Monthly Archives: October 2012

Presidential Debate 2: Why Mitt Romney Should Never Talk to Foreign Leaders

It has gotten to a point where I can barely look at the screen during the Presidential Debates. It has gotten to this point because the facial expressions and body language posed by Mitt Romney alone is enough to convince me why he is not right as the President of the United States. Last night was particularly telling, as we learned just how little respect he has for women. He has so little respect as to lie about their health care during a nationally televised debate. He has so little respect that the female moderator consistently received inappropriate dismissive body language, and when she said “Let’s talk about self-deportation,” he replied with “No.” Oh, and in case we forget, he disclosed that he met the head of MI6 during a press conference in London. You know, the organization which is so shrouded in secrecy that it was not publicly acknowledged as being real until 1994 – 86 years after it was founded.

Mitt Romney thinks we are stupid. And he would treat foreign leaders with the same contempt with which he treats the sitting President, the voting people, and the moderators in these debates. President Obama at least has the decency to treat us like adults, and to understand that we’ll catch him if he lies to us. I was also very grateful that both the President and the moderator – Candy Crowley – made the point of correcting him by use of transcripts when it came to accusations that President Obama did not refer to the Libyan Ambassadors death as an “act of terror” until two weeks after the fact, when he did  call it as such during the Rose Garden speech the day after the incident.

But let’s get back to that bald faced lie he made during discussions about women’s health: During last night’s debate, Mitt Romney said that he believed in contraceptives for all women. But in the first debate, he said that paying for birth control was “ridiculous” and that he didn’t want to have to pay for it.

So which one is it?

Well, given his statements toward closing down Planned Parenthood as a way to save money, I’m going to go with the second opinion rather than the first.

During the section on equal pay for women, I was particularly pleased with what the President had to say. I greatly appreciated the idea of framing the issues of contraceptives, STD screenings, and mammograms as an economic issue rather than a social one. Because it’s true. Women have a significant number of responsibilities in terms of health care which men do not have. Men certainly have their own health issues, but economically women are placed with the burden specifically when it comes to pregnancy prevention. President Obama wants to offer his daughters “the same opportunities that anybody’s sons have.” I firmly believe him when he says that he wants equality because he does make it personal. He makes it very personal.

Mr. Romney made it personal in a very different way – he commented that women’s needs as professionals are different, and that his Chief of Staff needed to leave work early in order to put dinner on the table for her two children – this, by the way, on the heels of his “binders full of women” comment. My question is this: Does Mitt Romney support women being equal in the workplace, because it seemed to me like he was way more interested in espousing the differences between women and men and their priorities.

Of course, it’s the parenting issues that truly get me angry. Because in a dialogue about gun violence, of course we’re going to talk about how schools need to create better ways of attacking the culture of violence in our country, of course we need to have engaged parents. That being said… Well, why don’t you just read the quote first?

“And the parents. We need moms and dads helping raise kids. Whenever possible. The benefit of two parents in the home, and that’s not always possible. Lots of great single moms and single dads. But gosh, to tell our kids that before having babies they ought to think about getting married to someone – that’s a great idea.”

What a heterosexist, anti-woman, mean, senseless thing to say on public television! First he comes for Big Bird, then he comes for Planned Parenthood, and now – he’s going after MY MOM. Maybe he’s forgotten, but there are people in this country who voluntarily become single parents, because they want to have children and haven’t found the right parent. Also, what about adoptive parents, step-parents, families raising children together, gay couples who can’t get married, straight couples who don’t want to… It’s a modern world and the variations are endless.

And one man on that stage knew that.

Granted, the room wasn’t particularly diverse, the questions didn’t really answer the things I want to know – about disabilities, about LGBT rights. Those questions weren’t asked, and I know that both candidates have opinions on both issues, and we have the right to hear them. But even with the limited information we were given, I know who acted like a President, and I think you do too.

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Halloween Costume Debacles

Last Friday I was at New York Comic Con.I saw a lot of people with eyepatches. But I’m not going to go into that here, because you can simply read my thoughts on eyepatches elsewhere. Suffice it to say, it’s a little frustrating to see able bodied people walking Very Slowly because they cannot see out of one eye. If you have to give yourself an actual disability in order to wear your costume, some rethinking might be in order.

There’s a photo series that’s been floating around for a while, and the title is “This   is  my culture, not a halloween costume”. Cultural appropriation, making fun of cultures, confusing one culture with another, all of these are things that conflate together to make the choice of halloween or cosplay costumes super complicated.  While I was at comic con, a couple of people assumed that my right eye was a special effects contact.

Please don’t think that my disability is part of my costume. I know. It was comic con. I know, it’s halloween MONTH. Guess what? I look like this every day. I’ve had people enroll me in half hour conversations about how they don’t believe that my eye is real – on Halloween. I’ve had people ask where I bought my special effects contact – and just for the record, I looked. There is no special effects contact I can find on the internet that would make your eye look like mine. The “Blind” contact is supposed to give you that “infamously creepy, hazy blind look.” (Oh, and I found a pair that actually make you blind. What FUN!)

