Category Archives: political

I’m a Barbie Girl…

So… I have this old Glamour Magazine Subscription that I have had for years and whenever I get a new issue, I find myself practically busting blood vessels out of frustration at the content. I first subscribed to Glamour back in the 90s because it, to me, was the anti-Cosmo. Cosmopolitan was all about “Do this to please your man” or “try this to make him moan,” basically making women into drooling, fem-bots whose only goal in life was to please their partner of the night. Glamour was different… it was empowering women to go out and make something of themselves and rule the world. Glamour still has that at it’s heart, but it seems to have morphed into Glamour’s wanna-be tag-along friend.

Glamour still writes about the hard hitting issues, but it usually involves women in “those other” countries. Women facing brutality because of religion, Female Genital Mutilation, Women getting torched because their husbands don’t want to be married to them any more, etc, etc. But then it will turn around, and white-wash serious issues that their readers may be facing. Some of the things in the September issue that just pissed me off:

pg. 266 Talks about the Birth Control that your OB/GYN uses (IUD.) Explains how it works with respect to sperm motility/ sperm environment. Where it is placed, how effective they are, price, if your guy will feel it and how it feels getting the piece inserted, but NOTHING about the SIDE EFFECTS or who SHOULDN’T use one! From American Pregnancy Association:

An IUD should NOT be used by women who:

  • Have or ever had cancer in the uterus or cervix
  • Have unexplained vaginal bleeding
  • May be pregnant
  • Have pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Have a history of ectopic pregnancy
  • Have Gonorrhea or Chlamydia.
  • Are not in a mutually monogamous relationship

Potential side effects from using an IUD include:

  • Mood changes
  • Acne
  • Headaches
  • Breast tenderness
  • Pelvic pain
  • Cramping (copper IUD)
  • Increased bleeding during menstruation (copper IUD)
  • Nausea

Emphasis mine, because if you have read a Glamour or Cosmo, you know that a mutually monogamous relationship is NOT the norm.

pg. 274 Article is titled: “Everything you don’t know about your Lady Parts… but Should!” and had a pic of a nude, from the waist down, woman holding a rose at her mons pubis. Pg. 277 starts a series of questions from readers about their “lady parts.” Because Vagina is too much to say. And has pictures of subliminal vaginas (even one in an orange cross-section.) One question in the section was about vaginal discharge and how it changes throughout your cycle. Now, I know that not everyone is anti-birth control like I am, but wouldn’t this be a great jumping off point to even mention Natural Family Planning? But it’s probably better that it was not… back to the whole monogamous relationship thing. The closest they came was to say that, “after you release an egg, discharge gets cloudier and thicker. ‘All the better for catching and trapping sperm, which your body naturally wants to do.'” Wait… my body is giving me natural cues that aren’t masked by synthetic hormones?? No. Way.

There is a redeeming factor in the “Lady Parts” article. Have you heard of “The Barbie?” Yeah, me neither, before I read this article. The Barbie is a type of female genital cosmetic surgery in which the total labia minor (the inner lips of the vulva) are surgically removed. WTH?! But it gets better, doctors can continue on and remove the fatty mons pubis (the mound you see when you look down at your toes and you are nude) via liposuction and the prepuce of the clitoris (protective skin around the clitoris.) Thank You, Porn Industry.

In case you were wondering, the World Health Organization defines Female Genital Mutilation as “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” If it walks like a duck… and sounds like a duck…

Pg. 375: The Piece de Resistance… The number one thing HE wants in bed. “Fellatio, blow jobs, going downtown, giving head…” The article goes on to talk about how great it is and how empowering it is and how only “10-20% of women felt disgusted or bored by it.” The article runs about 2 pages long, with a nice Red Rocket popsicle melting for a graphic along with “Blow Job Milestones in History,” but only a narrow side bar about the RISKS associated with Oral Sex. Hmmm.

So, yeah. Glamour I am so over you, but at the same time, shame on you for filling the heads of tweens, teens, and twenty-somethings about how this is what an empowered woman looks like. In your pages, female empowerment means sleeping around (just make sure you have the “right” birth control,) getting your dues at the office (but don’t be a b*tch about it,) and doing it all (as long as you keep him happy in bed.) Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll stick to my Good Housekeeping.

(But I will say, without Glamour, where will some of my posts come from?)

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Filed under feminism, political, Tuesday

More things to never say to a woman with children: Military Edition!

From Mama Clementine, a non-government issued wife of a career soldier:

…I was thinking that for me, being such a Counter-Culture Mama, the lists of random rude questions and offending comments from those that it just does not concern, could go on and on…ad infinitum. So, I thought for fun, I would make a small project out of several lists of obscenely annoying Questions and Comments that I have gotten from strangers, all neatly compiled into categories. 🙂

     What follows is a list of my TOP 25 way too personal, yet oh so popular questions and all to common comments, that I have received during my husband’s Deployments.
You can read the rest here.
Just to warn you, some of her pictures might make you choke up a little!!

