Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A Meme! A Meme!

OK, I had one foot out the door, and then I found this. Enjoy.

I don’t even have a first house!! But New England.

American Apparel spaghetti strap tank tops and jeans with clunky black boots.

And thongs. There. I've said it.

Black Eyed Peas' Monkey Business and Rob Zombie’s Past, Present & Future.

Lately? 9:30. Which is why I keep getting my kid into daycare so late.

We have appliances in the kitchen? …does the espresso thingy at the coffee shop count?

Why, I can play an instrument, thank you for asking. I play guitar and flute.

Purple. Or black.

I would never buy one, but SUV, because I like to be able to fit all my stuff into and, if necessary, sleep in, my motor vehicles.


George and Martha; The Little Prince (if that counts); The Headless Cupid; The House with a Clock in Its Walls.


No tattoo. I thought of getting my kid’s name as a tattoo, but then I decided that’s just the sort of thing that will make me an embarrassing mom when he’s 14.

Oh, flying, no question. I used to have the greatest flying dreams. I seem to have lost that ability (to dream it).

Motherhood and career – no balls or knives. (I kinda stole that joke.)

Francine, to whom I was evil in middle school. Francine, if you read this, I’m really sorry. It was a bad time for me, and I was jealous, and you were trying to steal my best friend.

Cat hair, Kleenex, and two boxes of outgrown baby clothes that I can’t bear to part with. And probably some socks.

??? What the hell kind of question is that?!

If they’re both raw, I’ll take the sushi.

No one will respond – I’m quite sure. But I’d love to be surprised.

Timna. (Thanks for the link!)

Actually, I don’t really care for flowers. I guess forget-me-nots are ok.

Grilled cheese sandwiches. The way my mom makes them.

I don’t have “pjs.” I have old t-shirts.

Onion bagel with lox and just a smear of light veggie cream cheese.

Most of the time.

The job I have now, but with a salary.

I don’t intend to retire if I can help it.


Sea kayaking. (But I’m afraid of sharks.)

Fuck South Dakota

That's not my title, it's the Seattle Stranger's. And, while I bristled from time to time while reading it, I admit to having enjoyed this piece.

And - I'm headed out of town for a couple of days. I wish I had someone who could blog for me in my absence, but all the bloggers I know are similarly pressed for time this week. So I'll be back in a few.

Feminists Fighting

Some recent posts on a Women's Studies Listserv I've been a member of for years have left me spewing and spitting.

This happens every so often, and it's almost always the exact same thing. Someone will post about how oppressive to women "those people" are: Africans who practice clitoridectomy, Mormons who practice polygyny, people of any ethnicity/nationality/race/religion who participate in sex work, people who are transgendered or who support transgenderism, etc., etc.

Now, I always feel like I shouldn't have to add this disclaimer, but I keep being misunderstood, so let me say it now:

*I think clitoridectomy is horrible and find it impossible to imagine that a woman would freely choose it for herself.

*I think polygyny, as I understand it, is based on male supremacy and is not a good thing for women. (This should not be confused with polyamory.)

*I think that there is much about sex work that is oppressive and that many women, even most, who work in the industry do not freely choose such work (I'm leaving out of this sexual slavery, which does not involve consent at all, and any sex work that involves coercion of any kind). I also know of many women who have a different relationship to this work, largely because they have/had better resources and options and they approach it completely differently, choose the kind of work they want to do (which is usually work involving minimal or no contact, like stripping or phone sex), and leave the work when they want to.

*I am completely supportive of transgendered people and I wholeheartedly reject anti-trans "feminism."

That said, I find critiques that are launched in an "othering" way to be completely unproductive and even harmful to the purpose of the critique.

In the context of a discussion about polygyny, one listmember managed to condemn both Mormonism and Christian Science, though her remarks made clear that she has limited knowledge of both. She stated that polygynous marriages can never be fair or equal, that Mormon beliefs are falderol, and that Christian Scientists refuse medical treatment for dying children - all comments that play upon popular (and ignorant) notions of Mormonism and Christian Science.

In my response, I asked for a more respectful, contextual critique - I noted that polygyny may well be oppressive to women, but that I've known educated feminist women who are in polygynous marriages who don't feel that their marriages are oppressive, and that any critique should certainly allow for these voices.

[Just a note - I teach Composition, and one of the things I teach students is that, when writing an argument, they must accurately and adequately explain the opposition, and then refute it. My beef with this person's approach is that her explanation was neither accurate nor adequate; I don't have an investment in polygyny and I personally don't think it's a good system for women, but I would find it far more helpful to see an argument that addressed the fact that some women do find it to be a good system than one that didn't. Some later posts did address this.]

I also pointed out that feminists have long argued that heterosexual marriage is oppressive to women - and noted that the discussion was singling out those "other" traditions and behaviors that are foreign to our (non-Mormons) own experiences without looking at them together in a broader context. And finally, I alluded to the history of Mormon oppression in the U.S., a history that seems to be utterly foreign to some of the list members (Listmember asked, "What's wrong with anti-Mormonism?" as if there had been no such history).

As tends to happen on this list, a few other list members have been shocked at my supposed argument that we cannot point out patriarchy and sexism in any particular institution without also mentioning all the other institutions that are patriarchal and sexist. This is, of course, not what I said.

What I did say is that there is a cultural bias at work when we start criticizing "other" cultures and traditions and ignoring the problems in our own, and that a nuanced argument that places such critiques in a larger context that accounts for this bias is ultimately more useful. This has come up time and time again - with regard to female genital excision, pornography and prostitution, and transgender. Now it's come up with regard to religion.

What we've learned from the notion of situated knowledge is that who we are and what our experiences are shape our ways of viewing the world. It used to be that white feminists would look at the Black community and say, "the Black community is so much more homophobic than the white community." It was only possible to make this claim when one viewed homophobia in a particular way, when one determined that being gay meant behaving in a certain way. One of my colleagues in grad school, a Black feminist, was scolded (not to her face) by white grad students for not being out on campus as a lesbian. These white students felt that by not proclaiming "lesbian" everywhere she went, she was not expressing her solidarity with them as lesbians and was therefore oppressing them. What they didn't see - what was outside of their line of vision because it was outside of their experience and they hadn't bothered to think that maybe other people had valid experiences - was that by not making a big deal out of her lesbianism, she was remaining approachable to students of color who generally perceived queer people (mostly white) on campus as being hostile to their own interests as people of color (which they sometimes were, but that's a subject for another post). It's not like people didn't know she was a lesbian. She wasn't pretending not to be a lesbian. She had come out publicly in several ways, but she wasn't doing so in the ways that the white students wanted her to, nor was she being the kind of lesbian they wanted her to be. And so they felt free to criticize her, without looking at their own understandings of what "lesbian" entailed, or at the rocky history between the queer student and Black student groups on campus.

So, if we're going to critique Mormonism, let's start with an accurate portrayal of what Mormonism is about. When one listmember - an ex-Mormon - tried to point out that it's truer to say "Mormonisms," because there are different ways that Mormons approach their religion, including feminist understandings of it, Listmember responded that this idea was simply "window dressing."

As an example of the kind of critique I want to see, consider another listmember's question (which she offered as a rebuttal to my question about why we weren't critiquing marriage):
"Let's ask: Is there any *connection* between the renewed celebration of heterosexual marriage today - and further entrenchment of homophobia - in our country and this show [Big Love] blithely depicting the travails and wonders of one man's entitled, explicitly or implicitly legitimized access to the bodies, emotions, sexuality, labor of three women?"

