Justice For Women

In the Church. In the World.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

A Farewell to Frances

After twenty-five years of leadership on church reform and women's rights on a global scale, Frances Kissling steps down from her presidency at Catholics for a Free Choice.
Kissling has led CFFC through numerous controversies with church officials. Predominantly, these have related to the right to be Catholic while disagreeing with church positions on contraception, abortion, gay rights and stem cell research. Under her direction and with an extraordinarily talented staff, CFFC has grown into one of the largest church reform groups in the world with partner organizations in six Latin American countries, Canada and Spain, and representation in the United Nations and at the European parliament.

Executive VP Jon O'Brien will be stepping in as president.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

"She is a sister for all Iraqis"

From Wednesday's New York Times, this article illustrates the prevalence and silence surrounding rape in Iraq. However, one young Sunni woman chose to break the silence.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

There is Love

Saturday, February 17, 2007

V-Day: On Sr. Mary Eve, getting it, and not getting it

Yesterday was the V-Day celebration at my alma mater. I laughed, I cried, I got thoroughly embarassed when the college president noticed me and asked me to stand up for the crowd. *blush* The president's assistant, who has had to handle most of the angry calls, shared with the audience the humor she found in the fact that a) the majority of people who called to protest were men (we're a women's college, so therefore, they certainly aren't alums) and 2) none of them could bring themselves to say "vagina." They'd say they were in calling in regards to "The Monologues" and she would innocently say, "Which monologues? The Vagina Monologues?"

In honor of V-Day, I was planning on posting a bit about another great BustedHalo.com article, "Remembering V-Day" by a young nun who writes under the pseudonym Sr. Mary Eve.
My girlfriends and I generally didn’t talk about what our vaginas felt like, what it felt like to have our period, etc. Perhaps because our experience is a lot more internal than external, hidden even on a physical level, it remained an issue that we kept to ourselves and didn’t discuss. And when we did try to talk about it we learned that it was just not appropriate for women to discuss the functions of their reproductive system. This tendency is extremely detrimental to girls and women because it leads to keeping anything connected with our vaginas a secret—sexual abuse being the best kept secret among them.

The Vagina Monologues instead celebrates the beauty of the vagina, in direct contrast to the message that women have often had to internalize— that it is dirty and not to be touched. For the first time, women have a public forum in which to process their experience in a mature way. So, I am left with the question: Why has The Vagina Monologues—which isn’t intended to be sexually arousing or gratuitously vulgar—been protested by a vocal minority of Catholics when it has been offered on Catholic campuses? I wonder if the fully-cassocked seminarians who often participate in these protests understand the pain that many women carry because their sexuality is often denigrated, abused, and defiled? Do they have any sense of the experiences of women that brought the Monologues into existence?

However, since the article arrived in my mailbox, I was surprised today to see the (crazy) responses to this article on BustedHalo. Follows is a sampling of my favorites, people who have become completely unhinged at the thoughts of nuns and vaginas:

Sr. Mary Eve brings her mental yeast infection to bear on Church teaching which she obviously does not understand. She's all for vaginas coming out but apparently does not have the courage of her convictions to stand out within her own community. If she doesn't believe in the organization she belongs to and has to be covert, at least have the honesty and integrity to leave. Maybe those research projects, though, are a little too cushy. Allows her to be the enemy within.
Brother Jesu Adam

And to what order do you belong, Brother?

I think if women are to be model purity and chastity in modeling ourselves after the ultimate woman Mary the Mother of God, than there is no real need for the Vagina monologues.

I feel that sexual abuse rape etc would not happen if all women modeled themselves after Mary. There would not be pornography or illicit houses of prostitution or even dirty shows on internet or tv or cable. Maybe just maybe there would really be respect for women.
Sue Trevino

Nothing like internalized sexism and victim blaming on a global scale.
Sr. Mary Eve has some serious problems with her faith and her feminine psychology. We need to pray for her.
Edmond Rosky

Subject: sister b***h
plain as day....another heretic b***h who worships her tw**.

File this under "So You Want Me to Believe You're a Christian, Huh?"

Sr. Mary Eve also got to respond to some of the letters publicly, including this gem:

Good Girls and Pap Smears
TOMDZZX (no name given) wrote the following regarding the need for sisters to have pap smears:

“Please tell ‘young’ Maria Monk that old nuns don't need Pap tests since they test for a virus communicated by intercourse (an STD). Consequently, if the old nuns have been good girls they should have no fear of cervical cancer. In fact, one of the reasons that this cancer was found to be an STD was its almost total absence in nuns….”

I hope that this reader and all readers are aware of the fact that a pap smear not only detects cervical cancer, but yeast infections, and other infections, as well as the sexually transmitted herpes virus. Secondly, the herpes virus is not the only cause for cervical cancer, although it is often the cause. Therefore, my friend, it is highly recommended that even “good girls” have pap smears.

Sr. Mary Eve - you get it. Nut jobs - missing the point, as usual. Please also visit the links for a surreal discussion on what the eternal virginity of Mary means . . . so much time and energy spent to miss the point entirely.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Dear CNS

Whoa! You've stumbled across my humble little blog! I offer you a hearty welcome.