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Pax Christi!

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Filed under family, lists, manners, mothering, political, sunday

CarLashes… just another part of The Pink Ribbon Culture?

Earlier this week, I took the Swagger Wagon into the dealer for a three-month check up. Yes, I know how insane that sounds, but they told us to bring her in after about three months just to make sure that everything was doing OK, tires were holding pressure, battery its charge, fluids not leaking. The check-up is included in our warranty so my only cost was my time and effort.

My original plan was just to drop of my van and head to a friend’s house for play with the rental car but The Dragonfly got sick so my friend was aminable to The Bear coming over to play solo. The van check up was to only take 15-20 minutes, so we waited rather than getting the rental. While in the lobby, my eyes spotted… something. Actually, I saw it when I pulled into the lot but I thought that it was some sort of sales gimmick. This is what I saw:

IMG_0087

WTH?

I just finished reading Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women’s Health by Gayle A. Sulik, Ph.D and the irony was not lost as to what I was looking. Pink. Eyelashes. On. A. Car. I get the van dropped off and head inside and my suspicions were confirmed. The product is called “CarLashes” and they come in black or pink and have clear or pink crystal “eyeliner” that is sold separately. The pink ones at my car dealership are tagged with the additional information to “Show support for Breast Cancer Awareness with our PINK lashes!” Is this what Breast Cancer Awareness has boiled down to, a way to sell women anything while at the same time making them feel altruistic? According to my most recent read… yup.

The basic thesis of Pink Ribbon Blues is this: the pink ribbon culture has brought cancer advocacy much attention but there has not been an effect of improving women’s health. I first began to hear the term “Pink Ribbon Effect” when I was trying to find out why the Catholic Church and Susan G. Komen Foundation were at loggerheads. Looking more into things, a complicated web begins to be woven among cancer advocacy groups, pharmaceutical companies, cancer patients and their families and the consumer and her money.

According to the author, breast cancer “survivors” are in constant “battle” with and for their lives and daily wage a “war” against cancer. The language choice is not accidental, as the prototypical breast cancer survivor has to play the role of the “she-ro:” always optimistic, always thinking of self first and, if the first two do not apply, a certain level of guilt about not being she-roic enough (Chapter 6.) In addition to making survivors into she-ros, the choice of the pink color hyper-feminizes the roles of women, basically boiling them down to just their breasts and equating their worth with their breasts. In the words of Audre Lorde:

A kindly woman from Reach [to] Recovery came in to see me, with a very upbeat message and a little prepared packet containing a soft sleep bra and a wad of lambswool pressed into a pale pink breast-shaped pad… Her message was, you are just as good as you were before because you can look exactly the same. Lambswool now, then a good prosthesis as soon as possible and nobody will ever know the difference. But what she said was, “You’ll never know the difference,” and she lost me right there, because I knew sure as hell I’d know the difference… (pgs. 340-341)

This focus on having breasts and keeping breasts (and thereby keeping external appearances of what it means to be a woman in Western culture) also leads to cute slogans and breast cancer awareness events: Blogger Boobie-Thon, T-shirts that read “I love breasts,” “Stop the war in my-rack,” “Tatas are awesome” (for the guys.) According to the author:

Sexualizing women in the name of breast cancer is only one of the detrimental consequences of many pink ribbon campaigns. They also infantize women and emphasize their traditional social roles. Teddy Bears, rubber duckies and M&Ms are used to comfort and pacify children, yet companies sell them to grown women in the name of the cause. (pg. 373)

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you do know that I have no problem with being feminine and embracing my feminine nature, but I do have to say that I am inclined to agree with what the author is saying about how breast cancer awareness does overly sexualize women. Why don’t we see much by way of testicular cancer or prostate cancer? Is it because these parts of the male anatomy are not secondary sex characteristics and therefore not easily marketable? Why aren’t we selling Action Figures or Toy Cars to Men to raise funds for those cancers?

But, you may ask, tons of money is being raised and going to research to get rid of this disease, right? Well…

…the American Cancer Society publishes facts and figures on cancer in the United States, including incidence and mortality. From 2000 to 2006, the number of invasive cancers rose from 182, 800 to 212,920… The number of breast cancer deaths estimated each year from 2000 to 2008 has averaged 40,314. (pg 59)

The argument could be made that the number of incidences has increased because more women are getting tested earlier and getting diagnosed sooner, but questions remain about mammography including its accuracy, benefit and the long-term effects of radiation exposure. Add this to “pinkwashing,” the tactic that some companies use in which they raise breast cancer funds while at the same time divert attention from the potential hazards, such as producing toxins or chemicals, that may contribute to the disease. Hmmm… kind of like this?