This is exactly the kind of question we need to ask more often. Rather than singling out Mormonism for attack because polygyny, which some Mormons practice, is perceived by non-Mormons as perverted and dangerous behavior (I'm not arguing that it isn't oppressive to women, just that its "otherness" allows us to critique it more easily than we critique, say, marriage), this question focuses on access to women's bodies and every other part of them through heterosexually-defined marriage relationships, which allows us to rise above cultural bias to a broader and stronger critique.

I keep feeling frustrated because we are really so close on these issues, and yet they see me as so far away from them because I question their approach. This is, of course, the very problem that people have when they meet all-or-nothing feminists - life really isn't all-or-nothing, and second-wave feminist theory, taken as a whole, very clearly teaches us this (as does third-wave feminist theory). I hate that people experience this kind of feminism - not strong feminism, not radical feminism, but simply rigid feminism that will not listen - and think that's what feminism is about.

And lest you think I am one of those anti-feminist feminists - I'm not. I love second wave feminism, I love third wave feminism, I'm all about dismantling the patriarchy. But I will not sacrifice feminist methodology or feminist scholarship to fit someone else's idea of what a feminist should be.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

SD Women Silenced

Disclaimer: some of this is speculation, and it is all still unfolding. I will post corrections in the event that I've gotten any of this wrong.

A couple of weeks ago, a Wisconsin group - Basic Abortion Rights Group (headed, I think, by a man) - announced that it would begin petitioning to bring the SD ban to a referendum vote. Last week, Focus South Dakota (headed by Jeff Masten) said that it would start petitioning for a referendum if no one else did. This forced the SD prochoice movement - made up of a lot of SD women and some men - to push for a referendum. A failed referendum campaign would be bad for morale: only since the ban have people begun to stand up out of sheer anger and be counted as pro-choice. Until now, each prochoice person here thought s/he was the only one.

But the referendum was not necessarily what the SD movement wanted to do - at least, we certainly hadn't decided on this course of action (Kate Looby of Planned Parenthood noted, when the Wisconsin group came forward, that SD voters hadn't yet even had a chance to decide how to proceed.) Many of us had been anticipating a court challenge and focusing our efforts on electing Dem/prochoice mayors and legislators, as well as a prochoice governor. The referendum will be successful, I believe, but it is going to be a huge expenditure of time and money, and it would be frustrating to lose these elections because of it - because these candidates really have a good chance of winning, and that would turn things around out here. So, many people would have preferred to fight the ban through the courts instead.

A referendum is actually not a bad political strategy, however, because if the ban is overturned by the voters that will send a strong message to the anti-choice community here. And if it is upheld, it is still an unconstitutional law and it can still be challenged in court.

But what I think is interesting here is how the actions of these two groups, who have not been players in SD reproductive rights politics until now (it's possible that Focus may have been involved, but many of us who have been working on these issues for the past several years have never heard of them before now), have effectively silenced SD women's voices in this debate. On top of this, Focus South Dakota, the group that decided that the referendum campaign would happen, is reportedly lobbying NARAL's national office to be hired to work the referendum campaign...

There has got to be a lesson in here somewhere for political organizing. It's not that we won't work together in unity - we will and we are - the petitions are circulating. But I, for one, am pretty angry about how all of this came to pass.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Mom I've Always Wanted to Be

It's finally happened - in friendly conversation with a college-age person, I've turned out to be the same age as that person's mom. Granted, her mom was young when she had her - YOUNG. But still, it was a little sobering for both of us to realize.

But it made me think, as I have thought many, many times before, that I will be a far better mother to a teenager than I am to a preschooler. Because I'm down with piercings and all that stuff. I just can't take preschool humor, much of which seems to revolve around screaming "poopyhead!" while running around naked. I just don't get it.

I'd far rather deal with drugs, frankly. I sometimes think I would be deliriously happy if my four-year-old was only a mellowed-out stoner. Instead, he likes to stand in the bathroom sink in order to touch the light fixtures. Yes - standing in the sink while touching an electrical fixture. That's just the sort of thing all moms want their children to try. It's as though all of the babyproofing we did while he was a toddler was for nothing - he rarely ever tried to get into the cupboards then. Now, however, when I walk into the bathroom he's climbing the cabinet above the toilet, probably only one small step away from taking a bite out of my Lady Speedstick.

If he manages to survive until 13, I promise I will gladly take him to get his first tattoo.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

South Dakota Referendum and Pro-Choice Politics

The newly-established South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families has announced their push to put the abortion ban on the ballot for all South Dakotans in November. Healthy Families is led by sixteen legislators, doctors, ministers, and activists - a smart move, as having Planned Parenthood or NARAL run the campaign would make it harder for the effort to reach across the polarized debate to find support. And I think this will be a successful effort: even those people I know who call themselves "pro-life" are largely against the ban. Further, in the event that the ban is supported by the vote, there is still the option of challenging the illegal and unconstitutional bill in court. So - a smart move all around.

But on a personal level, I would have appreciated being asked, as an activist who served on the NARAL Board for three years, who advises the campus VOX (pro-choice) group, and who is a regular volunteer for Planned Parenthood, what *I* wanted to do. How difficult would it have been to send an email to all of us on the two pro-choice listservs in South Dakota offering the options to us and asking us to weigh in? It's what would have done, and it's why MoveOn's campaigns have been so successful. When I began to approach people to get their signatures on my referendum petition - people who are vehemently opposed to the ban - they all asked me, "is this a wise approach?" And what could I tell them? I can speculate as to why the decision was made, as I did above, and I can even conclude that it's a good idea - but I was never part of the planning, the arguments for or against this decision were never shared with me, and I still wonder if this approach is going to overshadow the November elections and frustrate efforts to get more Democrats - and women - into the legislature.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Scary Movie.

It's been one hell of a week, which you can probably tell by the fact that I haven't posted in a few days. I haven't gotten a decent night's sleep in some time - I spent my late nights this week trying to grade papers and prep for classes. I did this at my favorite coffee shop and rediscovered why studying in groups never worked for me in college. (It was midterm week, and several students I know were there at the same time as I was - I had lots of interesting conversations, though.)

And then it was just a hard week. There's been snow. It's been cold. I haven't done enough laundry, and once this week I had to wear the same pair of underwear twice. I feel no shame in admitting this. You all know you've done it.

Last night, I went out for an end-of-shitty-week / end-of-midterms drink. I made the mistake of going to the biggest meat market in town. Now, the first few times I went there, I had a good time, and perhaps that's why I keep going back every now and then - I keep thinking that it can't possibly be so bad if I had a good time there once or twice. But it really is so bad. The whole place has a kind of yucky feel, not from the establishment itself but from the patrons. Men feel absolutely free to treat women like shit. Case in point: while I was there, some asshole starting filming me on his video phone. He wasn't even tactful enough to do it surreptitiously. He was pointing that thing at me, focusing on it entirely, and smirking. I had to walk over and tell him to cut it out. What was the point of filming me? I wasn't doing anything particularly interesting, nor was I wearing anything revealing. But by filming me and by doing it in such an obvious way, like he didn't care if I saw him, he made me feel like he thought I was there for his entertainment. And that is a typical assumption there, and one that makes me feel violated.

And then, later that night, I got cursed out by someone I don't even know, which didn't add to my happy good time mood.

Today I taught two afternoon classes - yes, on the Friday beginning Spring Break. (Surprisingly good attendance, though.) Apparently nearly everyone else cancelled their Friday classes, however, which I thought we weren't allowed to do, and which also didn't add to my happy good time mood.

And I'm "single parent on duty" tonight, so I stopped at the video store on the way home to get movies for the kid (after swinging through Taco John, because I like my kid to eat healthily - I'm such a good mom). We picked out several movies for him and a couple for me. Among my choices was Satan's Little Helper, a film one of my good friends from high school worked on and which I had never seen. So, even though it didn't look like good "home by myself" fare, I decided to check it out.

