Friday, March 20, 2009

Forgotten Mothers

This is the most important thing I've read in a while.

Shakesville: Breaking the Silence: On Living Pro-Lifers' Choice for Women

I'm the birth mother of an adopted child, vehemently pro-choice, non-Christian, very unsuited to motherhood, and after over a decade, have got some things to tell the world about adoption. It's been stewing since I heard about the recent rash of pre-abortion ultrasound legislation. While I am touched that so many men in such various states are so deeply worried about women possibly being all sad from having an abortion, I wish to point out to these compassionately bleeding hearts that the alternatives are not exactly without their own emotional consequences.

Keep in mind, this is from over a decade ago, and maybe things have changed - but I did four quick searches and found one site that says it's for birthmothers, and it turns out, it's to show them how easy it is to find a good family for your baby. It's a placement site; they don't care about anything but babies. I didn't find a single one for birthmothers who have already given up their kids. I'm sure they're out there. Somewhere. No need to go google for a half hour just to find me one site, okay. If you do, you've proved my point.
Read this. The whole thing.

I've made the observation before that anti-choice and pro-adoption people I have met seldom actually adopt any children of their own. They give birth to their own children, and want to force other women to give birth to theirs. But they don't adopt those children they're requiring be born. Not that I've seen. This is a problem for me, because hypocrisy is a problem for me.

But even I was only thinking about the babies, perhaps because that's the way anti-choicers have framed the discussion. Perhaps because mentioning women's wellbeing has no impact on people who are doing their best to erase women from the equation entirely except as vessels for babies more sacred than they are. Whatever the reason... I've been playing by the anti-choicers' rules, rules that state that there's no reason to mention the women making these choices (unless it's to blame them, which I don't do). They want us to forget that these women are real.

And I've been letting them succeed.

So, here's to talking about the mothers, and not just women who are facing an abortion. What about the women who give up babies for adoption? Who is thinking of them? Who is thinking of their needs as individuals, as humans, as women? Who the hell really cares about them?

I haven't been doing a good job of taking them into account when these things get discussed. I'm going to try and do a better job. This was linked to me by naamah-darling, and she commented with the following:
Adoption is painted as this thing that is supposed to be easier than abortion because it is more "right." It's painted as an emotionally weightless act, something that is easy, that doesn't leave marks, that holds no hidden barb or sting. And that simply isn't true.

I've lambasted anti-choicers before because as a whole, they do not care about children once they are born. I am ashamed to say that until I read that brave, anonymous woman's essay, it had never occurred to me that nobody cares about the birth mothers, either, once they've had their baby. It never occurred to me that there would not be a safety net there, ready to help women who have given up their children for adoption.

There are post-abortion counseling services, both pro-choice and pro-life, though the religious certainly has a leg up on the secular. There are support groups for women suffering from post-partum depression. There are infant loss support groups. But who stands for the women who let their children go? As if making the "right" choice and giving birth instead of aborting is enough to make the adoption process painless or without consequence.

It never occurred to me that adoption might be more psychologically damaging, on the whole, than abortion, and that by and large, nobody fucking cares.
And that about says it. I think I owe a lot of women an apology, and I've never even spoken to them.

Ladies, I'm sorry for being part of the problem. I'll try and do better.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Go Gov. Richardson!

New Mexico governor abolishes capital punishment.

Richardson said he has long believed — and still does — that the death penalty was a "just punishment" in rare cases for the worst crimes. But he said he decided to sign the repeal legislation because of flaws in how the death penalty was applied.

"More than 130 death row inmates have been exonerated in the past 10 years in this country, including four New Mexicans — a fact I cannot ignore," he said.

"Even with advances in DNA and other forensic evidence technologies, we can't be 100 percent sure that only the truly guilty are convicted of capital crimes."
Thanks to all of you guys who replied to the poll I was spreading around.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

For the love of--

You know what? I refuse to be careful of who's around when I mention my issues with Pope Benedict-the-whatever going to Sub-Saharan Africa and telling people there that they shouldn't use condoms. If you're offended by the fact that I'm offended that the Catholic Church's leader thinks Africans are better off dead thanks to AIDS (and orphaning their children, let's not forget) than using nasty sinful condoms that "encourage fornication," I don't know what to tell you.

I do wonder why you're bothered more by me than by the Pope. If I said that I was bothered by the stupid and evil bullshit going on in Brazil, would you bitch at me for my insensitivity? Or would you bitch at a church that kicks out a doctor who aborted a potentially-deadly pregnancy for a nine-year-old rape victim, but not the grown man who molested her?

