I have written openly in other posts about my life, my sex life, and my body since my procedures. This was done in part to speak about cancer tangibly as opposed to many on Twitter who speak intangibly about the disease. Part of the choice to write so openly was assuage the fears and concerns of women facing reproductive cancers, women often racked with fear of losing their sexual appeal or the aspects of their person that define their femininity. It is the latter half of my impetus that has been and continues to be missing from the “Boobie Wednesday” movement and programs like this.

 

What should be central to programs aimed at educating women about cancer and reproductive health should be just that: education. Pink ribbon campaigns, the Komen Foundation, Save the Tatas, etc do more to shill products than to provide education and support. The primary goals of these and similar organization should be:

 

  • Providing templates and conversation points to aid women in constructing a family health history
  • Providing conversation points and important topics for women to speak with their primary care provider and gynocologist on a regular basis about
  • Frank and proper education about women’s bodies that dispels myths and encourages a woman to accurately know her body and how to care for it

 

Lastly, organizations MUST finally break their silence about life during and after treatment. When have you ever seen the Komen foundation talk about maintaining sexuality and sexual confidence post-cancer? Never. It’s never happened. Breasts can be reconstructed. Ever hear that message while you’re being sold lipstick? Clothes? Pink shoes? No, of course not. When do pink ribbon campaigns talk about sex during and after treatment? How medications and treatments can affect a woman’s libido? They don’t. The sad thing is organizations often run by women, for women behave as if women can’t handle the truth. The constant call for mammograms and participation in “Race for the Cure” never seems to include frank discussion of other reproductive cancers and health concerns. So how many American women are under educated or falsely educated about their bodies as a result of this? In fact about 60% of American women are unable to accurately answer basic questions about their reproductive organs.

 

Sure, we can start the finger pointing. We could blame our “Puritan” heritage, the lack of sexual health instruction in schools. We could say mothers should talk to their daughters about this. But finger pointing doesn’t accomplish anything. At the end of the day, organizations devoted to the health and well being of women have consistently dropped the ball. In fact this country has consistently dropped the ball about women’s health in the name of religion and morality.

 

This brings me to the heart of why I felt compelled to revisit this topic. Since the 2010 midterm elections, there has been a deluge of legislative action taken to greatly limit women’s access to contraception and abortion. In addition to making abortion nearly impossible to many women in this country, efforts to make hormonal contraception illegal has taken root across the country as well. Never since the passage of Roe v. Wade has there been such and organized and concerted effort to remove reproductive rights from women, to dictate and mandate the care a doctor will tell a woman she can have as opposed to discussing options with a patient and allowing the patient to make their own medical choices. It is as if second wave feminism never happened, as if Our Bodies, Ourselves never happened.

 

What Our Bodies, Ourselves accomplished, what Roe v. Wade accomplished was to make it legally possibly for women to be active participants in their health care. Woman could know their bodies, enjoy their bodies, decide if and when to have sex, if and when to have a child, what kind of birth they’d like to have, etc. The book arose out of a 35-cent, 136-page booklet called Women and Their Bodies, published in 1970 by the New England Free Press, and written by twelve Boston feminist activists. The booklet was originally intended as the basis for a women’s health course, the first to be written for women by women. Nancy Miriam Hawley at Boston’s Emmanuel College organized the health seminar that inspired the booklet in 1969. “We weren’t encouraged to ask questions, but to depend on the so-called experts,” Hawley told Women’s eNews. “Not having a say in our own health care frustrated and angered us. We didn’t have the information we needed, so we decided to find it on our own.”

 

Now, sadly, this country is returning to an age where doctors dictate care, tell a woman what she can and can’t do or have done to her body. The rights of a woman to be her own advocate, to speak for her own body should be essential to any and all awareness campaigns. As women’s access to health care are being diminished, let “Boobie Wednesday” serve as a weekly reminder that women have a voice and should be in charge of ALL health care decisions. This isn’t a liberal issue or some anti-church issue. This isn’t about politics. This is about human rights. It’s about not allowing women to become voiceless members of our society again.

