Pro-life, Pro-choice or Pro-active?

As one of the most divisive arguments in culture, few topics share the level of passion than the pro-life vs. pro-choice argument. My hope is that women will collectively unite to combat the reasons why thousands of women find themselves in crises pregnancies and stop brawling about what to do after-the-fact. This essay explores some of the attitudes, educational deficits, legal challenges and social barriers that contribute to unwanted pregnancies and a unified call to action.


Social Stigma & Sex

Historically men do not suffer social consequences for overt promiscuity as women do. From a rape culture in the West to honour killings in the East, women have paid the price for mens’ rampant sexual appetites. Instead of holding men accountable for devaluing and objectifying a woman’s sexuality, women opted to fight for this same privilege: the right to experience a free sexuality devoid of cultural shaming and stigma. The problem with this platform is it amplifies the message that a woman’s sexuality is cheap.

“The problem with this platform is it amplifies the message that a woman’s sexuality is cheap.”

True Feminism

I believe a true feminist knows her worth- her mental, spiritual, relational, physical and sexual identity, placing a high value on her whole self and not offering up these identities without a reciprocal exchange. I love the feminist movement for fighting for equal pay because it demonstrates that a woman’s skill equates with a man’s skill and should be rewarded accordingly. I want women to demand a similar like-for-like exchange for access to her sexuality, and simultaneously, create a culture that disapproves of casual sex for both genders.  I want the bar raised for men, not lowered for women.

The truth, women, is that our bodies are unique, beautiful, sensual, and special. This open and free exploratory sexuality that is encouraged by western society does not elevate our position.  Scantily clad actresses and singers dominate our culture with little attention to female politicians, activists, inventors, scientists, teachers, and authors. The voices in Hollywood are strong against inequality, and yet, movie after movie, actresses cast themselves in roles that are disrespectful- characters who glorify adultery, appearance, promiscuity, and shallow relationships. Sex sells. We have to stop purchasing materials that reinforce that women are sexual objects, and start demanding media that reflects a woman’s honour, intellect, and capabilities. We have to be intentional to depict ourselves as the capable, equal, and strong gender that women are marching to be seen as.

We have to change what our young girls are wearing, listening to, and watching because all of the subtle and overt sexual overtones groom young women for an ideology that their success as a woman is equated to their physical attraction.  We need to change the message to demonstrate that their value is actually based around character and honour, courage, empowerment, beauty, strength, grace, and dignity. We need to be consciencious to teach our girls that beauty and sexy are not equivalent. We need to disentangle a girl’s worth from her sexual attractiveness and from boys’ opinion so that maybe her self-worth will come from a college acceptance letter rather than a night of cheap thrills in the sheets- putting her at risk of becoming pregnant unintentionally.

The Appraisal of a Woman

Surely, a person is more valuable than a car. We wouldn’t advise a teenager to give away, borrow, or let a man she just met test drive her car, so why would we celebrate her giving him access to her body?

A woman’s sexuality is so valuable that a man should offer commitment, stability, trust, and emotional interconnectedness in exchange for physical intimacy. We need to give women the permission to act according to their value, to have standards, to have high expectations, to raise the bar and be intolerant of unwanted sexual advances.

Education: The Science of Sexuality

We have to emphasise in our sexual education that sex is not merely an orgasmic exchange, particularly for women. Sex releases neurotransmitters designed to create emotional interconnectedness for women. Females are programmed to be selective about our potential mating selections because our children depend on the stability offered by a partner. Disproportionately for women, sex is a bonding force. When we don’t adequately in-still an attitude of selectiveness with our sexual partners, we inadvertently put women in situations where they are emotionally connected to the wrong kinds of men-the men who are unsuitable fathers in the event of pregnancy.

I want the message of women to change from “Get your hands off my uterus” to “Get your hands out of my pants.”

