Sunday, November 20, 2011

Arizona’s Anti-Abortion Tax Credit Law Violates Free Speech, Endangers Vulnerable Women

Arizona recently passed HR 2384, a law that restricts the Working Poor Tax Credit Program. The program provides matching tax credits to citizens who donate to organizations that benefit the working poor. The new legislations prevents the program from providing these tax credits to citizens who donate to organizations that "provide, pay for, promote, provide coverage of or provide referrals for abortions," or that financially support other organizations that participate in these activities. This sweeping restriction will cause a significant drop in funds for a wide variety of organizations and social service agencies, not just those that provide abortion care.  The law’s unintended consequences will endanger the working poor, the very people the program is meant to benefit. Because it limits what an organization’s staff can say by restricting state funding, it also limits free speech, making it clearly unconstitutional.

While this legislation is mainly aimed at taking away crucial donations from service providers such as Planned Parenthood, it will have the effect of silencing staff in all social service and community health professions. For example, shelters for domestic violence survivors or homeless youth will be forced to choose between providing full and accurate information about available medical services to their clients, and preventing a drop in funding. As a youth shelter employee, if I encountered a young woman who was homeless, pregnant, and unprepared and unwilling to become a mothers, this law would prevent me from helping her find the resources she needs. Under the new law, if this client asked me for information about how she might obtain an abortion I would be forced to keep silent, or lose the donations that keep the shelter open. This would endanger my client, as without appropriate information she would be more likely to seek an illegal abortion or try to abort her own pregnancy. Even if she eventually obtained a legal abortion, the delay in care would make the procedure more risky, as later-term abortion procedures carry heavier risks than earlier treatment.

The tax credit restriction is unconstitutional, as it violates the first amendment right of free speech. Social workers, health center employees, and other staff working for the public good should be able to provide their clients with the full extent of their knowledge of local resources. Although the law does not outlaw certain speech, it places an undue burden on the right of free speech by restricting state funds to only those organizations that agree to tailor their speech to fit the law’s specifications. When people are forced to stay silent in order to keep their jobs and protect their employers, their rights have been violated.

Those who would argue against this law posit that the law does not keep organizations from providing information about abortion, it simply assures that taxpayers are not forced to support these organizations. They claim that taxpayers should have the right not to support an organization that engages in activities they do not agree with. This type of defense of taxpayer morals has no precedent in the United States. Many anti-war advocates have tried to use just such a tactic to defund wars and violence, to no avail. Taxpayers that disagree with foreign wars, the death penalty, or sex education in public schools do not have the right to withdraw public financial support from these government-funded activities, or from organizations that support and disseminate information about them. The anti-abortion crowd should not get a special pass to dictate where every penny of their tax money goes.

The new anti-abortion tax credit law infringes on free speech rights, and ultimately endangers the lives of women and girls. This is just one more under-handed tactic that the anti-abortion movement is using to try to force its morals upon the women of Arizona, this time under the guise of protecting the rights of taxpayers. The real goal of this law is to prevent women from seeking appropriate, legal medical care by restricting the speech of those who would assist them. The measure is unconstitutional, and is currently under review by federal judge Roslyn Silver. Hopefully it will be blocked and we can all go back to doing our jobs.


Flagstaff had it’s own answer to the #occupywalstreet movement on Saturday, and every Saturday for the past month or so, and I went down to the City Hall lawn to check it out. There were about 30 people, many with signs, lining the sidewalk along route 66 and waving at cars as they honked on their way around the busiest corner in town, some of them cheering us on. It felt good to be outside, meeting like-minded people and making a statement. I got to have some in depth conversations about the state of our economy and the causes behind the recession, and I met some new friends with some great views on the world. I also got to interact with a contingent of Ron Paul supporters, who came out apparently just to advocate for the gold standard and antagonize people and attempt to get occupiers on video getting angry at them. It was a fun experience overall and I was glad I went, but part of me felt sad that this town that I love couldn’t do better. It was definitely shrimpy compared to the responses in other cities of similar size with large universities, and I was disappointed that no one was actually occupying anything- just standing on a sidewalk for a few hours with a cardboard sign (mine was on the back of a pizza box) isn’t an occupation.

