Acro Collective’s Holiday Gift Guide: 2016

I think we can all agree that 2016 was kind of a shit year. Trump being elected was just the cherry on top. Zika, Brexit, losing David Bowie….the list goes on and on and on. So I don’t think we should be blamed for seeking a little self-care as the calendar winds down—whether that’s through spending time with loved ones or some well-deserved retail therapy. (Yes, capitalism is a fraught system. Let’s just roll with it for today and get back to fighting the revolution tomorrow, cool?)

Below, some gifts for yourself, friends, and loved ones….reward the intersectional feminists in your life, and spread a little holiday cheer.

Acro Collective Holiday Gift Guide 2016 by acro-collective

Got more suggestions? Let us know in the comments!

Next Steps and a Brief Note

Hi, everyone. I thought I would quietly ghost this site, letting it diminish down into the corner of the internet it basically always was—a place to preserve a certain voice and feeling of a certain moment in our lives, and no more. But then this happened. #Trumpocalypse. The reckoning. Not just with that man-cheeto, but with the very serious question of why half of America decided to vote for him. I was ready to let a new job, a new city, and a new career path distract me from the simple act of writing community into existence, but no longer. I will make time. We will write. And I’ll be honest, we no longer have the funding structure that bound my team together in concrete monetary ways, but please know that the values which knit us together are stronger than ever.

Below are some preliminary ways to get involved and help bolster the social justice movements and ideals that Trump and his coming administration have threatened. This is a storm we can weather, but only if we tell ourselves we can—even if we don’t believe it right now. I am simultaneously numb with shock and horror at the America we woke up to yesterday, and galvanized to action. I feel a fire in my blood. Do you? Continue reading “Next Steps and a Brief Note”

The Good, The Bad, and The Absolutely Terrifying – Colorado

S.T.’s note: I wrote most of this story on Wednesday morning. Wednesday afternoon, I was just finishing up when the news of the San Bernardino shooting broke. That mass shootings pile up on top of one another so rapidly that one occurs as I wrote about one from a few days earlier is both tragic and outrageous. As of now, we do not know what was behind the San Bernardino shooting, if anything. I decided to go ahead with this piece because there is a link between words and actions, between violent speech and violent deeds; we see that link in violence against women, in violence against black men and women, in violence against Muslims. But the only thing that connects every single mass shooting that has occurred in the U.S.—in 2015, by the way, there have been more mass shootings than days in the year so far—is the guns. I am at a complete loss as to how we address gun control. So I talk and write about the things I feel capable of talking and writing about. 

Some days—some weeks—it feels impossible to find the good in news about women’s reproductive health and rights. Still, it is important not to lose hope completely, so I will tell you that the state of Alabama has stopped trying to defund their (two) Planned Parenthood clinics, and is even covering Planned Parenthood’s legal fees. That is about all the good news I feel I can bring you today, but the resilience of Colorado’s Planned Parenthood clinic and spike in donations after Friday’s devastating shooting cannot be overlooked.

planned parenthood

Now, let’s talk about the shooting. Where do we begin? Do we begin with the event itself? On Friday, November 27th, the day after Thanksgiving, a man entered Colorado’s only Planned Parenthood clinic, and murdered three people, wounding nine others. Do we talk about the murderer, Robert Dear? He certainly fits the profile. His ex-wife, Barbara Micheau, divorced him in 1993, describing him as a “serial philanderer and a problem gambler, a man who kicked her, beat her head against the floor and fathered two children with other women while they were together.” According to both Micheau and Dear’s own statements, he has a history of justifying his actions through the “belief that he will be saved.” Dear has a clear history—domestic violence, vandalizing a different Planned Parenthood clinic, praise for other anti-abortion terrorists—of radically violent misogyny.

 

Or do we talk, again, about gun control, hoping desperately we aren’t just throwing our voices into the wind? In a sharp condemnation of the way much of America reacts to this sort of senseless violence, President Obama said Saturday that “If we truly care about this — if we’re going to offer up our thoughts and prayers again, for God knows how many times, with a truly clean conscience — then we have to do something about the easy accessibility of weapons of war on our streets to people who have no business wielding them.” Just days later, another mass shooting occurred in San Bernardino, with 14 killed and 14 more injured. I am, in all honestly, too exhausted to say anything further on gun control. Over and over and over, Americans cower in fear in movie theaters, malls, schools, offices, because we cannot, or will not, take real action on gun control. I don’t know how to talk about it anymore.

