Thursday, January 26, 2012

Media Justice Mash-Up: Roe v Wade Anniversary Edition

cross posted from Media Justice column

This week marks a fantastic anniversary as I’m entering the 100th post for the Media Justice column. I plan to do a few series highlighting some of my favorite pieces, ones that I’m most proud of, that still invoke something magnificent and specific for me, and that I just really dig. I’d like to start with a mash-up of posts that I’ve written that centers and discusses abortion. As this is the 39th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Trust Women Week, and a week where we will be featuring testimonios from people about their experiences with abortion for the 1 in 3 Campaign, I think this mash-up fits well.

What Did The Doula Do?
The first time I shared my experiences being an abortion doula was in the article What Did The Doula Do? I was inspired by the conversation that actor Taye Diggs had on the Jimmy Kimmel show where he discussed the birth of his most recent child and how he and his wife worked with a doula. Unfortunately, the video of their interview is no longer available online, but their conversation started a public discussion about doulas and the type of work we do. Many folks only know doulas to work with people who are pregnant and carrying a pregnancy to term. What I and many other abortion doulas do is be present for the person who is terminating their pregnancy. We offer support, pain management, comfort, and compassion to people who are making a very difficult decision. There are some folks who think this type of care is not care, and they are entitled to their opinions and I hope that if they ever find themselves feeling isolated, judged, shamed, that they too have someone who can be compassionate, kind, a witness and sit with them as they heal.

La Femme Fetal
One of the first columns I wrote about abortion and how it intersected with media justice was called La Femme Fetal. It was almost 2 years ago today that this column was published and it discussed one of the only songs in the Hip-Hop genre that discussed abortion from a pro-choice lens. The song “La Femme Fetal” by Digable Planets is one of the only songs, still today, that speaks to the compassion people making one of the hardest decisions in their life need. In this post I reflected on my contribution to the question “what does choice mean to me,” and my activism within the field of reproductive justice and the legacy of Rosie Jimenez. The song “La Femme Fetal” is now 19 years old and we still remain without a similar contribution to this genre. Do you know of others that exist today? If so, please share them!

Reflecting on No Easy Decision
When MTV (finally) did a show (not series) on young women who had abortions they called the show “No Easy Decision.” This show was the first of its kind on the network and gave a different perspective to their hit shows 16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom, and Teen Mom 2. There was a lot of talk about the series, many efforts to support the testimonios of those young people who shared their experiences. I also had some doubts about the show as Dr. Drew was going to be the facilitator. I shared those concerns in this post where I reflected on the show. I had to admit that I was impressed with the show, the quality and lack of judgmental rhetoric and language that was present as the young people spoke. It’s a show that I’d like to see become a series where the voices of other youth can be shared and we may begin to have a better understanding of the complexity that comes with being a young person, reproductive health, access to quality care, and access to services.

Abortion and the Sons of Anarchy
If you have not seen the Sons of Anarchy I still don’t know what to tell you about yourself. In this post I discuss one of my favorite television shows Sons of Anarchy, what stereotypes I had about the show prior to watching and why I’m now in support of the series. This show is really part of a ground-breaking series where multiple perspectives we often rarely hear are shared. One of the first (and only?) times a character chooses to terminate a pregnancy, seeks support, receives support, and follows through with the procedure occurred during the third season of Sons of Anarchy. This post discusses that representation and how it was created on screen to be extremely effective and realistic. I can’t recall another television show that has had a similar storyline. Often the character changes their mind, or miscarries, or something happens where the termination does not occur. This was not the case for this episode and I am very grateful for this narrative being shared.

Online Course: Sociology of Human Sexuality Part 3
You may have read along when I was posting on the course I was teaching last summer (a total of 5 parts). This section was the discussion on pregnancy options and abortion. We had a birth and postpartum doula join us in class to discuss what type of work they do with pregnant people. We then had a section on abortion where the history of how abortion became legal in the US was provided, along with an understanding of the laws in the US that may be state specific, and a discussion of what research has shown about the health and well-being of people who terminate a pregnancy. I remember this class and this summer very fondly. The students are amazing intellecutals and just brilliant people overall. I was very humbled and honored that students self-selected to share with the group their own personal experiences of pregnancy, childbirth, and abortion. It is times like this when I’m so thankful and happy to be a part of a community of people who find comfort in the class and learning space we create together.

