Political Flavors

You are quite welcome, Lisa Brown

Posted in Editorials on July 18th, 2012

In the aftermath of a getting banned from speaking because she used the word vagina in defense of abortion rights, I made a donation to Lisa Brown’s campaign. Term limits prevent her from running for the Michigan State Assembly again, but I am glad to support her campaign for county clerk.

During the controversy some claimed that she was not punished just for saying the word vagina, but for the content of the entire statement,

I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no.'”

A powerful woman like Brown’s confident smack-down of Republican talking points probably stings rather harshly. It’s not just an awesomely snarky end to a political speech, but she is blatantly calling the bluff that this isn’t about controlling women’s sexuality, and in using the words that she did, she is refusing to acknowledge the illusion that this is not about sex. It makes sense that it would feel all the more humiliating to be talked to that way, which is why they lashed out like they did. However, the expectation that women will sit quietly while their rights are being taken away has no basis in reality, so I find it humorous how shocked many Republicans appeared.

Brown’s thank you note below.

The Apathy Problem

Posted in Editorials, Personal Essays on June 25th, 2012

Darcy Burner said at Netroots Nation,

“I have exactly one ask for you between now and November, and that is: get women to vote.”

I got goosebumps because I knew I was being tasked with an awesome quest. But it’s also an incredibly difficult one. There are women in my life, intelligent, compassionate women who truly believe in progressive values. But whether or not they call themselves feminists or liberals, they also have the incorrect belief that everyone else thinks the way they do. A great example of this is Chelsea Handler’s “sexism is bullshit” comments. But I also see it in women with a lot less money and power than Handler.

A friend asks where I was on Saturday morning when the rest of the group had met for coffee. I explain that I was clinic escorting.

“What’s that?”

“Well, there are a lot of protesters at Planned Parenthood and I volunteer to be a part of a program to keep an eye on them, call security or the police if they break any laws, welcome the patients, and not let them get harassed or stopped from entering.”

“Oh…. Wait. People protest outside Planned Parenthood?”

“Yup. Sometimes they just quietly pray, but sometimes they are really obnoxious and nasty.”

“Huh… That’s so weird!”

And we will never speak of this again. Not because she’s lazy or wasn’t listening. It’s because in her worldview, what I just said was that I was trying to stop martians or microfungi from destroying the earth. The kind of misogyny that exists in our own community, or the power that Citizens United gave to the wealthy is something she doesn’t perceive or think about.

I have another friend, really caring and funny and ambitious as hell. But she doesn’t vote. She says that whoever wins or loses has no influence on her life. I tried to change her mind during the contraception debate.

Elizabeth: So here’s a great example of how the government impacts your life – right now Congress is having hearing about whether or not health insurance must cover contraception, but they aren’t allowing any women to testify

Friend: Isn’t that illegal, not allowing women to testify?

Elizabeth: No.The chairman of the committee can decide who will testify at the hearing.

Friend: Oh. But men should care about contraception too. So…

Elizabeth: Well, I don’t think the consequences of not using contraception are in any way equal

Friend: Maybe a decision like that will change social norms. If it’s not covered by insurance then maybe more women will start actually asking for money from their partners to cover half. That would probably be a good thing.

Elizabeth: Right now the law is that insurance must cover the pill in 28 states. In the other states, women are shit out of luck, and this is a response to that

Friend: Men too, indirectly. I think a law like that would be nice but I don’t expect it to be passed.

Elizabeth: That’s why you should vote!

Friend: If I got involved with politics it would take up too much of my life. I’d rather just not be bothered. It’s a lot of hassle/stress that you are inviting into your life.

Elizabeth: But the money you pay for birth control pill co-pay is a real impact on your life.

Friend: Yes but you choose your battles. If it cost like $1000 then yes it would be a problem but by the time it gets that far, many other people get involved anyway.

She pretty much quoted Ever After. “I used to think that if I cared about anything I’d have to care about everything and then I’d go stark raving mad!”

Why do I care about this? Because 39% of single women don’t vote.

I know that a record number of women voted in 2008, and we might break another record this year. But women did not vote in 2010, and that’s one of the reasons why our Congress and State Legislatures have been taken over by anti choice radicals. Even if women come out to vote in 2012, they must do so every year for real progress to be made.

It’s the reason Kirsten Gillibrand’s campaign created an entire project around getting women to vote. And it’s the reason Darcy Burner made it the point of her speech at Netroots Nation.

So how do we do it? How do we reach women who don’t read feminist blogs? PSAs during Major League Baseball and True Blood? Pamphlets in locker rooms and ladies bathrooms? Cocktail napkins at bars and coffee shops? And what should these messages say? How do we explain to women why they should do something they never do?

I’m not as discouraged about this as Adam is. I’m just completely baffled.

Letter Writing Sunday: End Polluter Welfare Act

Posted in Editorials on June 24th, 2012

At Netroots Nation, Bill McKibben spoke about the End Polluter Welfare Act. It was introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders (S-VT) as S 3080 and Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) as HR 5745.