Seriously. If you absolutely must get righteously angry about something, choose your fucking battles. Why don't you go after the ones who are actually hurting people?

I can't help but think that every time a Christian talks about how they're such a maligned group in America, they're talking about shit like this. Being forced to hear about the people their religious leaders are hurting. They see no difference between hearing these nasty truths and being fed to lions (or, in the case of modern Pagans, losing custody of their kids for practicing the wrong religion).

Christians need to not bring the persecution attitude to me ever ever again. There was a time when I could be nice about it. I think we're past that now.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Death Penalty Ban in New Mexico

So, in New Mexico, there's a death penalty discussion going on.

The fact that the death penalty system is one of the most glaring and most tragic examples of institutionalized racism around wasn't enough to get people talking about getting rid of it. The fact that it reduces reporting of sex crimes by discouraging molestation victims from turning in criminals, and provides an incentive to rapists to kill their victims isn't enough to bother too many folk. No, the problem is that it's expensive!

Many of the costs are built into the system and cannot be changed. They include the costs of specially trained defense lawyers, mental health and mitigation experts, and a longer course of appeals. And there are the many added costs of housing death row prisoners.

"As long as you have a death penalty system, you'll have regular expenses. And those expenses aren't getting cheaper," Dieter said. "There's a maintenance cost to the death penalty."

Death penalty cases can have an outsized effect in smaller counties, which tend to have smaller budgets. There, a case can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars -- close to $1 million if the issues are particularly complicated -- and force officials to cut programs to fund the prosecution.
So... merely having the option of the death penalty is a drain on other programs that aren't oriented toward killing people. But the death penalty is seldom even used! So it's not even good for killing people. So it's a ridiculous and farcical miscarriage of justice at worst, and a waste of money at best.

Sounds great!

The governor of New Mexico is considering whether he's going to sign or veto a death penalty ban that's going to come across his desk. Evidently in previous years he'd have vetoed it flat-out, but now he's looking for an idea of public opinion. There's a poll at The Albuquerque Journal right now, and unfortunately the people who believe Richardson should not sign the ban are winning.

I know that I haven't historically made a big issue out of the death penalty in the past, but this really is important. To recap! Capital punishment is a grossly-racist establishment overall, disproportionately condemning non-whites. Capital punishment doesn't help victims because it doesn't act as a deterrent. What it does do is harm the victims of many crimes of exploitation (such as child rape) for the sake of feeding a need to punish--even at the expense of those victimized. And it's expensive as hell, for a program that doesn't do what it's intended to do (provide a deterrent to violent crime).

It doesn't do what it's supposed to do. Instead it does all this other terrible shit. Encourage Gov. Richardson to sign the death penalty ban in his state. The legislature already passed it, so please tell him not to negate their work. There's some analysis suggesting that Gov. Richardson might listen. Let's just vote to be safe.

Thanks for your time, and hopefully we can get some work done here.

-Ashley

Monday, March 16, 2009

"Leave me alone!!" "Wherever you go, everyone's connected."

Communities!

So, for a while now I've been sort of searching for an online roleplaying community that fits my needs, and the answer so far has been to spread myself rather thinly across many boards.

First, there was RPGWorldWorld, which is very much the anchor of my internet wanderings. It's where I started, and despite its slow activity and general lack of focus on play-by-post roleplaying, I think this one would hurt the most if it died. It was home, even if I eventually had to strike out elsewhere.

So then there was Hidden Realms, a very active forum with one of the tightest and most consistent fantasy settings I've seen. The writing is great, which generally makes it worth it to deal with one of the more corrupt staff establishments I've had the misfortune of being stuck with. To their credit, some of the staffers realize there are problems, and they have my gratitude and my sympathy that they're still being represented by a powermongering schemer and a couple of that person's flunkies. IC the place is great. OOC? Don't even bother.

An even more glaring example of the above is The Gungan Council, to which I will not even link. It is the only board that I have straight-up left due to the abusive behavior of several staffers combined with the enabling behavior of those who still have consciences left. Mind-blowingly active, but the OOC community is so foul that I am literally confused and offended at the very idea of participating there ever again.

After leaving TGC, I joined Chaos Theory. Eventually I became a staffer there, and helped keep our postcount up and some kind of a flow of new members through frequent activity drops. This forum is a high-maintenance girl, and a real pain in the ass to keep active. But she's my baby, and I still think she's got the potential to be the best Star Wars roleplaying forum around (if we could just break a few bad habits and convince a few more users to come where they'll be treated better).