 

Maybe we talk about the victims. There are three in Colorado—I made a donation to the Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic in their name, and if you have the means to do so, I urge you to do the same. Their names are Garrett Swasey, Ke’Arre Stewart, and Jennifer Markovsky. All three of them leave behind young children. All three of them were there to help others. Garrett Swasey, a police officer, was killed responding to the call from the clinic. Ke’Arre Stewart, an Iraq war veteran, had gone to Planned Parenthood to accompany a friend. He was shot outside the clinic, and ran back in to warn others with his dying breath. Jennifer Markovsky was also there to support a friend (her friend was also shot, but is not critically injured), and has been widely described by those she left behind as a kind-hearted person who would do anything for her friends, husband, and children.

 

But more than anything, I want to talk about the way we talk about abortion. As an individual, Robert Dear is a misogynist Christian extremist, a right-wing terrorist, no more connected to Christianity than Jihadist terrorists are to Islam. As individuals, each of the three victims cared for the people in their lives—the friends they accompanied to the clinic, the children they raised, the citizens they died protecting—and leave behind devastated families. As national phenomena, gun control and large-scale violence are issues we need to fight with everything we’ve got. But while this violence and the devastation it has caused are being described, and rightly so, as “senseless,” it is not random, nor, in a sick way, is it all too difficult to understand.

 

I do not think that responding to this atrocity by talking about abortion rights is simply a calculating move to further a political agenda while in a national spotlight. I think it is insulting to those who have died to pretend that there was no reason they were killed, nothing behind the violence. In particular, Stewart and Markowitz were killed because they made the decision to be there for their friends as their friends sought basic healthcare. They were killed—Robert Dear killed them—because, whatever their respective personal beliefs, they assisted women they cared for in getting necessary medical care from one of the only places in the state that offers it, or at least offers it at an affordable price.

 

I do not know what sort of care those women were seeking. I do not know if they were there for abortions or ultrasounds, pap smears or breast exams. I don’t care. If anyone tells me that “they weren’t even there to get abortions,” or repeats  the statistic that only 3% of Planned Parenthood’s services are actually abortion, my stomach will tighten. Yes, the other 97% of Planned Parenthood’s services are very important. Yes, millions of women—and some men, too—will lose access (do lose access) to important healthcare when Planned Parenthoods are shut down or attacked because of that 3%. But when we justify Planned Parenthood’s existence through all the other wonderful and important work it does, we suggest that abortion needs to be justified. That maybe there’s something a little icky about abortion. That maybe we should just focus on the other things, and not talk about that too much.

 

Let me be clear: I fully understand why, as an individual, religious or not, some people feel that they would never be able to get an abortion. I fully understand why some people are deeply, deeply uncomfortable with the idea of anyone getting an abortion. And perhaps for some people, some of that discomfort will never go away. But I also feel certain that the more we talk about it, and the more open and varied ways we find to talk about it, the more that discomfort will dissipate. Still, it is okay to feel discomfort around abortion; what is painfully necessary is to extend that discomfort to include empathy. And the way the most vocal advocates of the anti-abortion movement speak does everything it can to quash any semblance of empathy for women seeking abortions.

 

So, let’s talk about talking about abortion. When I was thirteen, I was in DC’s Dupont Circle with my dad and some classmates. What looked like a mini version of one those buses designed for tours—railings and a megaphone affixed to the top—drove by. But this bus was plastered with pictures of tiny, half-formed fetuses, covered in blood and goop, faces contorted as if they were crying out in pain. The megaphone at the top blared rhetoric about “baby-killers,” “murderers,” “sin,” but mostly I remember those pictures, so much larger than life and so graphic. That was fourteen years ago; since then, anti-abortion rhetoric has gotten a stronger hold in American media and politics, and reproductive rights have been rolled back across several states. Over the summer, an undercover video making it seem as if Planned Parenthood runs some sort organ farm, made waves and inspired even more regressive legislation; despite being debunked, these videos succeeded in generating more fear and hate around both abortion itself and Planned Parenthood in particular. It is widely reported that after he was taken into custody, Robert Dear said “no more baby parts.” It would seem that these videos had an impact on him. As Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus succinctly puts it: “inflammatory rhetoric inflames.” Marcus cites the rhetoric of those like Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina. Let’s not forget Ben Carson’s comparison between abortion and slavery. And that’s just this political season. The extreme right-wing rhetoric is toxic and dangerous, and the extreme right-wing terrorists who follow this rhetoric (not just around abortion) are a national crisis. But to return to my earlier point, we also need to talk about how pro-choice people discuss abortion, because often, there are issues there too.