Mmmm… fried chicken. Perfect for combating obesity (which is a breast cancer risk factor.) Oh, there’s some grilled in there too.

So what’s a gal to do? I don’t know. I guess don’t base your shopping habits on where monies may or may not be going. I’ll admit it, I have been a Pink Ribbon shopper (Estee Lauder makes this fantastically flattering pink shade, and I can’t wear pink well and it’s offered during Pinktober… oops, I mean October) but I will say my motivation was mostly for the color. Will we see more transparency in the major breast cancer fundraising efforts? That would make things easier for people to donate. I mean, if you know more about where your money is going, you might be more inclined to donate without the need for a pink thing-y, or to donate just to make yourself feel good about doing your part in the war on breast cancer. From page 375:

The generic survivor has become so central to pink ribbon culture that any survivor will do. A name on a T-shirt or a pink hat is all we need to happy fight the war on breast cancer. The personal struggle of the disease is left on the sidelines, transformed into a transcendent story, or left back at home where no one will ever see.

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Pink Ribbons: Cute or harmful? Do they really do the job or are they just placating the masses? What do you think? I’ve been told I need to read some happier books, by the way!

Pax Christi!

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Filed under feminism, life, political, wednesday, world

Nomad

For as long as I can remember, I have always been a reader. I love to read and I will read just about anything and everything. I am a fast reader and I can tear through a 300 page novel in about 2 days if all circumstances are right. (Plus it helps that the Dragonfly tends to be a lap sleeper so that affords me usually a 2 hour block in the afternoon in which I am sitting in my rocker with the child and a book. It’s lovely!) As I’ve gotten older, I have found my tastes evolving from mindless fiction to non-fiction novels… especially biographies and auto-biographies.

I most recently finished Nomad written by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Ms. Ali was born into a Muslim family in Somalia. She left her family and fled to the Netherlands when her father decided she should marry a cousin living in Canada, who she had never seen. Once in the Netherlands, she learned the language, the culture, worked odd jobs and eventually became a translator and a member of Parliment, before immigrating to the United States. She speaks highly of assimilating cultures and traditions into the majority, rather than allowing ethnic enclaves to exist and to perpetrate centuries old traditions that are not mallable to Western thinking.

This idea that immigrants need to maintain group cohesion promotes the perception of these people as victim groups requiring special treatment. If people should conform to their ancestral culture, it therefore follows that they should also be helped to maintain it, with even their own system of legal arbitration.

In the real world, equal respect for all cultures doesn’t translate into a rich mosaic of colorful and proud peoples interacting peacefully while maintaining a delightful diversity of food and craftwork. It translates into closed pockets of oppression, ignorance and abuse. (pg. 261)

Ms. Ali is an atheist but tolerates the Christian God more so than the Muslim Allah (which is kind of funny because in the end they are both the same God.) She does challenge those who fervently believe in the laws of Islam, especially women, who she believes should be doing more for other Muslim women:

On campus after campus I would stare in despair at these confident young men and women, born in the United States, who had so manifestly benefited from every advantage of Western education yet were determined to ignore the profound differences between a theocratic mind-set and a democratic mind-set… These students seems to lack a basic human empathy for other Muslim women- women who are just like they are but who cannot speak in public or even go to school. If they lived in Saudi Arabia, under Shari’a law, these college girls in their pretty scarves wouldn’t be free to study, to work, to drive, to walk around. In Saudi Arabia girls their age and younger are confined, are forced to marry, and if they have sex outside of marriage they are sentenced to prison and flogged. According to the Quran, their husband is permitted to bear them and decide whether they may work or even leave the house; he may marry other women without seeking their approval and if he chooses to divorce them, they have no right to resist or to keep custody of their children. Doesn’t this matter at all to these clever young Muslim girls in America? (pgs. 133-134)

Perhaps the cause most dear to Ms. Ali’s heart is the rights and dignity of women, especially when is comes to honor killings, female genital mutilation, child marriage and veiling. I do get the impression that she sees Muslim women who choose to wear the veil as still being repressed by the men in their lives, and who knows, maybe they are. But you know what, this all got me thinking. Do you want to know what honor killings, female genital mutilation, child marriage and forced veiling have in common? They are all legal in some countries and in the eyes of devout Muslims, can be interpreted as part of Shari’a law and used to support the subjugation of women. For these same devout Muslims, Shari’a law trumps that of Western laws, including US law. (Please note: it is very hard to find a neutral source discussion Shari’a law and women, so I include two separate links here and here. Both are biased, each in either direction.)