And then! Yes, and then. I joined The Jedi Praxeum (not linkable because all the urls I have for it are dead). Chaos Theory was wearing me out, and I wanted to take a vacation someplace where I didn't feel under so much pressure to keep the place alive. Unfortunately, the hardline conservative member base and the irrelevance of all plots that did not glorify the site owner and his characters made me feel like this wasn't the place for me either.

Realizing that OOC community was extremely important to me, I started looking for places to discuss some of the things that matter most to me. Religion, politics, etc. I joined MysticWicks, a Pagan community so immense that I can spend most of my time in a single subforum and never feel a lack for things to talk about.

During the 2008 American Presidential Election, I also joined VQTE. It's a political community that's still getting on its feet, but it has an extremely attentive admin, which I've learned makes all the difference in the world. I post here partly because the place has a great atmosphere so far, and partly because I know how hard the admin is working, and I want him to know he's not doing it alone.

Then a player I met through TGC and occasionally still speak with through Chaos Theory linked me to another board. Empyrean Fates has that great gritty urban scifi/fantasy vibe that everybody loves, and an approval process to ensure that nobody has to write with half-assed undeveloped characters. The main admin seems chill as fuck, and the rules show a sense of self-reflective humor that I find refreshing and encouraging.

But you've seen how many boards I'm on. Whether I actually have time for this place as long as I am holding on to RPGWW, working to improve HR's political climate, sustaining CT with what sometimes seems like duct tape and sheer force of will, as well as participating on a religious and a political board, as well as being a very active blogger... I think I may have a full plate.

But we'll see. Next time I need a vacation, I may pop over to EF. I already have some ideas of cool things I could do there. All I lack is the will to table some other projects for my own sanity, so that I can recover some of the mana I've been spending all over the damn internet.

Merit and Motivation

The next time someone tells you that poor people don't deserve help because the real problem is that they don't work hard enough to deserve food, health care, and homes, remember how many of them are being deliberately obstructed.

I know that we like to act in America like our culture is a perfect meritocracy, that rich people earned their money and poor people earned their poverty. I can't tell you how many times I've heard that Americans don't need help from the government; they just need to stop being so lazy. They don't need a hand; they need a slap across the face to wake them up and get them moving.

The worst part is, I've heard this from poor people. They don't even know they're being lied to, so they go right ahead and hate themselves because the people who benefit from their poverty tell them they deserve to be hated.

No longer the polarizing, racially tinged political issue it was when Ronald Reagan attacked "welfare queens," the welfare system today is dying a quiet death, neatly chronicled in the pages of academic and policy journals, largely unnoticed by the rest of us. Yet its demise carries significant implications. Among the most serious: the rise of what academics call the "disconnected," people who live well below the poverty line and are neither working nor receiving cash benefits like Social Security disability or tanf. Estimates put this group at roughly 2 million women caring for 4 million children, many dealing with a host of challenges from mental illness to domestic violence. "We don't really know how they survive," says Blank. (...)

In 2006, the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence conducted a survey to figure out why so many women were suddenly failing to get tanf benefits. They discovered that caseworkers were actively talking women out of applying, often using inaccurate information. (Lying to applicants to deny them benefits is a violation of federal law, but the 1996 welfare reform legislation largely stripped the Department of Health and Human Services of its power to punish states for doing it. Meanwhile, county officials have tried to head off lawyers who might take up the issue by pressing applicants to sign waivers saying they voluntarily turned down benefits.) Allison Smith, the economic justice coordinator at the coalition, says the group has gotten reports of caseworkers telling tanf applicants they have to be surgically sterilized before they can apply. Disabled women have been told they can't apply because they can't meet the work requirement. Others have been warned that the state could take their children if they get benefits. (...)

Even as it blocks potential applicants, Georgia is also pushing current tanf recipients off the rolls at a rapid clip. Sandy Bamford runs a federally funded family literacy program in Albany where single mothers can get their geds. tanf allows recipients to attend school, but Bamford says officials routinely tell her clients otherwise: In a single month, one caseworker informed three of her students (incorrectly) that because they had turned 20, they could no longer receive benefits while completing their degrees. One was about to become the first in her family to graduate from high school. She quit and took a job as a dishwasher. Students as young as 16 have been told they must go to work full time or lose benefits. The employee who threatened to drop the students, says Bamford, became "caseworker of the month" for getting so many people off tanf.

So the next time you hear someone--or yourself--grousing about what a problem those useless lazy criminal poor people are... just remember that you probably don't have a safety net anymore, either. And all it takes is one stroke of bad luck before people start lying to you, too. You'd just better hope that someone is around to help you who cares a whole hell of a lot more than they're told to. Or at least someone who'll help you out in exchange for sexual favors which, as it turns out, many unemployed are still not willing to give. Think of the edge you'll have!

