IUDs, PlanB, and Hobby Lobby! Oh My!

On June 30th, 2014 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that Hobby Lobby did not have to cover certain forms of birth control that were mandated under the Affordable Care Acc (ACA), mainly emergency contraceptives, because of their deeply held religious belief that these treatments can cause abortions.

IUDS

The stuff of conservative nightmares right here.

It is important to note that Hobby Lobby does not want to exclude all forms of contraceptives from their employees coverage. Rather they objected to the “after-morning pill” and two types of IUDs. Again, they did this because they believe these options cause abortions because they believe life begins at fertilization. However, other companies do want to exclude all forms of contraceptives from their health care plans. This case might give them legal precedence to do so.

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From PlannedParenthood.org

Here’s the thing though: these two treatments work in almost the exact same way as regular oral contraceptives do. Regular birth control pills (commonly called The Pill) work by either preventing the eggs from leaving the ovaries or by thickening the cervical mucus so sperm can’t reach the egg. IUDs and the morning-after-pill work in the same way. The exact way depends on the type of treatment you receive. Some IUDs prevent pregnancy in the same way The Pill does: with hormones that prevent the egg from ever leaving the ovary or by thickening the cervical mucus. Others affect how the sperm moves within the body to prevent them from reaching the eggs. The morning-after-pills help delay the release of an egg so there is nothing to fertilize.

NONE of these treatments directly cause abortions. An abortion is defined as a “deliberate termination of a pregnancy”. According to that definition and what I’ve outlined above none of these treatments are causing abortions because they prevent pregnancy from ever happening. There are dozens of studies and years of research to back up these facts. If you walk into any Planned Parenthood clinic a team of trained medical staff will be happy to discuss all of these particulars to you. 

You can read more about contraceptives of all kinds at PlannedParenthood.org

Or if you think PP is too “left-wing” for you feel free to peruse the WebMD articles about The Pill, IUDs, and the morning-after-pill.

So here’s the thing about the Hobby Lobby ruling. Despite the sound medical science behind these drugs the owners of the company continue to believe (despite mounting evidence to the contrary) that these drugs cause abortions. Not that they may lead to a miscarriage or medical complications that might lead to a necessary medical abortion but that they are the direct cause of abortions. That’s simply not a fact and with less than five minutes of research you can disprove it.

Many people I’ve talked to about this issue have said “Well that’s their opinion. They’re entitled to it.”

face palm

See that’s the tricky thing about opinions. Yes we live in America and I can go on a street corner and spout off my opinion that the sky is blue because we live inside the eye of a blue eyed giant (Oh Game of Thrones I miss you so). But no matter how hard I might believe in that opinion it simply isn’t true. There is a hard scientific reason why the sky is blue and the grass is green. Just because your opinion is something different does not make it true. In fact the definition of “opinion” is: a view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge. So just by the basic definition of the word we can already see the fault logic behind the above statement.

Further along that line of thinking why should one person’s (or even several people’s) opinion be what decides the coverage for their employees? HobbyLobbyClinicI don’t get opinions from my boss and then go to my doctor to ask for what my boss recommended on his/her personal beliefs or experiences. I go to my trained doctor who has medical knowledge beyond mine and ask their opinion on what would be best for me.

In addition to the Hobby Lobby case there are many other cases awaiting decisions for similar situations. Some companies don’t want to cover birth control in any form because they (wrongly) believe it ends unborn life. Some doctors and pharmacists are refusing to write or fill prescriptions based on their personal beliefs.

YouCantDenyWomenRights

What he said.

I don’t go to the doctor to hear their personal beliefs about birth control, abortion, when life begins, emergency contraceptives, or any other type of treatment. I go to them because they have gone to medical school in order to learn about all the options available to me as a human being. I honestly don’t care if my doctor has a religious or moral conviction that drives him not to prescribe certain forms of contraceptives. Unless that conviction can be backed up by sound and generally accepted medical science it is not relevant to what I believe and what my health care needs might be. If that is their conviction perhaps they should consider another line of work.

