Dec 042009

In the I don’t even believe I’m writing this  worst Christmas/Hanukah present ever department:  Looking for the perfect gift for the special woman in your life?  Already given her roses, diamonds and a toaster, how about a pap smear?  Via Megan Carpentier, it seems that CBS is running Public Service Announcements urging men to, “do something special for your woman for the holiday season. Call her doctor and schedule her Pap smear.”

Watch CBS Videos Online

Say what?  Since when is health care a gift?  It is a human right and since when do men have the right to schedule medical tests for their women as if we are their property. As bad as the above ad is, there is a Hanukah version too that tells us that a Pap “Schmear” could save her life.  As Megan so eloquently puts it, “I know what I won’t be getting with my bagel tomorrow.”

Watch CBS Videos Online,

Gentlemen, trust me, don’t even think it or  you can so go hang your ornaments elsewhere  and play dreidel all by yourselves.  If however you want to write to CBS and tell them to air a special interviewing women’s health care advocates about the need for full health care coverage for reproductive health and how women have been forced to pay way more than men for health care coverage instead of running patronizing PSA’s, I guarantee you no coal in your stockings, mistletoe privileges, plenty of latkes and gelt.


Postscript:  Just learned via a friend that this isn’t so much a case of misogyny as extremely bad taste, it seems last year they ran a male equivalent, the Hanukah one talked about the gift of a Kosher prostate. However the ads are also blatantly hetero-oriented, obviously someone at CBS has some  issues…

 December 4, 2009  Posted by on December 4, 2009 Comments Off on Sir, Do You Want That Pap Smear Gift-Wrapped?
Dec 042009

Via the Women’s Media Center, here is a list of organizations working to make sure that women’s health care is not thrown under the bus in the health care bill now being debated:

Coalition to Pass Health Care Reform and Stop Stupak!

Planned Parenthood
Statement by PPFA Cecile Richards: Planned Parenthood Condemns Passage of Stupak/Pitts Amendment
November 18th Action in Washington

Bold Progressives
Sign open letter from Democratic Congresswomen

Center for Reproductive Rights
Letter to Member of Congress

Feminist Majority
Petition to Senators
Tell Senate Leader Reid: Stop the Abortion Coverage Ban

Courage Campaign
Fight for Women’s Health Petition

 December 4, 2009  Posted by on December 4, 2009 Comments Off on List of Women’s Organizations Working To Stop Stupak And Protect Women’s Health Care
Dec 032009

The U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA)’s recent report, “Climate Change Connections:  Gender and Population’s” linkage between access to family planning and reproductive healthcare and climate change has led to some troubling analysis regarding population control. According to the overview of the report,

The world’s population is forecast to grow from today’s 6.7 billion to between 8.0 and 10.5 billion by 2050. The majority of this growth is likely to be concentrated in areas and among populations—poor, urban and coastal—that are already highly
vulnerable to climate change impacts. Population growth typically means increased emissions. However, demographic factors such as household size, age structure of the population and urbanization also affect emissions patterns and energy use.
Further, unsustainable consumption and per capita emissions are generally much higher in rich, industrialized countries. In this context, it’s important to remember that population is not just about numbers, it’s about people.

Many of the policies that affect population trends—such as more educational opportunities for girls, greater economic opportunities for women and expanded access to reproductive health and family planning—can also reduce vulnerability to
climate change impacts and slow the growth of greenhouse gas emissions, helping to ensure adequate energy and sustainable development for all.

Yet as I pointed out last week,

The U.N. Population Fund acknowledged it had no proof of the effect that population control would have on climate change. “The linkages between population and climate change are in most cases complex and indirect,” the report said.

It also said that while there is no doubt that “people cause climate change,” the developing world has been responsible for a much smaller share of world’s greenhouse gas emissions than developed countries.

Nonetheless, articles such as this  from Agence France Presse, were quick to focus on reducing births in developing countries,

In the world’s poorest countries, where 99 percent of the growth of the world’s population will occur over the next four decades, reduced fertility would be a boon for adaptation.

It would mean fewer demands on the environment and fewer people exposed to water stress, floods, poor harvests, bad storms and loss of their homes.

“How Niger is going to feed a population growing from 11 million today to 50 million in 2050 in a semi-arid country which may be facing climate change is unclear,” Lord Adair Turner, a British businessman and academic, observed crisply.

While it has been excruciatingly difficult for women in poorer countries to gain access to family planning because of fundamentalist governments, the influence of religious institutions, the U.S. Global Gag Order, etc. despite overwhelming evidence that family planning would greatly increase women’s empowerment and well-being, it is disturbing that reproductive empowerment is now being touted as a panacea for combating climate change.