All I can say is that, when a film is over and I leapfrog over the couch to get to the remote to turn it off because the menu screen has a picture of the bad guy and I don't want to see the bad guy because he freaks me out - it's a creepy film. It really is creepy, no kidding - it's basically like Jason meets Michael Meyers meets that Saturday morning Goosebumps show, but in a scary way. It's not a great film, but it's worth seeing. Except I would have enjoyed it a lot more if the annoying kid had gotten killed off, because he really was too stupid to live.

Here's something else creepy: I was just about to write that I was freaked out enough to pop open the DVD tray so that the film wouldn't accidentally start playing itself again, or something. And then just as I started this paragraph, the DVD player closed itself up again and turned off. But the t.v. is still on, and anyway, I don't like the DVD planning my evening for me, especially when I've just seen a scary movie that I don't want to watch again. It starts to feel like I'm not the one calling the shots, know what I mean? So I had to stop typing and get up and take the DVD out of the player and put it away while trying not to look at the image on the cover of the case.

See? Isn't it unsettling if you look at it long enough? I mean, yeah, it looks like a guy in a mask, but there are a couple of places on the DVD where it doesn't - it just looks hideously evil.

Click on it to get the full effect.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Why I'm Going to Hell.

Today, my kid says, "Mommy, what does...GEE...SUSS...KREYST...mean?"

I stopped in my tracks, wondering if this was going to be a philosophical conversation. Then it dawned on me.

"Where did you hear that?" I asked, stalling, hoping that maybe I could blame it on bad influences at daycare.

"From you, Mommy. You say it all the time."

Monday, March 20, 2006

Baby Poop

Tonight I held the four-month-old son of a friend and remembered baby poop.

I suppose it is only fair to explain, first, that babies who are exclusively breastfed don't have smelly poop. Certainly, their poop doesn't smell like other poop. It smells kind of like yogurt, and it looks like a cross between yogurt and scrambled eggs. If you have to deal with poop on a regular basis, breastfed baby poop should definitely be your first choice.

But there is a certain kind of eruption that only comes out of breastfed babies. When my son was a newborn, his poops were airborne. I quickly learned that I needed to avoid dairy in order to prevent the jet-propelled poops that would, on occasion, splatter the wall at the other end of the changing table. (Our first changing table was a shelf-like platform that attached to the top of the portable crib, and it was set up so that the changer would stand at the "delivery" end. This meant that, sometimes, it was not the wall that got splattered, but me.)

When he got a little older, he stopped pooping. He would poop only once every 10-14 days or so. At first, this caused us great concern, until his doctor explained that this was normal for breastfed babies. But when he did finally poop, it was an event. "Outpouring" is the only term that does it justice. We would run, screaming in panic, for more paper towels to put down, wiping the poop away as fast as it emerged. There were never enough paper towels. A diaper, even a size bigger than he needed, would not contain it. It would come, flowing out of the top and legholes of the diaper, the consistency of peanut butter (smooth). The poop could not be contained. It was a force of its own. And through it all, my son would be oblivious, happily content in whatever (else) he was doing.

Once he started eating solid food, his poop became more like "normal" human poop. By the time we got to the potty-training phase, we would resort to bargaining and pleading to avoid being the one to clean out the potty ("I did it last time"; "I had a rough day"; "I cleaned out the cat box"; "I'll go out into the sub-zero temperature and move both cars inside if you'll please deal with this").

And then, one day, finally, he pooped in the toilet. Alleluia! One more degree of separation between me and someone else's poop!

We're still working on wiping.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

That's My Girl...

My friend, Darcy Gammon Wakefield, died in December. Here is what she wrote to be read at her funeral service:

I would like to thank folks for coming. :)

I'd like to encourage everyone to find ways to appreciate every day, every second, to take pleasure in small chores (flossing, eating, cleaning, getting up in the morning, driving a car) and to look for beauty in the small and large things. Remember: life is short! Life is precious! Don't waste any of it drinking weak coffee or cheap beer, or eating food you don't like or working a job you hate or watching tv or dating people who aren't good to you or—well, you get the picture. Do work for a cure for als. Do tell people who you care about and respect how much they mean to you.

And remember, too, that we will meet again, someday, and in the meantime, you will see me in the funniest places. I'll be that well-worn piece of beach glass, that extra good cup of coffee, that beautiful view at the top of a mountain, that especially nice sentence you wrote, the red, ripe tomato from your garden, and that cute kid named Sam.

All my love, Darcy

Today - have a cup of really good coffee and a fine meal. Do something you really want to do. Enjoy life.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Coffeeshop Couple

I thought about whether or not it was appropriate to write about this. But then I thought: if it was appropriate for them to have this discussion - LOUDLY - in public, then, shit yeah, it's appropriate for me to write about it.

So I'm sitting in my favorite coffee shop, minding my own business, grading some papers. I've said "hi" to the guy at the table in the corner - which is the table next to mine - because I've seen him there before. He's working at his laptop, I'm writing comments on papers, and all is right with the world.

Then, a woman walks in, directly to his table (she obviously knows him, I think). They kiss hello (bingo!). They start to chat. I'm not paying attention, beyond having noticed the kiss. I hear little snippets of conversation, something about a woman who lives several hours away. This woman is worried about her. Apparently, she is an ex of the man at the table, and she is worried that this woman might not stay ex.

Then: an ultimatum. I think it was that the man no longer be friends with the out-of-town woman. Or maybe it was that the couple at the table take a break so that the woman could be assured that the man had gotten the out-of-town woman out of his system. They are starting to be rather loud now, and their discussion is punctuated by the trading of childish insults ("how original - you said that months ago"; "well, be original and stop making me say unoriginal things"). I look up - the others in the shop are casting annoyed and somewhat disbelieving glares in their general direction.

I debate whether or not to assert my right to sit, auditorily unmolested, at the table and grade my papers by glaring directly at them, maybe even saying, "hey, you're being pretty loud; I'm sure you don't want us all to know all of the intimacies of your relationship." But instead I get up with a heavy sigh and an exaggerated huffiness and grump off to the front of the place to chat with friends.

Why is it that people feel comfortable having what should be private discussions in public? This was really a rather intimate discussion, in which other relationships were brought up and held under the light, in which both people were asked to speculate as to whether or not they'd be in relationships with certain others if the significant other were not around. It was not the kind of conversation I'd want to have in public, not because I would feel awkward about sharing such information, but because I wouldn't want other people to hear what I sound like fighting with my partner. I would want to avoid letting them see the pettiness and meanness that I am capable of. I sound like I'm being judgmental, but I'm not - I mean this literally: I know what people are capable of, and I know what I am capable of, and I don't want the public to see me at my worst. Why, then, would this couple be ready to drag their worst selves into public?

Over coffee, for god's sake.

...and that makes it all worthwhile.

I'm on the couch. My kid is sitting at his little table across the room. We are both watching Caillou. He says, "Mommy, you're being loved by me right now."

Performance Anxiety

It's 3am, and what you get at 3am is a ramble - in this case, a paranoid and overdramatic ramble (but one that is also a little tongue in cheek).

Some of you know that I've been playing at open mics for the last few weeks. This is a big deal. I have spent the last - well, my entire life, pretty much - not performing because I am so nervous about playing in front of people. So a couple of weeks ago, I suddenly stopped being as nervous and decided it was time to try singing in public. (It's actually not the singing part that makes me most nervous - it's the guitar-playing part.)