All the women in my family take birth control. Even my younger sisters have to. Yes they have to. Why? Because otherwise we have terrible debilitating cramps that leave us unable to function in our normal day to day life. My grandmother had to hospitalized from the amount of blood she would lose during her period and have transfusions to replace the lost blood. Without birth control we could not have led normal, healthy lives and the idea that a doctor would deny us that right boils my blood.

Finally the members of the court who voted for the decision (all the women voted against it interestingly enough) suggested that perhaps the government find a way to compensate these women who might have a legitimate medical need to have these specific types of treatments. Supreme_Court_US_2010This is the most round about way of doing things especially considering how frothy the Republican party got over the idea of the government paying for any form of contraceptives in the past. Remember Rush Limbaugh’s rant about sluts and birth control in 2012? The young woman he called a “slut” and a “prostitute” was Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown student who stood before Congress to advocate for coverage of birth control in religious institutions. And yet the conservative party ate it up.

On the other side of the spectrum has any doctor or pharmacist asked a man whether or not he plans on using the Viagra he purchased (which insurance can often cover with no problem) for having an affair? ViagraOf course not. Because men can be trusted to make medical decisions about their health and no one, not the government, the church, or anyone else, thinks to question them.

The bottom line is that over 90% of sexually active women use some form of contraception in their lifetime. That might include anything from condoms to the-morning-after-pill. We represent 50% (give or take) of the population of the entire country and yet American society still feels the need to ‘protect’ women from the ‘dangers’ of certain health care products as if we are not capable of making out own medical decisions about our bodies. Regardless of what her employers, parents, friends, or anyone else thinks, every woman should have access to information that is accepted by the medical community at large and the right to access treatments decided on between herself and her doctor. 

Pro Choice

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Women today

So there’s a lot of stuff to talk about from the months of June and July. I’ve been trying to wrap my head around one thing and then another comes hurtling down. So let’s recap for a moment:

Women have been in the news a lot lately. That is if you’ve been paying attention.

In June the Supreme Court repealed the “buffer zone” around abortion clinics claiming it violated the free speech rights of the “sidewalk counselors” better known as protestors. This has already resulted in more “no-shows” as women fear they will be harassed for entering the clinics by these supposed “counselors”.

Imagine if this was what greeted you outside your doctor's office.

Protestors gather outside the (now defunct) buffer zone.

Many organizations purport themselves as an “educational resource” for women who want to have an abortion but many of these clinics tell us that these protestors do much more harm than good to women who may already be struggling with one of the most difficult decisions they may ever make. Already some of these “counselors” are following patients to the doors of clinics, attempting to change their mind about the procedure.

The now infamous Hobby Lobby ruling has made it possible for certain “closely held companies”, which applies to many more than one might think, to deny women access to specific types of birth control (mainly emergency contraceptives) based on their religious beliefs (whether or not they’re scientifically true is a moot point). Women around the country were angered by the infringement on their ability to have coverage for basic contraceptive treatments and there are multiple companies following suit with Hobby Lobby.

In Texas on July 10th a man shot and killed six members of his family and critically injured his niece because he was looking for his estranged ex-wife. His wife has a protective order against him and he had been charged with simple assault but none of these things stopped him from obtaining guns and seeking to harm family members in an attempt to kill his wife. The 15-year old victim who survived was able to call 911 and prevent him from shooting other family members. He was eventually arrested and is awaiting trail.Screen Shot 2014-07-12 at 12.26.50 PM The incident has sparked conversation about gun laws in relation to protective orders and convicted stalkers as well as how to redefine relationships in a society that is getting married less and less.

And now according to a recent study psychologists have discovered why “promiscuous” women are looked down on by society: because they’re viewed as financial dependent on the men in their lives. This is a common belief despite the fact that more women than ever make more money than their husbands and are more educated. (This is not the majority but it is a sign of progress). Why is this such a common belief when there is evidence all around us that refutes these stereotypes? Because news programs like Fox continue to talk about the “problems” that female breadwinners present to our society.Screen Shot 2014-07-12 at 12.25.38 PM They run segments on how to keep your husband happy and Bill O’Reilly blathered on about how Beyonce was not setting a good example for young children (despite the fact that she’s happily married and was before she had her first child unlike hundreds of other celebs).

Oh and remember Todd Akin and his “legitimate rape” comments back in 2013?