 

For some people, abortion is a decision made out of desperation, an incredibly difficult one, a sacrifice for already existent children. Two women I know have told me very similar stories about their mothers: pro-life Catholic women who got pregnant when they already had children to care for, whose pregnancies—for health reasons, for financial reasons—would have rendered them incapable of caring for the children who needed them. Both of these women did something they believed was ‘sinful’ in order to provide a life for the children they had. On the other end of the spectrum are women like Emily Letts, who knew immediately that she did not want to be pregnant, and for whom an abortion was a simple medical procedure. There are as many reasons for getting an abortion, as many feelings about one’s own abortion, as there are women who have had them. There aren’t right or wrong reasons for not wanting to continue a pregnancy or have a child. There are not right or wrong ways to feel about one’s decision. It is important to note that 95% percent of women who have abortions do not regret them afterwards (and there will always be a small percent of people who regret any major decision, this is inevitable).

 

This is what we need to talk about. Not only the women who we think of getting abortions out of desperation—young teenagers, rape victims, women with health issues—they are very important. But the women who simply know that they are not ready to have children, that they do not want to spend nine months of their life going through major body changes, conducting their lives differently, are just as important. While, on the one hand, we need to work on sex-education and access to birth control to make abortions rare in addition to safe and accessible, we also need to normalize abortions. We need to hear more stories. We need to say the word out loud, and not in hushed tones or with euphemisms. The Colorado shooting was an act of terrorism, meant to both punish people for going against an extreme ideology and scare people away from seeking abortions or providing them. We need to push against this terror, to make the world safer for women seeking abortions and the men and women who provide them. So let’s talk about gun control, let’s talk about violence, let’s talk about extremism, let’s honor the dead. But let’s also talk about abortion, and do so openly and unafraid.

The Good, The Bad, And the Absolutely Terrifying (in Abortion Legislation) Part II: Everything’s a Giant Shitshow

The Good:

Right now, the “good” is less about “awesome things happening” and more about “some of the terrible things that could have happened didn’t happen!”

The Senate did not pass the House’s bill to defund Planned Parenthood. So, that’s good, considering one in five women have used Planned Parenthood’s services, and 2.7 million women and men visit Planned Parenthood centers annually.

The Government has not shut down. That’s good. Two years ago, the Republicans successfully threw a massive temper tantrum, and effectively screwed over roughly 2 million people for two weeks; 800,000 did not work at all, and another 1.3 million were required to go to work without knowing when – or if – they would be paid.

Planned Parenthood has also raised a fair amount of money amidst all the crazy; donations have spiked recently, and my favorite trend is donating to PP in the name of virulently pro-life politicians.

The Bad:

Speaking of donations, however, despite reports to the contrary Mark Zuckerberg did NOT donate just shy of one million dollars to Planned Parenthood. Several years ago, he donated 18 million Facebook shares to a charitable umbrella organization; Planned Parenthood is one of the many organizations it supports. This is hardly catastrophic news, but since most of the “good” news I have to report is about bad things that didn’t happen, here’s a piece of “bad” news about a good thing that didn’t actually happen.

While Planned Parenthood has not been defunded at the national level (yet), there are people out there doing everything they can to make sure individual clinics can’t run. Recently, a Planned Parenthood clinic outside LA was a victim of arson.

The Absolutely Terrifying:

While it’s good the government is still up and running at the moment, that could very well end soon. I’m not sure which is scarier: what would happen with a government shutdown, what would happen if Planned Parenthood does get defunded, or the fact that the Republican Party (who could hold the Presidency in just over a year) is willing to hold the country hostage to its demands (not to mention the fact that my two-year-old niece’s temper tantrums don’t come close to rivaling those of the GOP).

