To the Thirteen White Male Senators Deciding the Fate of My Health Care

We have no interest in playing the games of identity politics. To reduce this to gender, race or geography misses the more important point of the diverse segments of the conference the group represents on policy — from members who support Medicaid expansion, to those opposed to it, to those who have called for long-term full repeal.”

Dear Senators,

All due respect, but I believe it’s you who are missing the important point. You cannot reduce to gender or race–but you can expand to them.

You presume, you thirteen white men, to make decisions and policies which will affect all of us, from sea to shining sea. You assume we will trust you, because until recently, we’ve had no choice but to trust you. But I don’t. I don’t trust you. You don’t represent me. I don’t mean party politics, Republican or Democrat. I mean you have never experienced the need for female driven policy, or policy that focuses on race, or centers issues unique to the LGBTQ community. Because you are none of those things.

Female driven policy is different. Race driven policy is different. LGBTQ driven policy is different. And that is a good thing. It brings diversity to the table. It’s Thai on Monday and sushi on Thursday instead of meatloaf every, single night. It means the needs of others, needs that are different from your own, are brought to the forefront. It is taking and shaping the experiences of those identities and using them, smartly, to craft broader policy.

Senator McConnell, have you ever found yourself unexpectedly pregnant, halfway through high school, unable to afford to raise a child? Have you, Senator Hatch ever been the victim of a rape? How about you, Senator Cruz? Have you ever been refused medication because a nurse perceived you to be exaggerating your pain levels simply because you’re black?

No?

Senator Alexander, have you ever had to use a breast pump at work?  Have you ever needed to limp into work with stitches holding your cervix together, Senator Thune? Senator Lee, have you left your six-week old infant at daycare while your breasts leaked with milk, because you were afraid to lose your job? How about you, Senator Enzi? Ever walk into work, bleeding due to a miscarriage, unable to take time off from work?

No?

Senator Cotton, have you ever looked at the maternal death rates for black women and worried, will that me? Senator Cornyn, have you read the infant mortality rates for black infants and worried if the child you were carrying inside you would die?

No?

How can you, thirteen white men, craft a comprehensive health care plan which must include women and people of color and LGBTQ without including them in your debate and decision-making process?

It is presumptuous and condescending and dangerous. And yet it is par for the course.

There is no identity politics. There is America. There is diversity. There is us. We are those identities, and those identities define our politics in the sense that they must be given a voice in any policy that is going to last.

You ask us to trust you, yet you routinely and rather spectacularly at times fail to earn that trust. You fail not necessarily because you are trying to punish or withhold, though certainly that is sometimes true, but often because you just don’t know any better. Why would family leave and maternity coverage and reproductive rights be at the top of your list? Why would funding to find out why black mothers die at a higher rate, and black babies die more frequently be important to you? After all, those policies, those politics, aren’t part of your identity.

But they’re part of ours.

Anyone who doesn’t fit into the narrow confine of those that will sit around your table has the word identity attached to them. Card-carrying members. Race, gender, sex. When we try to point out the ludicrousness of trying to craft policy without the representation of those groups, we are accused of playing a card. As if we were cheating at poker instead of trying to save our own lives.

We’re demanding a seat at the table. Because, to paraphrase Cecile Richards, if we do not have a seat at the table, we are on the menu.

When your surrogates claim women are using Medicaid funds for abortions to ‘travel’, or that women who want abortions can go to the zoo, you fail. You fail when you admit you don’t know why women seek abortions. You fail when you don’t demand mandatory maternity coverage. You fail when you don’t craft humane family leave policy. You fail when you don’t ensure that victims of domestic and sexual abuse will be given health care. You fail when you don’t take into account the way Americans of color and Americans in rural areas are underserved by hospitals and doctors. You fail and you fail.

But your biggest failure is insisting that you have the ability and experience to make decisions for all of us, without our input.

You fail because you are thirteen white heterosexual men…only. And you always have been. The number has changed, but the homogeny has not.

Imagine if this committee was made up of thirteen black women. Or thirteen gay men. Imagine if it were made up of thirteen members that did not include a white, hetero, cisgendered, Christian male. Would you feel like your needs were being met? The issues important to you given consideration? Yet that is what you continually ask us all to do, time and time again. To trust you to represent us.

So no, I do not expect you to come up with a bill that will do right by women, or by Americans of color. Or by the poor, or anyone else who must carry with them the tag of ‘identity’ with them wherever they go. Because anytime you have a group that is without diversity of thought and experience, you’re bound to fail.

You have failed us enough. Why should this time be any different?

Why Don’t We Believe Women?

My feelings about Feminism are well and widely known. My opinions are not hidden under a layer of civility or justification. On the contrary, they have, in recent months, become louder and further cemented in my belief system. Despite all that, there’s one question I circle back to time and time again.

