Gender & Sexuality

Trying to Win Beyond Virginia

I wrote earlier this week that Virginia's mandatory ultrasound law was proving to be highly unpopular. But though many its Republican supporters were clearly spooked by the level of opposition, I didn't think it very likely that Governor Bob McDonnell would withdraw his support. Happily, I was wrong. McDonnell came out against the provision, and it will presumably be deleted from the final legislation.  

The Way the Girl Scout Cookies Crumble

(Flickr/juverna)

Between the Susan G. Komen controversy, the birth control panel, and Virginia's efforts at pre-abortion sonograms and personhood bills, you may have had enough of the culture wars and the fight against women. Well, tough—this week brings yet a new and bizarre episode. Indiana state Representative Bob Morris sent a letter to his colleagues urging them to oppose the resolution celebrating the Girl Scouts' 100th anniversary.

In his letter, leaked to the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, Morris didn't mince words. He writes that the Girl Scouts "promote homosexual lifestyles" and partners with Planned Parenthood: 

It Gets Better on MTV

(Flickr/soundfromwayout)

Has it really been only 17 months since advice columnist and provocateur Dan Savage and his spouse Terry Miller brilliantly launched the It Gets Better Project? As you may know, Savage was disturbed by a rash of gay teen suicides—and about the fact that despite how much progress the LGBT movement has made for gay adults, teenagers just coming out were still as isolated in their own despair, tormented by their peers, and not necessarily supported by friends, family, or school or religious authorities.

Luck Not Be a Lady

You know those odd moments in animated cartoons when a character's head seems to be boiling and popping, one eye getting bigger, then smaller, and so on? As a journalist who focuses on gender and sexuality, that's how I feel lately: happy, sad, shocked, celebratory—all at the same time.  

A Probe Too Far

The anti-choice strategy of using piecemeal abortion regulations that, taken together, substantially restrict access has been all too successful in many states. One reason for this is that, whatever their lack of policy merits, regulations like waiting periods and parental involvement requirements tend to be popular. Focusing on whether abortion should be legal is favorable terrain for supporters of reproductive rights, but focusing on specific regulations regrettably tends to favor opponents of reproductive freedom.

A Tale of Two Gay Marriage Bills

(Flickr/Fibonacci Blue)

Last week, state legislatures in New Jersey and Maryland both passed measures to legalize gay marriage. In Maryland, Governor Martin O'Malley pushed hard for the measure and was largely credited with its success. In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie killed the effort with a stroke of his veto pen. Democrat O'Malley and Republican Christie are both seen as future leaders of their respective parties—which means depending on political winds, gay marriage can either be a feather in their cap or a millstone around their neck.

Honest Defenders of Forced Penetration

(stgermh/Flickr)

So far, it’s been a little odd to read defenses of the bill—passed by the Virginia House of Delegates last week—to require “trans-vaginal ultrasounds” for women seeking abortions. Supporters conscious of public opinion argue that it is strictly a means to provide information and guarantee the safety of the mother. “The only way that they can determine the age of the fetus at an early age is by performing a trans-vaginal ultrasound,” said Delegate Kathy J. Byron, the Republican lawmaker who sponsored the House version of the legislation.

The Fashion Week Bill of Rights

Two veteran runway models work to bring safe labor practices to the glamour industry.

(AP Photo/Charles Sykes)

At the height of the 1990s supermodel boom, Linda Evangelista famously said of herself and her catwalk colleagues, “We don’t get out of bed for less than $10,000.” While Evangelista and her cohort, which now includes household names like Gisele Bundchen and Heidi Klum, commanded six-figures for their photo shoots, the reality for most working models then and now is that they earn close to the minimum wage and face long hours in unregulated working conditions. Models, many of whom are teenage girls, are also vulnerable to sexual harassment and pressure to pose nude.

Is Aspirin a Contraceptive?

Nope. He was saying: Ladies, keep your legs shut. 

Honestly, the last couple of weeks, I've started to wonder: Is the Republican Party committed to a full-employment program for pundits focused on gender and sexuality? Every day, my jaw and the floor have had yet another encounter. Yesterday there was Foster Friess, the Santorum backer, saying that "aspirin between the knees" prevented pregnancy. I don't know about you, but I had to check to find out what the heck he was talking about. Was he saying you can use aspirin as a spermicide? As a post-coital douche? 

Round Two in the Repro-Rights Fight

Flickr/WeNews

We've had a fun-filled few weeks in the repro-rights battles, haven't we? For one thing, Susan G. Komen revealed itself to be anything but politically neutral by trying to sidle out of funding Planned Parenthood's breast cancer screenings—and in the process, publicized the fact that PP is the women's health services provider of last resort for hundreds of thousands of women who need contraception, pap smears, STD and HIV tests, prenatal care, and, oh yes, abortions.

Pre-Abortion Sonograms Make Their Way Into Law

(Flickr/Travis Isaacs)

The Virginia Legislature has been busy passing legislation to limit abortion and promote pro-life agendas. I wrote Tuesday how the state House passed a bill changing the legal definition of "person" to include fetuses starting at conception. But the body also passed a measure requiring women seeking an abortion to first have a sonogram 24 hours ahead of time. The state Senate already passed an identical measure and the state governor has said that he supports the initiative—which means it will almost definitely become law. 

What Is Sex For?

(Flickr/multi.phrenic)

What is the purpose of sex? Who should be able to have it, and at what cost? 

Apparently, that was on many minds on Valentine's Day. That's when the Prospect's indefatigable Abby Rapoport told us that the Virginia House just voted to go full-steam ahead on a personhood bill, which will define life as beginning from the very second that a sperm bashes its head into an ovum.

Colbert Explains Contraception And the War On Religion

Stephen Colbert can't say that, can he?!

Stephen Colbert Explains the Catholic Church and Contraceptives

The comedian describes what Obama's birth control plan looks like to conservative Catholics. It involves a banana and a guillotine.

Susan B. Anthony's Hit List

(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

In October 2007, Kathy Dahlkemper, whose only previous political experience involved raising money to build a public arboretum in her hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania, decided to run for Congress. Over the previous two and a half decades, the 49-year-old had worked as a dietician, helped run the landscape-architecture business her husband inherited from his father, and given birth to five children. Struggling to raise a family in Erie, a city devastated by a decades-long decline in manufacturing jobs, had given Dahlkemper an understanding of what millions of Americans were experiencing as the Great Recession began; her grown children had moved away in search of better opportunities. She knew that the rising cost of health care was hurting businesses like hers. She also believed that the Iraq War, which she had never supported, was causing unnecessary deaths while financially draining the country. Dahlkemper blamed not only George W. Bush but also the 14-year incumbent from her district, Republican Phil English, who had consistently backed the president.

A Church We Can Believe In

At a time when the influence of the Catholicism is in decline, there’s nothing like a “war on religion” to rally your troops.

(AP Photo)

Before Archbishop Timothy Dolan becomes a cardinal next weekend, he will deliver a speech to the Pope and other Vatican luminaries regarding “evangelization and lapsed Catholics.” Back in the United States, Dolan has led the charge against the Obama administration’s decision to require that hospitals, universities, and other institutions that serve the general public but have a religious charter grant their employees access contraception. Dolan’s choice of speech topics in Rome suggests what may really be motivating his decision back home is to stir the contraception controversy. At a time when the scale and influence of the Catholic Church in America is in rapid decline, there’s nothing like a “war on religion” to rally your troops.

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