This week as David Brooks and Gail Collins discussed “Who Decided That This Election Should Be About Sex?” Brooks laid bare the core of the Conservative philosophy:
“I do think it’s consistent to be economically libertarian and socially paternalistic. In fact I’d argue dynamic capitalism requires a stringent and coherent social order to help guard against its savageries — tight families to educate children, anti-materialist values to police rampant consumerism, a spiritual public square to mitigate the corrosive culture of greedy self-interest.
Free market beliefs and socially conservative beliefs require each other, so long as those socially conservative beliefs are traditional, not theological. I’m for traditional values, with government playing a small role to support them. I get worried when some politician begins trying to legislate his faith’s version of Natural Law.”
This statement seems almost unintentionally revealing to me. Isn’t it interesting to see what makes it into his statement of core values and what gets left out? He has a definite view of what constitutes a “stringent and coherent social order” and “tight families”: he admits that his approach is explicitly paternalistic, as though empowering women to lead their own lives out from under the thumb of male control leads to the breakdown of the social order and rampant “savageries” (a charged word if there ever was one!).
Brooks thinks that government can play a “small role” to support “traditional values” while the Republicans are currently trying to legislate what happens inside our bedrooms and inside women’s bodies. Only a man could see current Conservative causes such as state-mandated transvaginal ultrasounds as non-invasive small government.
But what is really at the core of our country’s problems as we try to recover from the worst recession in memory? Look what has happened as capitalism has run unfettered and unregulated in the past decade–near economic meltdown which required a bailout of Wall Street and untold behind the scenes shenanigans by the Treasury department (see for example quantitative easing and the $7 trillion secret loan program).
David Brooks can come across as a reasonable guy at times, which makes him even more interesting to me. We can’t afford to ignore the core of the worldview he is laying out. It is not consistent and it is certainly not inclusive. It asks for small government when it doesn’t want interference but has no problem trying to get laws or constitutional amendments passed that restrict other people’s very personal liberties (“personhood” for zygotes and amendments to “protect” marriage by limiting which relationships can be defined as legal partnerships). Brooks’ whole framework is clearly protecting the interests of those in power, as defined by wealthy, heterosexual white men. Even “pretty nice” people can feel that they are not actively racist, sexist or homophobic but they want to preserve a system that structurally reinforces their privileges–privileges that may be invisible to them, but very real to the rest of us. Racism is no longer culturally acceptable, but controlling women and the sexuality and relationships of gay people shows how threatening the Right feels by anything other than their paternalistic world view.
It is time for Progressives to stand up and shake off our “live and let live” tendencies to realize that we need to fight for fairness, inclusiveness, and equality on many fronts. Here in North Carolina we are facing a vote on a proposed Constitutional Amendment that not only would ban gay marriage, which is already illegal, but it would invalidate any domestic partnership other than marriage between a man and a woman. This has far-reaching implications for many issues such as domestic violence. By encoding these restrictions into the state Constitution, domestic violence laws could become unconstitutional. It is very scary to think about what happens when we start encoding this kind of discrimination and liberty restriction into our Constitution–it feels like we’d be messing with society’s “source code” without understanding all the damage that could be done. Bad amendments are even worse than bad laws because they are much harder to overturn. Even Jim Crow Laws enforcing segregation, and anti-miscegenation laws, which banned marriages between people of different races, were enacted through laws and not Constitutional amendments. By the way, if anyone can tell me how the bans against gay marriage are fundamentally different than the bans on interracial marriage, I would be very interesting in hearing a substantive argument on that.
I will leave you with two thoughts that illustrate the world views we will be voting on in this election year:
Ellen Degeneres: “I stand for honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated, and helping those in need. To me, those are traditional values.”
or more from David Brooks: “So let’s return to our normal subject. Men, men, men. Let’s go back and have a normal election: men talking about themselves. The love that won’t shut up.”
In 2012, the choice is ours and the differences couldn’t be clearer.
Women need to take back the contraception debate. The fact that there is a “debate” at all shows you how firmly the Religious Right has grabbed the reins and steered this conversation. Even supposedly objective reporters seem to be covering the story using the basic terms of the debate as put forth by the Right. (See for example, Newsweek’s cover story, “The Politics of Sex” by Andrew Sullivan.)
I utterly reject the way the health insurance/contraception issue is being discussed. Of course last week many women saw just how biased the discussion was when Congress convened a panel of religious men to discuss women’s reproductive rights. The panel was called “Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State. Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?”
