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327 posts categorized "Gender issues"

July 23, 2009

God is my OB-GYN: Unassisted childbirth for Christ

Kathryn Joyce reports on one sad result of the ultra-pro-natalist Christian Quiverfull movement's love affair with unassisted childbirth: Carri Chmielewski, a mother of eight, has died ended up in intensive care from complications following an unassisted birth that also killed her baby.

The Quiverfulls are Protestants who refuse birth control because they think women should bear as many children as God sends them. They reject birth control because they object on principle to women making choices about their fertility.

As Kathryn explains in her excellent book, Quiverfull, the movement prizes large families as proof of wifely submission.

Resigning yourself to 12 or 13 children sounds pretty submissive, but every flock has its overachievers. Some Quiverfulls demonstrate that extra measure of self-abnegation by accepting as many life-threatening complications as God thinks they should have.

For these folks, trusting a healthcare provider shows a lack of resignation. They see it as a slap in the face to God.

I'm not making this up.  Joyce quotes from Carri's own blog: “God never meant for man (Pregnant Women) to surrender himself (herself) to the total control of man (dr./technology, etc.) God considers that idolatry. We are to surrender ourselves to GOD.”

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July 21, 2009

Is Tiller's assassin a domestic terrorist?

My latest story at RH Reality: Is George Tiller's Assassin a Domestic Terrorist?

June 03, 2009

Too many martyrs

Josh at Thoughts from Kansas draws some important parallels between two American assassinations--civil rights activist Medgar Evars in 1963 and physician George Tiller last Sunday:

Medgar Evers was a civil rights activist in Mississippi. Growing up black in a state where dark skin was a crime, he had the courage to stand up for his rights and the rights of his friends and family. He organized boycotts, sued for admission to a segregated law school, and became field secretary for the NAACP.

His house was attacked with Molotov cocktails, but he didn't back down. In Phil Ochs' immortal phrasing, "They tried to burn his home and they beat him to the ground/ But deep inside they both knew what it took to bring him down." And on June 12, 1963, returning home from a meeting with NAACP lawyers, Evers was shot in the back. Ochs concluded that "The country gained a killer and the country lost a man," [...]

Amanda Marcotte debunks the self-serving myth that run-of-the-mill anti-choice agitators can wash their hands of Dr. Tiller's assasination. Not everyone who objects to abortions is part of the movement, but the movement as it manifests itself on the streets and outside the clinics in this country is ugly and violent.

Its main tactics are harrassment and intimidation from confronting patients on the street to picketing clinic staffers at home. As Amanda details in her post, Operation Rescue of Wichita is directly linked to Tiller's alleged shooter, Scott Roemer.

If you think flirting with violence is just for fringe anti-choicers, remember how then-vice presidential candidate and current 2012 GOP presidential hopeful Sarah Palin tied herself in knots on national TV to avoid classifying clinic bombers domestic terrorists.

May 31, 2009

Abortion crusader Dr. George Tiller murdered in church

Dr. George Tiller was murdered in church today. Tiller was one of only a handful of physicians in America who perform late-term abortions. He survived an assassination attempt in 1993 and returned to his practice.

Amanda Marcotte has a touching post on George Tiller's life of service:

Dr. Tiller was a brave man and a real hero.  He was already shot once in 1993, but despite the ongoing threat of violence, he continued to work diligently to provide abortion services to women who are often in the worst possible situation, facing down the termination of a pregnancy that was being eagerly planned for, until things went terribly wrong. If a woman has a later term therapeutic abortion---be it because it was a wanted pregnancy, she has serious mental health issues, or she is a child victim of rape---it’s rarely easy on her mentally or physically.  Dr. Tiller’s clinic was renowned for the thoughtful patient support to help women get through what is a very difficult time---counseling, support groups, religious services for the lost baby if you desire.

Dr. Tiller gave his life for women's health and freedom. He must have known that the anti-abortion assasins would strike again. Tiller probably could have saved himself by getting out of the business--a lot of doctors do--but he refused to give in to terrorism.  His legacy will live on.

Update: KWCH-12 is reporting that the police have apprehended a suspected shooter [HT: Jezebel]

May 28, 2009

Withdrawal study: Ur doin' it wrong

The conventional wisdom is that withdrawal is to contraception what bulimia is to weight-loss. Both methods have a certain mechanical plausibility, but no responsible physician would recommend either one.