Many times, in discussing my pro-life views with people, they inevitably state one of two things: “If you don’t like abortions, don’t get one” and “If it was that bad for women, it wouldn’t be legal.” This brings me to this conclusion: Just because something is legal, does not mean that it is right. Just because it is legal to grind off your 4 year old’s clitoris, remove her inner labia and part of her outer labia and sew her vagina closed, doesn’t mean that it’s right. Just because it’s legal to marry your daughter off as soon as she begins menstruating (so as best to preserve your family honor) doesn’t mean that it is right. Just because killing your 4 year old because she underwent a gynecological exam after an allegation of molestation is legal doesn’t mean that it is right. (Ms. Ali is very pro-choice but she does comment how she appreciates how the pro-life and pro-choice camps in our country, for the most part, can discuss this difficult topic without resorting to violence.) But the question remains, where are the Western feminists in this fight?

There are many factors as to why Western feminists are not jumping fully into this fight for Women’s Rights. One is the threat of violence that stems from the more fanatical forms of Islam. Another is that Islam is headed by men of color and there is the issue of Western ideals being imposed on men of a minority status. Another is Western countries, in fear of seeming colonial or otherwise oppressive, do not want to force others to assimilate to that particular society’s norms.

For the longest time, I was really against the thought of assimilation. Thinking that if people make the choice and fight (or pay) to come to the US, the least that we can do is let them hold on to their cultural identities. But I do believe that there is a fine line between holding onto family traditions from the old country and completely distancing yourself from those in your “new” country, preferring ethnic enclaves on Western soil, with rules and laws to match. Is there an easy answer? As with the best questions, not really.

Ms. Ali mentions one way to push back is to engage in dialogue and to ask tough questions. She was raised in an environment where question asking was not permitted and met with violence rather than answers. From page 215:

Free Speech is the bedrock of liberty and a free society. And yes, it includes the right to blaspheme and to offend.

and from page 212:

All human beings are equal, but all cultures and religions are not.

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Have you read Nomad? What are your thoughts? Is Ms. Ali just trying to bad mouth an otherwise peaceful religion or is she telling the hard truth? The next book I am reading is Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women’s Health. Grab it from your local library and join me!

Pax Christi!

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Filed under feminism, Moslem, political, Tuesday

Name-calling

(**Warning** the following post contains Spoilers to the movie “Soylent Green.” If you have not seen the film and are planning to, I would avoid reading the last paragraph. Peace Out.)

I really don’t know why, but for the longest time I have been trying to define nay, pigeonhole, myself into some sort of polictical identity. I don’t know if there is a facination of having a known political stance or something about being able to confidently say “I’m a democrat” or “I’m a libertarian” and knowing that the person with whom you are speaking knows roughly where you stand on a multitude of issues. Yeah, we’ll I’m having kind of an issue with that one.

The funny thing is, when someone proposed that I was a conservative, I kind of shuttered. After all, my husband jokes around about the hippie liberal he married but to hear me described as a conservative was kind of unnerving. (For the record, it was the Mister who called me the C-word.) But what is in a name? And am I really a conservative?

Where do I stand on some issues? Let’s see:

Abortions: against
Death Penalty: against
WIC: would love to see revised to include more healthy foods and breastfeeding support (I’ll admit I don’t know much about WIC but it seems that the foods that are WIC approved at the market are all the stuff in the aisles… with the long shelf life.)
Food Deserts: I would vote for tax breaks to markets to get them into underrepresented areas so people do not have to rely on fast food and the like to feed their families.
Education: Every family has to do what is right for their family. Here’s the tricky part though… many neighborhood schools are struggling and is it right for a kid to be sent to a low performing neighborhood school just because that’s where they live? So public education needs help from everyone, not just those with kids in school.
Organized Labor: Supportive, to an extent. I guess I would rather 99 good people be protected along with the 1 lazy person than not to have any organization at all.
Environmental Issues: Save the Earth, I believe in Global Warming
Evolution: I’m a fan of Darwin’s
Iraq War: not a fan, but I believe in the government’s role in protecting it’s people from foreign threat
Afganistan: Hot Mess, but see above
The Troops: They are what make it possible for me to write what I write on this blog
Repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”: Ridiculous
Women serving in combat roles: I support them.
Raw Milk: Hopefully getting my first gallon this month… just have to make sure it’s not a government sting operation.
Preferred Media Source: NPR

So, there really is no clear demarcation to where I stand, which I think is true for most of us. For my old friends, I am not the liberal hippie I once was. For my new friends, I am not the bastion of conservatism that they may be. The problem lies in how do we best find the representative who most upholds our own values? For me, I tend to vote for the “Pro-Life” candidates on the basis of if we are not protecting the most fragile of lives, lives that will eventually become voting American citizens, the rest of the issues are moot.

