Tag Archives: the soapbox

The Soapbox: Chelsea Manning Has The Right To Healthcare In Prison, Transgender Or Not

I Am Chelsea Manning
Bradley Manning: "I Am Chelsea Manning, I Am Female"
Wikileaks leaker Bradley Manning has transitioned to Chelsea Manning. Read More »
My Transition Story
What it's like to transition from female to male. Read More »
Q&A: Laverne Cox
interview Laverne Cox Orange Is The New Black
Meet Laverne Cox, the trans actress from "Orange Is The New Black." Read More »
chelsea manning transgender in prison

Now that Chelsea Manning has expressed a desire to medically transition through hormone replacement therapy, there are a lot of questions circling about what Leavenworth looks like for a trans woman, and how exactly someone might transition from male to female in prison. While Manning’s case itself is complicated, the question of what kind of healthcare someone deserves in prison is fairly simple. There are clear legal and moral arguments for Manning receiving hormones once they are prescribed by a doctor. This isn’t about what she did or did not do; it’s about the basic commitment we make as a society when we lock someone up.

When someone commits a crime, no matter how heinous, we still have an obligation as a society to provide their basic needs while they serve their time. As Lesley Kinzel argued when writing about the Michelle Kosilek case last year, “What makes us better than murderers is that we value human life, even the lives of those who don’t value life themselves, their own included.” Whether or not you agree with Manning’s release of classified information, we consider a decent life a collective value, enshrined in the basic rights that are guaranteed by our Constitution. Courts have already held that the 8th Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment confers a right to adequate medical care in prison, and medical experts and courts have consistently found that hormone therapy is a medically necessary treatment for transgender people for whom it’s prescribed. Keep reading »

The Soapbox: In (Reluctant) Defense of Dr. Phil

"Nice Guys" Who Rape
Intent isn't everything, but it does matter. Read More »
Drunk Is A Feminist Issue
Why women everywhere should be concerned about binge-drinking. Read More »
Too Drunk?
If you're a drunk woman who gets raped, will you be taken seriously? Read More »
The Soapbox: In (Reluctant) Defense of Dr. Phil

I never thought I’d write an article under that title but here goes.

Earlier this week, Dr. Phil asked over Twitter: “If a girl is drunk, is it alright to have sex with her?” The Twittersphere overwhelmingly answered “No,” calling Dr. Phil a “moron,” “asshole” and “rape apologist,” among other things. I don’t doubt the possibility that Dr. Phil (or whichever lackey mans his Twitter account) may have posed that question for lecherous or self-serving reasons. Yet as a feminist, this reaction left me honestly dismayed. Were we saying that a drunk girl can never consent to sex? That sex with someone who’s been drinking is always, necessarily, rape? Sure, Dr. Phil’s a total butthead, but I don’t think we want to make the argument that drunk sex necessarily means rape, do we?

And yet this is the exact argument being made by Carmen Rios, a former college sexual assault activist, who was so “shocked and appalled” that Dr. Phil (whose real name is Phil McGraw) had asked such a question that she started a Change.org petition encouraging supporters to call on McGraw to host a show educating his viewers on assault prevention. “Lesson 101 in my courses,” says Rios, “was that sexual contact without verbal, sober, conscious consent is rape.”

But, it’s not — not legally speaking, and not in practice. Keep reading »

The Soapbox: Is “Orange Is The New Black” Entertainment Or Education?

Privilege In "OITNB"
Piper in prison on Orange Is The New Black
Piper in "Orange Is The New Black" is the poster girl for privilege. Read More »
Q&A: Laverne Cox
interview Laverne Cox Orange Is The New Black
Meet Laverne Cox, the trans actress from "Orange Is The New Black." Read More »
Q&A: Piper Kerman
The author of "Orange Is The New Black" talks about being behind bars. Read More »
experiences of women in prison

Everybody has feelings about Jenji Kohan’s “Orange is the New Black.” I have all the feelings. Since the show’s debut, we’ve tossed opinions back-and-forth about the cast of characters and the powerfully written narratives that reveal the unseen lives of American’s imprisoned women. But of the many conversations that have surfaced, the most discernible for me is of the legitimacy of Piper Kerman, the memoirist about whom the show was made.

In brief, after getting involved with an international drug dealer, Kerman (a white woman) was indicted for money laundering and spent a year in a woman’s prison – you know, the usual account of a well-to-do white woman who graduated from Smith. She subsequently wrote a best-selling memoir, which was adapted for Netflix. You can watch all of season one there now; I finished it in less than a week.

