What we talk about when we talk about abortion

The other night I finally had the chance to catch Obvious Child, the new film starring Jenny Slate. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a movie in the theater but I wanted to make sure I saw this one on the big screen–not for aesthetic reasons but for political ones. I want my money to register as part of its box office take.

Obvious Child is the story of Donna, a young, struggling stand-up comedian who after getting dumped by her boyfriend has a bit of a meltdown that results in a drunken hot mess of a stand-up set followed by a drunken hot mess of a hook-up with a guy who happens to be at the club that night (but, perhaps thankfully, didn’t catch her shitstorm set).

What happens next is both routine (routine, that is,  if you’re a 20 or 30-something female) and surprising. A few weeks later she finds out she’s pregnant. Donna is shocked, horrified even, but even as she leans on her best friend for support, she’s also remarkably calm about what will happen next: She’ll get an abortion.  Read More »

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Dear Cosmo: Stalking is creepy

Originally posted to thelanguageeffect.org

Note: A few days ago I wrote into Cosmo.  The intent was not to receive a response any more thorough than the expected generic, “We promise we read this, though we can’t respond to every email in our inbox.”  (I did in fact receive that response.  It was nice.)  The intent was to reach someone at Cosmo who might, *as their future self*, be pulled back to the moment they read the letter and *as their future self* choose a title for an article or a “Tweet We Love” that has just a tad more integrity.  And, incase the email fails in every which way of those intentions…maybe it will do some service here.

Dear Cosmo,

I have the guts to write this largely due to the turn your magazine seems to have taken in the last few years. As referenced on page 22 of your July 2014 issue you have transformed into an increasingly empowering magazine, courageously publishing real stories for strong, creative, beautiful young women. It’s awesome. I feel like you encourage us (I’m a young woman) to speak up and to lead progress for women, so that is what I am doing.

On this same page (22) your first “Tweets We Love” claims, ”It seems like Cosmo has been stalking me. Every article is directly related to my life this exact moment. #Creepy”

Stalking is creepy. For many of the women (and men) who go through it (your readers) hearing language like this used so nonchalantly minimizes the trauma they have and may continue to experience. Stalking is bad enough in itself but it is also often tied to a larger cycle of abuse that can lead to violent or sexual abuse, manipulation, control, etc. Of course, it is often unintentional, but when we use language like “Facebook stalk” or “Cosmo is stalking me” we normalize and become desensitized to stalking – a traumatic, creepy thing that no person should believe is meant to be their or anyone’s norm.  Read More »

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Creating “Safe” Neighborhoods: A reflection on my neighborhood’s private patrol — and what to do with my disapproval

Cross-posted with permission from The White Noise Collective and used in promotion for the upcoming 2nd Annual Night Out for Safety & Democracy, hosted by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland, CA.

Like many Oakland progressives, my political alarm went off last year in response to the trend towards middle income and affluent neighborhoods hiring private security guards. For Oakland at least, the private patrol debate is relatively new, but it raises many familiar concerns about racial profiling and the feeding of racialized fears by misrepresenting the dangers of city life. Here I reflect on my learning from engaging in the patrol debate in my own mostly white, mostly home-owning neighborhood.


Since the hiring of private security strikes me as yet another example of those with class privilege investing precious time and money in methods that disproportionately target black and brown people and contribute to the increased privatization of our lives,  I felt grateful not to be in a neighborhood contemplating a patrol — but soon enough it was my turn. In mid 2013 some people in my area began meeting to plan the hiring of our own security guard.  Read More »

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America’s “The Beautiful”

America’s “The Beautiful”

A poem by: Elsbeth Poe

Closing your eyes
You hear a blonde
With blue eyes
American born and raised
California Valley girl
One nation, “Oh my God!”
Where women are invisible
Without a body deemed pleasant for all

You have no excuse
The sun’s up there to lighten your hair
To darken your skin
“Why are you staying in?”
“Reading Sci-fi? Is that like Twilight?”
A mind full of worlds of fantasy
Where I went to escape this society

When other girls were in bikinis
I was in shorts down to my knees
Hiding thighs I felt ashamed by
Sucking in my belly and chin
Before I reached the age of ten

With numbers jumbling in my head
Given constant reminders
Of how dumb I was then
School meant stress
And tests
All those systems
Based on competition
Made my insides squeeze
Confidence was something foreign
I could not achieve

