31 December 2013

"Cultural Differences"

I've been seething about this incident ever since it happened, so I'd like to vent about it here:

One morning at work, my boss was reading off a bit of news to my two co-workers and I about the 8 year old Yemeni girl known as "Rawan" who was sold into marriage by her parents to a 40 year old man. The girl died after suffering severe internal bleeding on her wedding night.

Guy At Work (hereafter known as GAW) just chuckled and said, "Oops." My boss just gave him a dirty look and said, "I'm gonna come over there and smack you." He looked around at the three of us, got only more dirty looks, and then tried to save himself: "You have to understand that their culture is extremely different from ours. That's normal over there." I was too angry to say anything.

First of all, he could have shown some sympathy. This girl was brutally raped and died from the resulting injuries. Even an "Aw, that's sad" would have been better than a laugh and an "Oops," like it was a comical mistake that could have happened to anyone.

Second of all, just because child marriage might be socially acceptable in other countries, does not mean that it is any less of a human rights violation. This poor girl's parents sold her to a 40 year old man to be used as a sex slave, AKA a wife. That is not acceptable, no matter what backwards ass culture you live in. Condoning that kind of social norm in any part of the world only allows it to continue. Women will always been seen as lesser beings, or as property or objects, until we are allowed to decide what happens to our own bodies.

How many more girls have to die this way until people wake up?

27 December 2013

Depression and Communication

When you have depression, you can feel very isolated and alone. Talking with other people helps, but holding a conversation can be very difficult.

For example, when they ask, "How's it going?". You want to respond, "Lousy," or "shitty," or "Well, I'm not dead" because that pretty much sums it up. But then they want to ask you what's wrong, and you really don't want to get into it, or you don't even know how to explain what's wrong with you. So you respond with a "Good" or a "Fine," both of which are lies, and they really don't mean anything. Communication failure.

Or they ask, "How's your family doing?" Now, you don't talk to most of your family, and some of them you actively hate, and the rest are in and out of the hospital or just as depressed as you are. You don't want to talk about it, and they don't want to hear about it. So, of course, you say they're doing "Fine."

Or maybe they ask, "How's your job?" and you want to reply, "Same shit, different day," or "It sucks." But you know they don't want to hear you complain about your job; no one wants to hear the constant stream of negative thoughts running through your head. So you tell them the job is "Okay" or that you're just glad that you have a job in this shitty economy.

It doesn't work. While you're busy trying not to say all the negative things that you're thinking and only saying one or two words, you clearly can't keep up your end of the conversation. Sometimes you forget to ask them the same questions, and then there's a lull.

When you go through this process enough times, you don't want to do it anymore. You avoid people and isolate yourself even more, which - surprise! - increases your depression.

I think Allie at Hyperbole and a Half understands:

20 December 2013

Fetuses and Doggies and Protesters, Oh My...

I know I shouldn't care about what other people think, but sometimes I have to consider how I present myself and my beliefs, and/or how it reflects on my job.

Let me explain.

If you know anything about me, you know that I'm an outspoken supporter of women's rights and reproductive rights--including abortion. My bumper stickers include a picture of a uterus with the word "Mine," a rainbow that says "If the fetus you save is gay, will you still support its rights?"* and a pink "I Stand With Planned Parenthood."

I also support organizations that rescue homeless and abused animals. I rescued my dog from the Humane Society, and I give money and resources to the local shelters. However, I do not have any SPCA or "Rescue" bumper stickers on my car. I am hesitant to even put a generic dog related sticker on my car.

It's not that I don't feel strongly about saving animals who are homeless or living in abusive situations. It's that I don't want people to think that I care more about animals than I care about "babies," aka fetuses. I can just see one of our protesters taking a picture of the offending bumper stickers and posting it around the internet as "proof" of how terrible Planned Parenthood is: how we don't care about killing "babies" but we care about the poor, homeless dogs.

These are just the things I think about when I'm bored at work.

*This is what my boyfriend calls the "Obligatory Inflammatory Bumper Sticker." I call it calling out the twisted logic of conservatives.