And, you know, it's been going ok. Except that tonight, I was awful. And that is hard for me to deal with, because 1) people who knew me were there, and so now I'm imagining what they may have thought/said on their way home in their cars, and 2) usually, even when I'm not happy with my performance, I don't think I am awful. So this was worse. I was actually upset about it enough that I almost went home, but I decided to suck it up and stick it out and I ended up hanging out listening and playing with some others and having a great time.

And I also decided to cut myself some slack. First, this is only my third open mic. I think I get to suck, sometimes. Def Leppard sucked when I saw them last fall (not as much as me, but still) and I paid $40 to see them. I sucked but I was free - nobody left feeling like they had wasted their money. And Def Leppard has had a lot more experience performing than I have.

Second, I got my ass up there and did it. Which is more than I've done in the past. So, again, I've earned the right to suck. And a lot of people who heard me suck did not get up and sing, either.

Third, this was actually good for me - I learned that I can suck and the world won't end. It could have been worse: no one booed, and some people said nice things, so no matter how I feel about it, it is possible that not everyone noticed that I sucked. Even though I managed to screw up every single song in some way or another, I still managed some good moments, and I still had a good time.

You who are reading this don't know that even the fact that I am writing publically about this and not hiding under the covers right now in humiliation is huge - a couple of years ago, I would have decided never to leave the house again. So I'm also proud of myself for learning to brush it off.

But the one thing that continues to make my performing difficult - and the thing I really struggled with tonight - is that I SHAKE. My voice shakes so that I can't control it, and my fingers both shake AND turn to wood so that I can barely play. I'm not sure what to do about that except to go for a quick jog right before I am on to run off the adrenalin. It wears off, but it seems that the way things go is that I shake, I suck, and then I recover later on. (So, if you're going to come hear me, come late in the evening.)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A Damn Good Question

Over at Molly Saves The Day, Molly asks:

"If it is okay to commandeer a woman's uterus in the name of preserving a life, why wouldn't it be okay to mandate the use of blood, bone marrow, or kidneys from living people in order to preserve lives?"

Again - a damn good question. And one I think I'll be asking a lot of people.

More on the Hot Pepper Thing

Since my post from yesterday, two of my colleagues have mentioned that they checked themselves out on - and they have hot peppers. To which I say, thanks a lot, people. Just rub it in, why don't you.

But the best part is that a student (not mine) who reads my blog emailed to tell me that he tried to give me a hot pepper, but it wouldn't show up. (I checked - his comment was there, but the pepper was not). So apparently there is a conspiracy to prevent me from getting any hot peppers.

You have no idea what this means. Hot peppers to put this. Apologies in advance to anyone reading this who is older than me - I hope you know that this is entirely about me and not at all about you. It's not that I see you as old. It's that I see me as getting older. It's one of those entirely self-referential things in relation to which the rest of the world might as well not exist for all the attention you are paying to it.

There is a weird transition you make in your thirties. Thirties are still young (if you're in college right now and reading this, it won't seem that way, but trust me, it's true). There are things about the twenties that flat-out suck. For example, being in your early to mid-twenties can be a professional liability. People take advantage of your youth and you have to fight for professional respect and recognition. I remember wincing every time I heard "like" or "you know" come out of my mouth because I felt so terribly inarticulate and immature (I still say "like" and "you know" all the time, but now I try not to hang out in circles where that's seen as inarticulate and immature).

Also, being in your twenties, if you're doing the whole party/club scene, can get old fast. You feel caught between college and something more settled, and everyone's sort of looking to settle down but not necessarily admitting it, until you reach your late twenties, by which point you might start to freak out a little if you aren't meeting datable people. (If you live in South Dakota, this freak-out period will probably happen by about age 23, because most people are on their first divorce by age 28).

For me, turning 30 was gloriously freeing - I got to be finished with my twenties, which I had labelled as a fairly destructive and unhappy time (even though I got married and started grad school). And then I had a baby and finished my Ph.D., so hey, this thirties decade was looking all right! Talk about accomplishments!

In your thirties, you start to feel like you have accomplishments. If you have a real job and haven't disappeared into graduate school, you might actually be making a decent salary. Even in grad school, you might have published an article or taught a class or done something you can put on your c.v. And you're still part of the hip marketing cohort - the 18-34 range. According to What Not To Wear, you can wear a mini-skirt until you're 35 (and by the way, I'm still wearing mini-skirts and will continue to do so until further notice, thank you very much). It is entirely acceptable in the rest of the country to go out and do fun things in your thirties (and it's even a little bit acceptable here).

But then I looked up and all of a sudden 37 was staring me in the face. I don't know what it is about 37 that is so terrifying. 36 was fine. I had no quarrel with 36. 36 is easily "mid-thirties." And 36 is a nice, round, sexy number. But 37 - holy shit, I felt like I literally had one foot in the grave. Pass me the metamucil. And while I will still say "mid-thirties," or even "late twenties" (because, really, thirties are the "new" twenties) in public, I will tell you privately, just between you and me, that 37 is really "late thirties." There. I've said it. I'm in my late thirties. And that means that 40 - and my forties, at the end of which is a big FIVE O - is just around the corner.

And so I dealt with my advancing age the way anyone would - I headed to the gym, shed a lot of pounds, and started hitting the clubs. And that did make a big difference in my self-esteem, as did getting hit on by men and women who could be my...nephews and neices.

Now, back to the hot pepper. The hot pepper represents a certain youthfulness, a hipness, not just a hotness but also a coolness. On some campuses (though, thankfully, not on mine, because that would just be too humiliating) hot pepper gettage is actually very competitive. To the point where professors actually do give themselves hot peppers and not just joke about it, like I did (I am not quite desparate enough yet to give myself a hot pepper. And apparently, if I did, it wouldn't show up anyway.). In short: it matters to us, people. We need those hot peppers!

And to think that somewhere out there are students wanting to bestow upon us these virtual icons of vitality - and that some computer glitch is taking that away...

I will not go back and check every day or so to see if the hot pepper ever shows up. Because that way lies madness.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Well, we're waiting to hear what Planned Parenthood will decide to do - whether it will try to force the ban to a referendum (which would be voted on in November) or whether it will fight the ban in the courts. Meanwhile, I have a couple of kid funnies to share.

While I was getting dressed this morning, my kid came in. I hadn't put my shirt on yet, and he started asking questions about my bra, such as whether I had put it on backwards (I had - I cannot put on a bra frontways first to save my life; I always have to put it on backwards, hook it, and then pull it around). He has caught me doing this a couple of times and he always finds it hilarious. Today he started asking lots of bra questions - "but, Mommy, what's it FOR?" - until I shooed him out so I could finish getting dressed.

Later this morning, during the drive to daycare, we couldn't find a decent song on the radio. I offered to sing something he likes, and he requested "The 'You're Beautiful' Song" (James Blunt). So, I started singing. Just as I got to the first chorus, he said, thoughtfully, "Mommy, there's a man inside you." Which was his way of noticing that my rendition sounded a lot like James Blunt's.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Thought for the Day

It is a bad idea to look up one's own name on It just is. Don't do it. First I was upset because someone trashed me. Then I was somewhat mollified because someone else said something nice about me. Then someone gave me a pretty high ranking, but it seems that it is mostly because this person feels I am an easy grader (my poor, poor students this semester, who will now be getting harsher grades). (I'm KIDDING.)

Mostly, I'm annoyed that no one has given me a hot pepper. People far less hot than I am have gotten hot peppers. What gives, people?! I am tempted to sign on and give myself my own damn hot pepper. Jeez.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

A Humor Break

It's been an emotional week. Imagine my pleasure, then, to go to one of my favorite blogs and read the best-ever blog about farting. Seriously, you owe it to yourselves to read it. She is the only person I know who can write so beautifully about this topic while simultaneously making me nearly pee my pants with laughter. And making me jealous that she can write so well about farts.