Todd Akin Well he’s back and apparently he’s not sorry about them because it led to a “misinterpretation” of what he said. In case you were on the moon when this happened in 2012 Akin, who was running for Senate, said that: “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Now Akin is saying that he stands by his statements but is clarifying them further saying that he is talking about a “legitimate rape” in the sense that the claim is based on evidence and is not being used to “avoid an unwanted pregnancy”. So basically he is saying that some women claim rape so they don’t have to face the shame that they got pregnant on accident but if it is a “legitimate” rape the stress but on the fertilization system will prevent pregnancy. Thankfully this man was not elected in the 2012 Senate race.

These are just some of the things that are facing women every time they turn on the news. We see our right to birth control being taken away, our autonomy as people being doubted by a major news network, men who stalk and assault us are able to get through legal loopholes that still allow them to own guns, and people who are supposed to represent us in the governing body have absolutely no idea what rape is and what it does to a person. I’ll be doing individual blog posts this week about each of these issues so hold tight and keep reading.

This Week

This last week of May has been an incredibly depressing one. Last Saturday, May 23rd 2014, a man filled with hate against the women who supposedly scorned him shot and killed six people. He terrorized a college community not unlike my own. He left behind a manifesto detailing his rage against women and how he was going to “kill all the blonde sluts”.

Many news outlets are saying this young man was ‘incredibly mentally disturbed’. That may or may not be true. But the fact is that he might not have been as mentally ill as we’d like to believe. I understand that many people don’t want to accept that this sort of thing can be perpetrated by someone who is ‘normal’. Only someone who isn’t themselves would go out and shoot randomly into a crowd of students walking down the street.

The vehicle of the alleged shooter is pictured at one of the crime scenes after a series of drive-by shootings in the Isla Vista section of Santa Barbara

But the terrifying reality that no one wants to admit is that this young man believed, truly 100% believed, that his misery was due to the fact that women would not have sex with him. He believed that somehow women owed him, that they were responsible both for his misery and also for relieving it.

Many prominent writers and journalists have written about the shooting. There have been calls to reevaluate gun rights and mental health issues, those are all well and good. Those are things that most certainly need to be addressed in our society as mass shootings become more and more common. But there are other underlying factors that are being ignored.

Women were the target for this shooter. Yes, men were wounded and they died and the loss of any human life is a tragedy. I do not wish to discredit the lives of men but it is imperative that the public recognize that this man was out to hurt women specifically. And our society did nothing but urge him on.

The shooter was involved in groups known as Men’s Rights Activism (MRA) which is a group of people who, instead of focusing on real issues that affect men around the world, blames women and feminism for any perceived slight against the male gender. What the MRAs tend to forget and gloss over is that men have been the dominating gender for the entire course of history and it’s only been within the last few hundred years (in America at least) that women have had autonomy at all.

If only it were that simple...

If only it were that simple…

The worst part about the MRAs is that there are men’s issues that are very important to women, even feminists! (Shocking I know!) The way men are treated in custody hearings, the fact that male rape is severely underreported, the wording in laws that sometimes makes it impossible to charge a woman with rape against a man, prostate cancer rates are up, men are victims of domestic abuse as well as women, men suffer from eating disorders that aren’t reported, and so on. These issues are important and our society doesn’t want to talk about them. But neither do the MRAs, they’re too busy blaming feminists and women alike for their “woes” that they can’t get laid.

The one Urban Dictionary entry I agree with

The one Urban Dictionary entry I agree with

One of my favorite authors, Chuck Wendig, blogged about the issue in a piece called “Not All Men But Still Way Too Many Men“. This piece is thoughtful and well written but many readers jumped down to the comments section and (assumedly ignoring the name of the author as well as the photos of him on the site) concluded the Chuck was in fact a woman. The comments on that article and his follow up “Burning the MRA playbook or #YesAllMRAs” were closed due to the fact that many MRAs decided it was a perfect place to intimidate Chuck (who again they believed to be a woman). There was name-calling, insults, and just general hate. These are not people who care about the equality of all humanity as they claim. They are bullies spewing hate across the Internet.