 

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It’s the Little Things

Since news broke of pedophilia allegations against a Penn State University assistant football coach earlier this fall, I have resisted commenting on the situation on Twitter or elsewhere. I was appalled that such behavior had occurred in the first place and deeply disgusted that, as facts unfolded, members of the Penn State athletic community knew of or witnessed illegal actions and said nothing, did nothing to protect the victims. The national media has focused on the nature of collegiate athletics, programs often so valuable to institutions that employees and athletes are given free reign to behave as badly as they’d like, and who knew what, when. The national sports media, divided over the Kobe Bryant rape case, is now unified in its disgust for Sandusky and the coverup, lack of action within the Penn State football association.

But the bigger issue here, I think, is the way in which sex crimes are approached in this country in general. Or rather, I should say, how men, in particular, approach what is and isn’t a crime and what is and isn’t worth mentioning to the authorities.

I’ve blogged a few recent items on tumblr. (You can follow my tumblr here.) The issue of rape “jokes” and the lack of humor women find in them was discussed here by Lipstick Feminists. Is it possible to make a rape “joke”? Well, comics are divided on the issue, but the prevalence of mentions of rape by Donald Glover should raise people’s eyebrows and open a discussion of why men think it’s okay to joke about sexual assault. What kind of message does it send for such a prominent actor/comic to so openly and frequently joke about rape? To use rape as a go-to insult or threat? Or how about this fellow who repeatedly refers to women as “cunts” as he rails against feminism and blisters on and on about why feminists shouldn’t be taken seriously. What does it mean for our society to have such prevalent thoughts and sentiments at the forefront? Even with the widespread abuse epidemic within the Catholic Church in the US, the discussion and acceptance of sexual assault victims, especially men, is still so hushed and peripheral in the US. Just looking at the staggering lack of reports of sexual assault shows how many victims are afraid, ashamed, or unable to speak up in their defense and alert authorities.

To start, some statistics on sex crimes in the US:

  • 44% percent of sexual assault victims are under the age of 18, and 80% are under the age of 30
  • A person is sexually assaulted every 2 minutes in the US
  • It is estimated that only 40% of sexual assaults are ever reported to law enforcement
  • 15 out of 16 rapists/sexual abusers will never spend even one day in jail for their crimes
  • 60-70% of sexual assaults and crimes are committed by person(s) known to the victim
  • 30% of sexual assaults are committed by a intimate partner
The statistics are startling, scary, and make the blood boil of any person with a conscious. Even with about 40% of sexual assaults reported to authorities, there is only a 50% chance of an arrest. If an arrest is actually made, there is only an 80% chance of prosecution. If, by chance, a felony conviction occurs, there is only a 69% chance the convicted with serve jail time. That means that in the 40% of assaults reported, there is only a 16.3% chance that the assailant will serve a jail sentence. Therefore, factoring in unreported cases, only 6% of sexual abusers and rapists will spend time in jail. Sexual assault doesn’t just happen by men against women, men are victims of rape, sexual abuse/assault, and incest as well. In the US, as of a national report published in 2003, just over 10% of sexual assault victims in the US were men or boys.
But the statistics of crimes and reporting of assaults is not nearly as troubling as the statistics of how Americans think about sexual assault:
  • About 50% of college women who were sexually assaulted did not consider the attack a crime
  • In a survey of high school students, 56& of girls and 76% of boys (some were incoming college freshmen) believed that forced sex was acceptable in some situations
At least one factor on how and why the genders have such a skewed view on sexual based crimes may be the pervasive availability and use of pornography, strip club environments, internet and phone sex services, and escort and prostitution services. In a study published in July of this year, Boston-based researcher Melissa Farley, director of Prostitution Research and Education, commented on how difficult it was to find a control group for her study of men who pay for sexual services.
“We had big, big trouble finding nonusers. We finally had to settle on a definition of non-sex-buyers as men who have not been to a strip club more than two times in the past year, have not purchased a lap dance, have not used pornography more than one time in the last month, and have not purchased phone sex or the services of a sex worker, escort, erotic masseuse, or prostitute.” (Newsweek, July 25, 2011, page 61)
The prevalence of and ease of acquiring sexual services in the digital age has flooded the marketplace, so to speak, with so many easily attainable options that many men and women don’t see most sex industry activities as prostitution. “The more the commercial sex industry normalizes this behavior, the more of this behavior you get,” says Norma Ramos, executive director of the Coalition Against Traffiking in Women, in the same article. Paying for sex has become ordinary, as have feelings that not all forced sexual situations constituent assault or rape or that violence against sex workers is acceptable.
“Overall, the attitudes and habits of sex buyers reveal them to be men who dehumanize and commodify women, view them with anger and contempt, lack empathy for their suffering, and relish their own ability to inflict pain and degradation. Sex buyers are more likely to view sex as divorced from personal relationships than nonbuyers, and they enjoyed the absence of emotional involvement with prostitutes, whom they saw as commodities… In their interviews, the sex buyers often voiced aggression toward women, and were nearly eight times as likely as nonbuyers to say they would rape a woman if they could get away with it. Asked why he bought sex, one man said he liked to “beat women up.” Sex buyers in the study committed more crimes of every kind than nonbuyers, and all crimes associated with violence against women were committed by buy purchasers of sex.” (Newsweek, July 25, 2011, page 61)
The bottom line is this: Why should the lack of action at Penn State bother us now given the historical lack of action to aid and defend victims of sexual assault in this country and bring their accusers to justice? I wonder how many sexual assaults go unreported on Penn State’s campus annually. Why are there no national press conferences shining a light on the fact that 1 in 4 women will be raped or assaulted in college? We’ve let some many “little things” slip past us, become commonplace, that it takes something as shockingly disturbing as serial pedophilia to shock us awake and force us to ask ourselves the hard questions.

 

 

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Politics, #p2, and Being Purposefully Pugnacious

Yesterday I unfollowed a whole host of “#p2” tweeters. For those unfamiliar to the “#p2” concept on Twitter, allow me to briefly explain. The “#p2” hashtag is used by progressive, liberal minded/leaning, lefties to denote a tweet espousing political and social beliefs related to such positions.

As a woman of highly liberal and left leaning politics and social concepts, I was an ardent follower of many members of this Twitter community. These are people who believe in the same style of politics, the same social obligations and policies that I believe in. Following them, conversing with them, debating with them is one of the main reasons I was drawn to Twitter in the first place and the reason I have stayed on Twitter for nearly a year.

But I have noticed that in the last few months the tone, method of communicating one’s point and debate styles have changed. Once open minds now seem closed to opinions other than their own. Tweets between tweeters have been filled with nitpicking, backbiting, brazenly rude and personal attacks. Rather than foster open debates about the Left, Democratic Party, and President Obama, his administration, and policy decisions, “#p2” has fractured. Now splintered into several camps, each with their own de facto leader and list of persons who the group must be unanimously opposed to, civility, it seems, is gone. Rather than fostering an environment of: “We can all support a common aim whilst being critical of that goal and the means by which we achieve it,”  “#p2” has become a land of “with us or against us.” When did the national left become the flag bearers of post-9/11 Bush doctrine? When did we buy into the “if you don’t agree with me 100% you’re the enemy”?

I support President Obama. I supported him in 2008, I voted for him, and I have in the time since then, been an ardent fan and believer in the progress and change brought about by his administration. But what is missing from “#p2,” what has become a prickly point of contention is whether or not one can be a supporter of Obama whilst being critical of him. Since the spring this has led to numerous eruptions within Twitter-land. While I understand the sentiment by some Obama supporters that many have turned on him at the first sight of something they disagree with (and certainly the “primary Obama” mess was just stupid), support for Obama can’t be so unwavering that it comes without critical examination.