The tanf office once sent a client of hers to see a local government official about a job. The official told her he'd be glad to help out if she'd have sex with him. The woman filed a police report, but the man was never prosecuted. (...)

As for people like Clark who can't seem to get and keep a full-time job, Walker responds simply, "Can't? Won't."

Clearly the problem is with their work ethic. If single moms wanted jobs, they'd spread their legs for whomever they could in order to get an interview. Whatever it takes to compete, right? It's all fair, right?

It's not your fault, right? What are you supposed to do about it?

(h/t Feministe)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Please, Mister Norris. Please, sit down.

First, the entry I saw.

Talk of "Revolution" and Texas. Someone please tell Chuck Norris to stop doing anything, please. Or I'm sending Mr. T to show him what's what.

Anyway. Once you're done laughing at that, a more serious question. Do states still have the right to secede? Did they ever in the first place? If they don't have the right to secede--if that is, as President Lincoln seemed to feel, a treasonous endeavor--should there be consequences for statements like this if there really is a system of revolutionary cells waiting for a word from Chuck Norris?

Yeah, I know. There's that laughing again. But once you can breathe, what do you think about this?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Repost! Important things ahead!

Send Your Comments on the “Conscience” Rule to HHS

I recently wrote that President Obama was planning to overturn Bush’s last minute HHS “conscience” rule that prevents health care providers from “discriminating” against all levels of anti-choice employees who literally refuse to do their jobs, and is intended to not only restrict access to abortion, but also birth control and reproductive health care in general.

Well he’s gone and begun the process to do exactly that. The 30 day comment period for the public to send in their thoughts on the proposed change opened earlier this week. Which means that just like it was important for you to send in your opposition to the rule when Bush proposed it, it’s important to send in your support for its repeal now. Not because we have reason to believe that Obama will back out of his promise, but because pro-choice causes, women’s health, and access to services needs all of the public support that they can get.

Click here to send your comments to the Department of Health and Human Services. And then, make sure to spread the word and ensure that all of your friends do the same!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Cost of Racism

Great essay from ResistRacism.com.

In a second instance, I had taken a neighbor’s daughter to the park. She is the same color as I am. While we were there, she was playing with a little white girl who offered the information that she was four years old. I could not see any parent or caretaker with her. We were there for about an hour and a half. Nobody was watching the little girl. And I knew what I should have done–I should have taken her to the authorities and reported that she had been left alone in a public park for an extended period of time.

But I didn’t.

When we left, the little girl began to follow. And then I became really distraught. I didn’t want to leave her alone, but I couldn’t stay. I knew what I should do. But once again I felt an extreme awareness of being a person of color with a white child. I told the little girl she should stay in the park. She continued to tag along. And then a white woman approached from the opposite direction.

When she saw us, she became furious. “GET AWAY FROM THOSE PEOPLE!” she screamed at the little girl.

So it was okay to leave a small child unattended in a public park as long as “those people” were not around. (...)

I realized that in both situations, I was afraid of doing the right thing because I was afraid my actions would be misinterpreted. I should note that they have been misinterpreted in the past, and it is this history that affects my actions today. Was it reasonable to be afraid of my neighbor? Was it reasonable to be so tentative with his children? And what about the little girl in the park?

This made me so sad to read. But I thought it was important, so I linked it here, even if I know it's probably kind of a downer for your respective blogrolls. Still important.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Heinlein

Okay. So I've read Stranger in a Strange Land and I'm reading The Moon is a Harsh Mistress currently. I love Heinlein because of the way he writes innocence. He annoys me by completely failing to write credible women. He's pretty heteronormative overall, really, but given the time in which he lived I can kind of overlook that.

But really, friends-list. Have you guys read a Heinlein book that had a single female character who could think? Seems to me that every time the woman (and for a good long while in these two books there's really just one) in the story is there to be the one who needs an explanation so that Heinlein's pet character (generally an awesome character, too, but definitely the author's self-insert--*cough*Jubal Harshaw*cough*) can explain to the pretty woman what sound and excellent plan the adults have come up with to save crafty men and lovable female dolts alike.

Women are always the last to know, and they seem to be present as a means for the men in the novel to prove how awesome they are. If Heinlein just wrote them like guys he'd be straight-on, because his male characters are still engaging for me.

Has anyone else noticed this? Heinlein's utter failure to grok women? Or is this not a general trend with him? I might just have picked two books that are giving me the wrong idea, but it seems like a hell of a coincidence.