Gender & Sexuality

What Does an Abortionist Look Like?

(AP Photo/Richmond Times-Dispatch, Joe Mahoney)
She’s a single, unemployed mother with three children who finds out that she’s pregnant—just after the father has been sent to prison. She says she is distraught at the idea of hurting her kids by adding another child to the family, giving each of them less money, time, and attention, dragging them further into poverty. But she lives in rural southeastern Idaho, a two-and-a-half-hour drive from the nearest clinic in Salt Lake City—and getting an abortion would require two round trips there, because of the mandatory waiting period. So she takes RU-486, ordered online, self-supervised. She freaks out at the fetus’s size, stashes it on her back porch, tells a friend, and gets reported to the police. And, is promptly arrested for inducing her own abortion. To put it mildly, Jennie Linn McCormack doesn’t sound like the world’s most responsible person—except that she apparently had the good sense to realize she was not going to be a good parent to another child. I haven’t interviewed her...

Was Adrienne Rich Anti-Trans?

By failing to acknowledge the late author's views on womanhood, feminists risk writing trans people out of the movement.

(Flickr/PhotoComiX)
In the last few weeks, many obituaries have praised the revolutionary poet and feminist theorist Adrienne Rich. While these homages are well deserved, what has been largely ignored in considering the legacy of Rich is her history of transphobia. With the exception of a small group of critics, Rich’s ideas about trans identity—and trans women in particular—have gone unscrutinized. It’s indicative of the larger inability within the feminist movement to recognize trans voices. Rich was a tremendous supporter of Janice G. Raymond, author of The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male . Raymond even cites Rich in a viciously transphobic chapter, “Sappho by Surgery,” in which Raymond argues that biological sex is the same as gender ( i.e. , if someone is born with female body parts, they are always a woman). Raymond also suggests that men who go through sex-reassignment surgery are not real women but deviant men who use female bodies to enter female spaces. As a result, they are...

November Dreaming

(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
I’ve been noticing that, since January, the Obama administration has kicked up its attentions to the LGBT communities, announcing one small regulatory change or conference after another. But they’re not delivering the bigger changes that LGBT groups have been agitating for. I’ve been assuming that the goal is to boost turnout in November. Will it work? What kind of small change am I talking about? Well, there’s the White House LGBT conference series. HHS, DOJ, HUD, even the CIA—they’re all putting on some show or other. March saw a Detroit conference on LGBT housing and homelessness , where HUD Secretary Donovan announced new nondiscrimination rules for public housing and mortgage financing, on both sexual orientation or gender identity. No kicking you out of the projects or your Section 8 apartment because you turn out to be queer; no refusing to give you a mortgage because your birth sex is still visible while you’re transitioning. All good news. And soon, the White House will hold...

Approaching Peak Bitch on Television

TV is overrun with unflattering portrayals of women—where's the uproar?

AP Photo
The new TV series GCB —originally titled Good Christian Bitches after the book of the same name—premiered last month on ABC. Don’t Trust the B–– in Apt. 23 will premiere on the same network April 11. Can you imagine a network using “the N word” in a show title? Don’t trust the N-word in Apt. 23 . That won’t happen, but between 1998 and 2007, the use of the word “bitch,” on television tripled , from 431 uses on 103 prime-time episodes in 1998 to 1, 277 uses on 685 shows in 2007. I don’t have the figures for 2012, but I’d be willing to bet that this latest development means our culture is even more comfortable with the term. If you’re about to tell me that bitch is a power term, take a look at what Merriam Webster has to say about it. Definition of BITCH 1 : the female of the dog or some other carnivorous mammals 2 a : a lewd or immoral woman b : a malicious, spiteful, or overbearing woman —sometimes used as a generalized term of abuse 3 : something that is extremely difficult,...

Romney Tries to Master His Problem With Women

(Flickr/Shannon Hurst Lane)
A minor kerfuffle emerged among the political chattering class yesterday over RNC Chairman Reince Priebus' statement that the allegations that his party is waging a war on women were as fictitious as a war on caterpillars. Democrats blasted out press releases, falsely indicating that Priebus had equated women's issues with insect issues, misconstruing an awkward metaphor. Yet the substance of what Priebus claimed was objectionable. The GOP's war on women didn't just spring from liberals' imaginations. It developed when the party decided to turn reproductive rights into a contentious issue, proposing bills in Congress that would have allowed any employer to refrain from providing women with birth control, Mitt Romney declaring his intention to ruin Planned Parenthood, and the tepid response to Rush Limbaugh's offensive descriptions of Sandra Fluke. That disdain for women has been born out in polls; Romney, for example, now trails Obama by 18 percent among women. I might be reading too...