According to a press release from Senator Sanders,

The measure would do away with tax breaks, financial assistance, royalty relief, direct federal research and development and many loopholes that benefit the fossil fuel industry. Under current law, more than $113 billion in federal subsidies would go to oil, coal and gas industries in the coming decade.

The five largest oil companies in the United States earned about $1 trillion in profits over the past decade. Meanwhile, in recent years, some of the very largest oil companies in America like Exxon Mobil and Chevron, paid absolutely nothing in federal income taxes.

The bill is supported by 350.org, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Friends of the Earth, Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife, Oil Change International and Earth Justice.

350.org has a lot of great resources on this bill, and they are keeping a scoreboard of which members of Congress have gone on the record and which have not.

I am going to send the following letter to my Congressional Representative and my Senators.

How to find your Member of Congress’ contact information.

How to find your Senator’s contact information.

I am writing to ask that you please support S 3080/HR 5745, the End Polluter Welfare Act. We cannot afford to subsidize the fossil fuel industry that does so much harm to our health and environment while simultaneously making record profits.

Letter Writing: Investigate Claims of Sexual Assault By NYPD Against OWS Protesters

Posted in Editorials on May 5th, 2012

On Friday’s Majority Report, Sam Seder interviewed show regular Jeff Smith of Occupy Wall Street. They spoke of an article by David Graeber, detailing accusations of systemic sexual assault against women OWS protesters by the NYPD. They speculated that this is being done to provoke a reaction from other peaceful protesters, especially men.

This is outrageous and must be investigated. I sent the following email to my City Councilman, Mayor Bloomberg, State Assemblyman, State Senator, Governor Cuomo, Congressman and Senators Gillibrand and Schumer.

Today I read a very disturbing blog post by David Graeber describing what appears to be a systemic use of sexual assault against female Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York City:


These allegations are shocking and outrageous. I urge you to please look into them, and if they are valid, please take action to protect the rights of all New Yorkers. I feel strongly that First Amendment Rights must be protected. As a woman, I have the right to peacefully protest without fear of sexual assault from the NYPD.

I also contacted the New York Times Ombudsman, and I encourage you to do the same.

Contact your NYC city council person.

Contact Mayor Bloomberg.

Contact your New York State Assembly Member

Contact your New York State Senator.

Contact Governor Cuomo.

Contact your Congressional Representatives.

Contact your Senators.

Letter Writing Sunday Oversight for Labiaplasty

Posted in Editorials on January 22nd, 2012

In my review of Orgasm, Inc. I talked about the New View Campaign, and organization dedicated to challenging ideas about female sexuality promoted by the pharmaceutical industry.

Recently, I also watched the documentary “The Perfect Vagina” (hat tip Christopher Ryan’s facebook page) a BBC film about the growing incidence of labiplasty and other genital cosmetic surgery done on women.

The has FDA approved labiplasty in the United States even though the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued a statement in 2007 against the procedure,

These procedures are not medically indicated, and the safety and effectiveness of these procedures have not been documented. Clinicians who receive requests from patients for such procedures should discuss with the patient the reason for her request and perform an evaluation for any physical signs or symptoms that may indicate the need for surgical intervention. Women should be informed about the lack of data supporting the efficacy of these procedures and their potential complications, including infection, altered sensation, dyspareunia, adhesions, and scarring.

The New View Campaign has started a petition, asking people to sign it and urge the FTC to regulate labiaplasty more strictly. I believe that this is an excellent course of action. Because sometimes these surgeries are performed because a person has a legitimate medical need, and because I believe that people should be able to modify their bodies as they see fit, I am not in favor of prohibiting this procedure. However, because of the risks involved, I do believe that women must be informed of them so that they can make an educated decision. Requiring surgeons to inform patients of all of the risks involved is one of the provisions the New View Campaign is calling for.

You can sign the petition here.

Letter Writing Sunday: Safe Chemicals Act

Posted in Editorials on January 15th, 2012

Last month, Senator Gillibrand announced her support of the Safe Chemicals act:

More than 84,000 chemicals are currently listed on the EPA’s database, many of which are used regularly in consumer products, but there are three classes in particular that have been found to cause hormone disruption and reproductive deformities when children are exposed in-utero and at young ages. The three major classes of chemicals which children are directly exposed are:

1. phthalates, found in soft plastic products like teething rings, balls, and plastic dolls;
2. BPA, found in hard plastic toys, such as action figures, electronics, and playmobil toysets; and
3. flame retardants found in children’s pajamas and bedding.