What I fear most is becoming complacent and waking up one morning and telling myself that nothing is going to change, so why bother. If enough of us begin to think that way, next thing you know you have Charlton Heston running out into the street yelling: “It’s People! Soylent Green is People!” or *shudder* Germany in the 1930s. So, call yourself liberal, conservative, libertarian or what have you. Bottom line is: You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.
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Lent begins this Wednesday and I’ve decided that for 40 days I am going to avoid these HEAVY topics and try to focus on the spiritual with a dash of levity here and there. I’ll be including the meat-free recipes for your enjoyment and don’t forget, if you have one to share, email it to caffeinatedcatholicmama (at) gmail (dot) com. Include your first name for the props!

Pax Christi!

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Filed under family, life, political

Taking Responsibility: Pro-life Feminism

In all of the hub-bub surrounding the proposed defunding of Planned Parenthood, the most disturbing is the accusation that those who support the pro-life/ anti-choice side, or those who just don’t want to support Planned Parenthood by giving them free government money, are somehow anti-woman, or worse, hate women. I am not going to speak for anyone other than myself but here are my thoughts on this sad, sad topic and if I had to sum it up in one word, that word would be: responsibility.

-If you do not have insurance and need medical care, you need to take responsibility. Planned Parenthood is certainly convenient and easy to find but it is not the only option for free/ reduced cost cancer and STI screenings (especially if you find yourself wrestling morally.) The CDC offers a program in all 50 states called the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. If the CDC program is difficult to get to, try calling an OB/GYN office to see how much they will charge for screenings. You never know until you ask, right? One good place to start would be with traditionally Catholic hospitals, or OB/GYNs affiliated with them. Another resource is One More Soul, to find a Pro-Life Physician who might be able to help out.  As far as STI screenings, you can go to your local health department (as STIs are a public health issue.) Obtaining free chemical or physical birth control is a bit trickier. Pregnancy crisis centers usually offer free condoms, but to qualify for free chemical birth control (i.e. the pill,) low-income women may be required to apply for and be accepted into government programs (such as medicaid.) Which leads to…

-If you do not have insurance to cover chemical birth control, you need to take responsibility. Is there something you can do without? Is the data plan on your mobile phone really that needed? What about cable or sateillite? Those weekly mani/ pedis? To be honest, I have not purchased chemical birth control in over 4 years, so I have no clue how much it costs. The costs might be so out of control that simple cutbacks might not be enough. I don’t know. If you are a new reader, you might be wondering how we don’t have a house-full of children running around if there is no chemical or physical birth control involved? The Mister and I decided to learn about our fertility and we practice Natural Family Planning, also called Fertility Awareness. We observe mucus changes and basal body temp (when I am not nursing at night, which I am now, so we rely on mucus,) we track, we chart and when I am fertile, we abstain. That last part is where people usually say “Whoa, stop the bus!” But if you think about it, we have the control to not eat ALL the time, to not lie around in bed all day and to not wale on someone if they tick us off (unless you are on “The Bad Girls Club”) so why is it so odd to expect a couple to abstain when fertile? Which leads to…

-If you can’t afford chemical or physical birth control and you don’t want to learn about fertility awareness or follow the fertility awareness teachings to a T (after all, fertility awareness only works as well as the users using it… kind of like chemical or physical birth control, eh?) then, you need to take responsibility and I have to say it… don’t have sex or have sex with the expectation that there is a chance that you will conceive a child and that child will be it’s own unique creation and all yours to love and care for. If you are not ready to welcome a child, remember we are highly evolved creatures, there are other ways to declare undying love than bumping uglies.

As a parting remark, I want to put it out there that often times, people will declare you a non-feminist if you are pro-life. They will say stuff like “every child a wanted child” or “my body, my choice,” but I have to ask:

-Is it a choice if a woman has to choose between her child and her job?
-Is it a choice if a woman is told “end it, or I am leaving you?”
-Is it a choice if a parent threatens to disown their daughter if she carries her pregnancy to term?
-Is it a choice if a woman has to choose between putting food on the table and having a child?

We don’t want to set women up for false choices. The idea of choice implies that each option is viable in itself, not the lesser of two evils. In my mind, what we are telling women is “You don’t have the capability to do seek out resources on your own, if the government doesn’t give them to you and if you were to get pregnant at an inopportune time, you are better off getting rid of the pregnancy because your life is ruined if you even try to raise a baby and reach your goals.” How is that empowering women?

One of my best friends, and I will not name her here for she knows who she is, is the strongest person I know. She discovered she was pregnant not long after college graduation and she had her baby. She and the father married but later divorced, but she is rocking her life. Her child is amazing, everything that you would want in a child. She is a homeowner, she works full-time and is just an inspiration to me. I don’t know if abortion ever crossed her mind, but I thank God that she chose for life because our lives would be that much emptier without her and her child (after all, having a child changes you.) But that begs the question: Would I have abandoned her had she terminated her child. No, we are called to love and support each other through all times. Tough and Easy. That’s just how it goes.