The most dangerous thing we can do is ignore these people. I’ve had many conversations with men whose knee jerk reaction to my explanation is “Well I’m not like that and the men I know aren’t like that. It’s just ignorant people being ignorant.”

NO.

These people are more widespread than you could ever imagine and some of the most prominent people in our society feel like way towards women. How else can you explain the fact that almost every female friend I know has been assaulted either sexually or verbally? How else do you explain men honking and yelling at me from cars while I walk to work in broad daylight? These things are connected and our society is building towards a breaking point. If you truly feel that you are not like this man then stand up and add your voice behind ours. We don’t need you to speak for us, we need you to speak with us.

Have a conversation with any woman in your life and ask her what it’s like to walk home alone at night. Listen and understand that her experience will mirror millions of other experiences all across the globe.

Understand that I hesitate to write this blog and leave the comments sections open for fear of harassment or rape threats.

Understand that I hesitate because I wonder what a future employer might think of my ‘radical’ views.

Understand that I have to consider that someone might be able to find me because of the information I have on this blog and hurt me.

The point of this post and others like it is to point out that a horrible tragedy happened. A young man felt women owed him something and when he didn’t get it he went out and murdered people. But more specifically he targeted women in his manifesto and videos. The conversation around this event must include the hatred this person held for women simply because none of them wanted to have sex with him just as it must discuss gun control and mental health awareness. There were signs that were missed by a wealth of professionals and this was a young man who had every resource available to him.

Women responded to this event by creating the #YesAllWomen hashtag as a way to vent their frustration with the violence we experience on a daily basis. I suggest anyone who reads this article goes and looks at the overwhelming amount of evidence that men (not all men but still TOO MANY MEN) do not see women as their equals or even as people in many cases. We are more than your girlfriends, your wives, your sisters, your daughters, your neighbors. We are people and our voices matter.

Writers on the BIG SCREEN

Game-of-Thrones-HBO-

For the past three years fans of HBO’s wildly popular series Game of Thrones has dominated television ratings and social media. It’s become one of the most popular shows on television with an average of 11.6 million people watching every show, even reruns!

The show is based off the series A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin who is also heavily involved in the process of creating the show itself. The series was published in 1996 and as of now contains five books. Because of the success of the HBO show the book series has become more and more popular in the past few years with old and new fans alike. In addition to the five book Martin has also published companion books such as a cookbook, a map for the extensive universe, and even a graphic novel.

avengersRecently there has been an explosion of books and comics that have appeared on the big screen. Marvel Studios has raked in over 6 BILLION (yes with a B people) with just six films in nine years. They’ve also started a new show on ABC called Agents of Shield the show has drawn in fans from the films and comics and has done an excellent job of utilizing social media to spur on more interest. They are currently in talks with Netflix for shows as well. The best part about the Marvel franchise is that all the films and shows are interconnected. Nothing happens in one films that doesn’t happen in affect something else.

In the DC universe Batman and Wonder Woman are suspected to be joining the next film in the new Superman line up (possibly the start of a Justice League America franchise?). Spider-Man recently got a reboot, X-Men Days of Future Past comes out this summer, and Fox is considering a reboot of the Fantastic Four. Phew!

On top of that The Hunger Games, The Twilight Saga, and Harry Potter are other books that made an enormous splash in theaters and have rekindled interest in the YA genre across a huge amount of age groups.

Obviously there’s a trend here. Wondering what other writers have made it to the big screen?

gone girl cover

Gillian Flynn published her book Gone Girl in January of 2012. The movie version will be released October 3rd of 2014. The film is being directed by David Fincher who has directed films like Fight Club, Se7enGirl With the Dragon Tattoo and many, many more. 

Flynn not only wrote the book though, she’s also writing the screenplay for the film which will star Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike. There have been rumors that the ending of the story will be changed but Flynn assured her fans in an AMA on Reddit that the ending wouldn’t stray too far from the book. Here’s a TIME article if you don’t have time to scroll through the whole AMA.

I LOVED the book and I’m so pumped to see what Flynn can do on the big screen this October.

Flynn’s other book Dark Places is also being turned into a movie. Seriously, she’s amazing and I’m so excited to see a female author get so much attention and have so much control over her projects.