Is Obama our savior, here to deliver us ponies and rainbows? Hardly. But support of a party, a candidate, an administration has to be critical in order to be effective, otherwise we begin down a Stalinist slippery slope towards zero political dissension. Someone voicing concern or consternation over an Obama decision, or lack of one, isn’t a sign that the party is falling apart and the GOP is going to take over the world. It’s a sign that members of our electorate care enough not to follow blindly, not to fall lockstep behind the loudest or most obnoxious voice. Obama isn’t infallible. His administration isn’t infallible. The Left isn’t infallible. Criticism doesn’t expose infallibility to the sharp knife of a take over. No. Criticism fosters analysis. Criticism asks all participants to constantly strive for better.

I can be critical of Obama without being anti-Obama. I don’t vote based on what someone says on Twitter, so why would I attack someone on Twitter simply because he or she is disliked by members of “#p2”? I thought the Left was better than this. I thought we were better than the cheap-shot taking, chew-up-and-spit-out-anyone-with-a-different-opinion Right. Clearly I was wrong.

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Why “The Arts” Matter

This has been percolating for some time – in my heart, in my head. I have found myself in numerous situations, with academics and non-academics alike, trying to explain why I do what I do, why I love what I do. As I find myself at a professional crossroads I have considered this subject more than ever before. In a country were Wall Street and Google are more respected than the Smithsonian, is a life devoted to the arts wise? Manageable?

Art. The Arts.

I breathe it. I taste it. I cannot live without it.

I have devoted the last eight years of my life to studying the history, theory, and criticism of: art, art history, history, urbanism, architecture, urban planning, religion, philosophy, law, economics, etc, to better understand the development of the Western and non-Western worlds. How is the canon defined? How can we create a new canon to end the great white-western-tradition that excludes minorities, women, and the non-Western world. How can an understanding of the history of Cairo, for example, lead us to a better understanding of the development of Islamic Architecture and vice versa? How does the trade of silk fabric from China to Denmark impact Dutch woodcut prints, paintings, fashion, and their cultivation of Latin American colonies? This world systems analysis approach to the history of the arts and cultures is the basic tenet of the liberal arts and humanistic studies in the US, Canada, Europe and a rapidly growing university tradition in the non-Western world.

In a year where the GOP, Tea Party, and Conservative media et all, has called for the intellectual beheading of this country (defunding NPR, PBS, NEA, destruction of teachers unions, the abolishment of arts education in primary and secondary schools, etc) the slow-building anti-intellectual movement in this US has ramped up their destructive calls for further skepticism of American universities and their dislike, distrust, and further desire to de-emphasize the importance of an educated populace. It has become socially and politically acceptable to dislike and distrust educated people – the better the education, the more degrees the greater the skepticism. Sarah Palin, a woman who barely managed to scrape out a degree in journalism after attending five colleges, is a poster woman for many in this country. The term “elite” has come to serve as an acceptable degrading hiss of a pejorative in a country that has a great national distaste for the educated.

It has become so easy to dismiss the arts, to brush them aside with a flick of the wrist. So easy, in fact, that even Bill Maher made the case for defunding the NEA. For Maher, the NEA doesn’t save lives, doesn’t accomplish anything tangible, like say the EPA, and is thus expendable. This mentality of the “the arts don’t matter, they aren’t important, they don’t contribute or have an economic incentive to exist” is rampant in this country. Libraries close without a blink of a community’s eye. Universities slash humanities budgets but never touch athletics. Generations of parents scoff at the idea of an English or Women’s Studies major, pushing their children to major in computers or business instead. Universities close Latin, Classics, and Area Studies programs (to name only a few of the affected liberal arts) without any protest.

