Thursday, January 29, 2009

On My Bad Side

Barack Obama is already on my bad side.

On Tuesday, responding to "concerns" from Republicans and in the "spirit of bipartisanship" (gag), the president asked Democrats to remove $200 million from the stimulus bill that was to be allocated to organizations to provide family planning services to people on Medicaid. In other words, Obama cow-towed to Republicans who like the idea of keeping the poor, well, poor by blocking access to adequate healthcare and contraceptives that the non-poor have access to. I think this is how some Republicans rationalize this bizarre ideology:

"Man, I really love Jesus . . . And Jesus loved the poor. But, wait a minute, if poor women could determine their own reproductivity, and limit the number of children they have, as well as have access to good healthcare, well then they might have the time and energy to do things like escape poverty. We can't have that!"

Alright, maybe it's more like this:

"Wah, wah, I love babies. And birth control is kinda the same as abortion! These women are killers! We can't let them have access to federal funds!"

And in response to this craziness, Obama pressured Democrats to give up family planning and the Democrats did what Democrats always do and caved. And in the end, the stimulus package passed the House. Without a single Republican vote.

Well done, Mr. President.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Happy 36th, Roe!

Today marks the 36th anniversary of the Supreme Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade, and I'm breathing a sigh of relief that our girl Roe has lived to fight another day.

To be fair, Roe is not the same. She's been chipped away by anti-feminists on the Right, who've passed - or attempted to pass - legislation to compel parental notification, eliminate late-term pregnancies, force women who choose abortion to see ultrasound images of the fetus, and so on. But with the new administration, and a Democratic majority in Congress, things may change.

President Obama, who has long advocated reproductive freedom (albeit a more limited variety than I'd like), has made several pledges to repeal the policies of the Bush administration which have targeted women's reproductive choices, beginning with reinstating funding to international organizations providing healthcare to impoverished women.

The administration has also created a new website addressing Obama's women-related policy items, where he commits to several pro-women actions, including honoring a woman's right to choose and supporting legislation to provide comprehensive sex education and fund pregnancy prevention.

Obama also pledged in 2007, and again in a press release in 2008 to sign the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), a bill that would effectively codify the ruling in Roe and prevent the government from interfering in a woman's right to bear a child or terminate a pregnancy. While FOCA has yet to be introduced in the 111th Congress, there is little doubt that it will, and should it pass both the House and the Senate (this is the tricky part), I HOPE President Obama sticks to his promise and signs the bill into law.

On a more personal note, as the mother of a daughter, I am committed to seeing the tenets in Roe upheld not just for myself or the women of my generation who demand reproductive choice, but for our daughters (well, the ones we didn't abort), who depend on us - their mamas - to secure futures for them that include reproductive liberty.

Monday, January 19, 2009

My Mormons are Back!

"Big Love" returned to HBO last night for its third season and, let me say, my life feels a little more complete.

Since I don't want to ruin it for those of you who don't have the commitment to the Hendricksons that I do which would compel you to upgrade your cable package, I won't give anything away, except to say I am loving me some Harry Dean Stanton and Mary Kay Place!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

No Boobs in Church

In December, the Massachusetts legislature passed "An Act to Promote Breastfeeding," a law that essentially serves to protect a woman's right to nurse - and her child's right to feed - in public. This month, Governor Patrick signed the bill.

Many nursing rights activists, including me, have hailed the law as a step in the right direction. Legal protections of women's rights are critical to achieving equal rights. Without court decisions, Congressional bills, and legislative action, women in this country wouldn't have the right to vote, make reproductive choices, or breastfeed our children in public.

But, as with every "right" that is codified into law, some problems persist. Although the Act allows a woman to collect up to $500 in damages and the possibility of legal fees, I am not convinced that such a small penalty would keep a business owner from making a breastfeeding patron leave her/his establishment.

Even more problematic is the Act's exemption of religious institutions, which can refuse to comply with this law. So if a churchgoing Mama has the audacity to feed her hungry child in a church pew, Father O'Douchebag can toss her out without facing any legal ramifications. I wonder what Jesus would say about that . . .

Unfortunately in Massachusetts, churches and other religious organizations often get a free-pass to treat women like second-class citizens. In this state, employers which are religious institutions don't have to provide coverage for contraception. So if you happen to work as a bookkeeper in a synagogue, a janitor in a church, or even a healthcare professional in a church-owned hospital, your employer does not have to pay for prescriptions used for contraception and, since every contraceptive prescription on the market is consumed by women, employers essentially have the right to refuse to cover women's healthcare.

Beyond the religious exemption, passing a law to protect nursing makes me nervous for another reason. As with the passage of the National Labor Relations Act, which effectively replaced workers' direct actions with the oh-so-powerful tool of collective bargaining (check out the whopping 12% of American workers who are currently organized thanks to the NLRA), is this law going to mean that women in Massachusetts who are treated unfairly for breastfeeding will rely less on their own capacity to stand up and give a business-owner or passerby "what-for" and more on legal adjudication? I hope not.

Oh and if any of you ladies happens into a "place of religious instruction or worhip," I say whip them out and DARE someone to tell you to feed your baby elsewhere!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Private Mal-Practice

Last night, I happened to have been walking by the television at 10pm on my way from my organic indoor garden to my yoga mat, munching on my soy-ice cream bar and relaxing to the smooth sounds of whale mating on my reclaimed Ipod, and there must have been some short in our cable because for some reason I cannot explain, ABC's Private Practice was on.