There are two issues for me – there’s the issue of able bodied people playing disability dress up for fun, and there’s the issue of me not being able to put on a costume without people assuming that my eyeball is a part of my costume. Yes. I carry a fancy cane, but I do so because I want to be able to dress up and cosplay, and an actual white cane tends to take away from the whole effect of steampunk, or other costume choices for myself.

Furthermore, it’s incredibly frustrating to know that if I were walking down the street on a regular Tuesday in April none of these people would come up and ask me where I bought my eyeball. Nobody would ask me whether it was real or not. It’s a symptom of the season, but since I love dressing up, I’d like to be able to do it with everyone else, and still be able to use my cane so that when I go wandering through thousands of people at a comic convention, I can do so in safety. Nerd culture seems to value my eye as something pretty, or awesome – but it would be nice if it could be ported out of the context of a super awesome costume into just being pretty because it is.

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Happy Blind Americans Equality Day!

Just as I was finishing my post for today, I got an email from the Disability Group at the White House. I subscribe for news updates so that I know when the White House is planning to do nice things for disabled constituents. The email was declaring today “Blind Americans Equality Day” replacing the original “White Cane Safety Day.”

There’s something neat about having a day of equality for people with my disability. A moment of recognition for the fact that visually impaired people actually do make an impact on society – rather than a day about being “aware” of the tool many of us use to be mobile. Giving us credit for things we do, rather than telling people to be cautious of us based on something we carry. The idea of “White Cane Safety Day” is a little like “Wheelchair Safety Day”, so the change in tone makes everything feel more like credit where credit is due, rather than asking everyone to worry about how we get around.
But what kind of contributions have blind Americans made to our society? Let’s take a tour…
Helen Kellerwas a brilliant political analyst and a socialist. Her contributions to feminist and socialist literature are incredibly important. She was also the first deaf/blind woman to graduate from college!

Harriet Tubman – damage to her skull by a violent slave owner resulted in vision loss, but Tubman still escaped slavery and worked on the Underground Railroad.

Maria Runyanis a blind marathon runner. You may have seen her  in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where she placed eighth in the 1,500-meter, making Runyan the first legally blind athlete to compete in the Games and the highest finish by an American woman in that event. She also ran in the 2002 New York Marathon and finished as the top American in the race.

Ray Charles – While I’m trying to focus on women, Ray Charles’ music is something which I love. His music has the power to pull everyone onto the dance floor, to make people cry, to make people laugh.

Franklin Delano RooseveltThe most popular American President in history was not only visually impaired, but also was the only president to ever use a wheelchair exclusively. He led the country through World War II, created the New Deal, and invited the country to join him on radio broadcasted “Fireside Chats”which my grandparents still talk about to this day.

Blind Americans have done a lot. They’ve made music, they’ve held athletic records, they’ve rallied feminist causes and saved slaves from their masters – they’ve even led the so called “Free World” through a vicious war.

So if you see a blind person on the street today, offer to walk them across the street (without touching!) and don’t get pissed off if they decline politely.

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Election Issue #2: Women’s Rights

The main reason that I won’t be voting for Romney has to do with my gender, my sexuality, and my inability to accept that gender is a binary. I’ve already talked about how important marriage equality is to me, but today I’m going to talk about the politics of pregnancy and a woman’s right to choose.  I’ll be blunt – I believe in the right for a women to have a choice in whether or not they want to carry a pregnancy to term. I believe that abortion should be a viable option.The tactics used legally to stop women from making choices of their own accord are ghastly, and most of them are based on the desire to remove Roe v. Wade from the books. I wish I were being dramatic – but I’m not.

There are women in the United States who are being charged with feticide, the crime of murdering a baby before it is born. Phrases like “depraved-heart murder” jump off the page and into the courtroom. Given the stories told by the Guardian about the issues of pregnancy in America,  “indifferent to death or harm” indicates a level of distaste for the child which feels a little hard to prove here. Callous disregard for human life seems to be precisely the opposite of several of these stories – especially that of the woman whose downs syndrome baby was born premature and died of natural causes – yet still she was accused of wanting to kill her own child.

In Mississippi the right of choice has been taken away de facto, if not de jure,  by way of the lack of services. There is one operating abortion clinic. In many conservative states lawsuits consistently crop up demanding that abortion clinics keep their waiting rooms a certain temperature, get their doctors operating privileges, and various other specific and challenging requirements in order to prevent abortion clinics from operating without specifically closing them down in one fell swoop. Similarly, Charges under fetal homicide laws are pressed against the pregnant women who lose their babies, rather than against people who attack pregnant woman and thus kill the fetus.

What does this have to do with the Presidential Election when all these issues are primarily ones of states rights?
For one, Mitt Romney wants to privatize insurance and do everything state by state – allowing for discrimination against women’s bodies within the text of insurance laws and health care bills. Furthermore, Romney wants to remove the Affordable Care Act, and even though he didn’t admit to it during the debate. The fact that the ACA promotes women’s health is a problem. Birth control being paid for, STD testing being paid for, breastfeeding counseling being given freely – why does all of this scare the conservatives? Especially given that a study shows that the birth control mandate actually lowers abortion rates?