And why should universities care about critical reasoning skills? Why should universities support programs that train students to read within a critical, theoretical discourse, analyze the material, and produce a cogent, pointed argument or debate? Why should universities support philosophy, english, history, and art history majors? Wall Street isn’t interested in hiring from these majors, so why are they important? Perhaps because these majors score highest on the GRE and LSAT exams. Perform better in graduate and law programs than other majors. Have superior critical reasoning and analytical skills than mathematics and business majors.

The reason it is so easy to ignore and dismiss the arts, the humanities, is because Americans have become detrimentally separated from the history of education, from the history of what it means to be educated. Each generation, since the beginning of human existence, has sought to pass on cultural and social values, traditions, morality, religion and skills to the next generation. The passing on of culture is also known as enculturation and the learning of social values and behaviors is socialization. The history of the curricula of such education reflects human history itself, the history of knowledge, beliefs, skills and cultures of humanity.

Education creates vessels of humanity out of every student. The history of this world, of our cultures is crafted and disseminated in education. Without an educated populace, how are we to survive? How are we to know what came before us, what shape us, and how we can innovate our future? The process of receiving knowledge, processing it, learning lessons from it, and critically using it as a tool of future development and growth is the keystone of every educational system. But it is most represented in the arts, in humanistic pursuits.

‘The Arts” encompasses visual arts and cultural practice, the literary arts (poetry and prose), theater, music, dance, architecture, television, radio, film, journalism, fashion and food. The arts are what we see, read, watch, taste, wear. It is how we move, what we listen to, it is what we live in from the design of our homes and furniture, our planned cities, our cars, our clothes, and what we read day in and out. The arts encompass every output of the human creative practice. Even if you’d like to think of the arts as only the imaginative, creative, and nonscientific branches of knowledge considered collectively and studied academically, you can’t help but note the broad sweep of your implications in our everyday lives and in every plane of our societal functions.

The arts are both a response to the world around as as they are catalyst for cultural change. Artists, of all media, serve as a mirror to the world. They examine our collective conscience. They ask us to question our beliefs, our actions, to rethink what we know and how we know it. The nature of our world is defined, refined, deconstructed and reconstructed through the arts. Paintings of rulers can serve simultaneously as a glimpse into a a moment of history and state-sponsored propaganda (see my piece on “Oriental Nationalism” and the role of Gros in the court of Napoleon here). The arts help shape gender roles, cultural predilections for body shape and notions of beauty (see my piece of the impact of fashion photography and fashion in Vogue here). Art and artists have impacted global politics at times as well (for instance, Surrealism, see my post here). The arts bleed into areas of our lives we wouldn’t even think that they would: such as science and war practices (see my post on Performance/Body Art here, and my post on the nature of video and suicide bombing in contemporary art practice here).

Arts education, museums, galleries, theaters, and libraries are the keepers, the vessels of these great, impactful forces in our world. They are the ultimate democratizing force in the world today. The easiest way to restrict growth of a society, critical dialogue, opposition of thought and diversity of opinion is to restrict education, namely critical reasoning skills, skills that are central and foundational to arts and humanities curricula. Why are we so accepting of their dismissal from our national priorities? Stephen Colbert recently joked with the director of a forthcoming documentary on imprisoned Chinese artist Ai WeiWei that: “In American we know to ignore [serious] artists…serious artists are a complete joke.” Naturally, the knowing audience member realizes the bit Colbert has perfected on his show, the pseudo-Right Wing position he takes to mock such figures, such positions. But his statement is no joke. To many it is all to true.

American capitalism has made a MBA more valuable than analytical skills, than the ability to converse cogently about the broad breadth of humanity. We care not what people know, what they are capable of thinking deeply about. We only care about the object, the dollar amount they can produce.