The show follows her into prison and tells the backstory of several other inmates, many of them women of color. The storyline is emotionally riveting. We’re met with race-related segregation, which mirrors the actual prison experience where racial categories and separation are often strictly enforced. Piper’s race and class privilege are checked in the first episode when it’s revealed that she “read up” on prison etiquette before she arrived. One inmate gives birth in prison and comes back to her bunk child-free, showcasing the reality that two-thirds of incarcerated women are mothers and busting the myth that women who labor in prison get to keep their babies. As a birth justice activist, I wished they’d shown the inhumane way in which many prisons shackle women during labor. Keep reading »

The Soapbox: Quit Stereotyping Teen Moms

Wendy Davis, Teen Mom
Wendy Davis was a teen mom
The state Senator shows that for teen moms, anything is possible. Read More »
Late Period?
Don't panic. There are other reasons you might be pregnant. Read More »
True Story: Pregnant
I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant
She didn't know she was pregnant for 6 months. Read More »
Quit Stereotyping Teen Moms

I started dating Trent when I was 18 and he was 21. Three dates in, I was hooked. We spent all our free time together, going for drives out in the country, watching the latest movies or just sitting around talking. We were also having the copious amounts of sex you would expect from a couple of smitten, horny young adults.

One day we were sitting around watching a reality television show – a relatively new concept back in the year 2000 – about a girl around my age who got pregnant.

“Wouldn’t it be weird if that happened to us?” I said.

“Yeah, totally weird, but it’d work out okay,” Trent replied without thinking.

I wasn’t convinced, but it did make me think about how I would handle it. The fact that we’d recently had a slip-up in the condom department was also at the forefront of my mind, so after the program ended, I decided to ease my mind by taking a quick pregnancy test. Keep reading »

The Soapbox: On #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen; Feminism Is Not Black And White

On Hugo Schwyzer
The Soapbox: On Hugo Schwyzer, Personal Essay Writing & Redemption
Schwyzer's fall and what it says about redemption narratives. Read More »
Schwyzer's Meltdown
Hugo Schwyzer Has What Appears To Be Major Manic Episode On Twitter
Manic episode or more manipulative bullshit? Read More »
Soapbox: Colorstruck
Is Hollywood still colorstruck? Read More »
The Soapbox: On #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen, Race & Feminism

The Internet exploded in feminist calamity yesterday over the racist, sexist, patriarchal, abuse-laden behavior of Hugo Schwyzer, an allegedly a self-described* mentally ill (former) professor of women’s studies at Pasadena City College. Schwyzer divulged information that is classically tucked away behind the buttressed walls of systemic white privilege. Anecdotally, it’s akin to the ENRON scandal, the ACORN scandal and the unprecedented shit show that was the financial collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. Thematically each of these exposed, in an exceptional way, the clandestine systemic privileges that sustain long-term oppression: economic, racial, civic or otherwise.

Schwyzer, a self-identified male feminist made his claim to Internet fame by reworking and packaging up modern male feminism and selling  it to online publications like The Atlantic and Jezebel, for whom he was a paid contributor, and Feministe, which featured an interview with him. Two of these three are notorious for their insensitivity and, on more than one occasion, outright disregard for the importance of intersectional feminism – that is the focal point where feminism and another powerful system meet, say for instance, race. These cyber tropes, which have staked claim as the premier source for all things feminist, prioritize clicks over everything else, as beautifully explained by blogger Flavia Dzodan. In matters of the heart, their feminist ideology dematerializes – often at the expense of women of color and other marginalized women.

Keep reading »

The Soapbox: Natural Hair, Like Recycling, Is Not A Lifestyle Choice For Everyone

Oprah's Afro
O magazine Oprah's afro
Check out Oprah's huge-ass Afro on the cover of O Magazine. Read More »
"I Love My Hair"
Watch "Sesame Street" school black girls on the beauty of their hair. Read More »
On Black Hair And Exercise
bad hair days
One woman's thoughts on black hair and working out. Read More »
The Soapbox: Natural Hair, Like Recycling, Is Not A Lifestyle Choice For Everyone

For the last several years, natural hair “trends” have been on the rise for African-American and other women in the U.S. Just last week, Oprah graced the cover of O Magazine donning an enormous Afro, much bigger than the one she wore in the late ’70s when she first started on primetime. Oprah’s gesture pays tribute to the millions of women who have tossed relaxers and weaves to the side and embraced their own hair — their natural hair.

As I wrote last spring, women of African decent, and some others too, sometimes use a product called a perm to make their hair “more manageable.” These began as a trend in the 1920s so blacks (both men and women) could more readily assimilate into white culture and evade the detriments of racism. If you’ve ever read or watched The Autobiography of Malcolm X, you’ll remember the scene in which he dunked his head in a toilet bowl to find reprieve from the smoldering “conk” (what a perm used to be called) he was using to straighten his hair.

Oprah’s hair was a wig designed by lock guru Andre Walker but the idea of it still persists – Afros, and other natural hairstyles are here to stay … or are they? Keep reading »

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