Although we largely addressed the reproductive risks of sex through contraceptives which allowed for a sexual revolution, we did not take away the neurobiological components that make sexual encounters more powerful emotionally and psychologically for women. It isn’t a handshake, ladies. It changes our brains. I want women to understand this before celebrating a one-night stand. It sticks with us. I want the message of women to change from “Get your hands off my uterus” to “Get your hands out of my pants.”

Access to Reliable Contraception

On the issue of contraception, we have work to do. Every girl has to have access to reliable  and free forms of contraception. We have to tell the teenage girl that if she lets the boy drive her car against wisdom, she had better have good insurance. We need to spend our energy ensuring ease of access in the legislation, and hold insurance and pharmaceutical companies responsible for breaking down barriers.

Moral conservatives argue this sends a message of approval for un-marital sex.  A message of abstinence only  is unrealistic, but if we can minimise risky sexual activity, unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, we have an ethical obligation to do so. Fiscal conservatives want to know how we can finance this. Birth control is so much cheaper than any after-the-fact solution, period. 

Responsible Parenting

I meet women (and men) who tell me that their parents did not discuss sex at all. Sex can have hideous emotional, medical, legal, and life changing consequences in the wrong context. Yet so many families do not utter a single word about it- leaving media, peers and school programs to do the educating.  Some parents cannot even use the appropriate anatomical names for the penis and vagina, and yet, permit their children to watch movies with and listen to sexually themed content. This has a massive disconnect for me, and I find it irresponsible.

We need to teach parents how to talk about sex. We need to do a better job promoting healthy relationships in existing families and teaching parents to discuss partnering decisions with their children. We need to find men who are willing to be strong voices in the community that echo women’s value and worthiness- not the current athletes and movie stars (and presidents) who are frequently entangled in sexual abuse, misogamy, and adultery.

Rape & Insest

Huge discussions are generated in the pro-life and pro-choice circles about pregnancy resulting from rape and incest. It is argued that the culture of pornography contributes towards sexual irresponsibility including rape. We have to stop the cavalier attitude towards graphic mature content- it has a price to women and society.

See resources for educating young children about sexual abuse here.

In 2016, I helped three women bring cases forward for rape and sexual assault in the UK.  Unfortunately, without extraordinary proof, it is a his-word/her-word battle despite honest efforts to prosecute. We have to discuss consent explicitly with men, help women avoid vulnerable situations, and educate women on how to collect evidence in the event that a situation occurs.

After these cases, I took a mixed martial arts class. My daughters will be enrolling in their teens. I’m not projecting a false sense of security; I’m just trying to give myself a shot.  I hate typing this paragraph out because it shifts so much responsibility to female victims. But currently, this is our present reality. The beauty and fall-back of the justice system is that people are innocent until proven guilty. Add this protection to a culture where rape is justifiable depending on what the woman was wearing and other circumstantial evidence like alcohol consumption, and we find so much difficulty bringing perpetrators to justice. When abusers go without sufficient consequences, future criminal action is likely.

Sex crimes are not just physical. They start with off-handed pejorative comments and sexually suggestive advances that are easily dismissed and sometimes welcomed by women. As a culture, we have to take a zero tolerance approach to sexual harassment and disrespect. Men have to know that they will be penalised for marginalising women in speech, tone, and attitudes, not just penetration.

In the United States and the United Kingdom, rape kits are backlogged because of lack of funding. Sexual offenders have high reoccurrence rates, so the longer the offender avoids prosecution, the higher the risk to women. We have to push for adequate resources to ensure justice.

Abusive Relationships

Finally, the traits of abusive men can be recognised, but rarely are the warning signs taught. Abuse always escalates, but the cycle of violence ebbs and flows with affection and mistreatment. If you can teach women to recognise red flags while simultaneously increasing their self-worth and their voice, you can alter the course of hostile and volatile relationships and prevent women from being sexually active with abusive partners. If you want to avoid unwanted pregnancies, communities have to address domestic violence proactively.

Read more about the cycle of domestic violence. 