In a country built upon innovation, where we pride ourselves on pushing the next wave of global development, why are we so uninterested in creativity? Why don’t we fight tooth and nail to keep the great bastions of our history of our creativity alive and funding and staffed to the hilt? We are so cavalier with culture, so flippant about art and art education, I fear that it will slip through the sieve of time without our noticing its loss till it’s too late. We are only as great as our ability to progress. How can we do that without knowing from what we have evolved? Our libraries, our museums, they hold within their walls the great majesty of our collective human achievement. Without them, what are we? What will we become?

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Japan and America’s Continued Othering of the East

I’m honored to host a guest blog from Alex Hunter (@robotbabybunnie on Twitter). Alex is from Chicago and has an M.A. in theology. Her undergraduate studies were in history, and her concentration within her M.A. is also one of the history of Christianity. In addition to studying history she also frequently studies and participates in inter-religious dialogue and attributes her desire to learn more about the division between definitions of sacred and profane to the environment in which she grew up. She enjoys the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore and Rumi. In an ideal world, she believes, people would know the difference between Library of Congress and Dewey Decimal.

This may be an emotional appeal. But perhaps emotional appeals are what are needed to engage in dialogue regarding statistics and truth and come into a spirit of reconciliation.

In 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt signed into action Executive Order 9066. While the language of this documentation did not specifically target Japanese Americans and Japanese nationals living in America, it did allow in the wake of the attacks on Pearl Harbor for any area that was deemed to be of military necessity to be assigned for the purposes of use for and by the military. In the end, it allowed for the relocation and internment of 120,000 persons of Japanese descent. Meaning I, who have 25% Japanese ancestry (and consider myself biracial), would have been in one of the many camps established during the duration of World War II. This was not a death camp. But it was kinda hellish, you have to admit. People gave up their entire livelihoods at a moments’ notice, and after the war, relocated away from their original homes with nearly nothing. Concentration camps of the Nazi variety are not comparable to what the Asian-American population experienced during this time. But Japanese-Americans were denied citizenship despite having one of the most decorated units in the history of the United States armed forces, the 442nd Infantry.  All this, and even so, even after the war in Europe had been surrendered, America dropped the bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. 160,000-246,000 people are estimated to have died, and the effects of the radiation have lasted through the generations, creating mental and physical defects and for some time devastating the environment.

As someone born in 1982, I avoided this affliction of Yellow Peril that affected my grandparents’ generation. My grandfather was stationed in Japan as an army officer, where he met my grandmother. They had my father, got married, and returned to the States. My generation has been one of reconnecting with our roots and remembering that yes, our great-grandparents spoke another language. But we all did at one point.

So today I’m greatly grieved that despite the fact that we should be focusing our attention on the devastation of a nation in light of a natural disaster, instead of reaching out as so many people did in solidarity with us in our time of national need only ten years ago, we instead invoke a “karmic retribution” ideal in social media regarding the tragedy that Japan faces. It’s sickening. Are we really so ready to make a joke at the expense of others instead of engaging our more socially conscious selves? This was not the result of a military attack; this is a natural disaster. We as Americans know in light of previous devastating natural disasters that timely response and compassion can be the difference between a city struggling to rise above despite all odds, and a city that thrives and triumphs. Some people lost their home and their livelihoods. So we have to pay .37 more cents for gas. Funny how the world works. By the way? Gas prices can go down. Lives are a bit more difficult to build.

Are we supposed to forget the past? Well hell no. As a historian, with an M.A. in theology, I can tell you quite succinctly that anyone who forgets the past is doomed to repeat it.

But imagine this: we are now living in an age where an entire religious or ethnic group, depending on however you choose to categorize them, can be summarily dismissed as terrorists despite misinformation and complete ignorance as to what is occurring on a daily basis in the lives of people that we have NOT, mind you, chosen to strip of civil rights this time around. Every generation has an opportunity to choose to either create a scapegoat out of fear, or create relationships out of love. An idea of “other” is only such as we are ignorant of the ways we actually are asked to be present to each other. This isn’t some hippie crap that I pulled out of my ass, people! This is about subjugating the sensational in preference of the humane. This is about knowing that when you see someone’s village on fire or being covered in a wave on the news, that’s NOT retribution for some past deed. That is someone in need of HELP. When a person is trying to live their life at no expense to yours, that is someone who could be YOU.