I haven’t read this one yet unfortunately but Flynn’s website tells us that the director taking over the project is Gilles Paquet-Brenner who has adapted another internationally acclaimed book Sarah’s Key.

Dark Places is to be released on September 1st of 2014.

Next up? Another HBO show.

true detectiveTrue Detective premiered January 2014, ran for 8 episodes, and has been nominated for an Emmy. It traces the journey of two Louisiana detectives, played masterfully by Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey. These two mismatched men hunt a serial killer for over seventeen years.

While this show was not originally a book it was written by Nic Pizzolatto who is a novelist and a professor at several universities including DePauw University and the University of Chicago.

True Detective was HBO’s most watched ‘freshman’ series ever, meaning that it broke record for it’s viewership in it’s first season. The show averaged 11.9 million views per episode. The first season’s story has drawn to a close and there is much speculation about who will be cast for the next season and what topics it will cover. There is a lot of clamor for HBO to run a strong female detective or possible two after their success with two men.

Watch the trailer here and the amazing credit sequence here.

Writers aren’t just in the literary world. They’re spreading out into the worlds of television and film to amazing critical success. Personally I find films and television shows written by traditional novelists and authors to have more depth both in their premises and their characters. It’s a fresh trend that I’m very excited to see continue.

 

Outsider Looking In – Trigger Warnings and Art

This week one of my professors asked her students about trigger warnings (often referred to as TW or triggers).

TW

Was ist das?

We discussed what they are, how they affect people, and what place they might have in both an academic and artistic setting. Before this discussion started I read this blog post by Sarah Hollowell (@SarahHollowell on Twitter) about abusive relationships in YA fiction, specifically the Twilight series. She starts a great conversation about normalized violence and gender dynamics in 50 Shade of Grey as well.

These discussions got a lot of wheels turning in my head. This is a conversation that I am incredibly passionate about and I want to participate. But I find myself struggling to find the right way to do so.

When it comes to talking about these issues and so many others I am very much an outsider. I’ve never been assaulted but 1 in 5 women in the United States alone have and 1 in 79 men have as well (that number is estimated to be a lot higher because of under reporting). And those are just the people who have reported their assaults or have been able to articulate exactly what happened to them. When we start looking closer at the data we do have available it becomes stomach churning. Almost 50% of victims are assaulted before the age of 18. The CDC has a good compilation of these stats here if anyone needs some solid information on this issue.

Given these statistics it seems safe to assume that there are a vast number of people who I interact with on a daily basis who have experienced some sort of sexual assault.

So is there a way to help people who have gone through a traumatic experience, whether is be sexual assault, war, suicide attempts, etc. to avoid things that might trigger painful flashbacks?

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(Please be reminded, I’m talking about triggers that deal with sexual assault or war trauma. I don’t think trigger warnings are necessary for insects and bodily fluids in an academic setting. Maybe the internet where those conversations might be more common but not the classroom.)

Trigger warnings are defined as something (usually a brief sentence or two) this is used to warn people there will be content that might ‘trigger’ them. They can also be abbreviated as ‘TW’ as I did at the beginning of this post.

So what goes it mean when someone is ‘triggered’?

Usually it means they feel intense anxiety at the least and can have full blown flashbacks very much like war veterans with PTSD have.

However, people who have been through a sexual assault are not likely to recieve the same treatment as a verteran might. This has a lot to do with how victims of assault are percieved by our society (often referred to as rape culture, a whole other can of worms).

These experiences are different for everyone and things that are not necessarily related to the traumatic event can still be triggers: songs, movies, actions taken by other people, phrases, and so on.

While discussing this issue with my professor we spoke of it in an artistic context. Should artists be limited by triggers? Should they preface works with possible triggers with warnings? How do we determine what a trigger is since it can be so many different things?

First of all I have never and never will advocate for censorship.censorship

Censoring the material won’t change anything. It never has and it never will.

I do believe that there are some general things we can, as a community of artists and like-minded people, agree are upsetting to people who have been through these kinds of traumatic events. These might include scenes portraying rape, assault, molestation, etc. Very general things that can easily be given a warning and it doesn’t have to be in big bold letters.