Summary

We can’t just address abortion irradiation or promotion. We have to look at the societal factors that are making sexual activity frequent and irresponsible. We have to recognise and reduce the barriers to contraception.  We have to equate girls’ beauty separate and apart from their sexuality. We have to stigmatise casual sex and teach women to be aware of the risk factors for sexual assault. We have to empower women to say “no” and to be participants in healthy relationships.

And finally, to every woman faced with a crises pregnancy, having to make a decision on behalf of an unborn child, my empathy and compassion is extended towards you.  My hope is that fewer women find themselves in a position of having to make a difficult choice because they know their value isn’t found on their backside with an irresponsible, uncommitted partner. My hope is that you find a community of women who are actively helping you before you find yourself here, not arguing with each other about what you should do.

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Orlando: A Sick Reminder

Orlando: You are a sick reminder. 50 people dead, shot inside a gay club. I’m gutted.

Orlando: You are a sick reminder of our need for gun control,

self- control. The problem is Out-of-Control. I want to see people passionate about the poor like they are about having a gun. It’s not a puppy. Harder to get a dog than a weapon that kills masses. Shooters invade churches, streets, theatres and kindergarten classes.

Orlando: You are a sick reminder of our broken political system.

Politicians. Puppets. People talking about rights. But what about Right and wrong?

It didn’t make the debate.

We are too focused on the right and left. Donkeys and elephants. Republican/democrat. I’m done with that. Red, white, and blue changing to red, white, and blood.

So reach across the isle. Put down your middle finger. Put up a smile because you kept someone safe instead of saving your seat. Stop sitting down and start standing up.

Orlando: You are a sick reminder of the bigotry, the hatred of our gay community.

Since when did we become defined by sexuality? An entire life reduced to a single part.  Not personality? Not character, not values, not the way you love- but who.

Americans spent days angered about who is peeing in what stall. What a distraction, that issue is small.

Choose love or fear. It’s the only choice that counts.

Orlando: You were a sick reminder of a culture of hate coming from terrorists.

It’s toxic to have losers who think that killing makes them winners.  I want to die for something good. I want to die in love, not in gun spray and violence. I listen for justice, and I hear mostly silence. The act of a few evil people creates paranoia and fear. What will it take? The life of someone you hold dear?

No place is safe, everyone everywhere is a target. From the ground to the skies, you can no longer take flight. We cure violence with violence, take a gun to the fight.

Orlando-  you are a sick reminder that tomorrow may never come.

That someday soon my life will be done. I’m done with complacency, the redudancy. The news is not new. It was the same yesterday. I can’t believe it started with just one bite. We thought we could do it better- and sought darkness, not light.

Orlando. Will you be the sick reminder?

Because we have had one before. It’s a repeated nightmare, like an old record playing over and over and I’m over it. When will we grow weary? When is enough enough? Virginia, Connecticut, California, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, New York, Washington D.C.

 It’s up to you and it’s up to me.


 

 

 

Domestic Violence

The headlines are totally shocking.

The council of Islamic Ideology recomends violence against women.  Chairman Maulana Muhammad Khan Sherani clarifies that he doesn’t permit violence that damages soft tissue or bone, and men cannot use implements like brooms, but that light physical harm is permissible and effective for intimidating women into compliance. Light beatings are advised as punishment for women who refuse sex, violate dress code, speak too loudly, or socialise with non-relatives without express permission.

Using a small stick and inciting fear keep wives disciplined, it argues.

I’m looking for leaders in the community to unequivocally renounce this ideology from the Islamic community. The threat to women and children for generations is absolutely devastating. Lives are ruined for generations because of abuse. This type of treatment of women is evil. To have a political platform based around such behaviours where such actions are broadcasted to the masses is terrifying.

I don’t know what to do about Pakistan, but I do know how to help women in my community who are impacted by domestic violence.

I cannot shout this loud enough: The maltreatment of women by intimate partners is not just an Islamic problem. It knows no social or religious boundaries. There aren’t any neighbourhoods or cultures untouched by domestic violence.