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TheChickAbides, Single Moms, and Women’s History Month

All this month I will be posting guest blogs about Women’s History Month. Our first guest blogger is the incomparable @TheChickAbides on Twitter and The Chick Abides. Chardon Murray is a political junkie, blogger, and researcher. She’s been a human and civil rights activist for over a decade, as well as working in broadcast media, government, and academia.  She lives with her childhood sweetheart and young daughter in a coastal town in North Carolina.

Mike Huckabee

“Most single moms are very poor, uneducated, can’t get a job and if it weren’t for government assistance, their kids would be starving to death and never have health care. And that’s the story that we’re not seeing, and it’s unfortunate that we glorify and glamorize the idea of out of children wedlock.[sic]”     –Former Gov. Mike Huckabee

I was 25 years old when it became clear to me that my (now ex) husband didn’t have the maturity, desire, or will to fight his severe drug addiction.  But it was the night he called me, high as a kite, and threatened to rape and murder me in front of our daughter that my decision was made for me.  I didn’t want my daughter to grow up thinking that that’s the way women are supposed to be treated, so I became a single mom.

Even so, it was an agonizing decision.  Not because of my ex-husband–his addiction and abuse had long since killed any positive emotion I had toward him–but because I was terrified of the prospect of becoming a single mother.  Growing up in the Bible Belt, I had been socialized since I was very young that women were incapable of raising a child on their own.  Becoming a single mother was not an easy decision to make, even if the alternative meant a lifetime of pain, abuse, misery, and neglect.

There were sacrifices:  I dropped out of grad school to take a job working in the State Legislature.  Unable to find affordable childcare, my parents and I got up early and made the 4 hour round-trip drive several times a week.

I worked so I didn’t have to suckle the government’s welfare teat.  I sacrificed so that I could provide a good life for her.  Of course, I relied heavily on my amazing family.  Their support was invaluable, and it has made us extremely close as a family.  My daughter has a relationship with them she might not have otherwise had, and my little girl and I are incredibly close.  We are survivors, we are strong women, and we did it together.

In the meantime, my ex-husband spent his inheritance, wound up in jail, and high-tailed it back home, 2000 miles away, without so much as kissing his daughter goodbye.  Responsibility was not his strong suit; neither was paying his child support.  (He has since had his parental rights terminated.)

Life as a single mother was hard, but not because of the sacrifices we made.  It was hard because of the judgments.

This is a sad image of the poor, unhappy, starving child of a single mother. Bless her heart.

When I told people about my situation, some were enormously supportive.  Others, not so much.  One of my fellow grad assistants, upon hearing of my impending divorce, mused, “Oh, that’s so sad! A child should never grow up without their father.”  One of my closest friends (at the time) told me, “I’m a Christian, I don’t believe in divorce.  You’re making a mistake.  He’s obviously crying out for help.  You made vows.  That child needs her father.”

Heh.  I don’t know about you, but when your “cry for help” involves threatening rape and murder in front of a toddler, which you blame on the fact you were high as soon as you got out from your 7th stint in rehab, I’d say you’re doing it wrong.

You see, in the Bible belt, it’s better for a child to have an abusive, manipulative, drug addicted father and a scared, lonely, beaten down mother than it is to have a hardworking, supportive, loving SINGLE mother.

People like Mike Huckabee don’t care that my ex-husband was abusive.  They don’t care that my daughter was an angry, impatient toddler prone to fits of rage which mirrored the temper tantrums her father threw…but suddenly transformed into a sweet, reasonable, loving child with no hint of her former violence once he was out of the picture.  All that matters to them is that I CHOSE to become a worthless, stupid, incapable single mother who was going to let my child starve…all the while giving a bad example to every female I came into contact with.