For further reading about Pro-life Feminism, check out Feminists for Life.
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Lent begins this Wednesday and I’ve decided that for 40 days I am going to avoid these HEAVY topics and try to focus on the spiritual with a dash of levity here and there. I’ll be including the meat-free recipes for your enjoyment and don’t forget, if you have one to share, email it to caffeinatedcatholicmama (at) gmail (dot) com. Include your first name for the props!

Pax Christi!

7 Comments

Filed under Catholic, feminism, life, political

Setting the Record Straight

I’ve been kind of fired up about things in the past few days. I don’t know if it’s the mess that is going on in Wisconsin or just the climate in general but before I continue, I want to make something very clear:

My history is closer to that of Mary Magdalene than that of the Blessed Mother.

Oftentimes, parents are afraid to talk to their children about drug use because of their own past drug use. They fear being seen as hypocritical or telling their kids “Do as I say, not as I do.” Well, I can tell you, the only illegal drug that I ever consumed was alcohol before I was 21 (I was and am far too paranoid for anything more,) but I did find myself making what I now consider to be poor moral choices when I was a young adult.

I had grand plans of saving myself for my husband and that pledge to self was easy enough to keep in high school. I was not part of the popular crowd and I didn’t really hang out with the partiers, I was more of a floater… but I was really into my studies and I was a band geek (in fact I was a drum major.) So, yeah… kind of nerdy. But my studies paid off as I received a scholarship to the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

I started Madison in the Fall of 1998 and I did a pretty good job to balancing the studies with the party lifestyle that I adopted. I managed to keep my resolve not to go “all the way,” but that didn’t stop me from engaging in some heavy petting. (Yes, this is kind of weird to write considering that I am pretty sure my mother and my mother-in-law both read my blog, but it is what it is.) Sophomore year, I really spent too much time partying and drinking and as a result, failed Organic Chemistry which effectively killed my dream of being a doctor. Now, keep in mind, I was on scholarship at this point and as it was an academic scholarship, failing classes is not really part of the deal. Basically I was told to straighten up and fly right or kiss my scholarship good-bye. Failing that class was a wake-up call for me and I never earned less than an B since then. Junior year started and I had been dating my boyfriend at the time for the entire summer. We were doing the distance thing, so we were only together on the weekends. Then a weird thing happened… September 11. For some reason, that horrible act lead to me to decide that we could all die tomorrow so it was time to “Carpe Diem!” I slept with my boyfriend not too long after then. I was 21.

He and I broke up later that fall and it was after that break-up that things got kind of crazy. I really bought into the notion of female empowerment by being able to pick up a guy in a bar. But I can tell you, with every “conquest” I felt crappier and crappier about myself. For a few hours, I was loved, I was admired, I was favored… and then I was discarded. I fell into depression and was under treatment by a Cognitive-Behavioral therapist for almost 3 years. While in therapy, I learned how to form healthier relationships and it helped lead me to where I am today. I really wish that I could write that the Church had more of an influence on me at that point in my life, but I really can’t. While I converted in 2002, I didn’t start learned about the Church’s teachings on sexuality and contraception until after the birth of the Bear, in 2007. (I used contraception, both chemical and physical, from 2001 until 2006. Since after the Bear’s birth, we’ve used the Sympto-Thermal Method of Natural Family Planning.)

The Soon-to-be-Blessed John Paul II wrote that the opposite of love is not hate; it is use. It seems, with sexuality, we tend to take two avenues: repression or free-for-all. Neither method is healthy nor works. Why am I putting all of this out there and writing about such sensitive and private topics? Because maybe one of you reading is where I was in 1998… in 2001… in 2007. Ignorance is bliss… but do we really want to live life blind, deaf and dumb? So, what am I planning on telling my daughters (and/or sons if we are blessed in the future?) I will teach them that sex is a beautiful and powerful act. It is simple but at the same time incredibly complex. It has the power to create and the power to destroy and the only difference is in how it is wielded. I will teach them that we all make mistakes and we all may have regrets, but in acknowledging those mistakes and desiring to change, to be better than yesterday, is the mark of maturity.

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Getting off the fence

I used to be a fence sitter in the realm of the polarizing topic of abortion. I have close, dear friends who are champions of women’s reproductive rights and are staunchly pro-choice; I have other close, dear friends who are champions of women’s reproductive rights and are staunchly pro-life. For the longest time, I would hem and haw and try to tactfully avoid the question or topic for fear of angering or alienating a friend or worse, losing a friend.

I am not very good at memorizing scripture, but there is one chapter of the bible that has really “spoken” to me at varying times in my life: Matthew 10. Quite a few passages from this chapter has lead me to writing this today:

16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

26 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.