1 in 4 women are victims of domestic violence

It seems to me, I’ve been meeting that 25% disproportionately. I’ve learned so much helping women file police reports, get restraining orders, get financial and emotional support through non-profit organisations and other resources they need to successfully leave. Statistically, women who leave these relationships will return because it takes enormous inner strength to successfully break the stronghold and cycle of abuse.

 


Here is what I want people to know:

  1. Abuse has been redefined.

    Early in 2016, the UK government recognised that abuse is not just bruises and battering, creating new laws that hold perpetrators criminally accountable for intimidation, threatening, stalking, exploiting resources, withholding finances, micromanaging another persons’ time, social contacts, or prohibiting religious expression. This new coercion and control law is a huge victory for victims.


  2. Why don’t victims leave?

    Abusers carefully select women whose life experiences put them at risk for tolerating a hostile relationship. Many have low self-worth, few social contacts, are deprived economically, or were abused as children. The men then slowly weaken resistance by making their partners feel they deserve ill treatment. Isolation, taking away finances, and threatening physical harm or death to loved ones decreases the likelihood of victims escaping.


  3. The cycle of abuse is predictable.

    No one would tolerate being controlled in the beginning stages of a relationship or constantly. Abusers often are affable and charming in bursts. They slowly increase the control through a tension building stage which eventually erupts into an incident of verbal or physical abuse. The abuser will then minimise, dismiss, or excuse bad behaviour and often the victim will believe they are solely to blame during a reconciliation phase. Following the explosion, a calm or honeymoon phase happens where the abuser promises change and is lavish in his/her affection- until days, weeks, or months later, when tensions begin building.harambe shame-2


  4. In between the abuse and leaving there are things to be doing.

    The government and law are on a victim’s side, but proving legally what you have experienced can be aided by doing several things even if you aren’t sure you want to or can leave. The difficulty in getting charges to stick is that cases can become a he said/she said battle. Here are some things you can do to build your case starting now

    1. File a police report.  You don’t have to press charges, just make a phone call about each minor incident, so when you are ready, the facts/dates/time are there. If you suspect abuse or someone tells you about something, you can report it, too.
    2. Tell someone. You need people to be witnesses- even if it is a minor incident; these people can be called upon to build your credibility. Organisations can help you make an escape plan, including safe houses, financing, and counselling. Be cautious when contacting organisations. Do so from a safe place. These organisations will help you keep safe during the process.
    3. Record a journal.  Recalling details as they happened, even better if you can get it time stamped by emailing it to a secret account or getting it postmarked and sealed. If someone tells you about an incident, but asks you not to report it, do record what they told you. It can be used as evidence later. Do not use a computer or phone your abuser has access to. Activity can be monitored. abuse-6
    4. Photographic evidence.  In the days of technology, getting an incident recorded is a major asset. Whether it is texts of harassment, audio recordings of death threats, or video of him telling you what to wear, this information can be what determines guilt or innocence.
    5. See a physician or counsellor. Even if you lie about the reason, having a doctor document physical abuse or emotional impact can be very valuable in court. Discussing with your doctor that you have extreme anxiety, are not sleeping, have pain/marks, can aid in getting a conviction if and when you are ready to use it.
    6. You aren’t alone.  Here are just some of the resources designed to help in the UK. There are hundreds of organisations across the UK specifically for survivors.  Local churches, shelters, police officers, social services often have dedicated teams who are trained to address the specific needs of survivors.
    7. It isn’t your fault. Abusers will make you think the opposite, but you are a victim. Emotional counselling is available to help undo the extensive damage of domestic abuse- helping your recognise why you were culpable, how to heal, and how to recognise signs of abuse in future relationships.abuse-5

Find out where to report abuse or suspected abuse here for the UK.

Report abuse in the USA.

Dead Gorillas & the Culture of Shame

A tragedy happened over the weekend.  A four year old fell into a gorilla enclosure in Ohio and officials made the difficult decision to kill the endangered giant in order to protect the boy. What ensued online, in protests, and in the media makes me absolutely sick: hateful assumptions about the negligence of the mother.