Be sure to read the comments, by the way, some of which are even funnier than the original post. And kids, don't try reading them in class. You'll be laughing so hard there will be tears streaming down your face. Dead give-away.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Anti-South Dakota?

The comment from the other day made me think about how the rest of the country is responding to the abortion ban. Then, I was visiting to order some pro-choice buttons to sell as a fundraiser, and I came across several buttons urging a boycott of SD and some others with general, negative messages about SD (e.g., "Abort South Dakota").

I am always surprised to see such vitriol directed toward this state - I saw this after the last election, when there was a similar reaction to the "red" states - a threatened boycott and the general "fuck you, red states" from the rest of the nation. (Interestingly, the global community had a much nicer reaction to the U.S., at witnessed on sites such as Apologies Accepted, the response to Sorry Everybody. Considering how much it sucks for the rest of the world to have Bush in the White House, it's really a generous responds. Maybe the issue is that America apologized and South Dakota hasn't? We've been a little freaked out here, lately, so perhaps we've forgotten our manners. Let me offer my personal apology: I'm sorry. We fucked up. Hopefully, our mistake will help galvanize the pro-choice movement nationwide to protect our right to choose and save Roe. Meanwhile, we are doing everything we can to fix things.)

As a former New Yorker, I can relate to the anti-South Dakota sentiment somewhat. When I lived on the East Coast, I felt like the South and Midwest were ruining the country with their regressive politics and intolerance. After having lived out here for several years, however, I feel it is important to point out that South Dakota is not all that homogeneous, politically. We have smaller numbers than other states, but we do have political diversity. And so when the state went to Bush in the last election, there was something like 30 or 40 percent of voters who were devastated by this decision.

The anonymous commenter wanted to send a message to the SD politicians in office and the people who voted for them that this ban is unacceptable and will have consequences. I think that's a good message to send. My point was that a boycott might not be the best way to send that message (you can read my response if you want the details). But I want to emphasize here that the way decisions are made in Pierre is a much larger issue than simply electing certain (bad) politicians into office. It's about the newspaper not printing what kinds of craziness goes on there, in an attempt to remain objective (really, it's the same way that the media generally lets the Bush administration censor their stories and does not take seriously their role as responsible and investigative journalists (hello, New York Times: this means you). It's about the people of South Dakota having a charming, if naive and often misplaced, faith in their elected officials. It's also about the cultural norms I've written about - the fear of confrontation, of stepping on toes, of being noticed. And finally, it's about not being responsible, educated citizens who are involved in our government.

In other words, there are a lot of surprised South Dakotans here. Should we be surprised? Absolutely not - we should have seen this coming. But we share our irresponsbility, lack of education, and lack of involvement with the rest of the country. I mean, come on, you Americans from other states - did you really not think that this challenge to Roe was going to happen? It's been in the works for YEARS. And the Bush Supreme Court has been designed for exactly this. South Dakota is not working alone, here.

Anonymous and others who feel that all of South Dakota needs to be punished for letting this happen - I don't entirely disagree with you. I'm angry at the people who have been complacent about our government. And as a South Dakotan and an American, I'm angry at myself for the times when I have also been complacent.

But where were you, Rest of America, when first Roberts and then Alito got appointed to the Supreme Court? Where were you when Bush won this last election? Where were you when he stole the first one?

What's that, you say? You worked your ass off to prevent those things from happening?

Join the club. We are all in this one together.

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Text of the Ban

Read the abortion ban here.

You will notice that Section 2 prohibits medical abortion. It remains to be seen whether or not legislators will arbitrarily (and incorrectly) decide that EC falls under this category. Section 3 suggests that they won't, as it makes a provision for contraception, including EC. But again, I suspect that under this ban women may find they are required to take a pregnancy test before they will be allowed to have EC. (Just to be absolutely clear - these are my own concerns. I have not heard any proponents of the ban suggesting anything of the sort. But we do know that they oppose making EC readily available to women.)

In Section 4, the law kindly allows doctors not to be prosecuted for performing an abortion to save the life of the mother, though such doctors are expected to try to save the life of the fetus, as well. I have to wonder what sort of evidence doctors would be required to provide either way, and also what decisions doctors would make in such cases - for example, in a case where a fetus' brain develops outside the skull, would they subject women to caesarian sections in order to produce a "whole" fetus (that would die anyway) rather than simply perfoming the abortion vaginally, at less risk to the mother?

But my favorite part of this piece of legislation, and maybe yours as well, is its title:
The Women's Health and Human Life Protection Act.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Bush on South Dakota

This press briefing is from March 7. Just as Gov. Rounds has done after signing the bill, Scott McClellan is weaving and dodging, trying to keep a distance between this bill and the President. I especially like the way that McClellan repeats himself, over and over, instead of answering the question. (I also like the way he ignores what he doesn't want to address, such as the federal implications of the law.)

Because, after the intense emotion of this week, couldn't we all use a good laugh?

Q Scott, as you probably know, the Governor of South Dakota has now signed this abortion measure that the state legislature passed. Do you anticipate the administration will weigh in on this as it makes its way through the courts?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let me express to you the President's views. The President believes very strongly that we should be working to build a culture of life in America, and that's exactly what he has worked to do. We have acted in a number of ways, practical ways, to reduce the number of abortions in America. The President strongly supported the ban on partial-birth abortions. This is an abhorrent procedure, and we are vigorously defending that legislation. We have acted in a number of other ways, as well.

Now, I think this issue goes to the larger issue of the type of people that the President appoints to the Supreme Court. And the President has made it very clear he doesn't have a litmus test when it comes to the Supreme Court, that he will nominate people to the bench that strictly interpret our Constitution and our laws. But this is law that was passed by the South Dakota legislature and signed into law by the Governor of that state. And the President's view when it comes to pro-life issues has been very clearly stated, and his actions speak very loudly, too.

Q So, again -- now it's going to wend its way through the courts. Will the administration weigh in, in the appeals process that is going to inevitably --

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, this is a state -- this is a state law.

Q No, but it's going to become a federal matter --

MR. McCLELLAN: It's a state matter. The President is going to continue working to build a culture of life. He believes very strongly that we ought to value every human life, and that we ought to take steps to protect the weak and vulnerable, and that's exactly what we have done. Now, you're getting into the question of a state law, and so that's something that will -- the state will pursue.

Q But, Scott, no, maybe you don't understand -- it's going to become a federal issue because it's going --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let me reiterate. Maybe I'm not being clear -- because the President has stated what his view is when it comes to the sanctity of life. He's committed to defending the sanctity of life. He is pro-life with three exceptions -- rape, incest and the life of -- when the life of the mother is in danger. That's his position. This is a state law, Peter. And I'm not going to --

Q So he would embrace this law as passed by South Dakota?

MR. McCLELLAN: This state law, as you know, bans abortions in all instances, with the exception of the life of the mother.

Q And not rape and incest, and so therefore, he must disagree with it, doesn't he? Doesn't he, Scott?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President has a strong record of working to build a culture of life, and that's what he will continue to do.

Q I know, but you're not answering my question, you're dodging.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm telling you that it's a state issue --

Q He is opposed to abortion laws that forbid it for rape and incest --

MR. McCLELLAN: Les, look at the President --

Q Isn't that true, Scott? That's what you said.

MR. McCLELLAN: Les, let me respond. Look at the President's record when it comes to defending the sanctity of life. That is a very strong record. His views when it comes to pro-life issues are very clearly spelled out. We also have stated repeatedly that state legislatures, when they pass laws those are state matters.

Q He disagrees with South Dakota on this one, though, doesn't he?