15 October 2013

Don't Pray for Me

Whenever shit goes wrong in my life, other people (family or friends) feel bad that my life sucks. Sometimes they honestly feel bad and want to help. However, depending on the situation, their ability to help is very limited. Truth is, they can't make life not suck. They can't bring back a dead dog or make someone get over a hard breakup. Even though they know that they can't fix the situation, they want to do something--anything--to make it better.

So they give that irritating line: "I'll pray for you."

Let me make this very clear. You praying for me does absolutely nothing for me. Nothing. It doesn't make my problem go away, and it sure as hell doesn't make me feel better. In fact, it makes me feel worse. It says to me that you feel bad for my crappy situation, but the best you can do is talk to your imaginary god about it. What this does is makes you feel better about the situation without you actually doing anything to help.

I think the time this pissed me off the most was when my grandfather died. At the funeral, some woman (not sure if she was family or friend) told me that she would pray for me and my family. Clearly, she felt bad enough to feel the need to do something for us. However, instead of offering to actually help us (see below), she just said that she would "pray" for us, thereby alleviating the guilt she felt about our loss without actually doing anything for us.

Long story short: Praying for someone does not help the situation. It only makes the person doing the praying feel better about a situation that they can't fix.

If something bad happens to someone you know and want to help, try some of the following things that might actually help them:
~Give them your phone number and tell them to call you if they ever want to talk and/or vent about what happened. Be sincere, but don't push them. If they don't want to talk, then don't force it.
~Offer to cook them dinner. Be sensitive to dietary restrictions or allergies.
~See if they need help with other household chores. Grief can make cleaning or babysitting even harder than it usually is, so offer to clean their house or watch their kids for an evening.
~Send them a nice email, but don't expect a response. If they're feeling lousy, they might not be up to answering emails, but it is nice to get a friendly message.

If you have a neurotic impulse to pray to your imaginary god about me, and you can't resist or your head is going to blow up, fine. Just don't tell me about it. Seriously.

10 October 2013

Teenagers and Abortion

I work at Planned Parenthood. When there's something about our services that I don't know enough about to answer questions about it, I do research. Sometimes, I get questions from teenagers about pregnancy options, including abortions.

First of all, let's get this out of the way: (some) teens have sex. Some of them get on birth control, some don't. Some use condoms, some don't. Some of those condoms break. Some teens are raped. Some get pregnant. Some decide to become teen parents. Some put their child up for adoption. Some decide to get an abortion.

The problem with Pennsylvania is that teens need a parent's permission to get an abortion here. While some parents have no problem giving this permission, some will not grant it. Furthermore, some teens are too scared to ask their parents, or they don't want their parents to know that they're pregnant (or even that they're having sex). Those that can't or won't get permission from their parents have one more option: to get a judicial bypass.

The teen seeking an abortion can "bypass" her parents by meeting with a judge, who can give the permission necessary for the procedure. The judge asks questions to decide if the teen is mature enough to make her own decision about getting an abortion. If she is not deemed mature enough, then the judge has to decide if an abortion would be in her best interest.

Although it seems to be uncommon, the judge can deny the teen permission. Here's an article about a case in Pittsburgh where that happened: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/region/teen-rights-to-abortion-in-dispute-285291/. In 2010, "Jane Doe" went to a judge for permission to get an abortion, and she was denied. According to the article:

"After questioning her for more than an hour, the judge decided that she couldn't have the abortion, ruling she was not mature and capable of making an informed decision about the procedure."

Forgive my language, but: What. The. Fuck.

A 17-year-old young woman is not mature enough to make an informed decision about what to do with her own body? Even though she has to watch an informed consent video at least 24 hours before her procedure (by PA law). I call Bullshit.

If this young woman is not mature enough to get informed consent and decide to get a medical procedure that is arguably safer than nine months of pregnancy and childbirth (http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/23/us-abortion-idUSTRE80M2BS20120123), then how the hell is she mature enough to take care of herself and a developing fetus, handle the stress of pregnancy and childbirth, and then parent or put a child up for adoption? That was a rhetorical question.