The issue comes down to power dynamics. Men want control over women, and their bodies. With choice, comes power. With power, comes equality. I may not like the idea of abortion, but the ability to make the choice to be a mother is a choice about freedom. Freedom from the consequence of rape, freedom from medical emergencies, freedom from raising a child who won’t take a first breath. Having never had to make that choice, I can’t say how easy or hard it is, but I can say that I will never forget hearing a classmate tell me that of course he’d expect me to carry a baby to term if I had been raped, because it was the will of God. The question I ask of this concept, is what about my own will? Women should have the right to take their free will into their own hands, and make the choices which are right for them – that’s why Roe v. Wade was taken on by the Supreme Court, and why their decision was to legalize abortion on a federal level – so that the state didn’t have the option to tell women what to do.
This isn’t really just about abortion either. It’s about the way that women are protected. Rape cases aren’t handled properly, neither is the attitude about sexual harassment, assault, or abuse helpful. The fact of the matter is, we live in a country where it’s still OK to discount the cry for help of a mentally disabled woman in Connecticut. She said she was raped, and the state said that because she can’t scream, or move her hands, she didn’t exert enough force for it to be considered a rejection of the sexual advances of her rapist.

We cannot allow our country to abuse women. We cannot allow various states to criminalize miscarriage in order to punish women for what their bodies often do without warning. These laws were written to protect women from violence against them, yet these laws are now being used to attack the women themselves, marking their fetuses as more important members of the society than the women who carry them.

I do not trust Mitt Romney to protect me from society. I do not trust Mitt Romney to give me autonomy over my body. I do not trust him to respect my choices and beliefs.

This is why I vote. To protect myself, and the other women who need protection from the clear violations of our rights.

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Filed under Feminism, Politics, Sexuality, War On Women

Feminist Sonar is Now On Facebook!

I noticed a fair amount of activity coming from a share on facebook today, so I figured it was time to make a page. You can find the blog here: Feminist Sonar On Facebook

Please like it! I’ll be posting links to things I don’t cover on the page as well as links to blog posts!

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The Debates: Part 1

I watched the Presidential Debate last night knowing that there was nothing Mitt Romney was going to say that would make me want to vote for him.

I should have realized that he would say things which would motivate me even further to push for voting Obama into a second term. I haven’t been super happy with Obama for several reasons – one of them being that while he seems to speak a lot about freedoms and equalities and so forth – he hasn’t really done anything to make my life better (except for the Affordable Care Act, which I’ll get to in a minute.) It took him until almost the end of his first term to support gay marriage.

There were several things which went wrong in last night’s debates. But here were the takeaways that I had after watching the debate:

Neither candidate directly engaged with the topic of women’s rights or the mounting pressures to remove rights from women with regard to their bodies. Even when the Affordable Care Act came up, nobody mentioned the part where the Affordable Care Act makes reproductive care for women easier to access and far better regulated (I haven’t paid for my birth control out-of-pocket since August, I hope you haven’t either.) Obama HAS made changes in this department. I now feel safe switching insurance companies and having my insurance in another state besides the one where my mother fought tooth and nail to get her blind, deaf, rubella baby health insurance. I actually have the freedom to travel and the access to health insurance which I desperately need to not have absurd medical costs.

But one of the issues with the dialogue around health care came from Obama himself. His examples when they came to disabled citizens were all about children, and how difficult it is for parents to support their disabled children without access to affordable insurance. And while that’s true, there’s a much more important bracket that I think both candidates forget about (or maybe they’d just rather not think about it.) Disabled adults need health insurance in order to be financially independent from their families. Furthermore, as a woman with health care needs, if I hadn’t gotten the healthcare that I needed I wouldn’t be functional to work. In order to have a robust workforce, we really need health care in order to keep people in their jobs. And in an era where most people are freelancers like myself, we don’t get health benefits from our jobs. So federal health care initiatives will actually change the face of insurance. Romney may talk about small business all he likes, but the reality is that my generation is still trying to figure out where we go in this new economy. The answer, is in part-time freelance work.

Furthermore, the demographic which both candidates emphasized was not that of the low income family, but of the middle class American family. What is supposed to be the dialogue for low-income families? For families here there is only one parent? For same sex couples of any financial demographic?

There’s so much that they didn’t talk about and I find myself frustrated by their narrow gaze.

Furthermore, while I’m willing to take pretty low digs during my own academic debate work, I never want to see one debater underhandedly call another a liar – especially not when the opponent is the President of the United States. Romney used a folksy underhanded tactic to make sure that he could get a dig in that would force us to question if Obama is a liar or not. Obama has a lot to lose by these underhanded remarks going unnoticed, and we have to hold people like Romney to a standard of decency that prohibits such things as calling people liars in underhanded ways, and steamrollering moderators just to get the last word in.
Finally – Keep your dirty hands off my Big Bird!

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Filed under Disability Issues, Feminism, LGBT, Politics

Presidential Debate Tonight!

I’ll be watching tonight and tweeting about my opinions. You can catch my 140 character snarky commentary at snarkbat on twitter!

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