One of the episode's storylines was about a mother of three boys whose oldest son had autism that she attributed to a vaccine, and whose younger sons were not vaccinated. Of course, the whole point of this back-story is that Middle Son comes down with what ultimately turns out to be a fatal case of Measles, complete with the obligatory "Overinvolved Doctor Who Continues Chest Compressions Long After Patient is Dead" and unnecessary shots of the dead kid, which were disturbing. Despite this, the mom refuses to vaccinate Youngest Son and in a scene I can only imagine some Hollywood writer on a vaccine high thought would seem heroic, Dude Doctor practically jumps Youngest Son to vaccinate him despite the mother's shouts of protest . . . In other scenes, doctors claim that refusing to vaccinate one's child is "child abuse," parents should be turned into the state social services agency when they refuse to vaccinate, and "there's no link" between vaccines and autism.

I'm guessing that Merck - the only manufacturer of the MMR vaccine in the United States - held a private viewing of the episode, because there's nothing a huge drug company loves more than pretty actors saying that if parents really loved their kids, they'd pump their product into them as soon as possible, while the not-so-pretty actors portray the bad parents whose failure to do so killed their kid.

Beyond the obvious argument that vaccines are preventative medicine that pose no danger to children, I also had a major issue with the way the episode dealt with the mom. In response to Dude Doctor's "vaccines don't cause autism" argument, Mom said, "I know what I know" - she'd witnessed her son's change in behavior after he was vaccinated. Yet somehow, her experience and intuition were brushed off as Dude Doctor clung to stats and saved the day by plunging the needle into the youngest kid's arm.

Look, I know this is just a television program (a not-very-well-written program at that), but since I wasted an hour of my life watching it, I figure I can spend a few minutes talking about what utter garbage it is. I'm sure I'm sensitive to the subject since my child hasn't had the MMR vaccine. FD and I have decided to postpone some of Ruby's vaccines, and reject others altogether. This choice wasn't easy, and I think about it nearly every day, but we didn't come to it lightly, and it was an informed decision.

To sum this tirade up: Private Practice is lame, and so is the crazy pro-vaccine movement that wants parents to shelve the research in favor of fear-mongering. I'm not saying I oppose all vaccines - although many of them are unnecessary - but I am arguing that parents ought to go beyond the pamphlet they get in the pediatrician's office or the pushy positions of family and friends, and check out what's in these vaccines (it will shock you) and what the possible side effects are.

(Don't even get me started on how pushing Gardasil is the typical anti-feminist medical approach: Force virtually untested "vaccines" into girls' bodies, then sit back and wait for the fallout. What are the side effects of this vaccine? Who knows! How long will it last? Can't tell! Why are girls' bodies being used as laboratories when a vaccine like this could just as easily be given to boys? Duh, 'cause they're girls!)

If you want more info on childhood vaccines, check out Dr. Sears' website. For another parent's perspective, go here.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Baby's First 2005 Sauvignon Blanc

Ruby and I were playing and she asked for water, so we headed out to the kitchen where FD was making dinner, and I grabbed her glass from the counter where it'd been sitting for a while and gave her a sip. But when I pulled the glass away, she looked at me, scrunched up her nose, and said, "Yucky!"

So I took a sip of the water to see what the problem was and, lo and behold, an oaky bouquet and a hint of lime! My baby was drinking her daddy's glass of wine.

I got my girl drunk. Accidentally. Okay, not drunk, but still accidentally.

The nurses at Ruby's doctor's office took their turns laughing at me and told me that there was nothing to worry about unless she started acting strange. I tried doing a series of sobriety tests, but she doesn't have the ABCs down in the correct order, so getting her to say them in reverse was a no-go. And try getting an 18-month-old to walk a straight line!

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Babe in the Kitchen

So my kid got a pre-Christmas play kitchen from my mom, who dug it out of my brother's basement, where it'd been hanging out since his kids - now 6 and 8 - decided cooking wasn't cool. Ruby loves it. She "wanna cook!" all the time, and so far, she's a pro at making tea, and stew, and cake. She also washes her hands a lot. So I think one major parenting goal has been accomplished.

But I must admit, at first this big, plastic play kitchen scared the hell out of me, largely because it was big and plastic. But also, what would it mean for Ruby to play with a toy that so specifically targets girls and entices them into the cult of domesticity (yeah, there's that 90s college feminist again), that attaches their self-worth to their facility with pots and pans?

When I let a little of my discomfort show, I think my mother rolled her eyes and told me I was being ridiculous, but I can't keep myself from believing that everything Ruby comes into contact with - every toy, every book, every asshole the FD is related to - will shape her. And despite the fact that in our house it's Dad who's the cook and the stay-at-home parent, I can't help but wonder if giving my daughter a kitchen to play with at this young age is going to start the trickle of anti-feminist expectations that I thought I stunted when I recycled (i.e., shredded) a pink, glittery costume with a tiara on it given to me by a coworker before my girl even left the womb!

Ultimately, I think the fact that Mama is a feminist and that FD & I are raising Ruby to be a feminist by indoctrinating her. . . ahem, exposing her to people and places and books and ideas that will assist in that process will mean more than a plastic play kitchen. Plus, Ruby's daddy is a superstar in the kitchen and as someone who loves me a good meal, if Ruby grows up to be a great cook, I'm going to be thrilled for her. . . just as long as she cares more about good food than "dish pan hands."