After scoping out your comment, I just wanted to let you know that you did update your V-Day page with the list of colleges and presidents after my original post, and I want to thank you for that, because I'd like to invite my readers to visit your site to get the e-mail addresses of college presidents and thank them for standing for an end to violence against women, student free speech, and academic freedom. I know I will! :)

In you comment on an earlier post, you mentioned that you do encourage students to do fundraisers as "alternatives" to V-Day. Perhaps you'd like to highlight that more clearly on your website, along with the success of those events and where the money went to?

Also, by reading your website, I know you are working with the original V-Day script, which is not used for College Campaign performances. At some point, you might like to get a copy of that, which includes "In Memory of Her Face," "Crooked Braid," "My Short Skirt," etc.

All this is bringing back so many memories . . . remember V-Day 2005? When my name showed up on your website? Oh, the things you did to my Google search! Gosh, such fun! The nuns REALLY loved my "Irish Catholic moan." I took that role and owned it.

Please come again!


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Jill Stanek and HPV: an uncomfortable truth

While I should be working on a piece I am writing for Girlistic, I was unfortunately distracted (as I sometimes can be) by ProLifeBlogs. What pushed the ol' button today, however, had nothing to do with the abortion debate, but solely with shaming women. Jill Stanek, World Net Daily columnist, posted "HPV and Lung Cancer", in which singles out two high-profile women who have "come out" about their HPV status in an effort to get women vaccinated. Stanek lists some behaviors that these women should talk about instead of the vaccine:
Winokur and Halvorson would be most helpful by discussing the health consequences of pre- or extra-marital sex. Here are some potential topics:

-They could discuss the number of sex partners they have had throughout their lifetime and how each one increased the likelihood of contracting HPV.
-If they even had only one sex partner aside from their husbands, they could discuss how one can contract HPV from a sole encounter.
-They could discuss whether they realized at the time their sex partners carried HPV, which most trusting, vulnerable women don't.
-They could disclose whether it was their husbands who passed HPV on to them after sleeping with other women, demonstrating another reason for chaste behavior outside the marraige [sic] bedroom.
-More uncomfortably, if they contracted HPV through rape, they could discuss ways to avoid rape.

But neither one advocates avoiding a risky behavior that leads not only to HPV but to 20+ other STDs and their strains, along with unplanned pregnancy. They merely advocate trying to avoid the consequences of risky behavior. Shame on them.

Since HPV is a virus spread by human contact, let's imagine that Stanek was talking about the flu, another virus spread by human contact that is preventable by a routine vaccine, using yours truly as the subject:
Johanna would be most helpful by discussing the health consequences of pre- or extra-marital contact with other people. here are some potential topics:

-She could discuss the number of times she left the house during flu season, flew on a plane, interacted with sick people in a closed space, or shook hand with someone throughout her lifetime, and how each time it increased the likelihood of contracting the flu.
-If she encountered even one person besides her partner, she could discuss how you could contract the flu from a sole encounter.
-She could discuss whether she realized her classmates, co-workers, family and friends carried the flu, which most trusting, vulnerable women don't.
-She could disclose whether it was her partner who passed the flu onto her after encountering other people, demonstrating the reason for touching no one outside the home.
-More uncomfortably, if she contracted the flu from someone coughing on her against her will, she could discuss ways to avoid someone coughing on you against your will.

Hyperbole? Yes. Relevant? I think so. Especially when you consider that Stanek's discussion points a) put women in the victim role (trusting, vulnerable, taking it for their husband's bad behavior) and b) blaming them for it (The whole "rape prevention" thing irks me - how about rapists STOP RAPING? That should effectively prevent rape!).

While I will not argue that HPV is most often spread through sexual contact, and that abstinence IS a very effective tool for preventing STDs and pregnancy, I don't think women should die for having consensual (and in Stanek's "uncomfortable" scenario, certainly not non-consensual) sex. And women who choose to be sexually active will not be the only victims of HPV. Read one of the heartbreaking comments to this post on Stanek's blog:
I fully agree that a sexually pure life is God's way and it protects you from all kinds of sexually transmitted disease. But I still have HPV.

I don't blame God or abstinence for it. I just get a heartache when I read statements like yours. It makes us that have HPV into some immoral women, or at best stupid and naive. We are not, or at least I am not. I have a friend who is still a virgin and she's got HPV.

Furthermore, I don't think that a virus, or the status of having a virus, can be enough to make moral judgments on another person. While certain choices can reduce your risk, the risk remains, and being smart and utilizing preventative measures will save lives. Why is that something that is so upsetting to Stanek and her ilk?

I am reminded of a young woman who I encountered in the debate groups on MySpace, who I will call P., who waited until she was married to have sex, had a faithful husband, gave birth to two kids, was fervently pro-life - and who had cervical cancer by age 22 due to HPV. She did everything right by the conservative book, but she was the one facing infertility at 22. She is an ardent activist for universal access to the HPV vaccine, and will vaccinate her daughter.

Conversely, don't let this post lead you to believe that I think only those who have lived a "perfect" life deserve the vaccine. I simply use these stories to illustrate the fact that HPV doesn't care who or how, it will attack when it has the chance. ALL women deserve access to the vaccine at an affordable price, because sex should is not a crime punishable by death.