You're Gonna Make It After All

The 20th century's most important hat toss.
The first grownup television show I can remember watching as a wee pup in the 1970s was the Mary Tyler Moore Show, which was a favorite of my mother's (and millions of other women's). It was pretty revolutionary for its time, a show built around a single working woman who was uncertain of herself and vulnerable (and the victim of constant casual sexism), but also smart, competent, and determined to be successful in a world ruled by men. It made Moore probably the central cultural icon of the feminist movement's key period. The show ended its run in 1977, but it was no surprise when Jimmy Carter's re-election campaign in 1980 recruited Moore to encourage women to vote for Carter. Here's the ad she did: If Moore was the central cultural feminist icon of the 1970s, the central political/activist icon was Gloria Steinem, who is still going strong 40 years after she co-founded Ms. magazine. And she's now doing ads for Barack Obama. As Ari Melber observed , the Obama campaign on YouTube is...

Even More Dems Support Marriage Equality

(Flickr/Center for American Progress)
By this point, support for same-sex marriage isn't much of a question in Democratic politics. A Gallup poll from last May found that 69 percent of Democrats support marriage equality, a number that has probably only increased over the intervening year. Some of the hotshot young Democrats eying 2016—most notably Governors Andrew Cuomo and Martin O'Malley—have passed same-sex marriage bills in their states and tout them as major accomplishments. Now, a collection of former Democratic National Committee chairs has endorsed adding support for same-sex marriage to the party's platform. Per Huffington Post : "We are proud that the Democratic Party fights for working families, economic justice, and equal opportunity for all," said Howard Dean, Donald Fowler, Steve Grossman and David Wilhelm in a joint statement. "Times change but our principles must always remain strong. That is why, as former chairs of the Democratic National Committee, we stand with Freedom to Marry, 22 Democratic senators...

Don't Blame the National Organization for Marriage

The group's race-baiting tactics only work if the gay and African American communities let them.

(Flickr/ Lost Albatross)
In case anyone thought the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) was around to promote racial harmony, unsealed strategy memos, recently released as part of a court case, show that this is the last thing on the group's mind. Since 2009, NOM has tried to "drive a wedge between gays and blacks" by publicizing prominent black leaders' opposition to marriage equality and goading members of the gay community into denouncing them as "bigots." NOM also sought to "interrupt this process of assimilation by making support for marriage a key badge of Latino identity" and "identify glamorous young Latino and Latina leaders, especially artists, actors, musicians, athletes, writers and other celebrities willing to stand for marriage." The goal: to incite resentment between key Democratic constituencies in order to make supporting marriage equality toxic for politicians. For any political organization, having the cold political calculus of its leaders exposed is unseemly, and many gay-rights...

In New York, a Bipartisan Call for Reproductive Rights

(Flickr/M. Markus)
A few weeks ago, Teresa Sayward did the unthinkable. The New York state Republican assembly woman told a state news program that she'd consider voting for Obama. "I really, truly think that the candidates that are out there today for the Republican side would take women back decades," she said on Capitol Tonight. Apparently, she's not the only one worried about her party's direction on women's health. A new story from North Country Public Radio highlights Sayward and fellow Republican Janet Duprey, who are both supporting the Reproductive Health Act, which would codify access to abortion and contraception. Sayward is one of the co-sponsors. In the segment, Duprey spoke out about her own commitment to women's health. She noted her own adolescence in the early '60s, when women and girls had few options. "We can never return to that era," she told the radio station. "We absolutely cannot." As the Prospect 's Jamelle Bouie noted Monday, the GOP's efforts to restrict access to...

How Much Longer Until I’m Equal?

(Flickr/Zolk)
Is there an LGBT legal organization that hasn’t filed a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act? Yesterday, Immigration Equality got on the bus , with a lawsuit challenging DOMA’s Section 3 (which bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages) because it prevents American citizens from sponsoring their same-sex spouses for green cards. When my cousin Laura married a Dutchman, Erik, in a beautiful ceremony at the UN, no one worried that they wouldn’t be able to live together here; of course she’d be able to get him a visa to stay, even if he lost his job. But had she married a Dutch woman, Erika, the visa application would be rejected on its face—even though, in both New York and the Netherlands, the marriage was equally valid. That distinction is what the IE lawsuit is challenging. The New York Times has some nice coverage of the details. Not being able to live in the same country as your beloved spouse: that’s a large and painful cost. (Here’s the cost of DOMA to...