MR. McCLELLAN: Les, I've addressed the question.

Q He does, on rape and incest.

MR. McCLELLAN: I've addressed the question.

How You Can Help South Dakota

Today is the National Day of Solidarity with South Dakota. Over 30 rallies took place at noon all over the country. In Sioux Falls, we had more than 200 people (correction: the news media is saying OVER THREE HUNDRED, which is just astounding for Sioux Falls, I can't even tell you) chanting and holding signs outside the courthouse - this is HUGE for us. We are not an activism-oriented city, but we had a large crowd for a full hour. Then, the students were so pumped that they brought the rally back to campus and marched and chanted and did a Burma Shave by the roadside for another 45 minutes. There were at least 30 students participating in the campus rally. What I heard from students: "I always thought I was the only pro-choice person on this campus until I saw all the people wearing pink Planned Parenthood t-shirts today!"

If you want to help South Dakota and all states to keep abortion safe and legal, please make a donation to Planned Parenthood here and get on their email list to be kept informed of actions in your area here.

I have heard that some people are talking about boycotting SD, especially with regard to coming here on vacation. I don't know if it's an organized boycott or not. I have not heard anyone in the pro-choice movement here talking much about that. All I can say is that the push to boycott is not coming from South Dakota pro-choice activists. I have some concerns about how effective any boycott would be (would it really affect tourism income?) and about who would be most affected by it (would it affect state funds or would it affect small business owners, Native American communities, etc.). If you were to ask me my opinion, I would suggest holding off on the boycott for the time being until these questions can be answered and until South Dakota activists take a stand on the issue. Keep in mind that the state is full of people who oppose the ban but who could also be hurt by the loss of tourism dollars.

What Was Gov. Rounds THINKING?! (and a comment on EC)

Here is the statement Gov. Rounds released to the press upon signing the abortion ban. Many of us in SD believe that he did not want to sign the ban. As you can see from my post below, he vetoed a very similar ban in 2004. While I am not surprised that he signed it, I think he caved to political pressure. However, I think this is going to come around and bite him in the ass - even he does feels the ban is extreme, and yesterday's headlines were full of him trying to distance himself from the ban. (This lack of courage of his convictions, by the way, is not a South Dakota value - and that won't help him, either.)

I will add a link to the text of the law soon. Meanwhile, some of you have asked me if EC (Emergency Contraception) is also banned under the current legislation. The answer is no, and Rounds says this in his statement, though the EC must be taken before a pregnancy is confirmed.

Wise readers might be concerned, as I am, that legislation to force women to take a pregnancy test before taking EC may be on the horizon. This would mean that it would then be too late to take EC.

In case you don't know what EC is, I'll provide a quick definition. EC prevents conception by either preventing the egg from being released or preventing it from being fertilized- it will not cause the abortion of an established pregnancy. It can be taken up to 5 days (120) hours after intercourse.

Just so it's absolutely clear - EC works the same way that birth control pills work. It is not an abortifacient. For more detailed information, click here.

South Dakota Abortion History

For your edification and frustration, here is a brief history of abortion legislation in South Dakota prior to the current ban (what follows is taken directly from the Associated Press):

1973: Passed a resolution calling upon Congress to amend the Constitution with protection for the unborn; adopted a new abortion statute, incorporating restrictions on abortion as left to the states by Supreme Court limitations.

1977: Amended the abortion statute requiring that infants born alive in the course of an abortion be given the same medical and health care as other infants.

1980: Passed a law requiring a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion.

1981: Adopted a law protecting parents, medical personnel and institutions from lawsuits based on their failure or refusal to participate in abortion.

1982: Repealed a section of the abortion statute. The change allowed county and municipal hospitals to adopt policies prohibiting the performance of abortions at their facilities.

1993: Passed a law requiring parental notification before a minor undergoes an abortion, informed consent and a 24-hour reflection period. Later struck down in court.

1997: Passed a new parental notification law; passed a law banning a procedure that abortion opponents call partial-birth abortion.

1998: Passed a law protecting pharmacists from having to dispense medications that would be used to cause an abortion or assist in a suicide.

2000: Passed a law prohibiting people other than physicians from performing or inducing abortions.

2004: Passed a bill that tried to ban abortions in South Dakota and allow them only if a woman's life was in danger or if she faced grave health risks. Style-and-form veto by Gov. Mike Rounds.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

How Did This Happen in South Dakota? Part 2

The vast majority of South Dakotans, of Republicans, of Americans, believe that abortion should be legal. Most do favor restrictions on abortion. But even so, the ban does not represent the wishes of South Dakotans. However, the climate in South Dakota is such that pro-choice people frequently keep their politics to themselves.

I am a transplant from New York, so mine are still the observations of an outsider, even though I've been here for several years. Here is what I've noticed about pro-choice politics in that time (observations of other, perhaps relevant, elements of South Dakota culture are here and here). South Dakotans, please feel free to comment and/or correct me.

The assumption in South Dakota is that everyone else is anti-choice. This is largely because the anti-choice movement is very vocal and very visible while the pro-choice movement is much quieter and less visible, so that what we see when we look around at t-shirts and bumper stickers are anti-choice messages.

It is also because the way that the anti-choice movement casts abortion is difficult to argue with (and this is true nationally). Pictures of aborted fetuses, fake or not, are disturbing for everyone. Sobbing women giving testimonies of regretted abortions make it difficult for women to say publically, "I had an abortion, and it was the best decision I've ever made, and I've never regretted it." The woman who says this fears being regarded as a monster with no maternal instinct or human compassion.

On top of this, although SD contains some very liberal religious folks, such as members of the ELCA and the UCC and the one synagogue in the state, it is generally fairly religiously conservative. Thus, the message that people get in their churches is that abortion is sinful and immoral. Even when the church message is more tolerant of abortion, abortion is still perceived negatively.

Politics in SD are also considerably different than in other parts of the country. South Dakotans as a whole value civility, privacy (ironically!), community, and "Christian values" (though what "Christian values" are will vary: for some, they are social justice values, while for others they are religious right-wing values). They don't like it when a person gets too big for his or her britches (as some feel that Tom Daschle did). And they will bend over backwards to avoid stepping on someone else's toes. In marked contrast to my experiences in New York, where people will quickly tell you if you say something that offends them, in South Dakota, people will avoid charged topics in the first place and will frequently avoid telling you when they are offended.

Pro-choice South Dakotans know that to wear a pro-choice t-shirt or to attend a rally is to invite confrontation. They already see the anti-choice movement as stepping outside the bounds of polite discourse, and they do not want to engage in the confrontation that might ensue. They also do not want to "come out" as pro-choice and risk offending someone else - nor do they want to be vulnerable to attack.

Also, confrontational tactics are likely to backfire. Regardless of how one feels about abortion, most South Dakotans do not appreciate or defend the aggressive tactics of the anti-choice movement. Strong proclamations, especially about personal issues (sexuality, religion, and politics are considered to be personal issues) are generally seen as aggressive, and so pro-choice people are timid about voicing these opinions publically.

All of this means that pro-choice tactics have been quite different here than in other places I have been. First, pro-choice activism is carefully planned so as not to provoke people and alienate those who might otherwise be convinced to fight for choice. This does not mean that pro-choice activism can't be visible, but it does mean that we work hard to be pleasant, cheerful activists with positive messages and to avoid confrontation. We are still angry, of course - but this approach does get us a positive response. Second, until recently, there were very few visible actions or events. Most pro-choice events were fundraisers (some to benefit a private fund to help women pay for abortions), and these events were not well-publicized. The goal of the movement in past years seemed to be simply to maintain the shaky ground we had.