Like other backwards states (i.e. Texas and Mississippi), Pennsylvania is making it more and more difficult for women to get an abortion. If lawmakers could overturn Roe v. Wade, I believe that they absolutely would. Politicians would love to control every aspect of women's reproductive lives, and we cannot let them do that. If you do nothing else, at least pay attention to what's going on around you. This is not an isolated incident.

Sources/further reading:

Obviously, I'm writing this on my personal blog, and my opinions in this and other posts are my own, and should not be seen as representative of Planned Parenthood Keystone or Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

08 October 2013

Dressing Up for Class

For those of you who don't know me, I went to an all women's college for my first year of school, Bryn Mawr College (BMC), before I went to a "regular" school to finish my Bachelor's degree at York College of Pennsylvania (YCP).

When I was still a lowly high schooler, touring college campuses and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, I remember staying at BMC overnight for a prospective student weekend. One of the things we would talk about most is the supposed benefits of attending an all women's college. The current students went on and on about what a relief it was not having to get "dressed up" to go to class--as if women at "regular" schools have to spend hours every morning before class to primp just because there are actual men in their classes.

Let's just pretend for a minute that there were no men in my BMC classes (people from three other colleges could attend BMC classes, so we usually had a few men in each class).

Even at YCP, where the classes were usually half women and half men, no one cared what anyone else wore. People wore pajamas to class regularly. Sure, some people went out of their way to look nice to go to class, but not many people cared enough for that. I usually wore ratty jeans and an old hoodie to go to class, both at BMC and YCP. The point is that no one cared, at either school, what you wore to class.

The point of going to college is to get an education (and/or a degree), not to pick up a hot date. If you're looking for a date, go to a bar. It's cheaper and a LOT less work.

07 October 2013

Upward Dog, Downward Dog, and My Dog

I've been practicing yoga on and off for the past six years, and I've recently been trying to practice more regularly. My dog, Peppy, feels the need to "help" me. I think he just likes licking the sweat off my face, but it's adorable nonetheless. I got my boyfriend to take some pictures of me practicing, so that I could see how I was doing some of the poses and how I could improve. Unsurprisingly, Peppy ended up in most of the pictures. Here are a few of them:

Upward dog

Bow pose

Cobbler's pose
Yoga helps me feel a lot better physically and mentally, so I'm going to continue practicing at least 2-3 times per week. Thankfully, my boys are very supportive.

30 August 2013

Quit Telling Me To "Smile," Dammit!

The Guy At Work (GAW) at my new job is one of those guys who likes to tell women to "Smile!" The first time it happened, I let it slide. The second time it happened, I stuck my tongue out at him. But today, the third strike, there was only one other person working, and she was on the phone. So I finally stood up for myself.

GAW: Smile, Sarah!
Me (not smiling): Please stop telling me to smile.
GAW (looking like someone just slapped him): Oh, you're having a bad day?
Me: No, my face always looks like that.
GAW: Like you're having a bad day?
Me: Yes. It's unfortunate, but that's just how my face looks.

He hasn't said much to me since then. I think I got my point across though.

Just to clarify, I'm not a grumpy person or whatever. I'm just sick of people (most often men) telling me to smile. I don't care if you think I look angry or pissy or ugly. That's my face, and it always looks like that. I'm not obligated to change it just because you don't like it.

15 May 2013

How to Reduce the Need for Abortion

Let me start out by saying that this is not an abortion debate. I believe that what to do about an unintended pregnancy should be up to the pregnant woman and only the pregnant woman. If it's not your body, then it's not your business.

And that's all I'm going to say about that.