Why don’t we believe women?

Barring extremists, and apparently Polish EU lawmakers, I’m going to assume most people don’t think women are intellectually inferior. I think most agree–at least on the surface-that women should enjoy equal rights.

Yet almost everything we do as a society undermines that basic foundation–because we continue to mistrust women. This holds true for the poor and minorities as well, but I’m a little hyper focused these days, so I’ll focus on the female.

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When it comes to sex and reproduction, we repeatedly and continually mistrust women to know what is best, to do what is right for themselves and their families, to make complex and personal decisions.

It seems the very idea of a sexual woman, one unencumbered by the weight of possible motherhood, is as terrifying now as it always has been. Smack in the 21st Century, women who have sex are still the Boogeywoman. Are we so frightened that allowing women control of their bodies will result in some sort of Vagina Dentata Spring Break? That we will unleash a secret society of Succubi? Are we really that afraid of women who have sex?

Look, a woman who was or is willing to risk death by putting her life in the hands of a back-alley abortionist, or ordering unknown pills of the internet, or mutilating herself with knitting needles solely for the purpose of ending an unwanted pregnancy is telling us something. Loudly and clearly. Why don’t we trust her? Abortion in the United States was not legalized to encourage women to have more abortions. It was legalized to regulate it. As much as it may offend some to think it, women have always and will always seek ways to end pregnancies. It was only legalized in the US because enough women were bleeding to death or dying of sepsis that someone finally took notice.

When a woman makes the very private decision to end a pregnancy why don’t we believe she made the right decision for her? Why don’t we trust she knows what she is doing?

The myth that all women are meant to be mothers, or that all women, when presented with a child will love and nurture it is not only false, it’s dangerous. Not all women should be or want to be mothers. Why do we doubt them? Why do we perpetrate the misguided notion that she can simply ‘give the child’ up for adoption, conveniently ignoring the health, financial, and psychological toll that nine months of pregnancy and birth will have upon her (while simultaneously completely ignoring the male role in that pregnancy)?

Why don’t we believe women?

When a woman tells a friend, or the media, or the police, or a judge that she has been raped, why don’t we believe her? Why do we continually search for reasons why she was raped instead of accepting the reason is simple: some men are rapists.

When a woman says she is being beaten, why don’t we believe her? Even with bruises circling her eyes, we will gratefully swallow any cheap excuse offered. She walked into a door. She fell down the stairs. We want those excuses because it means we don’t have to examine the complexity of feelings dredged up by the idea of a woman being violently beaten, including, first and foremost, the truthfulness of her claims.

We don’t believe women who report marital rape or domestic violence. Surely she must have done something wrong.

We don’t believe women who report sexual harassment on the job. Surely she’s just too sensitive, can’t take a joke.

We don’t believe women when they talk about the barriers to their success. Surely they’re just not trying hard enough.

We don’t believe women who tell us they’re treated differently than men in the same field. Surely it’s all in their head.

We don’t believe women who outline the obstacles they must overcome in order to compete in the workplace. Surely they’re just not as qualified, or don’t want it badly enough.

We don’t believe women when they speak of  the everyday sexism they face. Surely they’re just making it up to get ahead.

We don’t believe gay women really love other women. Surely they just hate men–or haven’t met the right one.

We don’t believe women when they file discrimination suits. Surely they’re just seeking revenge.

We don’t believe women of color when they tell us for every 78 cents on the dollar a white woman makes over the course of her life, she will make between 58 and 65 cents. Surely it must be something else. Certainly it is not because she’s black, Hispanic, because she’s a woman.

We don’t believe Trans women are using bathrooms in the exact same way we all do. Surely they are lying to cover some nefarious plot.

We don’t believe women when they talk about the challenges of balancing a career and a family. Surely they’re exaggerating, after all, men do it all the time.

Do we honestly think women take low paying jobs because they’re not as smart, or ambitious, or educated as men? Study after study shows the opposite. Study after study shows more women graduate college than men, but women make up a disproportionate number of minimum wage workers.

Are we honestly going to pretend it’s because they’re just dumb? Lazy? That they are un or under-qualified? That they want shitty jobs?

Or could it maybe, just maybe, have to do with the fact that women face obstacles which simply aren’t there for men?

We don’t believe women, either individually or as a group, when they try to tell us these things.

What’s it going to take for us to start believing women?

 

 

Dear Matt Walsh, Your Opinion On the Women’s March is Worthless

yertle-2Dear Matt Walsh and others,

Hear me loud, and hear me clear. When a woman, a group of women, several million women say “My experience as a woman is this” you don’t get to say with any merit “No, it’s not.”