We may be a small town in a blood red state, but Flagstaff is a university town and a liberal island. There are thousands of students and lots of young people in this town, and almost everyone here has been severely affected by this recession, myself included. (Yes, as much as people like to claim Flagstaff is a rich community, it’s not. The per capita income here is $18,637. That ain’t rich- it’s not even middle class.) However, it also seems to be the home of apathy when it comes to social and economic issues. I’m not that surprised, unfortunately, that there were very few people in this town who knew about the movement sweeping the country, and fewer who cared enough to leave the house (or the bar) on a Saturday afternoon to show their support. Flagstaff could be a major site for a solidarity movement, and we could even use the momentum of #occupy to place our local issues in the national spotlight.

This town may think it’s informed and environmentally friendly, but it can’t even get it’s sh** together to stop SnowBowl from dumping effluent all over the San Francisco Peaks- a sacred site for all the native groups in the area as well as a place Flagstaff residents claim to treasure. It’s frustrating to see all the organizing attempts of the few amazing people in this town who do have the will to fight flounder because there simply isn’t enough support. It’s not because the community doesn’t support these ideas, but because no one can rip themselves away from their daily mountain bike ride or bouldering session to actually do something that matters to us all.

I know this is a difficult movement to wrap your head around- its seems convoluted because financial policy isn’t exactly accessible to most of us. I’ve struggled to understand exactly what it is that’s wrong in this country, and as someone with no background in economics I understand the difficulty of it. But I think most of us have a basic understanding that there is a very small number of people in this country that have most of the power, and most of the money, and they only use it to enrich themselves further. That’s what it meant by the slogan, “we are the 99%.” We are the majority, and we want our country back. Democracy shouldn’t mean that those who can hoard the most wealth get to call all the shots. It may seem hypocritical to protest against something you don’t have a full understanding of- but actually that’s alright. It’s important to make yourself heard, to say that you’re not sure what’s happening but you know something is very, very wrong. One of the major benefits of an occupation is it provides a base for organizing, and for educating. By coming together and refusing to leave, we create a space for communication and learning about what exactly happened that allowed 1% of our population to amass most of the nation’s wealth.

So why occupy? Is standing on the side of the road with signs really going to change the financial infrastructure of our country? Not right away. But a movement is building, and coalescing itself into something powerful. Over 10,000 people have taken over Walstreet in New York and held it for months now, and there are hundreds of supporting demonstrations and occupations in cities all over the country, including Tuscon and Phoenix. The media has mostly attempted to play down this movement as just a bunch of bored, privileged kids with no real message, but one look at the pictures says otherwise. There are people of every age and every background joining together to oppose the greed that has stolen our jobs, our opportunity, and our standing in the world as a nation. A movement like this has real power. Karl Denninger, one of the original founders of the Tea Party and a current supporter of the occupy movement, wrote that “when we will actually see change is when the people come, they set up camp, and they refuse to go home.” It’s happening in New York and other cities, and it can happen here in Flagstaff too.

I think we can do better Flagstaff. There will be another demonstration of support of the #occupywalstreet movement on the City Hall lawn next Saturday- convince me I’m wrong about you. If you’ve seen pictures from New York and it made your heart jump, if you felt even the tiniest spark of excitement, that someone was actually standing up for you- and believe me if you live in Flagstaff, (and you don’t own Gore or SnowBowl) this is for YOU- come check it out. Let the world know you’re angry about what’s been taken from you by the greed of others, and that you do actually care about something.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Victory and a Douchebag

Ok so this is old news by now, but a couple weeks ago the Obama administration succeeded in making it law that all insurance companies must cover the entire cost of birth control, including Plan B! Yay!!! When this goes into affect it will help millions of women who have had difficulty accessing reproductive health care because of high-cost co-pays take control over their reproductive lives.

Planned Parenthood was so excited they made a Bollywood-style dance routine video about it, including dancing birth control! This is both called for, and hilarious.

Awesome right? Well one of my Arizonan "friends" on facebook posted this video, stated he didn't know "whether to laugh or cry," and called the woman wearing the birth control suit a "dike." (Jeez at least spell it right when you're being offensive!!) 

1. Why the fuck would anyone cry about this? If you followed women's health policy in this country for 2 SECONDS you would realize that good things in the news are very few and far between, so when there's something to celebrate, those of us who give a shit about these things celebrate HARD. and sometimes with costumes. 

2. You're calling her a "dike" (lol) because she has short hair. There's nothing else to indicate that she might be a woman who loves women in this video, whatsoever. In fact she makes flirty faces and gestures towards the MALE dancers. So you're basing your assumption that she's a lesbian on looks alone. This is prejudice, and it perpetuates stereotypes about lesbians, and about women with short hair. It is sexist as well as heterosexist, because it perpetuates the notion that women who deviate from the heteronormative "ideal" in terms of appearance must be gay, the idea that if your hair is shorter than shoulder length you are trying to be masculine and are therefore a man-hating bulldyke. This constrains free expression through appearance for women, perpetuates the societal tropes that leave women who step even slightly outside the box of what is considered "feminine" open to attack, and validates those attacks as acceptable. 