However, there are many Americans out there who would like to see fewer abortions performed. I can understand this desire; deciding to continue or terminate a pregnancy can be a difficult and stressful time in a woman's life. (I say "can be" because it is not the same for all women--there is no universal abortion experience.) While the woman may be dealing with her conscience or morals, she also has to deal with her finances. An abortion is not cheap; surgical abortions can cost up to $300-$400, and insurance companies will not always cover the procedure. Not to mention all the legal hurdles that she has to jump through, i.e. the 24 hour waiting period and the infamous transvaginal ultrasounds. Life would be easier for any woman if she could bypass this potential headache altogether.

The only way to reduce* the need for abortions is to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies. Period.

Let me say that again. The only way to reduce the need for abortions is to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies.

But how do we do that, you ask?

Three words, my friends: Education and Access to Prevention.

Education is first and foremost. Every individual, no matter their race, class, gender, religion, sexuality (etc.), must be educated about sexual health--which includes protection from STIs (STDs) and unintended pregnancies. "Don't have sex until you're married or you'll go to hell" is not a good education. Study after study has shown that abstinence-only education is not effective at reducing STI and teen birth rates. And forget the idea that sex-ed gives kids "ideas"; most kids hear a lot about sex before they hear any real educational information about sexual health. Children need to be educated about sex before they start having sex so that, when they eventually come to the point in their lives when they are ready to become sexually active, they can make reasonable decisions to protect themselves and their partners.

Prevention methods are obviously also very important. We currently have a wide variety of prevention methods, but I think we need more. More choices for those of us who cannot take hormonal methods, for whatever reason. More condoms that people will actually want to wear (and more for people who are allergic to latex). And how about choices for men who want to be on some sort of birth control? If a woman and a man in a relationship are both on birth control, think about how much more effective that would be at preventing pregnancy!

However, prevention is not very helpful if it is not accessible. All kinds of birth control and condoms need to be widely available to the general population. Laws restricting access to birth control (like the one that allows pharmacies to deny a patient her pills) need to be curtailed. Emergency contraception (which is indeed contraception and not the abortion pill) needs to be available without a prescription to anyone seeking it. Accessibility also includes affordability--condoms and birth control need to be affordable so that people who make less money can still afford to prevent unintended pregnancies. In addition, accessibility needs to extend to rural areas, where there may be fewer pharmacies that are farther apart. Fortunately, some Planned Parenthood affiliates offer "Pills by Mail," a program where a woman can have her birth control mailed to her home so that she only needs to have a check-up once a year.

With ultra-conservatives attacking sex education and access to birth control, one wonders what their real goal is. Taking away these things will only lead to more unintended pregnancies--and therefore more abortions--which they are supposedly against. If you are really ready to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies in this country, then you will support education and access to prevention wholeheartedly.

*I say "reduce" and not "eliminate" because there are always extenuating circumstances. Condoms break. Hormonal birth control methods can fail. And don't even get me started on the issue of rape. We will always have a need for abortions, but we can certainly help prevent women from needing them in the first place.

13 May 2013

Terrifying Dreams

Bad dreams are nothing new for me. Sometimes, like when I'm under a lot of stress, my subconscious burps up some horrors for me while I'm asleep (for a common example, see here). Lately, my nightmares have been less about teeth and choking and more about a paralyzing inability to protect myself. The details are always a little different, but the main plot is pretty much the same:

Something bad is happening to me or is about to happen to me. It's usually some physical attack like a beating or rape. I try to defend myself by running or pushing away the attacker, but I'm always too slow or clumsy to run and too weak to fight. When the attack is imminent, I can do nothing else, so I try to call for help. I want to scream and yell for someone--anyone--to help me.

But I can't. It's like all of a sudden my voice box has turned itself down so far that all I can do is whisper. No one hears my pleas but myself and my attacker.

When I wake up, I just want to scream and scream just to prove to myself that I can. I think my subconscious needs a Prozac or something.

12 May 2013

Dieting is Bullshit

I don't care about my weight anymore. I don't care about losing weight anymore. I just want to be healthy. I want to be able to go for a run with my dog without needing my inhaler. I want to be able to go for a long bike ride without worrying whether or not my legs will give out. I want to be able to mow the damn lawn without having an asthma attack.

Is that so much to ask for?