But the most striking difference between the movement here and on the east coast is its face: in South Dakota, the majority of pro-choice activists appear to be women (and some men) over 40. While Planned Parenthood has been instrumental in getting young women involved through its VOX campus chapters, there is still a huge lack of young women in the movement. That is not surprising: SD culture does not encourage young women to own their sexuality. Our sex education in the public schools is laughable, and in the Christian schools, it is worse. People get married at very young ages here; even college-educated women rush to marry shortly after graduation. There is very little honest talk about sexuality, much less about abortion. (Need I add that we have almost no Gender/Women's Studies in this state?) So, many young women do not see abortion as an issue that directly concerns them - nor do they see the choice to have an abortion as one that is open to them.

The past couple of years, however, have begun to make a difference in the face - and the tactics - of the movement in SD. Planned Parenthood has worked to introduce a number of (ultimately failed) bills in the Legislature that emphasize pregnancy prevention. This helps to associate Planned Parenthood with prevention rather than abortion in the minds of the public (it is unfortunate, given Planned Parenthood's decades of work to educate and prevent pregnancy, that the general public still does not understand its mission). Simulaneously, Planned Parenthood has sponsored VOX chapters on at least two campuses in SD, and hopefully that number is growing. VOX members organize their peers to provide political support for reproductive rights, they provide education about contraception and STIs, and they hold events to make pro-choice politics visible as well as to promote dialogue about abortion and relevant issues.

Young women, then, are slowly becoming a strong force within the movement.

It is early to say this, but it seems to me that a defining moment occurred during this legislative session, on February 1, when over 200 women (and men) descended upon the Legislature to demand reproductive rights (I've written about this here). Two hundred people is not a big turnout by some standards, but for Pierre, it was huge. The legislators had never before seen so many people advocating for women's rights, and it made an impact on them. Perhaps more importantly, it made an impact on the advocates themselves. You could feel the political climate change as they realized that they could make a difference, that they could unite and be heard.

More and more, pro-choice people in South Dakota are getting fed up, and as they get angry, they become a little more willing to stand up to the tyranny of the right wing. But this population is not used to collective action, and the question is whether or not these emotions will be enough to sustain us through the hard fight.

(Part 3 to follow.)

How Did This Happen in South Dakota? Part I

I am being asked by others outside of the state what is really going on in South Dakota. This is my answer - the first part of what will have to be a longer discussion. I apologize for the gaps - I hope to come back and provide links or further information where I can, once I get the entire piece done. Anyone who has any information to add in order to help me flesh this out for the benefit of others, please do so by leaving a comment.

Before I begin, let me define my terms. There has been far too much game-playing with language on the the side of those who want to prevent women from making their own choices about abortion. Language has political power, and the very fact that advocates for choice have to explain that they are not necessarily in favor of abortion, but that they feel decisions about abortion should be left up to the pregnant woman, illustrates the extent to which the anti-choice faction has succeeded in framing the issue for the majority of us.

- I will use "fetus" because it is the correct medical and legal term. I may use "baby" later on, if I feel it is appropriate in a particular context.

- I will use "pro-choice" and "anti-choice" to refer to the two opposing political sides in this debate. The terms "pro-abortion," "anti-abortion," and "pro-life" are no longer useful. Very few people would call themselves "pro-abortion" these days; the only regular usage this term has is from anti-choice groups to refer to pro-choice groups.

"Anti-abortion" is a fuzzy term, thought this may not be immediately evident. The reality is that many people who are politically pro-choice are also anti-abortion - they believe that abortion is wrong, or bad, or tragic, but they also believe that they cannot legislate this decision for others. Further, "anti-abortion" does not clearly define the anti-choice movement, as it is clear that this movement is not narrowly about preventing abortion, but more broadly about preventing women from having access to and education about contraception, from regulating their fertility and determining whether or not to get pregnant, and from being sexually active outside of marriage. In effect, it is about preventing women from making choices about their sexuality and their fertility.

Finally, "pro-life" has become a meaningless term. Who is "pro-death"?

I have some ambivalence about referring to the anti-choice movement by terms it has not claimed. As a feminist scholar, I try not to do that in my research because it feels disrespectful to me to do so. However, given the strategic use of language that the anti-choice movement has employed, I think my terms are fair.

Now - let's take a look at what happened in SD and what it all means.

Some background to the ban
For the last few years, the SD Legislature has been working to ban abortion in SD. The SD Department of Health website argues in no uncertain terms that abortion is harmful to women, presenting misleading and inaccurate information. The committee that determined what the content of the website was stacked with anti-choice members, and evidence that differed from their perspective was not included. (I was one of many who provided the committee with research that countered many of the shaky claims the website made, but the committee did not make my suggested changes.)

A few years ago, a "partial-birth abortion" ban was passed in South Dakota. There is, of course, no such medical procedure as a "partial-birth abortion." That it has been banned nonetheless is more evidence of the success of the anti-choice movement in not only framing the debate but also in effectively politicizing the very language we use to have the debate in the first place.

In 2004, the Legislature passed an abortion ban that the Governor refused to sign, as he feared the language of the ban would nullify existing abortion restrictions while the law was making its way through the courts (because it is, of course, unconstitutional).

Most recently, a task force to study abortion was formed so that it could report back to the Legislature. This task force, too, was stacked with anti-choice activists. There were some pro-choice activists, but they were in the minority. The task force set out to determine that it had found evidence of exactly what it wanted to find. To do this, it set aside scientific research, statements by the CDC, and basically most factual information about abortion. Then, the task force's "findings" were used to write the current ban.

Let's be absolutely clear: the purpose of the task force was to provide an excuse for the ban. It allowed proponents, such as Roger Hunt, to argue that, when faced with the "scientific evidence" that the task force provided - that life begins at conception - lawmakers had to take steps to protect South Dakota's citizens most in need of legal protection: fetuses.

In case anyone isn't following closely, let me point out that SD has perhaps the highest rate of dual income families in the country, which should tell you something about the need for two incomes in this state. It also has, I believe, the two poorest Indian Reservations in the country. In Sioux Falls, we have a quickly growing refugee population from war-torn areas like the Sudan. We have homeless people, people without health insurance, people living in poverty; we have children who are waiting for adoptive families to materialize; we have women who cannot afford birth control or prenatal care or another child; we have domestic violence and rape; we have AIDS (75% increase in the last year in HIV infection); we have legislation coming up for a vote in the fall that would make only heterosexual, legal marriage recognized in SD. But our State officials believe that fetuses are the most vulnerable members of our society.

The abortion ban outlaws virtually all abortions in SD. The sole exception is for abortions that save the life of the mother, though in such cases, doctors must make an effort to save both the mother and the fetus.

The ban does not allow exemptions for rape and/or incest. This is ostensibly because the intent of the ban is to prove the personhood of the fetus: the ban has been drawn up specifically to present a challenge to Roe v. Wade. Making an exception for rape/incest, then, would suggest that the fetus is not really a person - otherwise, one could not destroy it for any reason unless the life of the mother were at risk. However, SD Sen. Napoli suggested, in his appearance on PBS' Newshour, that if a virgin were brutally raped and sodomized - one has to conclude that he was making a distinction between such a case and just an average, not-so-bad rape - she might be able to get an abortion under the exemption for a woman's life, as she would be severely traumatized.

Further, the ban's proponents have recently argued that because EC is available, a woman who is raped can take advantage of EC and therefore not need an abortion. This might sound reasonable - after all, the whole point of EC is to prevent pregnancy - until you remember that these same proponents have fought repeatedly against mandating that EC, or information about EC, be made available in the ER to women who have been raped - or that many doctors and pharmacists in SD frequently choose not to give prescriptions for or to stock EC to begin with - or that most survivors of rape probably wouldn't think to ask about EC while in the midst of their trauma - or that survivors of incest are certainly not going to be walking into ERs to get medical attention for rape anytime soon.