Mike Huckabee’s quote was wrong on so many levels.  “Most” Single Mothers are NOT everything he claims.  A Census report from 2009 found that 80% of custodial single mothers are employed and only 4.3% of ALL single parent families (including single fathers) are recipients of Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF).

I think Melissa Harris-Perry, Ph.D., said it best: “These data show that although they are more often poor, most single mothers work despite the obvious difficulties of working while raising children without a spouse. They further show that our government actually does very little to support these women. These moms are hardly cash-sucking drains on national or state economies. Many of these women and their children could use more support, not less.”

Huckabee needs to shut his big, uninformed pie-hole.  Making the ridiculous assumption that all single mothers are poor, uneducated, and suckling the federal teat is both incorrect and insulting.  Single mothers are a favorite whipping-boy of the Christian Right, and this habit of vilifying these women has horrifying consequences.

This AWESOME pic was used without permission (sorry!) from a BadAssFemmes.Blogspot.com post in honor of HER single mother!

I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that there are scores of women who are making the choice to stay in a horrible relationship because of their fears of how they’ll be treated as a single mother, and are unsure as to whether they’ll be able to cope.  To those women, I want to tell you that you don’t have to put up with misery and pain just to appease the pious.

Being a single mother made me a better woman, a better mother, and a better partner. (see post script below)  I was socialized my entire life to believe that, as a woman, I couldn’t survive without a man, much less provide a good life for my daughter.  I proved myself wrong, and I proved the Mike Huckabees of the world wrong.  With a lot of sacrifice, a LOT of help from friends and family, I did just fine.

So ladies, they’re WRONG.  For those of you who have been abandoned by the man who was supposed to help you provide for your child, know that you CAN do it.  For those of you who are in horrible situations:  You CAN get out.  You CAN raise your child on your own.  I won’t lie, it will be tough, but if you’re tough enough to survive pain, misery, addiction, infidelity, and/or abuse, you’re tough enough for this!

Today, on International Women’s Day, of all days, know that you are strong, you are capable, and you will overcome.  You can do this…not in spite of the fact that you’re a woman, but BECAUSE you’re a woman.  You go girl!


Required Reading: Melissa Harris-Perry: Mike Huckabee: Wrong on Single Mothers

Read ACTUAL Census Data Here (instead of relying on a subjective assertion by people like Huckabee): http://www.census.gov/prod/2010pubs/p60-238.pdf


Post Script: A year after my marriage ended, I reconnected with my childhood sweetheart, and I was able to rediscover what it meant to be in a loving relationship of mutual respect–without the addiction, the neglect, the violence.  @HarrisonMurray came into our lives and immediately became the father my daughter never had, but that I always wanted for her.  She was very young, and has no memory of her biological father.  @HarrisonMurray and I will celebrate our marriage anniversary next month, and should be able to afford to finish adoption proceedings sometime this year.

Raising a child with the love and support of a partner is, of course, much easier than doing it alone…but raising a child under violence, neglect, infidelity, anger, and/or addiction is MUCH more difficult than doing it alone.  All the time wasted in a bad relationship with a bad partner and a bad parent could be time spent improving yourself, your family, and creating relationships with friends, family, and partners that aren’t dysfunctional.

I’m thankful for Glenn and Leanne, my amazing parents who NEVER let me give up or believe that I was not good enough, my wonderful loving husband Harrison, and my absolutely fantastic daughter.  The true joy and wonder of those relationships would never have been fully realized had I chosen NOT to be a single mother.


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Hate Comes to Orange County

Thanks to Dave von Ebers (@dave_von_ebers on Twitter) for tweeting this video. Utterly disturbing. I have no words.

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Filed under Islam, US