Senator Gillibrand is cosponsoring the Safe Chemicals Act, legislation introduced by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), which requires chemical companies to demonstrate the safety of industrial chemicals and the EPA to evaluate safety based on the best available science. Specifically, the legislation would:

Require chemical companies to develop and submit safety testing data for each chemical they produce. EPA would have the authority to require any additional data needed to make a safety determination before a new chemical is introduced into commerce. The submission of this data is not currently required by TSCA prior to commercialization, and can only be requested by the EPA once they have reason to believe that a chemical poses a risk to the population.
Require EPA to prioritize existing chemicals for testing based on risk into one of three classes: immediate risk management, safety standard determination, no immediate action to facilitate a risk-based approach for analyzing the approximately 84,000 chemicals currently in the EPA’s database.
Allow the EPA Administrator to issue orders or initiate judicial proceedings to protect the public from chemicals that may “present an imminent and substantial endangerment to health or the environment.”
Provide the public, market and worker access to reliable chemical information by publishing a database housing chemical information and decisions made by EPA about chemicals.
Establish a Children’s Environmental Health Research Program, which requires the EPA to establish an advisory board on children’s health as it relates to toxic chemicals, provides grants to support research into children’s vulnerability to industrial chemicals.
Incentivize safe alternatives by establishing a research grant program targeted at priority hazardous chemicals for which alternatives do not presently exist.

I’ve written before about my concerns about pthaltes and other toxic chemicals found in cosmetics and every day products. I applaud Senator Gillibrand and Senator Lautenberg for their work on this issue. If you live in New York or New Jersey, send them a call, email, or even a tweet or facebook message to thank them for their job well done.

Otherwise, you can contact your Senator and Congressional Representative through the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics by clicking this link.

Letter Writing Sunday: Stop SOPA

Posted in Editorials on November 27th, 2011

By now you might have heard of SOPA – the Stop Online Piracy Act which has been introduced into committee in the House of Representatives. It claims that it’s goal is to protect copyrighted works on the internet, but in fact the definitions are so broad that many sites that are abiding by current law would be in trouble. In addition, there are no provisions for due process, as cnet news explains:

It allows the U.S. attorney general to seek a court order against the targeted offshore Web site that would, in turn, be served on Internet providers in an effort to make the target virtually disappear. It’s kind of an Internet death penalty.

More specifically, section 102 of SOPA says that, after being served with a removal order:

A service provider shall take technically feasible and reasonable measures designed to prevent access by its subscribers located within the United States to the foreign infringing site (or portion thereof) that is subject to the order…Such actions shall be taken as expeditiously as possible, but in any case within five days after being served with a copy of the order, or within such time as the court may order.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has drafted this letter that you can send to your elected representatives here:

I am a constituent and I urge you to reject the Internet Blacklist Bills (PROTECT IP Act in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House). I am deeply concerned by the danger these bills pose to Internet security, free speech online, and innovation. The Internet Blacklist Legislation is dangerous and short-sighted, and I urge you to join Senator Wyden and other members of Congress, such as Representatives Lofgren, Eshoo and Issa, in opposing it.

Letter Writing Sunday: Transit Tax Benefits for Straphangers

Posted in Editorials on November 20th, 2011

Hat tip, Long Island Fail Road.

As someone who takes public transportation to work every day, I am happy to take advantage of the Transit Tax Benefit – I can set aside a certain amount of money from my salary every month, pre-tax, and spend it on bus or train fare. Currently the amount is $230 per month, which is a reasonable amount considering a NYC Subway pass is $104 per month and a Long Island Rail Road, New Jersey Transit or Metro North Commuter Rail pass can be over $200 per month.

If it’s so incredibly controversial to remove tax brakes for corporate jets, why can’t working people of all classes write off their commuting costs? And yet somehow this years budget will roll back the allowance to only $115 per month.

You can take action by sending an email to your member of Congress and Senators, and asking them to support H.R. 2412 and S. 1034, both titled “The Commuter Benefits Equality Act” which will keep the Tax Benefit at the current level. My letter is below

I am writing to you today to ask you to support The Commuter Benefits Equality Act. As a commuter, I face increasingly high fares every year and this tax benefit helps to reduce the cost. Public transportation has many benefits, one of which is a cleaner environment for all of us to enjoy, and so this incentive has multiple positive qualities.

At this time of economic hardship for so many Americans, I urge you to pass this bill so that there will be as few obstacles as possible for getting people back to work.

Well, it looks like I spoke too soon.

Posted in Links on November 15th, 2011

Police Clear Zuccotti Park of Protesters

Councilman Weprin Responds On Occupy Wallstreet

Posted in Editorials on November 14th, 2011

Last month, I sent a letter to Mayor Bloomberg and my city councilman about the rights of the protesters at Occupy Wall Street. I received this response, dated October 24:

This is to acknowledge the receipt of your email in support of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s decision not to remove Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park. Thank you for taking the time to write and for providing me with the opportunity to respond.

I agree that ever American has the right to participate in peaceful demonstrations to express his or her opinions. I assure you that I will continue to support the right of all individuals to exercise their constitutional freedoms.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me if I may be of assistance with any other matter.

Kudos to Councilman Weprin for standing up for free speech!