Even if the GOP doesn’t manage to shut down the government, they still might have other ways of defunding Planned Parenthood. Representative Reid Ribble, of the somewhat ironically-named “House Freedom Council” (‘freedom’ is just a thing for straight white men, right?) is determined to strike a bargain with the democrats over Planned Parenthood funding. While this seems somewhat unlikely, in 2011, President Obama did capitulate to GOP demands re: abortion restrictions in our nation’s capital (they can’t vote, so who cares?) in order to avoid…you guessed it…a government shutdown.[*]

[*] Note: The author is from DC, and has very strong feelings about DC’s congressional impotence. She is aware, however, that the rest of the nation does not feel as strongly.

Weekly Link Roundup!

The Good, The Bad, and The Absolutely Terrifying: The Week in Abortion Legislation

Writer ST rounds up the latest developments in abortion legislation. What are old men without medical degrees telling you to do with your ovaries/womb/vagina? Come with us on a tour.

The Good: It often feels like we are being inundated with terrible news about reproductive rights, but there are good things happening too. For all the gynoticians out there telling us what we can and cannot do with our bodies, there are reproductive-rights champions fighting back at every level.

• On Monday, the Supreme Court upheld a 4th-circuit court ruling stating that North Carolina’s ultrasound law (which required women to view an ultrasound of their fetus prior to receiving an abortion) placed an undue burden on…wait for it…doctors. That’s right: the law was changed not because it limits women’s freedoms, but because forcing doctors to narrate ultrasounds to their patients violates their first-amendment right to freedom of speech. But hey, at least the ruling has a good outcome, right? (I’m appreciative of everything doctors do in this fight, but it’s pretty depressing that women’s agency over their own bodies isn’t enough).

• In unequivocal good news (well, for people who support reproductive rights), women in Oregon will now be able to get a year’s worth of birth control at a time, sparing them from going through this rigmarole every 30 days. Yay Oregon!

• In more potentially good news out of the PNW, Senator Patty Murray introduces a bill to make over-the-counter birth control available while keeping it covered by insurance companies. The bill is called “Affordability IS Accessibility,” and you can sign the petition for it here!

The Bad: In slightly more-familiar territory, the past week has seen another rash of clinic-shut-downs, bans, and insane lawsuits.

• Wisconsin, home to Scott Walker, misogynist extraordinaire, has a bill in the works that would implement a 20-week ban on abortions. While the future of the bill is unclear, Walker has said he will sign it into law, and even if it is later overturned by a federal court, it could do some serious damage (see below for why).

• I guess this is technically good news: apparently, murder charges against a Georgia woman arrested for taking an abortion pill have been dropped—but the mere fact that she was arrested—for murder—in the first place is pretty awful. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem Kenlissa Jones is fully off the hook, another reason I’m including this with “the bad.”

A new ruling in Texas effectively shut down a majority of the state’s abortion clinics, in addition to banning abortions after 20 weeks and restricting the use of RU4-86, colloquially known as the “abortion pill.” With only 8 clinics left in the state, many Texas women are now hours away from abortion access, adding yet another hurdle to an ever-expanding list.

The Absolutely Terrifying: All I can say here is that I am deeply thankful for the power of veto; while I don’t know what will happen in the senate, I feel at least 90% confident that Obama will not allow the following law to come to be.

In May, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a national 20-week abortion ban, initially introduced by Senator Trent Franks (AZ-R).Now, South Carolina senator and presidential hopeful Lindsay Graham is determined to see this bill through. Perhaps this ban is simply part of a presidential bid, or perhaps it’s part of an effort to get the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade. Either way, it doesn’t bode well for the future of reproductive rights.

And in case you’re not sure why this law would be so terrible, here are some stories from women who have abortions beyond 20 weeks. Abortions after 20 weeks are incredibly rare; roughly 63% of abortions occur before 8 weeks, and less than 2% of abortions occur at the 21st week or beyond. As the above stories indicate, this ban would have very little effect on most women seeking abortions, but would be catastrophic to those who need late abortions for medical reasons.