27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

Yesterday, the US House of Representatives voted to strip Planned Parenthood of federal monies that are used for preventative health screenings, which include contraception and cancer screenings. Currently, Planned Parenthood is prohibited from using federal dollars for abortion services, and the removal of this money cuts off it’s “family planning” side. As an aside, the monies were being provided under the Title X Family Planning Program enacted in 1970. According to the US Health and Human Services Website:

Over the past 40 years, Title X family planning clinics have played a critical role in ensuring access to a broad range of family planning and related preventive health services for millions of low-income or uninsured individuals and others. In addition to contraceptive services and related counseling, Title X-supported clinics provide a number of related preventive health services such as: patient education and counseling; breast and pelvic examinations; breast and cervical cancer screening according to nationally recognized standards of care; sexually transmitted disease (STD) and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) prevention education, counseling, testing and referral; and pregnancy diagnosis and counseling. By law, Title X funds may not be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning. (emphasis mine)

Opponents of the funding cut, use the argument that by cutting the money to Planned Parenthood, we are putting the lives and health of women at stake. But not all Title X recipients are being cut, only Planned Parenthood, which may be the most accessible if not the most well known “family planning” center in the US.

Not every Planned Parenthood office provides abortions, but every office will council and refer to an abortion provider as needed. One question to have, is Planned Parenthood providing abortion as a family planning method? I don’t know. I guess that would depend on why the abortion is performed. According to their 2010 fact-sheet, in 2008, Planned Parenthood performed 324,008 abortions and referred 2,405 pregnancies for adoption. Planned Parenthood is not without other controversies, either. Last March, Planned Parenthood and The Girl Scouts of America caused some issues when they partnered to do some “No-Adults Allowed” Sex Education. A few weeks ago, the pro-life group, “Live Action” released a series of videos showing Planned Parenthood employees skirting the laws and essentially helping a man posing as a pimp for an underage girl. Planned Parenthood has come out and said that the videos are all hoaxes among other things. For me, though, Planned Parenthood and abortion are intrinsically linked and culturally very personal.

According to the Gutmacher Institute, black women account for 30% of induced abortions in the US. However, according to the 2000 Census, black (or black with something else) women in the US made up 6.8% of the total population. Another percentage from the Gutmacher Institute is that 69% of pregnancies among black women were unintended, but Planned Parenthood is providing Family Planning services? Bottom line is that family planning services do not make money, but abortions do. Abortions are not covered by federal dollars, so the women are paying out of pocket for the procedure. According to the PPFA Annual Report for 2008-2009, the non-profit ended with a profit of $63.4 million. To clarify, non-profit is a tax status, so that means they don’t have to play Government Taxes. (The 2009-2010 report has not been released.)In New York City, 71% of black teenagers aborted their children in 2009. According to LEARN, the largest black pro-life group in the US, between 1973-2001, abortion has claimed more lives than AIDS, Violent Acts, Accidents, Cancer and Heart Disease combined (their stats come from the CDC.) So, what’s going on here? Why are we, as a community, allowing this black genocide to continue?

Women deserve better than abortion. Of those 324,008 abortions in 2008, we can say at least half of those would have been little girls. I am never a fan of those who criticize without bringing another option. In my opinion, we need to:
– redefine our definitions of “love,” “sex,” and “intimacy.” Intimacy can lead to sex and sex can lead to the creation of life. Sex very rarely, if ever, leads to intimacy or love.
– support pregnant women more, whether it is in their jobs or just personally. A woman should not have to feel compelled to choose between her child and her job. Maybe some of those federal monies should go to Pregnancy Resource Centers/ Emergency Shelters to help pregnant women with no place to go. Let’s give adoption some better PR.
-Stop Glamorizing Teen Pregnancy. Yup, MTV, I’m talking to you. Now, I have to admit, I have NEVER seen “Teen Mom” but what I have heard about it makes me vomit in my mouth a little. Some say it’s a great window to the realities of teen motherhood, others say that it makes girls think that they are one pregnancy away from landing a reality show and FAME!
-Celebrate the involvement of the father. Too often pro-choice voices talk about how it’s the choice of the woman, but there are at least 4 people involved in that choice: The Mother, The Father, The Child and God. In having the abortion, the mother takes away the choice of the father and the choice of the child.

A baby is not just an extension of the mother’s body, like an appendix or gall-bladder. It has it’s own genetic code and is a separate being. Just because it is dependent on the mother for a period of time does not make it more or less valuable or give it less of a right to live. My children are still very dependent on me. Just because they do not rely on me for their oxygen exchange or nutrition, doesn’t mean they are not still dependent. Do I have the right to deny them life because they count on me?