3. You don't get to call anyone a dyke, no matter what they look like. If that woman was black and you said, "why'd they make the n***** be the birth control?" that would extremely offensive. No one in their right mind would argue that is wasn't. Maybe if you were black, it would be more of a gray area. But you are not black, and you are not a lesbian. You are a white straight heterosexual cis-gendered male. Sorry, just because you think you're all that and a case of PBR, doesn't mean you get to co-opt language that people like you have used to oppress others, regardless of whether some of the people who were oppressed by it have decided to make it their own. You just don't get to fucking say it, ok? 

I hate when stupid thoughtlessly hateful shit comes up on my newsfeed. And this from a dude who is educated, who has traveled the world, who is supposedly "liberal." That's the worst kind of racist/sexist/heterosexist- the kind who claims to be super fucking worldly. You know what, I'm going to co-opt the term RINO- I'm making it Radical In Name Only.


YAY FREE BIRTH CONTROL!!!!!!!! I think I'll do my own little dance about it..

<-- me dancing. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Pet Girl: One More Offensive Iphone App, for the Misogynist Who Has Everything!

Awesome! You can keep this lovely lady as a pet, right on your Iphone! How convenient! According to itunes preview, the point of the game is to "take care of cute girls and satisfy their 3 levels of needs." Ew.

Your new pet's needs apparently include:

"1. Make sure she eats the hamburger that she wants.
2. When she is full, have her exercise by using jump-rope to maintain her weight.
3. When she is done exercising, adjust the temperature for her shower."


Iphone apps can be created by anyone, but offensive apps are suppose to be removed. And yet this is considered acceptable? Really Apple? While it's not the most offensive app I've ever seen, (that prize goes to the one I saw a guy show off in a bar once that involved slapping a black woman's cartoonishly large ass while she screamed progressively louder and more painfully. That's a real gem.) it's always disturbing to see yet another game that's centered around controlling a woman for fun. It seems simple and innocent enough, but really has extremely patriarchal undertones. The idea of keeping a woman as a pet and caring for her as you would an animal (actually it's more similar to a tamagatchi than a real pet.. remember those things?!?) is obviously disturbing and recalls archaic gender structures, but the tasks you have to do to keep her happy really bug me out. You feed the lady a hamburger, and then help her burn it off by jump roping??! It's a hands-on approach to controlling your lady through the beauty standard. By controlling her diet and making sure it's unhealthy, and then forcing her to exercise because she's such a piglet, you make sure she feels bad enough about her body that her self-esteem is low enough to stick with your sorry ass. Classy. And the shower thing? You control her water temperature to keep her happy? Yea, ladies are really incapable of TURNING A FAUCET. My lady-brain and dainty lady-hands are simply too small for such a task!

This most disturbing line from the description:

"Her expression will change depending upon her mood and you can see her reaction to your touch."

The thought of creepers touching their girl-pets to watch her reaction is giving me the stabby gross-outs. Bleeegghhh.

Pet Girl for Iphone

Monday, August 1, 2011

WTF Phoenix?

This is why I don't drive south of Jerome. I don't want to risk being attacked by rabid right-wing 2nd graders.

reposted from Jezebel. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Teachable Moments: Should Social Workers Reveal Their Sexuality to Clients?

My first reaction to the question I've posed in the title of this post is that it's a ridiculous question. It's based on completely heteronormative thinking, to say that LGBTQ social workers have to even consider this question, when straight social workers clearly don't have to consider whether they should "reveal" their sexuality to clients. My straight coworkers are open with their clients about the fact that they are married or living with an opposite sex partner. Personally I live with an opposite sex partner, though I identify as bisexual. Most of my teen clients know I have a boyfriend, and no one has ever, ever mentioned that that "revelation" might be inappropriate.

To propose that LGBTQ social workers should have to be more secretive about their personal lives and relationships than straight social workers sends a message that our relationships are not equally as legitimate as those of our straight coworkers. If an organization is fine with the fact that clients know a straight female worker is married to a man, but discourage a bisexual female worker from letting her clients know about her same-sex relationship, especially while purporting to be an organization that supports social equality, well, I think that's fucked.