Sex educators tend to regard withdrawal less as a form of contraception and more as an excuse not to use birth control. A researcher from the Guttmacher Institute and her co-authors are urging sex educators to reconsider, leading off a recent paper in the journal Contraception with the following bold hypothesis: "[Withdrawal] might more aptly be referred to as a method that is almost as effective as the male condom." (.pdf)

In the large print, the paper says the typical use failure rate for withdrawal is 18%. That sounds pretty good juxtaposed with the 17% typical use failure they cite for condoms. A footnote adds some additional context: "Notably, the typical-use failure rate for withdrawal is more variable, ranging from 14%-24%, compared to a confidence interval of 15%-21% for condoms." 

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May 07, 2009

Third-rate hatchet job on Sotomayor gains traction

Think Progress compiles a list of smears against Obama's presumptive Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, who is being caricatured as dumb and pushy for no good reason. If confirmed, she would be first Latina Supreme Court justice. The subtext (or, the top text if you're a conservative talk radio blowhard), is that Sotomayor's impressive academic and professional record doesn't prove she's qualified because she must have been a beneficiary of affirmative action.

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April 17, 2009

Parents seek fast-tracked public funds for rape-reeducation camp

My friend Maia Szalavitz has an amazing story about an allegedly abusive boarding school in Oregon that has found itself in the middle of a Supreme Court battle over state reimbursement for special needs education.

The Court will decide whether parents get reimbursed for special education before the public special ed program has tried and failed to help their kid. It just so happens that the parents who are suing want to send their son to a self-proclaimed therapeutic boarding school that uses bizarre and abusive methods to "treat" kids for a variety of ills ranging from post-rape trauma to ADHD and marijuana use.

The case isn't about the merits of the curriculum, but it has focused national attention on abuse allegations against the Mount Bachelor Academy. Szalavitz interviewed several former Mount Bachelor residents who told consistent stories of sexualized abuse and humiliation in the name of treatment.

Some of the female inmates were sent to the school specifically to treat behavioral problems supposedly linked to rape:

But according to 10 students, two separate parents, and a current part-time employee interviewed by TIME — some of whom are involved in the state inquiry — Mount Bachelor Academy regularly uses intensely humiliating tactics as treatment. For instance, in required seminars that the school calls Lifesteps, students say staff members of the residential program have instructed girls, some of whom say they have been victims of rape or sexual abuse in the past, to dress in provocative clothing — fishnet stockings, high heels and miniskirts — and perform lap dances for male students, as therapy.


One 18-year-old former student and victim of rape wept while recounting what happened to her during a Lifestep seminar. Jane, who asked not to be identified with her real name, left the school in March. "They had me dress up as a French maid," she said, describing an outfit that included fishnet stockings and a short skirt. "I had to sit on guys' laps and give them lap dances," while sexually suggestive songs, such as "Milkshake" by Kelis, played at high volume.

"They told me I was dirty and I had to put mud on myself for being raped," she said, in reference to a separate Lifestep session. "They basically blamed me for getting raped." [TIME]

Mount Bachelor promises to cure "promiscuity" and drug use in rape survivors.

Former resident Amber Ozier told Szalavitz that the school forced her to role-play the drowning death of her younger sister in the name of therapy. Mount Bachelor's interventions is designed to stress and humiliate students until they regress to a hyper-suggestible infantile state for easy reprogramming.

One of the heroes of this story is whistle-blower Susan Owren, a part-time driver for the school who reported the school to the state in mid-March after hearing dozens of similar stories of abuse from students. "Every single kid has told me something horrifying," she told TIME.

Owren's complaint sparked an official investigation that is ongoing.

April 12, 2009

Review: Observe and Report

So, I saw Observe and Report, the new Seth Rogen vehicle written and directed by Jody Hill...

On Friday, I posted about the movie's appalling trailer which shows the main character raping an unconscious woman, who wakes up just long enough to indicate that she's enjoying being raped.

I was repeatedly reassured that I was interpreting the trailer out of context and that I couldn't possibly judge the movie until I'd seen it in full. That seemed like a reasonable argument, so I did.

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April 11, 2009

Director Jody Hill on the "Observe and Report" rape scene

Here's what Jody Hill, the writer-director of the new comedy Observe and Report, told the Onion A.V. Club about the film's notorious rape scene:

AVC: Did you get a lot of studio notes on Observe And Report?