Judging With Double Standards

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Sonia Sotomayor and Samuel Alito had virtually identical formal credentials—Princeton undergrads, Yale Law School, long careers on the federal bench. But Alito was treated with great deference by the press, and even opponents of his nomination based their arguments on his consistently reactionary judicial philosophy rather than suggesting that he wasn't "qualified." Sotomayor, conversely, was subject to repeated arguments that she lacked the intellectual abilities to serve on the Supreme Court. In a particular low point, immediately before Sotomayor's nomination The New Republic 's Jeffrey Rosen published a disgraceful article full of anonymous critics engaging in sexist attacks on Sotomayor that can't even be called "veiled"—aggressive questioning that would be considered charming if it came from Antonin Scalia showed that she didn't have the appropriate temperament, that the distinguished Yale Law-educated jurist lacked the intellect to be on the Supreme Court, etc. Needless to say...

Obama Rallies the Planned Parenthood Troops

(Photo: screenshot from Planned Parenthood video)
Republicans haven't been quite as eager to moralize against contraception after Rush Limbaugh gave voice to their true feelings, but Democrats aren't ready to let their argument that the GOP is waging a war on women slip by the wayside. Mitt Romney, a candidate who rarely seems comfortable when the discussion strays from the economy, is hoping that the issue will become a non-factor once he officially dismisses Rick Santorum and heads to the general election. Barack Obama clearly has a different view. The president issued a new subtle attack yesterday in a video where he directly addresses supporters of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. "For you and for most Americans protecting women's health is a mission that stands above politics," Obama says in the two-minute video. "And yet over the past year you've had to stand up to politicians who want to deny millions of women the care they rely on, and inject themselves into decisions that are best made between a woman and her doctor." The...

Anti-Abortion Measures Die with a Whimper

(Flickr/World Can't Wait)
Women's health and abortion access have dominated state legislatures across the country and, until recently, dominated the headlines as well. But as legislative sessions are wrapping up and final decisions get made, there's been less focus on the issues. Perhaps it's because, in several cases, the bills are dying with whimpers instead of bangs. This week, many of the measures look doomed. Idaho's pre-abortion sonogram bill died Tuesday, with pro-life activists accepting defeat—at least for this year. According to the Spokesman-Review , House State Affairs Chair Tom Loertscher worried that the controversy around the sonogram could threaten the state's other anti-abortion measures. The bill did not have any exemptions for rape or incest and would likely have required invasive, transvaginal sonograms—the kind that got Virginia so much attention. Right to Life of Idaho has said it plans to bring the bill back next year. In Pennsylvania, a similar sonogram measure has stalled after...

Dems Want Obama to Hurry Up His Evolution

(Flickr/mdfriendofhillary)
Like Paul , I'm convinced that any candidate who doesn't support marriage equality will instantly be disqualified as a plausible Democratic presidential nominee following Obama. Acceptance for same-sex marriage is growing rapidly across all ideological divides, and is particularly pronounced among liberals. In an alternative reality where the Democrats had an open primary in 2012, Obama's "evolving" stance on same-sex marriage would no longer pass muster in the Democratic base. Obama's former opponent and current secretary of state Hillary Clinton has already shifted her views , supporting marriage equality when it was up for debate in New York. And just look at the language of the up-and-coming leaders of the Democratic Party. Two of the leading 2016 possibilities—Andrew Cuomo and Martin O'Malley—are governors who staked out legalized marriage equality as their major accomplishment. Now another politician bandied about as a future Democratic leader is attacking Obama's wishy-washy...

GOP Senator Defends Planned Parenthood

(Flickr/JRockefellerIV)
The last time Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison took on Rick Perry, things didn't go so well. Hutchison, among the most popular politicians in the state at the time, was the favorite to win the Republican nomination, and instead Perry rode into the general with overwhelming support. Among Hutchison's key problems—besides simply running a bad campaign—a nagging reputation as a moderate, who was at least somewhat pro-choice and who'd voted for the bank bailout. After the disappointing finish, she later announced she wouldn't run for re-election in the Senate. This may be her last year in politics. And evidently, she's decided that it's no time to back down from her political rival. On MSNBC Thursday morning, the senator openly criticized Perry's decision to defund Planned Parenthood and jeopardize the state's federal funding for the Women's Health Program. "We cannot afford to lose the Medicaid funding for low income women to have health care services," she said. "We cannot." Hutchison...

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