Words like “ugly” and “stupid”
Inducing tear soaked knees
Or was my hazy brain and pain
From the lack of food in my stomach those days
For years I continued to throw it away
While my girlfriends would eat and eat all day
The same amount was weight I’d gain

“You should go out for dance or swim!”
Full of formfitting uniforms I was made fun of in

Maybe that’s why I have a soft spot
For all our patriotic jiggly kids
Especially round little girls
In a man driven world
Of “achieve and succeed”
Led to believe
The worth of a woman
Only lies in her body
In beautiful eyes
In perfect teeth
And long thick hair
In her physical potentials to make males stare

Comments about my perceived beauty
Never made me feel at ease
Why would people choose only to see
All of the things that do not make me me

In youth
“She’s so cute!”
Then suddenly
You’re a sexual object
From the age of thirteen
“They’re compliments!”
“Say thank you”
To cars that shout
And men that stare
To whistling lips
And grabbing hands
Taking Innocence
With these my widening hips

In patriarchy
The Land of the Free
Has yet to mean equality
My country made it clear to me
Girls and boys don’t start side by side
Sprinting to catch up
Like my bother I wanted a skateboard to ride
Not his face
But his interests
Were how he was defined
While I was told
My mind was of a different size

Still I never stopped running
And managed to find
This hidden word
-To regard as a thing
-Disregarding feelings

This societal demise
Violent crimes on the rise
With women not often the ones taking lives
I almost can’t blame them
When they do as they see
When men are taught they need power
Not regard or empathy

At fourteen
A tall man in leather
Chased me
Kidnap or rape
I was his for the take
Though I managed to flee
That fear cut me deep
And I knew in that moment
Strength was something I’d need

Now as girls we’re taught we’re fragile
But let’s go back again
Back as far as I remember
I longed to roughhouse with men

When I wanted to join the wrestling team
They thought that of course I must be joking
Laughing at the idea of a girl with the desire to do
One more thing
Meant for the boys
“Not you”

To this day when I strike my Rosie posie
Riveting muscles put proudly on display
They chuckle at my love to do push ups each day

“It’s not ladylike to show you have strength”
“It’s not sexy to be a woman who’s strong”
“Muscles on girls look weird and wrong”
“Don’t intimidate men”
“They prefer women thin”

But we all know that’s not how it’s always been.
Just take a look at Marilyn
American curves they used to define beauty and grace
But Hollywood only gave her the role of young blonde with no brains

In the melting pot of the U.S.A.
A melding of women of all shapes and age
A stew that’s consistent of quite the array
But yet there’s just one type of girl on display
And it’s goddamn time that fucking change

America’s the beautiful?
What a stupid form of praise.


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I was a Teenage Anti-Feminist: The Myth of the Neutral Middle Ground in Feminism

I said a lot of shit when I was in my tender years that sounds disturbingly similar to the triumphant bleating of “religious freedom” enthusiasts in the wake of the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby ruling. The phrase, “socially liberal but fiscally conservative” probably featured on my MySpace page for a shameful amount of time. I have a vivid memory of a playground discussion in 8th grade, during which I defended myself to my crush as an anti-feminist because, as I said, I didn’t hate men, I just thought men and women were too different to be truly equal. I was trying to tell him that I loved him more than Nicole, my competition, ever would but the point never came across. I had the sense talked into me by more than a few patient people, but for most of my formative years, I was a teenage anti-feminist.

What is an anti-feminist? Is it the confused 13 year old trying to flirt with a classmate?  Is it the Supreme Court justice who votes against the protection of conception and body autonomy? Is it the abortion clinic picketer trying to save the existence of a cell clump by destroying the safety of the woman harboring it? Is it the nice couple down the street who tut over the morals of young women in short shorts?

The definition of anti-feminist is complex, and there are a lot of people who deserve the label as a result of their action or inaction against women’s rights and the protection thereof. It’s 2014, and anti-feminist should be a slur. It’s 2014, and to be an anti-feminist should be a point of great shame, not pride or religious fervor. It is unacceptable in 2014 to believe that women do not deserve body autonomy and absolute sexual freedom, to believe that women are not capable of or worthy of holding positions of economic, political, and religious power. It is unacceptable in 2014 to believe that men are helpless beasts when they encounter the mere existence of females. It is unacceptable in 2014 to believe that women do not have human rights that are as sacred and inalienable as those of men.  Read More »

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