It really is that simple. You are not a woman. You have never lived your life as a woman. You have never lived a life filtered through the lens of being female. Therefore it cancels out your opinion. It invalidates it. Have it, spout it, shout it from the rooftops if you like. It’s still worthless and invalid.

Yes, that’s right. I called your opinion worthless and invalid.

Do you think women factor in your mansplained opinions? Because frankly the very idea of that is laughable to me. We don’t factor them in. They have no space in our discussions, in our experience, in our drive to do better. You can have a thousand opinions. They carry no weight. They carry no legitimacy.

Let me say that again. There is no room for your male bullshit in our discussion as women.

Oh we want men there, we need men there, we want men to plan with us and demand with us. But those men are allies. They LISTEN. They know that they cannot possibly speak about the experience of being a woman, BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT A WOMAN.

Your Christian God has not given you the divine power to see into the minds of others, to live the lives of others.

Such a simple concept and yet one which seems so difficult for many to grasp.

Do you believe that a global march under the banner of women’s rights was a way for several million women to kill time between hair appointments? Do you think we are plotting to psychologically castrate the men in our lives (many of whom are our husbands and sons)? Do you think the end goal is to take over and treat men as abominably as men have treated women over the last few thousand years? Is that what you are afraid of?

yertle

What rights do men have, you ask? Let’s start with this: Men have the unspoken, unwritten right to be the standard by which everything in the world is measured. In this great dick-swinging game of life, men always get to roll first. Men have the right to do what they wish with their bodies. Imagine if we introduced mandatory vasectomies at puberty to help control the abortion and unplanned pregnancy rate–because that would actually work like a charm. In fact, I can’t come up with a single policy which would work better. Yet just imagine the uproar at the audacity of the government interfering with a man’s body without his consent. Hell, I’ve seen white men go apeshit on sarcastic memes about needing a wife’s consent for Viagra. God forbid someone police your misplaced erections.

(And for the record, I have no problem with health insurance covering prescriptions for Viagra. Do you know why? Because I cannot possibly know the psychological effects being unable to obtain, maintain, or enhance an erection has on the lives of men. Because I’m not a man. What I object to is the utter hypocrisy of using specious arguments about God’s will when it comes to reproduction. If it is God’s will for women to carry pregnancies to term, then surely it should follow that it is God’s will that so many men can’t get it up.)

You refer to a woman’s right to ‘kill her children’. Well, I think it’s about time that pro-choice women and men started using the phrase I hear so very much as a liberal whenever I point things out: It’s the law. If you don’t like it, you can go  live somewhere else.

Why don’t you trust women? Why don’t you and others like you trust women to make decisions about their bodies? If a woman is willing to risk death by coat hanger, or ordering dodgy drugs off the internet, put her life in the hands of a back-alley butcher, shouldn’t we take it seriously that she does not want to be a mother? I’ve delved time after time into what can be done to make it easier for women to have children, but for now I’ll just say this: Not all women should be mothers. The myth that all women will love a child once she brings it into the world is just that: a myth. And it’s a dangerous one. But, at the end of the day, you can call it whatever you like. For now, medicine, science and the law agree with women. Frankly, I think that’s what rankles people like you. The law sided with women on this one and you can’t quite get your male head around it.

You talk about the illegality of rape, but you fail to mention the dismal failure of the law to actually do it’s job when it comes to rape. Rape claims which go un or partially investigated, victims who are vilified and shamed, disbelieved, young white men who are convicted of sexual offenses who receive slaps on the wrist because their lives have been disrupted enough. Their lives mean more than the lives of the women they’ve violated. That’s not the law working for women, that is the law working against women. And the answer women receive at every turn? Well, women should do X, Y, and Z to avoid getting raped. How about using your moral high ground platform to teach men NOT TO RAPE?

Do you think women don’t report rape and sexual assault because it’s no big deal? Or can your wrap your head around the idea that women don’t report it because they fear the repercussions and have no faith in the system? If it’s the latter, do you think the problem is with women….or the system? Hell, it’s illegal in some states to carry an ice-cream cone in your pocket, but no one does a damn thing if you’re walking down Main Street with Ben & Jerry’s dripping down your ass. For many women, their experience of  the legal and judicial system when it comes to rape? It’s the same thing. They don’t do a damn thing.

But more than anything else, I think you’re a sanctimonious ass. You don’t get to preach on nigh from your Yertle the Turtle kingdom of white, heterosexual Christendom, the highest perch in all the land, and then tell the turtles at the bottom that the bones breaking in their backs aren’t really breaking–they only think they are (and, while they’re at it, shut up already, some turtles don’t even have jobs being the backbone of society–now go make me a sandwich. That’s the subtext of statements like that, and you know that).

dr-seuss-yertle-the-turtle-banned-booksYou don’t have the knowledge, the history, or the validity to explain our experiences as women to us. Because you’re not a woman. And you will never, ever know what it is like to be a woman. And here’s the thing: despite all of the above, despite being hated, despite draconian laws meant to literally kill us, despite being burned and raped and hindered and oppressed for all of time save the last hundred years, ALL of that, women possess a strength and a spirit you will never, ever have.