Most recently, some proponents have argued that in the case of rape/incest, abortion would destroy evidence - a comment that is so outrageous that I can do nothing right now but splutter in response.

The ban also does not allow exemptions for risks to the health of the mother, whether physical or psychological, for the same reason that there is no exemption for rape/incest.

Finally, you should understand that this ban follows on the heels of another disturbing development. Local abstinence activists and conservative churches banded together to force the school board to remove from the public schools a new sex education curriculum that this very vocal minority found inappropriate (especially for middle-school-aged children). Specifically, they objected to items in the teacher's manuals that were never intended for students to see, such as explanations of oral and anal sex. They also objected to information about condoms and other forms of birth control, which they felt conflicted with the message that abstinence was the best practice. And, believe it or not, many of them insisted that their middle-school-aged children did not know anything about any of these things and were not ready to hear about them.

So, to sum up, we have a Legislature that accepts as a basis for its lawmaking personal, religious beliefs masquerading as scientific evidence. We have a ban on abortion that tells women that, not only are they not able to make the best decisions for themselves, but that, in the event that they are raped or that their health is at stake as a result of a pregnancy, their suffering is not important. And, we have a vocal and powerful minority of activists who are now pushing for an abstinence-only approach to sex education (they introduced a bill in this legislative session).

(Stay tuned for Part 2.)

Monday, March 06, 2006

Earring Trauma

I mentioned last month that I got my ear pierced. What I got was a cartilage piercing and a second lobe piercing on my right ear, and they look pretty good (except that you can't really see them because my hair is covering my ear almost all of the time).

So I went to get my hair cut the other day, and my hairdresser was combing my hair, and all of a sudden I felt this jolt, and then the comb was stuck to my ear. And I mean, STUCK. At first, I thought that the teeth of the comb had separated and straddled the post of the earring. I asked my hairdresser if she could pry the teeth apart, but she said that what had happened was that the teeth of the comb had actually gone through the tiny butterfly-like loops in the earring backing. This was more tricky; it meant that to unstick the comb, we had to hold tight to the earring stud while pulling up on the comb simultaneously. This was sort of a dramatic moment: would the comb come loose? Would the comb win the battle, yanking the earring post through the soft cartilage of my ear? Would I be walking around for the next few days with a comb stuck to the side of my head?

I had no small amount of trepidation as we prepared to pull, but in the end, the comb did come loose, and there was very little pain.

(Sorry this is lame. Governor Rounds signed the abortion ban today. I'm so pissed-off and drained that I have few words left.)

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Imaginary Friends

So, the kid has an imaginary friend. We seem to have picked him up somewhere on the way to daycare today. He said, "my friend, Yoko, is sitting here next to me. He's invisible." Yoko became more and more real on the trip, and by the time we got to our destination, it was "hold the door open for Yoko," "come on, Yoko, it's this way," and "Mommy, can you pick Yoko up? He's heavy."

Most of us have had an imaginary friend at one point, I think. But I'm kind of impressed by how real this one seems. Actually, to be honest, I'm kind of freaked out by how real this one seems. When I asked the kid to move over in his bed so that I could sit on the edge of it while I played and sang for him tonight, he had a fit because he didn't want to squish Yoko. A full-on fit. With tears. I had to threaten to make Yoko sleep in the top bunk (which was a useful strategy, by the way). So I said, "Look, I know that you enjoy having an imaginary friend, but we're not having you be naughty because of your imaginary friend." And he said, "Yoko is invisible, not imaginary. He's real." And I said, "No, he's imaginary. All invisible friends are imaginary."

Here's the part that gives me the creeps. He said, "Maybe other invisible friends are imaginary. But Yoko is invisible and real." And I could not get him to admit that Yoko was imaginary.

Next, the kid complained that Yoko wanted covers, and he got very upset because he himself did not want covers, and since he was lying next to Yoko, he didn't understand how this could possibly work out - how could he, himself, remain cover-free if Yoko was to have covers? Using my special mom powers, I covered Yoko as best as I could - without being able to see him - while carefully keeping the covers off of my son. But the kid insisted that this was not good enough: it was something about where Yoko's knees where and where the covers needed to be. So I said, "well, then, you do it." And he said, "I don't want to." So I said, "Well, let Yoko do it, then."

And then I half-watched to see if the covers would move.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Oh My GOD, Downstairs Man, Stop! STOP!!!

(I wrote this last night.)

I was wrong about Downstairs Neighbors playing music because of the crying baby. What those horrible loud noises are - I just figured out - are Downstairs Man, playing his electric bass.

Loudly. Because boys with electric guitars of any kind seem to think they are Eddie Fucking Van Halen. And that everyone else really needs to hear their genius. The genious downstairs is playing "whamp whamp whamp whamp" - pause - "whamp whamp whamp whamp." Which even I could play on a bass guitar, and I'm lousy at laying down a bass line (to the extent that no one who knows me would use my name and "laying down a bass line" in the same sentence).

At all hours of the night. See, I was very sympathetic when I thought that Downstairs Neighbors were desperately trying to get their littlest one to sleep or at least to drown out the sounds of the littlest one so that they did not go insane. I am less sympathetic when I realize that it is a testosterone rush that is responsible for my accidental chair massage (seriously, that's how bad it is. My butt is vibrating, and I feel somewhat violated.).

Of course, it is entirely possible that it is Downstairs Woman who is responsible for this hideous state of affairs, but somehow, I don't think it is she. I've met both of them, and Downstairs Man is the one who seemed clueless enough to believe that the rest of the building might not mind hearing his seismic fumblings.


Thursday, March 02, 2006

Everything Is Outsourced, These Days

Is it just me, or is something very wrong with this?

I mean, no offense or anything, but...who needs an online service to track their period? I can do that myself on my very own calendar. And I can tell pretty easily if it's late, too.

OK, OK. I know it's to help women who are trying to conceive and therefore want to pay close attention to every little menstrual detail. I still think it's funny.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Those Wacky Neighbors, Part 87

So, you know how the downstairs neighbors annoy me with their cigarette smoke and their late-night LOUD music? Well, last week, I woke up at around 4am - my kid was coughing and I, too, felt lousy - and when I got back into bed after taking care of both of us, I realized that the baby downstairs was not just crying, but screaming in that way that babies have with that cry that turns adults' brains into Jell-O. And it went on for some time. Now, the sound wafting up through the heating vents or whatever was pretty faint, but it was enough to cause my entire body to go rigid, my eyes to open wide to the point of bulging, and my hair to stand up on my head. I cannot for the life of me imagine what hell it must have been to actually be downstairs holding the shrieking creature. And the crying went on, uninterrupted (with lungs like that, the kid is going to grow up to be an opera singer).

Fast forward several days, and my own kid managed to get me into a state simply by refusing to put on his pants. Seriously - I had no idea it was that easy to reduce me to a blubbering mess. Apparently, all it takes is the removal of one's pants and I become a shrieking banshee. Anyway, about the fourth time I screamed, in a gutteral and unearthly voice (which, by the way, did not faze the kid one little bit), "put on your pants!," I considered how it might sound to my neighbors.

And so, I have revised my opinion of the downstairs neighbors. Not about the smoking - that is vile and must stop. But about the noise. When I hear that pounding bass at 1am, I think, "well, they deserve to rock out a little, with that crying baby." And I figure that maybe the music gives them a little break. Plus, I've heard that the vibrations are soothing for babies. No, really. I may even lend them my Monkey Business cd.