Monday, March 28, 2011

From Florida Action for Planned Parenthood

Last week was a good week for women at UCF. Take Back the Night was a success - the biggest NOW has seen yet on campus! More coverage and opinions on Take Back the Night will be on the blog later this week. Voices of Planned Parenthood (VOX) also hosted their sixth annual Let's Talk About Sex benefit at Paradise Club in downtown Orlando, with the usual sex toy giveaways and irreverent ring-toss games. (I haven't heard official numbers yet but it was a success in my opinion.)

Not so great for women (and everyone, really) this week, though, are the anti-choice bills that are floating around. From an email from the Florida Action for Planned Parenthood:
"Today and tomorrow, legislators in the House and Senate will be voting on three egregious anti-choice bills, and we need your help to tell members to OPPOSE these bills!

In the Senate, members of the Health Regulation committee will hear SB 1748, legislation that would create obstacles and burdens for abortion providers and deny women access to a legal health procedure. If passed, this bill will result in the closing of abortion clinics in Florida. Senators will also hear SB 1744, legislation that would force a woman to undergo an ultrasound prior to an abortion even when it is not medically appropriate or is against the professional judgment of her physician.

Tell Senators to Oppose SB 1748 an SB 1744.
Members of the House Health and Human Services Quality Subcommittee will hear HB 321 – Nebraska style copy-cat legislation that would ban abortion in Florida after 20 weeks. The decision to obtain an abortion after 20 weeks is often made in rare and extreme circumstances. The proposed legislation would take away the opportunity for women facing medically complex pregnancies to make private, personal medical decisions without government interference.

Tell Representatives to OPPOSE HB 321.

We need your help to tell members in both the House and the Senate to oppose legislation that's dangerous to women's health and does nothing to prevent unintended pregnancy. Legislators need to stop their relentless attack on women. Tell members to OPPOSE HB 321 and SB 1744 and SB 1748."

Take a minute to sign the petitions against these bills- it's quick and easy. It may be a small action to stop these anti-choice bills that are distracting from bigger problems that need addressing, but every bit helps.

Let's live these moments every day - we should have more than one day a year devoted to talking about violence, proper sex education, and reproductive rights.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bullied in the age of the internet

I have found in most of my circles - social work, gender studies classrooms, feminist relationships with friends and partners, family time, and even in casual work relationships - that when we think we're over something or we've talked it to death, we have really only scratched the surface. Because we are asking the wrong questions.

One of the problems- or advantages?- of working with social media and the internet is that it keeps changing and evolving. Sometimes for the better, sometimes not. In the last few weeks while thinking about this piece I found myself thinking that cyber bullying perhaps isn't relevant, or anything that I can say would be repetitive. But the problem persists, so the discourse must also persist. When the act of a young person taking his or her own life becomes fodder for jokes under the guise of anonymity and lack of consequences, we must ask ourselves what this bit of "freedom" costs us. And more importantly, where does this anger and hatefulness come from?

 A quick Google news search of "cyber bullies" or "internet + suicide" yields a depressing number of shocking results. The incidences of self-harm as a result of internet bullying or intimidating are becoming public knowledge, and in many cases, it only seems to incite the ones bullying more. In the case of Natasha MacBryde's tragic death, many of her peers were still posting offensive remarks onto her memorial page. Other family members have been sent pictures of their deceased's bodies. The tales go on and on. The "why" is hotly debated. Is the internet responsible for the lack of empathy young people are showing, or is it just a symptom of something bigger? Is this anti-empathetic mindset something that has existed for generations but is exposed now that there is a virtually consequence-free venue to make these remarks?

I am inclined to think that the internet didn't magically create these monstrous occurrences. In the case of the white male patriarchy of the United States, our past is a bloody and entitled one. This total lack of connection and empathy between peoples in the same communities isn't a new problem (look at the treatment of any marginalized group, anywhere), and it is my opinion that learning to moderate comments on internet discussions and teaching etiquette isn't going to be any sort of long-lasting answer. Finding a more permanent solution, however, could have far-reaching benefits for everyone.

Instead, let's open the discussion. How do we teach empathy? Is it something teachable at all? Perhaps simply education is the answer.

I had been sitting on this piece for a few days when the White House held a conference about bullying, in which the President and First Lady offer some answers but mostly open up the discussion and start the problem-solving process. If nothing they said was groundbreaking, it was still good to see the White House taking some time for the youth of the country when there are so many other hot-button issues being discussed right now.

 Watch here:

Both our President and the First lady speak about engagement with young people, speaking up, and taking action, when it comes to bullying. What pleased me the most, however, was their insistence that adults take responsibility for what is going on. Whether we know why it's happening or we don't, whether it's worse or better than when we were all children, these cases that result in the deaths of young people are not just "kids being kids," and that is a cop out. Good on the our leaders for calling that out. Like they said, we've got a lot of work to do.