Among the witnesses invited by [Congressman Darrell] Issa to attend the hearing was a representative of the Catholic bishops, who oppose the Obama administration “accommodation” on birth-control coverage. Joining them are many other men of other religions. Not invited, complained Democrats, were representatives from the Catholic Health Association, which is run by a woman and actually runs the Catholic hospitals, nor Catholic Charities, both of which said Friday they supported the president’s plan.
Ranking committee member Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., wanted to invite third-year Georgetown Law Center student Sandra Fluke to testify, telling Issa it was important to have at least one woman at the witness table because the issue involved health repercussions for women. Read Fluke’s full testimony here.
Issa’s staff sent a letter to the Democrats, saying, “As the hearing is not about reproductive rights but instead about the administration’s actions as they relate to freedom of religion and conscience, he believes that Ms. Fluke is not an appropriate witness.”
“It was just crushing to hear the chairman’s reason to not allow my testimony,” Fluke told ABC News. “I can understand that [the issue] is connected to religion, but I don’t understand how you can have an open conversation without hearing from the women who have been personally affected by this.”
Cummings, the ranking Democrat, and Maloney asked Issa to reconsider and let Fluke testify, noting she was in the audience, when the hearing got underway Thursday.
“It was staggering to sit there and feel like this panel of men was going to talk about my health and women like me,” Fluke said. “It felt so very wrong.”
Of course this discussion was about women’s reproductive rights and that is the frame we need to take back. Reproductive health care IS women’s health care and if you are in the business of providing health insurance, you need to cover it fully. America decided long ago that contraception is utterly mainstream as demonstrated by the fact that almost every woman uses it, for any number of reasons–none of which are anyone’s business except between a woman, her doctor, and her family if she chooses to discuss her health with them.
Megan Wood on Salon.com has an excellent interview with historian Nancy L. Cohen, author of the new book Delirium: How the Sexual Counterrevolution is Polarizing America. Cohen came up with the term counterrevolution because “I think what’s been missing from the debate about why American politics are so polarized and really, frankly, so insane these days is this recognition that there has been a concerted, organized movement to turn back the changes brought about by the sexual revolution: feminism and gay rights. And it seemed to be logical to coin a term to talk about this broad shadow movement that’s been effecting our politics for 40 years.” She also encourages Democratic politicians to take a principled stand on women’s issues, and stop being afraid of talking about these issues politically. The numbers are in our favor with “sexual fundamentalists” being outnumbered 2 or 3 to 1 in the electorate.
So let’s keep talking, raising our voices, and refusing to be silenced or excluded from these debates. The more people like Darrell Issa try to shut us out, the more the intolerant right exposes just how extreme, controlling and misogynistic their agenda really is.
“Join us in demanding that the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hold a new hearing—and this time have a meaningful representation of women and mothers!”
This week I am truly seething just thinking about the efforts to restrict women’s access to contraception. Wasn’t this a battle we fought and won almost 50 years ago? Who are old white men to dictate a woman’s reproductive choices? The talking heads, pundits, policymakers and Bishops sure don’t appear to have many women among them.
As for policy I would say emphatically that if you are in a position of providing health care or health insurance, you must provide all of the safe and legal reproductive health care that a woman or man would need. For women in particular, reproductive health care is often our main need for health care and the issue that gets us into the doctor’s office on a regular basis. The truth is that women have all sorts of reasons for their reproductive choices, and I believe firmly that none of these decisions should be anyone else’s business besides a woman and her doctor and any family and friends she chooses to involve.
You would think that at age 43 and married for 15 years, this might be a hypothetical issue for me, or one that I would only be worried about for my daughter’s generation, but it’s not. In my case, it has been incredibly clear to me lately that I cannot afford to have another child. Not for financial reasons, but because of where I am in my life and the incredible pressures I have been under. For the past two years, I have been not a “stay-at-home Mom” but rather practically a “stay-at-home-adult-caregiving daughter.” Starting in March 2010, my life as I knew it started to fall apart. My father fell ill suddenly and needed intense attention (especially since my parents were divorced and I am an only child), then immediately after I had gotten him moved and settled, my mother got critically ill and lived only seven weeks before passing away. I took care of my mother for those intense seven weeks, which was both an honor and a sad, immense life milestone. Some days, I feel like I will always divide my life into Before and After losing my mother, who was my confidante, support system and my best friend. And, in addition to the emotional transitions, a year and a half later, I am still finishing up my work as the executor of her estate. And now, my husband is learning what it means to be a sandwich-generation son averting a crisis by finding care for his mother and helping her relocate nearby.