I’m also extremely honored and thankful for remaining with you over these past years and interacting with readers at Amplify. It’s been more than I could have imagined and so enjoyable! Thank you all for reading, tweeting, sharing, and leaving comments. Thank you for seeing me.

Trust Women Week: Bianca's Story

cross posted from my Media Justice column

EDITOR'S NOTE: Trust Women Week overlaps with the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and reasserts our firm commitment to reclaiming the future of reproductive decision-making in 2012. Throughout the week, Amplify will be honoring women's experiences and voices by featuring a different story from The 1 in 3 Campaign January 21-27.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

What Will It Take To End Cervical Cancer?

cross posted from my RH Reality Check blog

This article is cross-posted from and in partnership with the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, and is published as part of a series on cervical cancer.

See all our coverage of Cervical Cancer Awareness Month 2012 here.

Maybe it’s because I’m into getting things done for the New Year, but I really dig lists. Here is my list of things I believe it will take to end cervical cancer.

  1. Comprehensive Sexuality Education (which must include an analysis and centering of race, ethnicity, class, relationship and immigration status, disability, citizenship, and not just a gender binary and sexual orientation),
  2. Collective commitment to valuing the bodies of people of Color,
  3. Collective commitment to valuing the bodies of transgender and intersex people,
  4. Recognize and change the way we police the bodies of women, people of Color and immigrants when it comes to cervical cancer,
  5. Include all men in conversations, education, and efforts around cervical cancer,
  6. Include youth in preparing and implementing educational efforts around HPV and cervical cancer,
  7. Honest dialogues and inclusion of people who have non-traditional and controversial perspectives (i.e. anti-vaccination, conspiracy theories)
  8. Understanding and disseminating of information on non-verbal communication and its connections to cervical cancer,
  9. Challenging ideologies that all forms of cervical cancer are transmitted only through sexual contact,
  10. Connect with all reproductive cancer survivors, communities, prevention and education spaces to build,
  11. Demystify the shame that comes with our reproductive organs and genitals,
  12. Trust all parents (especially young parents) to do what is best for their children versus forcing, coercing, and threatening them (to get their child vaccinated),
  13. Support grassroots efforts to educate, support, and provide care to communities that are under-resourced,
  14. Connecting same gender and same sex relationships to cervical cancer prevention efforts,
  15. Make clear and honest connections between HPV, oral sex, and throat cancer,
  16. Join, support, or host a Walk for Cervical Cancer in your area (find out how here),
  17. Provide support to caregivers of those living with cervical cancer,
  18. Center the testimonios of cervical cancer survivors,
  19. Honor the memories of those who have died of cervical cancer,
  20. Recognize that cervical cancer is preventable!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

What If The Internet As We Know It Disappeared?

cross posted from my Media Justice column

This is a real question. What would you do with all the work/media/writing you’ve created? How would you communicate with people all over the world? How would you find new resources and information from various perspectives? Do you enjoy any of these sites/spaces online:


If you said yes to any of these (and hopefully you did to at least one), NOW is an imperative time for understanding that the Internet as we know it today is under attack. I’m not overreacting, being dramatic, or exaggerating. I’m being serious and if you enjoy doing things like watching videos on your cell phone, updating your Facebook status, or blogging, now is the time to take action!

I’ve written on Net Neutrality a few times. This week SOPA (Stop Online Privacy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP* Act) have been hot topics. Did you notice when went dark? Were you part of the folks who did not understand why this space was not available? If so, this post is for you and will provide some important information!

Check out this 3 minute video explaining what these two bills are about and what, if passed, they will do to all of us:

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

I care about this issue because if it wasn’t for the internet our work on an inter/national level would not be the same (and I say this as someone who was organizing long before the internet was accessible). But I mostly care about this topic because of how all of us, especially youth, have found ways to express themselves, share their voices, and make change in their community through the internet. After completing 3 syllabi for this coming semester, a lot of the articles and films by media makers are online. I value all of us having the access to create, produce, and share knowledge.