I’d venture to say that probably bothers people like you most of all.

Conscious Uncoupling

30 blogs to help you get through a divorce“It is with great sadness The United States of America today announced its decision to split after nearly 250 years together.”

“After careful consideration and numerous attempts at mediation, the United States of America has come to the conclusion that mutual cohabitation is no longer a viable option. Both parties ask you to respect their privacy while they navigate this difficult road of conscious uncoupling.”

Sources cited irreconcilable differences as the reason for the split.

When reporters reached out, New York had this to say: “Please understand, this decision wasn’t taken lightly. Looking back, it became painfully obvious that as individual states we haven’t agreed for a long time: health care, gay and lesbian rights, you name it. While some states have been pushing for tighter gun control laws, there’s been a great hang up over bathroom stalls and birthing brouhahas. We got to the point of constant bickering and fighting. Taxes, abortion, religious freedom laws. After a time you must stop and ask, is all of this healthy? For us, for those countries around us? Ultimately we decided that answer was no.”

Not long after the split was announced, both sides issued separate statements.

Speaking for the newly formed Democratic States of America, California was quoted as saying:

“We would just like to reiterate…again, that we will do everything we can to ensure this split is as amicable as possible. In the upcoming days and months there will be a lot of speculation from the media, but we would just like to state for the record, there was no third-party involved. No left-wing conspiracy involving President Obama turning the nation over to ISIS, no death panels or weapon confiscation schemes. It was simply a case of growing apart. The span just got too big to breach. It was a painful decision, but ultimately we realized that staying together would cause more harm than good, that sometimes you must take your losses and walk away in order to save what’s left.”

When pressed what those losses would be, California hesitated. “Well, there is Disney World of course.”

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Speaking as representative for the newly formed Republic States of America, Texas confirmed rumors which had been widely circulating for some time. “You have to remember, we were working from very different perspectives, coming from very different backgrounds. At the end of the day, we realized we were looking for different things out of this union.”

“We’ve got a whole state full of gun owners here who are getting twitchy over gun control and legislation. We’ve got a whole mess of people up in arms over marriage equality. We’ve got a wall we need to figure out how to build. It became obvious to all involved there was no clear path to stay together.”

Both representatives confirmed it would be up to individual states as to who they wanted to live with.

While both sides remain committed to hammering out the details, the idea of co-parenting their global relationships was not an option.

“Well, the idea here is for us to isolate ourselves and not get involved so much in the rest of the world,” Texas said. “We’re looking to stop immigration, start the deportation process for those immigrants who are already here. Maybe even those as far as two generations back. We are really just interested in getting back to our version of a great America.”

Asked what that version entailed, Texas demurred. “Hopefully that will become obvious in the weeks and months to come.”

When pressed about the possibility of resurrecting the confederate flag, the state continued. “We haven’t ruled it out. Along with re-segregation and a total ban on immigration based upon religious testing. The wall along the Texas border will surely help on that front. But we’re also looking into a fortified sea front wall to keep everyone else out. And maybe a massive plastic dome to protect us from above.”

“We’re just trying to put the past behind us and looking toward the future,” Texas said. “Airports will only offer domestic flights within red-based states as a measure of security. Gun licensees will be issued alongside national identification documents, including a religious registry. Carbon emissions regulations will be relaxed and fluorocarbons will be gradually reintroduced.”

When asked by reporters if this was progress or regress, Texas merely stated, “We’ve got God on our side, we don’t need anything else.”

Asked if there was anything the country regretted, New York spoke for both parties. “There are always regrets. You wonder how you could have made things work. One of the things we talked about a lot was if we’d just let the southern states secede all those year ago, would some of this heartbreak have been avoided? But you know, it’s easy to see in hindsight.”

In the absence of a pre-union agreement, sources close to both sides predict an acrimonious splitting of assets.

split states“They’re going to have a hard time splitting up the finances,” one source close to the parties is quoted as saying. “I mean, you’ve got all that oil in Texas and Alaska, but then again, the finance, media, and government will likely stay within the Democratic States. Things could get really ugly fast.

“I wish them luck.” California said. “I mean, we’ve got a lot of shared history behind us, a lot of good times. Will it turn bitter? I hope not. But you know, I never thought we’d split up for good either.”

Both sides requested privacy while they iron out the finer points of the split, which most predict will lose any sense of amiability when the reality of a full-blown uncoupling sets in.