All the caregiving energy I have is going into my family members including my father and mother-in-law, as well as my daughter. I cannot afford the stress, physical demands, or sleep loss of mothering another child. I am 43 and I am moving on to another stage of my life, and I am thrilled to be the mother of an almost-teenager. I can’t imagine starting all over with another baby until I am ready to be a grandma, a decade or more from now. And ironically, my husband and I would have welcomed a second child with open arms up until I turned 40, but we were apparently suffering from “secondary infertility,” which means that we had no trouble getting pregnant the first time (3 months of trying), but were never able to get pregnant a second time (5 years of trying). I say ironically, because the medical consensus is that even if we were probably infertile and could not count on having more children, there was always a chance that I could become pregnant, so if we decided that our family was complete, we would need to use birth control. Because of additional medical benefits, I chose a contraceptive that was both expensive and would be outlawed by “personhood” laws that have been backed by conservatives including two Presidential contenders, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. Santorum has very specifically, directly opposed contraception even for married couples. All of which makes me ask, what country am I living in? What year? What planet? Of course if people don’t want to use birth control that is their personal decision but where do they get off telling other people what to do? I feel like we have lost all sense of what responsibility and accountability means when employers talk about offering birth control as part of an insurance plan as an infringement of their own religious beliefs. No one has to use birth control and offering heath insurance does not mean that you endorse the personal choices that people make under that health care plan–again, important health care decisions of all kinds are not anybody’s business except a patient and her/his doctor.
Why am I telling you these personal details? Because life is complicated, and women are smart and thoughtful people who deserve to be trusted. Because I am angry and outraged that anyone would try to come between me and my health care in such a personal, imperative part of my life. Because it is absolutely essential that women to keep speaking up–the Susan Komen-Planned Parenthood funding backlash shows that a spark is there, that women will speak up against the War on Women [see also NY Times] which has really gotten out of control. Because the media coverage of the latest controversies about birth control has lacked the personal, grassroots voices that bubbled up so effectively and suddenly in response to the Komen controversy. Real women with real-life concerns need to reclaim our stories and stand up for what we need, every day. What do you have to say?
The media are abuzz with news of second-grader Brittney Baxter successfully fighting off her would-be kidnapper by kicking and screaming until he let her go. What are the ongoing lessons of this incident? Irene van der Zande and I share our thoughts as seen through the lens of Kidpower teaching:
Girl’s Escape from Kidnapper Shows the Power of “One Strong Move” to Stop Assault
Self-defense organization Kidpower teaches real-world safety skills for kids
Feb 10, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) — When seven-year old Brittney Baxter was grabbed in the toy aisle at Wal-Mart by a stranger who attempted to carry her away, she kicked and screamed until he let her go and fled the scene. This petite second-grader saved herself from the grip of a convicted killer, Thomas Woods, who was later caught and arrested. The security-camera video of Brittney’s escape has captivated and worried parents across the nation. It is of course terrible news that someone would try to abduct a child, but a powerful example to see that even a small child can put up a powerful physical resistance to an attack.
What can parents and families learn from this experience? Self-defense organization Kidpower teaches children many ways to protect themselves from safety problems that range from stranger abduction to the more common occurrence of being bothered by people we know. In a case such as Brittney’s, Kidpower teaches that “one strong move” can create an opening that will allow a child to run to safety and get help, escaping even high-stakes situations such as this attempted abduction.”
Kidpower founder and executive director Irene van der Zande says, “Brittney’s courage, instant reaction, and fighting spirit show that a kid doesn’t have to be able to beat up an adult in a street fight or spend years studying kung fu in order to fight back effectively. Her escape shows the importance of preparing young people to take charge of their safety so that they know what to do if someone tries to harm them.
Van der Zande shares three lessons from the attempted kidnapping incident:
– Physical self-defense can be powerful and effective, but must be taught in a safe and structured setting. Kidpower offers workshops that teach physical self-defense by guiding children through targeted skills and teaching them to use these skills only in case of emergency, when they do not have the choice to leave a dangerous situation. If they can leave or escape, they should do that without getting into a physical fight.
– There is a powerful tool that you carry with you at all times–your voice. Parents can practice strong voices with their kids. Practice saying a short, sharp “No” that comes from the belly rather than up in the throat. You can make this a fun practice with kids, going back and forth taking turns saying “No,” starting out softly then getting louder. Kids can be surprised to see how powerful their voices really are. In an emergency situation, kids can yell, “No! I need help! This is not my father!” as they also put up physical resistance. Attackers are looking for situations where they can operate without drawing attention to themselves, so in many cases, a strong vocal resistance will be enough to get an attacker to flee.