It is instructive to look at  which countries have the most people:

  1. China – 1,330,044,544
  2. India – 1,147,995,904
  3. United States – 303,824,640
  4. Indonesia – 237,512,352
  5. Brazil – 196,342,592
  6. Pakistan – 172,800,048
  7. Bangladesh – 153,546,896
  8. Nigeria – 146,255,312
  9. Russia – 140,702,096
  10. Japan – 127,288,416

and at those which are the biggest polluters:

Country Emissions (million tons CO2):

  1. China 6,027
  2. United States 5,769
  3. Russia1,587
  4. India 1,324
  5. Japan 1,236
  6. Germany 798
  7. Canada 572
  8. Britain 523
  9. South Korea 488
  10. Mexico 437

Per-capita emissions (tons CO2/capita):

  1. United States 19.1
  2. Canada 17.37
  3. Russia11.21
  4. South Korea 10.09
  5. Germany 9.71
  6. Japan 9.68
  7. Britain 8.6
  8. South Africa 7.27
  9. France 5.81
  10. China 4.57

In countries like the U.S., Germany, Japan, Britain, France and Canada, access to birth control is widespread, and China’s one child policy has clearly decreased the number of births in that country but yet these countries are top polluters.  In fact these lists don’t even include  poorer  countries with the least amount of access to family planning.  So where is the connection?

Going back to the paragraphs I highlighted above, what concerns me is that while acknowledging that the  U.S. and China are the worst offenders, the concern seems to be for poorer, darker countries where populations are expected to increase significantly even though they don’t make an appearance on the list of countries which are contributing the most to the degradation of the planet.

Cut to the punch, in all these decades that we have been polluting like there’s no tomorrow, the more developed nations have been practicing a de facto kind of population control in poorer countries by not providing the necessary funds to combat  Malaria, hunger and  HIV/AIDS.  We’ve had little concern about the maternal mortality that kills hundreds of thousands of women in poor countries every year and we’ve done little to empower women in these nations.

To be clear, you’ll get no argument from me that less humans would in general be better for the health of the planet. And unquestionably, we need to address the gendered impacts of climate change (which, incidentally are thoroughly detailed in the UNFPA report). But, and particularly against the backdrop of abortion rights being under the worst siege in decades in the U.S., linking population control and reproductive empowerment is extremely troublesome.  Betsy Hartmann puts it well:

A world of difference exists between services that treat women as population targets and those based on a feminist model of respectful, holistic, high-quality care.

There is no question that better access to reproductive services is desperately needed and that empowering women is crucial in addressing climate change.  But equating family planning with population control is disingenuously patriarchal and a slippery and dangerous assertion for women.


Note:  Gender CC has an excellent website with resources and information about women and climate change.  George Monbiot dissects the patriarchal underpinnings of population control here.

 December 3, 2009  Posted by on December 3, 2009 Comments Off on Family Planning For The Planet a.k.a. Population Control–Disingenuous Patriarchy That Does Not Empower Women
Dec 022009

The following is a report by award-winning Voices of Our Future citizen journalist Malayapinas on the horrific recent massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao, a province in the southern Philippines in which two of her  friends were brutally murdered. It is reprinted here at the request of World Pulse Magazine, and includes their explanatory introduction:

Since childhood Malayapinas has seen the dark side of globalization and violence in the Philippines.  She walked to school barefoot after early morning hours selling eggs and cigarettes to ship passengers in her nation’s ports. She toiled in the banana plantations to earn her way to college and became a young mother. Since secret military forces abducted her trade-union husband, she has raised her voice for local health, fair trade, and food security. Her dream is to see the Filipino people live to the fullness of their potential and women free to chart their own destiny. She faces numerous death threats for speaking out.  Her name has been changed for her protection.

Malayapinas is an award-winning Voices of Our Future citizen journalist correspondent for World Pulse Media , which covers global issues through women’s eyes from over 140 countries.  The Voices of Our Future program provides rigorous web 2.0 and citizen journalism training for emerging women leaders who are reporting from the frontlines of social change in some of the most forgotten corners of the world.


I am crying with anger at the shocking news of Monday’s mass slaughter in Maguindanao, a province not far from my home in the southern Philippines. Ever since I learned that my two women lawyer friends were among the casualties, my body has turned numb.

Concepcion “Connie” Brizuela, 56, and Cynthia Oquendo, 35, were stalwart human rights defenders on cases of extra judicial killings in Mindanao under the Arroyo government until the very end. We were together in our advocacy to stop political killings here in the Philippines.

I will never forget the laughter of Connie. She was so gentle in her ways but so firm and brave in confronting human rights violators. Cynthia was a quiet one who stood proudly for what she believes in.

On that fateful Monday, they had been traveling with a delegation of mostly women and journalists that were stopped by armed troops. They were on their way to file a Certificate of Candidacy for the May 2010 election for Buluan Vice Mayor Ishmael Mangudadatu in the provincial capitol of Maguindanao. Mangudadatu is vying for a governatorial seat against the incumbent Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. of Maguindanao Province come May 2010 national election.

Their bodies were among the fifty-seven found buried in shallow graves, allegedly murdered by one hundred policeman and para-military troops of the Ampatuans, the ruling warlord clan in Maguindanao. Some were reportedly raped, decapitated, and chain-sawed. Two of the bodies were pregnant women. Faces of the some of the victims were so mutilated they couldn’t be identified by families.

The torture was horrific. “My wife’s private parts were slashed four times, after which they fired a bullet into it,” said Vice Mayor Mangadadatu in an interview published by the Philippines Daily Inquirer. “They speared both of her eyes, shot both her breasts, cut off her feet, fired into her mouth. I could not begin to describe the manner by which they treated her.”

Continue reading »

 December 2, 2009  Posted by on December 2, 2009 Comments Off on My Cry From The Islands Of Blood