I’ll close with two quotes:

“The Negro cannot win as long as he is willing to sacrifice the lives of his children for comfort and safety.” (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

“We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population,” she said, “if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.” (Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood)

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What are your thoughts? I fully believe in civil discourse, but I do expect a certain level of decorum when engaging in debate. We all have differing opinions and no one person is more right than another and we all have the right to speak our minds. Can’t wait to read your thoughts.

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Ask CCM Tuesday: Stem Cell Research

So, what’s the deal, you may ask, with the Catholic Church and Stem Cell Research? The Church is all about keeping people alive at whatever cost, but it’s against stem cells? What’s the dealie, yo?

First of all… The Church is not against Stem Cell Research, per se. Rather, she speaks out against embryonic stem cell research. Let’s start with some history:

If you follow my blog, you may already know that I am a Badger… meaning I earned my degrees at the University of Wisconsin- Madison (BS ’02, MS ’05.) What you may not know is that UW-Madison is essentially one of the birth places of embryonic stem cell research. Back in 1995 non-human primate stem cells were isolated there and later on, human lines. So what’s the big deal with stem cells?

Stem Cells are cells found in multi-cellular organisms which have the ability to differentiate into other specialized cells. The two ‘news-worthy’ types (embryonic and adult) differ in one major way: embryonic stem cells have the ability to become ANY of the over 200 different cell types in the human body (they are also known as pluripotent cells,) while adult stem cells (somatic or germline, depending on the origin of the cell) are multipotent, meaning they are limited to becoming the type of tissue from which they originated. Pluripotent Adult Stem cells do exist, but they are very rare in the body. It is possible to induce pluripotency in some cells (i.e. skin cells) by using genetic reprogramming but these would not be considered stem cells. Stem Cells can also be obtained from fetal and amniotic sources, but we don’t hear about those as much.

Adult Stem Cells are currently being used in the treatment of leukemia via bone marrow transplants which is, right now, one of the only established treatments using stem cells. As of right now, embryonic stem cells are still in the research phases, but the possibilites exist for Adult Stem Cells being used to treat Parkinsons, cancer, spinal cord injuries, wound healing, diabetes and arthrtis, to name a few. However, because of the nature of embryonic stem cells they have the tendency to develop into tumors also referred to as teratomas which can threaten the life of the recipient.

The problem with embryonic stem cells is that the cells are taken from an early stage embryo, called a blastocyst, thereby killing the embryo. Catholics, among other faiths and persons, believe that life begins at conception, so taking the cells from the embryo is kin to taking a life in order to research possible cures to extend another life. The Church teaches us that using evil means to obtain a good is not worth it, so to speak. The practice is often justified because the currently established lines come from embryos that are the un-used embryos from In Vitro Fertilization with the thought being… “well, we have these embryos here and they are doing nothing but sitting frozen in stasis, so at least we are using them.” In short, the Church says in the Instruction from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Donum Vitae, that

“the human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception and therefore from that same moment his rights as a person must be recognized” (I, 1).

But the ethical use of embryos in research is not the only question. Another question to ask ourselves is: Should we continue with our policy of research into high-tech, expensive therapies that may not be available to many citizens because they are uninsured, underinsured, or because their insurance plans might not cover experimental treatments? Is it right that not everyone would be able to take advantage of stem cell therapies? In short, the Church is very supportive of scientific progress and using science to the betterment of human life, but not at the cost of it’s smallest humans.

So, my opinion: I am a science nerd, through and through. My first job after college was in a cancer research lab. My Masters Degree is in Human Pathology, I find disease and it’s research fascinating. However, I don’t agree with the use of embryos in research. I don’t agree with taking a life to further a life. That last statement can be a hard one to follow, after all how can we say that one life is worth more than another? We can’t, and that’s my point.

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Next Week: In Vitro Fertilization. As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments. But please, keep things respectful and constructive!

Every Tuesday is “Ask CCM Tuesday!” If you have questions about Catholicism, conversion, RCIA, Natural Family Planning, Breastfeeding, Cloth Diapering, Frugal Living, Knitting, Crochet, Biology, Forensic Science, Marriage, Parenting, Gentle Discipline, etc., etc., please send me an email at:

CaffeinatedCatholicMama (at) gmail (dot) com

In your email, please include your first name and your location and let me know if you want your name withheld when I answer your question on the blog.

Pax Christi!

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NIMBY, I guess.

Remember a few weeks back when I gave my opinion on the Ground Zero/ Mosque controversy and I talked about how it’s not just Ground Zero at which the debate is happening? If not, you can read it here.

Anyway, this morning I woke up to this report.

It all makes the CCM very sad.

(in case you were wondering, NIMBY stands for “Not in my backyard.”)
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You have thoughts, you know you do! Share them here. I welcome disagreements but you have to be respectful and stand by your statements.

Pax Christi!

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