– Brittney’s mother was not very far away from her in the store, but when kids are out of sight of their adult in charge, they are “on their own” for that moment. They should be taught to “check first” with their grownups before talking to a stranger or taking anything from a stranger, in addition to the emergency skills of physical and verbal resistance.
Irene van der Zande has been through this experience herself. She founded Kidpower in 1989 after she protected a group of children, including her own, from a man threatening to kidnap them. She was able to stop the attack by shouting at the man and enlisting bystanders to help her. Through her work at Kidpower, more than two million people worldwide have learned self-defense skills.
Amy Tiemann, Ph. D. is a Senior Program Leader for Kidpower and van der Zande’s writing partner for their new collaboration, Doing Right By Our Kids: Protecting Child Safety at All Levels of Society. Tiemann says, “Every child deserves to grow up feeling safe and valued. Talking to kids about safety doesn’t have to be scary. If done right, it’s both fun and empowering for kids.”
Kidpower offers workshops in many locations across the country, and extensive free resources available online. To learn more, visit www.Kidpower.org .
Kidpower Teenpower Fullpower International is an educational nonprofit organization founded in Santa Cruz, California in 1989. Kidpower’s mission is to teach people of all ages and abilities, especially children in need, to use their power to stay safe, act wisely, and believe in themselves. Experts highly recommend the Kidpower method for being positive, practical, and relevant for children, teenagers, and adults from many different cultures.
I had a vivid dream last night that has stuck with me. I was at a school event, a picnic for all the kids from ages 2 to 12, with parents attending in a watching and helping role. Despite my desire to be helpful and enjoy the event, I was feeling very frazzled, and I sat down at a picnic table to collect myself. Another mother asked me to take a muffin to her son, and I said I would, but then I ate the muffin without even being aware what I had done. I felt incredibly guilty over this transgression, eating a kid’s lunch! Then the woman who had given me the muffin asked me kindly what was going on with me, and I became at once the frazzled mom and the teacher who had something wise to share. I told her that we needed to make a small shift in the direction of our lives, but the difficult thing was that in order to make a small shift, like five feet to the left, we would actually have to go all the way around the world and come to rest five feet to the the left of where we started.
The dream felt profound, a little bit like Dorothy going to Oz and coming home again. Our experiences change us and the way we see home, even if we end up almost right back where we started. I can definitely relate that to the growing up life events that I have encountered in my early forties, as I have experienced the shift of taking care of my parents as well as my daughter and husband.
I woke up wondering what Karen Maezen Miller would think of this dream. I’ll see if I can get her to comment!
This week I feel completely overwhelmed by all the bad news about child abuse that is happening all at once. Between the Miramonte School abuse case and Josh Powell murdering of his sons, not to mention the continuing discussions about the Penn State abuse scandal and others, it can feel like too much to take in and process. But we as parents can’t afford to shut down, either. Tonight there is a positive and productive step you can take, a training that I highly recommend: Kidpower and the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) have teamed up to create webinar training on Fighting Child Abuse in Sports. tonight’s webinar is taking place at 9 pm ET/6 pm PT and is aimed directly at parents.
Register now for this free, important training.
Information on Fighting Sex Abuse in Youth Sports
PCA believes the safety of all youth must be a primary focus of all individuals associated with youth sports. Late 2011 allegations of child sex abuse against prominent coaches and youth sports leaders have heightened concerns about the safety of youth sports.
We all, as leaders in the youth sports community, have the opportunity and obligation to make a difference – to do all we can to protect the kids in our programs by intentionally and deliberately creating organizational prevention measures, reporting policies and procedures for dealing with reports of abuse.
Please join PCA Founder and CEO, Jim Thompson, as he moderates a discussion with two experts in the field of child abuse prevention: Mike Town and Irene van der Zande. Mike is a former trial judge involved in many child advocacy cases, a youth sports coach, PCA workshop leader, and current law professor. Irene is the Founder and Executive Director of Kidpower, a global leader in personal safety and violence prevention, which trains youth leaders, parents, educators, and other caring adults in how to protect children from harm and empower them with skills.
Come learn answers to questions such as:
1. What do I need to watch out for?
2. How can I protect my kids?
3. What can I teach them about protecting themselves?
This live, interactive webinar is geared towards parents, and would also provide useful information to other adults such as coaches or teachers.
NOTE: This webinar is NOT for Children