The parents of the boy have suffered the most natural, horrific consequence- watching helplessly as a 450 lb mammal approached and dragged their son throughout the enclosure, the medical complications of such event, and the lifetime of knowing that a magnificent creature paid the ultimate price for the safety of their child -possibly one who didn’t mean any harm at all. It certainly wasn’t the family day out they anticipated.

In 38 years, no one had ever fallen into the enclosure, so when scanning the environment for threats and risks as a mother, you are more likely to be looking for dangerous human predators than animal ones.  Turn your back to grab sunscreen, a snack, tie another kid’s shoe, and easily, it happens. All the negative social media has a similar language and attitude: Your child deserved to die. The gorilla has more value than your child.

If we are hate-filled instead of thankful, Harambe died in vain.

Where is the grace? What are we supposed to do as parents? We simply cannot predict and prevent every accident, and it wouldn’t be healthy if we tried. We are reasonable, but things happen. We have to have space in our culture of naming and shaming to be human.

Grieve the death of the gorilla. It is an absolute tragedy. The authorities explored their options- tranquilliser or rifle and made a really hard choice. If it had been your child, would you want them to take a risk?

Let’s thank the gorilla, reflect on the tragedy, and hold each other close because one moment you are looking at zebras and elephants, and the next moment you are in a life or death situation where there are no winners.

Rest in peace, Harambe. We are sorrowful, but grateful.

gun rights, gun laws, oregon shooting, NRA, mental health

Oregon Shooting? I’m Sick of it, America.

I am so proud to be Texan and American. We have a fabulous country, my fellow Americans. I love how we support our military, fly our flag on every house and street corner. I taught my two year old the pledge of allegiance. I cry at the National Anthem. I believe in the pull-yourself up by your bootstraps, American capitalism. I love that our President is a minority who came from a single parent family. I love the American culture. I love the American sports-hype. I love the food, the one thousand invented reasons to have a celebration, the public displays of emotion, the pride, and the work-ethic. I love our constitution. I love the United States.

Americans do stuff full-out- Go BIG or Go HOME. But today, and last month, and the month before that, I am completely horrified by our behaviour when it comes to guns, mental health, and random shootings in public places.

Oh I know I’m going to get the NRA (National Rifle Association) on my tail about this one. I know the arguments. I’m a handgun owner. So the argument goes- if there are no guns, then good people can’t shoot the bad guy. But ladies and gentlemen, good people can’t shoot the bad guy because their backpacks are full of books, not rifles, their hands are holding Bibles, not handguns, or they are 5 years old and colouring in kindergarten.

The good people aren’t armed when it counts, friends.

Guns are illegal in the UK, and guess what? 13 college students aren’t dead today because of some mentally impaired, emotionally disturbed teenager decided to go shoot everyone. I’m pissed, America. We look like the Hollywood version of ourselves on the BBC news, and it’s embarrassing.

Americans are perceived as big business lunatics who let cancer patients re-mortgage their houses to pay for chemo treatment while their kids are at school getting shot up by some emotionally disturbed individual who can access guns just as easily as he can get a library card.

Now America, we need a new image, a PR campaign that shows off our more aspiring qualities, and we can start by putting some federal funding into mental health services. Guns don’t kill people. Patients with untreated mental and emotional disorders without access to services kill people. And they are using guns. So we have to clean that up too.

At least in the UK, if some whack job wants to hack me off, he’s going to have to get within 12 inches of me with a knife. He’s going to have to look at my eyes, and fight one on one, and if it is on a day like today, he doesn’t stand a chance. He (or she) can’t hide behind a brick wall on a rooftop somewhere and cowardly play target practice like it’s a video game.

So today America, I’m sad. THIRTEEN mothers are getting phone calls today . . . I can’t even finish that sentence.  I’m grieving. I’m embarrassed. And I’m glad I live far away from a place not doing enough about gun rights and mental health populations.

Clean it up, America.