JH: Sure. It’s like anything. There’s discussion involved. That was a big difference between The Foot Fist Way, where if Danny and me and our friends were laughing, it stayed in the movie. With the studio, you have to explain it to them. There was a lot of times—like the sex scene. [Rogen has sex with an apparently passed-out Anna Faris, who belligerently moans for him to continue at the very end.] I put it in there, and they were like, “Well, this is too far.” And I said, “You know what? It’ll just be one shot. Let’s just shoot it and see what happens. Then if you don’t like it, we won’t put it in the movie.” Then we put it in the movie, and they were like, “That goes too far.” And I was like, “Well, let’s just put it in front of the audience and see if they like it.” You know what I mean? You just gotta talk to people. I feel like you can argue passionately—as long as you don’t insult anybody, it’s okay. I think that goes a long way.

AVC: In the Times piece, they describe the scene you’re talking about as Seth Rogen’s character forcing himself on Anna Faris. Is that how you perceived that scene?

JH: [Pause.] I dunno. I’ve always kind of liked scenes that you talk about how fucked-up they are. I would have been happy without any dialogue in that scene. I wanted to show them just having sex and her passed out, and I thought that would have been funnier. But I think I have a darker sense of humor than most people. So at the end, [Faris’ character] is okay with it. [Laughs.] And that was like, “I’ll shoot it both ways.” So I actually shot it both ways. I just kept the camera rolling. There’s like a line that’s “We’re okay laughing, and you’re pushing the envelope.” But you’re not really pushing the envelope until you cross that line where a lot of people don’t go along with you. I tried to do it in a few scenes in this movie, where a lot of people aren’t going to go along with the film or with what we’re trying to do. Hopefully that means we’re actually pushing the envelope. [Laughs.] You know what I mean by that? I think if you’re really pushing the envelope, you have to not include everybody, if that makes sense. Or else it’s not really pushing the envelope.

The interviewer invites Hill to say whether he thinks he shot a rape scene, but Hill doesn't give a straight answer.

His reply seems to confirm my theory that Faris' "motherfucker" line is a cop out--a ploy contrived to keep the scene "funny" instead of taking it to an even darker place. 

It's also pretty clear that Hill thinks the rape scene is funny, not merely shocking.

Rape in movies isn't inherently offensive. Even rape jokes might have a place in a dark comedy. What's really offensive about the rape scene in Observe and Report is that someone thought that having Faris wake up in the middle and act "okay with it" made the sequence funnier or more user-friendly.

April 10, 2009

TIME critic raves for the "Observe & Report" rape scene

TIME film critic Richard Corliss delivers a review of the new comedy Observe & Report that's as disturbing as the rape scene excerpted in the trailer.

Corliss's review is really more of a review of the rape scene than a review of the movie. In short, he loved it:

Here's a scene to frighten the horses. About an hour into Observe and Report, mall cop Ronnie Barnhardt (Seth Rogen) has finally achieved his dream and taken the blonde, egotistical, doltish perfume saleslady Brandi (Anna Faris) to bed, basically by getting her drunk. Problem is, she's pretty much passed out, her puke staining the pillow, as Ronnie happily, obliviously churns away. He pauses for a moment to notice her comatose state, and without opening her eyes, Brandi mutters, "Why'd you stop, malefactor?" Or a 12-letter word to that effect.

Now that's character comedy, I mean tragedy, I mean tromedy, of the highest, I mean lowest, I mean high-lowest order. Beyond the weirdness, if you can get there, is a quick portrait of trailer-park America pursuing its urges by any means necessary. It's clear that Ronnie, no babe magnet, will take what he can get on this night of nights, even if it's not quite the exalted ecstasy he had hoped for; and that Brandi, who's been in this position once or twice before, wants the sexual exercise, even if she's not awake to take an active role in it — somewhere in her stupor, she's feeling a rote rumble of pleasure. The scene achieves what few American movies even attempt: to pinpoint the grim compromise, the desperation, that can attend the sex act. Don't call it love; don't call it grand; but whatever it is, don't stop

That minute or so is the finest thing in Observe and Report, and if it doesn't strike you as funny-peculiar, you may as well stop reading now. (Emphasis added.) [TIME]

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