Here's what happened this morning- I work as a life skills trainer for kids with behavioral health diagnoses at a Social Work Nonprofit That Shall Not Be Named. I was on vacation this past week and my coordinator was catching me up on what I missed while I was away. Apparently one of our teenage boys came out to his group as bisexual (awesome!!!!!!!). When this happened, one of my amazing and hardworking coworkers, who happens to be female and bisexual, came out to the group as well. She was  being supportive to her client, by saying to the group, that's awesome and an okay way to be, and I'm that way too! Yay for us! She wasn't talking about the details of her sex life (she actually has a boyfriend but that is totally irrelevant), just giving a simple fact about her identity in the same way the client was. According to my coordinator, this was wildly inappropriate and she told me she would encourage us not to give any such information about our sexualities to our clients, to prevent calls from parents and parents possibly pulling their children from the program. She doesn't want clients to go home and say to their parents "so-and so kisses girls!" (her words. really.)

I didn't really know how to respond to this on the spot, but it broke my heart. It shook my impression of the program I work for as one that stands for social equality. It shook my impression of my coordinator as someone who has always been very supportive of her staff in every way and someone who would value what is right over what is convenient. I understand her concerns about getting phone calls from parents. That is never pleasant, and this is Arizona- there are plenty of closed-minded folks around. But I would have expected better from this program, and from this supervisor.

A few weeks ago, I personally came out to a group I was working with one day during a discussion of whether it's ok to use the word "gay" as an insult, because I viewed it as a teachable moment. I explained to the group that even if the person you're speaking to isn't offended by your language, you don't know who else around you might hear you and be hurt by it. There could be other people who have LGBTQ family members, friends, or might be LGBTQ identified themselves and just not feel comfortable sharing that with you. I didn't give any details about my sex life or preferences, but I said "I'm not straight, and hearing that offends and hurts me." My goal was to teach tolerance and open minds by showing my clients that someone they already like and respect (ok that might be overstating it, but at least respect) isn't straight, and is hurt by their language.

[Totally irrelevant but awesome aside: during a minute alone with one of my clients later that day, a 12 year old boy, he said to me, really timidly, "so.. are you really not straight?" My response was, "I have a boyfriend now but I've also had girlfriends, yes." And he was all, "Wow! That's cool! I'm glad you're not ashamed about it." I was pretty stoked.]

Honestly, the confession just kind of came out of my mouth, there wasn't a lot of forethought to it, and after work I was pretty terrified that my supervisors were going to get a parental call. But what reassured me was thinking, you know what, the three people that could be in the office to receive that call are three people that I know are like-minded, socially progressive, consistently supportive and respect me as a coworker. They are all great supervisors, and also my friends. I trust them to handle that call the way I would- by saying that this is an organization that hires diverse, qualified staff, and stands behind them. This is an organization that will not be bullied by bigotry from parents. This is an organization that values having a program that teaches tolerance over having a program that keeps as many kids as possible by not letting parents who could potentially be intolerant know what kind of people are really spending time with their children. I understand the fear that parents could pull kids if they knew there are LGBTQ staff working with their children. But I feel like the values of the organization have to take priority over the possibility of losing a client or upsetting a parent. What do you really want the program you've work so hard to create and maintain to stand for? What message do you really want to send to the clients?

I understand my supervisors point that "it's none of their business," and even what she means when she says that we aren't a "proselytizing" organization. Meaning that we don't support one side or another of "controversial" issues. She advised that no controversial issue be discussed, but instead that we just teach a general "tolerance" approach without specifying any particular group or difference to be "tolerant" of. But when you have kids coming out in group, (we have one more than one that has) and multiple staff that are LGBTQ identified, it seems a little ridiculous- and simplistic- to ask that we just avoid the topic completely. It seems much more beneficial to the kids to talk about it openly, and to teach that even if you disagree with someone, heck even if you think their life choices (or what you consider to be choices) are an abomination, you still have to treat them with respect and dignity, because they're human. And if one nutty parent finds out and thinks that teh gayz (zomg!) are recruiting their baby for satanic sex acts and pulls them from the program- so be it. Even being in Arizona, I think most of our parents can see the difference our program makes in their children's lives and wouldn't deny them that opportunity regardless of their beliefs about homosexuality.

What do you think? How much of one's personal life is it ok to discuss with clients, especially teens? Does the context you do it in matter? Does revealing personal information help to build rapport, or is it detrimental to a therapeutic relationship?