What YOU can do NOW

• Call your Senators and tell them to vote NO on SOPA and PIPA next week (the week of January 23, 2012). Find out where your representative falls regarding this issue and how to contact them here.
• SHARE this information with your friends and people who are your contacts.
• Blog, darken, and/or share your thoughts on SOPA and PIPA on social media that is threatened.
• Read more about what is going on and educate yourself. A few good spots include Save The Internet, Free Press and Save The News.

*IP stands for Intellectual Property

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Puerto Rican “Activists” Workin’ It In The Wrong Way

cross posted from my Media Justice column

By now you’ve heard of the ABC television show “Work It.” A triflin’ and low rating show that features two middle aged men (one racially white another Latino) who dress up as women to secure employment in the US. Yes, you read that correctly; at a time when women still don’t make as much as men (and where transgender people don’t make as much at all!), when the feminization of poverty is still a part of our society and world, and when transgender people are still the most oppressed, underemployed, murdered, invisible anderased members of our communities.

ABC Chief Paul Lee states he “doesn’t get” the big deal about how harmful “Work It” is based on GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign's activism around the show and their efforts to challenge it coming to air. Lee states he doesn’t “get it” because he loved the movie “Tootsie.”

What Lee and others fail to see is that these are characters that are created so that we can laugh at them. These characters are performing stereotypes and misconceptions of what we assume to be a challenge when people “dress up” as the opposite gender. The characters perpetuate a gender binary. These characters are making a choice to dress up which gives the illusion that sex and gender are choices that people can simply change their mind about.

Others that fail to see this problem: some Puerto Rican activists. For the past week I’ve received so many emails about how Puerto Ricans are represented on “Work It” by Latino character Amaury Nolasco, who plays a Puerto Rican character. The “dehumanizing” and “blatantly offensive” comment where the “culture was attacked by an insensitive stereotype” by Nolasco’s character who states: “I’m Puerto Rican, I would be great at selling drugs.”

This statement took less than 10 seconds to say and hear. Because of that 10 seconds a huge storm of protest has erupted among Puerto Ricans.

My heart breaks here. All of this mobilizing and protesting for one line by a character, yet NOTHING from any of the grassroots organizations, such as Boricuas For A Positive Image, celebrities or community activists that have jumped on this protest about how Puerto Rican and Latin@ transgender people are impacted by this show. There is an overwhelming silence. Where is the alliance building with transgender activists? Where is the joining with GLAAD and HRC? Where is the mobilization beyond targeting me as a Puerto Rican, but not as a human being that values all members of our community, especially those who are harmed the most?

The images and video that have been created around the challenging of ABC by Puerto Rican activists are very single issue when we are not a single issue people! The messages being sent: Transmisogyny is alive and well. We don’t care about your gender we care more about your ethnicity (and only if it is Puerto Rican). We don’t care how something may harm and dehumanize the Puerto Rican transgender community unless it impacts us directly.

I understand this response especially since Puerto Rico has been struggling with drugtrafficking, drug use and abuse, and drug related crimes for decades. One of my most vivid memories of Puerto Rico was in 1995 when armed US military would line the streets and randomly pull cars over and check for drugs. It was a scary time, and those times remain today, especially with the high murder rate in Puerto Rico (and a number of those murders are of transgender Puerto Ricans and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer Puerto Ricans) and when the stop and frisk experiences of Latin@ and Black youth living in NYC and in-school arrests are ridiculously high.

What I don’t understand is how can “activists” separate these issues so easily? If we stood with our transgender community in fighting this show when it was being created and knew it centered a Puerto Rican actor who was misrepresenting Puerto Rican transgender women, would we be here today? It’s possible we would, it’s also possible our voices as Puerto Rican consumers, Puerto Rican media makers, and Puerto Rican people would have resulted in a similar apology and a more quick removal of the offensive show. When we partner together to support and make change for our most oppressed members of our community we all benefit.

My hope is that Puerto Rican activists today learn about the anti-oppression legacy that civil rights activist Sylvia Rivera, a Puerto Rican-Venezuelan New Yorker, has left us. And then share her legacy and not keep it just for ourselves, but speak on it to youth, our elders, other Latin@s, everybody! To learn how you can support the Sylvia Rivera Law Project visit their website.