I need some good Vagina News, don’t you?

Well I happen to have some right here in my… Yeah.
Two weeks ago, NASA announced their next class of astronauts. There were 6300 applicants, NASA chose 8, and 4 are women. To quote the linked article:

Their names are Christina Hammock, Nicole Mann, Anne McClain and Jessica Meir…

Christina has engineering and physics degrees and a masters in electrical engineering, and has spent winters in places such as Antarctica doing research.

Nicole has a mechanical engineering degree and is a qualified pilot in the US Marine Corps, as well as a brilliant soccer player.

Anne is a pilot/command intelligence officer/rugby player/scuba diver that also has degrees in public health and international studies.

Jessica has degrees in biology, space studies and marine biology, is a pilot/scuba diver/ice diver, and is an assistant professor at Harvard medical school.

Basically they’re complete badasses, in ways that have nothing to do with what they look like or having babies. We don’t often hear about women like that, which can make it hard to remember that there are a LOT of incredible women who are incredible for reasons outside those we usually celebrate women for. 

So I’m celebrating these women for a change. Join me, won’t you? 


Massachusetts has figured out how to stop intimate partner homicide.

I have not been able to bring myself to post since this weekend’s awful verdict, and the retroactive attention it has brought Marissa Alexander (a Florida woman who was denied Stand Your Ground protection after firing a gun into the ceiling to scare off her abusive husband against whom she had a restraining order – she was given 20 years in prison. Google her name for more info.)

But friend & reader Reuven sent me something that has lifted me out of my slump.

Get this – Massachusetts is protecting women from intimate partner homicide by a) taking what they know about men who kill their partners, and b) monitoring and restricting the activity of men who match that criteria.


Anti-Choice is also Anti-Birth

Yesterday, the Texas Senate passed HB2, the bill Wendy Davis successfully filibustered last month. In the gallery, State Troopers confiscated tampons and maxi pads from protestors, as Lt. Governor David Dewhurst was afraid they would be thrown. Guns, however, were allowed. Really.

But in two other states, stories are playing out that remind us there’s more to choice than the right to a safe, legal abortion. 

Since the 1970’s, it has been illegal to pressure a woman to be sterilized, or to ask for consent for sterilization during labor or childbirth. But in California, at least 148 pregnant female inmates between 2006 and 2010 were sterilized by tubal ligation during childbirth, often after coercion by prison staff and without patient consent. None of the procedures went through the required approvals or oversight. 

In Pennsylvania, Tanya Williams – a 34-year-old homeless woman with a reported IQ of 65, has been sentenced to 9-18 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault, after one of her 2 newborn twins starved to death in a homeless shelter. What could have been done to prevent the tragedy? Consider:
 – The twins were born in a Philadelphia hospital on October 21. Williams hadn’t had any prenatal care, and didn’t know she was carrying twins. Despite their low birth weight, the hospital released Williams, the twins, and her 4 other children to a homeless shelter 4 days later.

– The twins were deemed healthy by a city-funded caseworker 36 hours before the twin’s death. The same caseworker released Williams from participation in a voluntary parenting class. 

While the caseworker and another employee of Lutheran Children and Family Service were fired, Williams is the only person bring held legally responsible for her son’s death.

Being pro-choice is not just about protecting the right to choose not to have a baby. It  also means fighting for women’s right to get pregnant, stay pregnant, and raise healthy children without government interference. That includes women who are poor or in prison. We know the way to prevent abortion is not to restrict access to abortion, but to prevent unwanted pregnancy through education and access to contraception; Similarly, the way to prevent poor women from having babies they can’t support is not to punish them for getting pregnant, but to help them escape poverty.

“You’re never going to be a looker”

While you wouldn’t know it from the media coverage, Andy Murray was not the only person to win a Grand Slam title at Wimbledon this weekend – Marion Bartoli did it too. (No, not Mario Batali. I did the same thing.)

During her match, BBC sports reporter John Inverdale mused, 
“Do you think Bartoli’s dad told her when she was little, ‘You’re never going to be a looker? You’ll never be a Sharapova, so you have to be scrappy and fight?'” 

Response to Bartoli’s win on social media was rife with complaints and even threats of violence because fans didn’t find her physically attractive.

Suffice it to say, the same discussion was not had about the relative attractiveness of the male competitors.

The excellent Twitter account @EverydaySexism shared Bartoli’s response.

Didja Miss It? Vagina Good News Roundup

In the craziness of the last few weeks (Texas! North Carolina! SCOTUS! Natural Disasters! ‘Under the Dome’ is terrible!) a few important stories got dropped.

  • The US Department of Education reminded schools that under Title IX, pregnant students must be given the same consideration as students with other kinds of medical conditions – including having pregnancy-related absences excused, having access to at-home educational programs, and being allowed to return to  academic and extracurricular activities when they go back to school. (While pregnant students have always been included in Title IX, their rights are often violated, and teen pregnancy slashes a young woman’s likelihood of earning a high school or college diploma.)
  • In the Massachussets special election to replace Senator John Kerry, who left the Senate to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, pro-choice Democrat Ed Markey beat Gabriel Gomez, who calls himself “pro-life”  and supported a 24-hour waiting period.
  • The question of religious employers covering birth control for their employees is settled. The Obama administration announced plans to move forward with the original proposal for Obamacare.

“Under the accommodation, religious non-profits can avoid having to pay for contraception directly by having the third-party insurance provider foot the bill for that specific coverage.”


The STAGGERING Study No One Talked About

A few weeks ago, the World Health Organization issued a report – the first of its kind – on  domestic violence wordwide.

The results are staggering.

Based on data from 1983 to 2010, 1 in 3 women on the planet has experienced intimate partner violence, and 40% of all women who are murdered are killed by a current or former intimate partner.

This has ramifications in all areas of women’s health – increased likelihood of sexually transmitted infections, depression and other mental illness, alcohol and drug addiction, unwanted pregnancy and abortion, and reproductive problems like low birth weight.

The report suggests the best opportunity to recognize and address domestic violence  is often in a health care setting – but heath care practitioners often lack the training required to see the signs, especially in the developing world.  

Imagine a study that found 40% of all murdered men were killed by a current or former girlfriend. Even just a woman – any woman. Would have been a pretty huge story. We’d be having a big cultural conversation about what’s gone wrong and what we must do to fix it. But this? Nope.

Ask yourself why.

Vagina News Patriotic Weekend Reading List

So much great stuff keeps piling up! If you’ve got weekend plans to plunk yourself down in a sunny spot next to Old Glory, consider adding these to your book robot:

Rob Delaney, a comedian one might not suspect of being a feminist, on why he’s pro-choice.

Ellen Page on feminism, and generally dismantling stereotypes about vapid female actors.

Senator Claire McCaskill’s response to Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto’s claim that her efforts to address sexual assault in the military amount to “an effort to criminalize male sexuality” and are “more than a little histrionic.”
A New York Times opinion piece about how destigmatizing abortion by sharing personal stories breeds pro-choice perspective. 

What is ‘male privilege,’ exactly? For one thing, it means men’s desires are our highest cultural priority. (Also includes a perspective on the great taco sauce debate, and a counterpoint to the piece above.)