My teacher brought up the fact that she had taught Towelhead by Alicia Erian.

towelhead

The book contained issues that might have been triggering for some people. A student pointed out that the synopsis of the book provided information about the sexual content of the book. It is subtle but most assuredly there when you are aware of what you’re looking for. For example here is part of the synopsis:

“Bewildered by extremes of parental scrutiny and neglect, Jasira begins to look elsewhere for affection. Saddam Hussein has invaded Kuwait, and high school has become a lonely place for a “towelhead.” When her father meets, and forbids her to see, her boyfriend, it becomes lonelier still. But there is always Mr. Vuoso — a neighboring army reservist whose son Jasira babysits. Mr. Vuoso, as Jasira discovers, has an extensive collection of Playboy magazines. And he doesn’t seem to think there’s anything wrong with Jasira’s body at all.

Those last three sentences quickly give the reader a sense of what might happen between Jasira and Mr. Vuso. For many people this is enough to allow them to decide whether or not they wish to continue to read the book. It isn’t obtrusive and it fits with the nature of books.

I also considered how this issue is handled in documentaries. A brief message will roll across the screen saying something to the effect of: “This film contains material that some viewers might find disturbing.” Again, by reading the synopsis of the film or by hearing/seeing this message a person can be prepared for what they might see and then make a choice about whether or not they want to continue.

Things begin to get murky when we talk about live readings, performances, viewings, etc.

This conversation began as my professor giving the example of a writer who gave a reading and was then approached by some of the audience members who tried to inform him about triggers and suggest that he should warn the audience.

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 2.59.34 PM

His reaction was less than stellar. It doesn’t sound like these people who approached him were trying to be rude or say that they wanted him to not talk about these things. While I can see some of his point this type of very angry reaction is simply not productive.

Artists shouldn’t be limited in what they want to talk about. But I don’t think this is about limitations. It would take only a few words to warn your audience that the content might be disturbing and those who might find it upsetting can leave quietly or be prepared and know what to expect.

Again, I am an outsider looking in on this issue. I’ve never experienced the trauma that comes with being triggered so I can’t speak from that perspective. But I have, regrettably and unfortunately, caused someone very close to me to be triggered.

A few months ago I retweeted several tweets about rape culture and what that looks like in women’s daily lives. I felt that these were things that needed to be seen and deserved discussion. What I didn’t realize is that these tweets were very upsetting for someone close to me who has experienced stalking and assault. Later in the day they told me about the trigger and asked that in the future I would preface that type of material with a warning so they would be prepared to see it on their feed and then make the decision to scroll past if they needed to.

I was mortified. My attempt at a good action, spreading awareness about rape culture, had brought back memories of a horrible experience. Was I at fault for this? Did I do a bad thing?

There is a fine line to walk when you’re an outsider looking in at these issues. They are incredibly personal and a lot of them are difficult to talk about. Everyone deals with them differently.

Because of that experience I try my hardest to be aware of triggering material.

I know some people will say that trigger warnings are another way of ‘babying’ society and shielding people from the harsh truth of the world. I will give you an analogy I got from this Tumblr post:

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 4.49.37 PM

A trigger is like an allergy. We have regulations all over the country on how to package food so that people don’t eat things that can hurt them. People with allergies can’t help this reaction and they can’t overcome it by sheer willpower. In some cases a trained health care professional might help the person introduce the allergen into their body so their body can learn how to deal with the stimulant but you can’t simply throw someone with a severe peanut allergy into a peanut factory and tell them to ‘just ignore it‘.

A trigger is a psychological, and sometimes physiological, event. Certain individuals will handle that event differently and some of them might be able to work on their reactions with the help of a counselor but in the meantime shouldn’t we help the often invisible individuals all around us who might struggle with this issue?

These issues are complicated and multi faceted. I don’t think I have all the answers and I don’t think Trigger Warnings are the perfect answer. But in the day and age of the Internet they help serve as a buffer for those who need it.

Please feel free to comment on this post and share it wherever a professor or teacher might see it. I want this to be a part of a conversation that includes everyone in the academic world. That can’t happen if the profs are in one corner and the students are in another only talking to each other. We have to work together to come to an understanding about this issue and many others.