Happy V-Day!!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Today marks the 10th anniversary of V-day, the organization that grew out of Eve Ensler’s award-winning play The Vagina Monologues. V-day works to end violence against women and girls worldwide. The organization has gained a huge following and Eve Ensler has traveled all over the world to bring attention to issues of violence against women.

I was first introduced to The Vagina Monologues when I was a junior in High School. My English teacher organized a show for the community and many of the teachers from my high school participated. The months leading up to the event she wore a small, red, “V” pin every day. One day one of my classmates asked her what the “V” stood for. She leaned in and whispered to him “Vagina” and casually walked away. I remember seeing the look of shock on his face that a teacher would say something like that. It made me feel empowered. I knew at that moment that I wanted to be involved with the production in the future.

Throughout college I acted, directed and organized the annual production of The Vagina Monologues and brought attention to issues of violence within the community. It was one of the things that I could do that I knew was making a difference and touching so many people.

Now, here I am in Washington, DC working on this issue from a legislative standpoint and meeting amazing women and people along the way who feel just as passionately as I do about ending violence against women and girls.

Yesterday, I attended a briefing at the Capital titled “How faith-based communities can work together to advance domestic violence laws.” The event was sponsored by the Interfaith Domestic Violence Coalition of which the UUA is a part. The weather was awful, but we still had a great turnout and support from Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Representative Ted Poe (R-TX) who spoke of their dedication to ending violence against women. Currently, the coalition is dedicating much of its time to advancing the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) which will provide funding to foreign assistance programs specifically for stopping violence against women worldwide. Tell your Senator that you support the I-VAWA act, we need every voice to speak out in this struggle.

Together we are going to make a difference and make a positive impact on the lives of women and girls worldwide.

Remember, support women and girls and attend a V-day event in your area!

Thirty-Five Years of Choice

Blog for Choice Day

Today marks the 35th anniversary of Roe v Wade. Thirty-five years ago today the Supreme Court determined that abortion is legal until the fetus is viable outside the mother’s womb or if necessary to protect the health of the mother.

People across the United States are blogging about the importance of choice, specifically why it is important to vote pro-choice, while others are picketing and decrying the landmark legislation. Here at the UUA we are celebrating. The Unitarian Universalist Association has been a strong proponent of abortion rights since the 1960’s and has stood beside numerous organizations in support of Roe v. Wade. Many of our congregations and members have worked tirelessly to help women obtain safe abortions. Stories will be posted on the UUA website throughout the next few months; make sure to check www.uua.org and read the remarkable stories about UU’s and choice.

On this historic day, let us not take for granted all that has been accomplished for abortion rights. Year after year Roe v Wade and other abortion legislation is threatened. Both the appointment of conservative judges to the Supreme Court and the harmful decisions about access to abortion in individual states are real threats to Roe v Wade. We must continue to support abortion rights and let people know why we are pro-choice.

I am pro-choice because I feel a woman has a right to have control over her body. I am pro-choice because I feel women are strong and capable of making good decisions. And most of all I am pro-choice because I believe a child’s life is sacred and that children should be borne into loving and open arms.

Today, share your reasons for being pro-choice and listen to women that have made the tough decision to have an abortion. Reflect on what it means to you and what it means to others.

And remember, today is a day for celebration! Celebrate in support of a woman’s right to have control over her body. Celebrate thirty-five years of struggling to keep this protection in place. Celebrate those that continue to fight for access to abortion and an end to restrictive parental notification laws. Celebrate to give us hope and strength for the next thirty-five years.

Whose fault is it? The Jamie Lynn Spears pregnancy scandal

Jamie Lynn Spears, 16 year-old sister of Brittney Spears and star of Nickelodeon’s hit show Zoey 101 is making waves with her announcement Wednesday that she is three months pregnant.

The media and bloggers have been adding their two cents to the issue for the last couple of days. Everyone from feministing.com to The Washington Post has covered the story. I hadn’t given the news much thought until I found this article in The Washington Post online. The article itself is similar to the others out there but at the end is a poll that asks:

Who is most to blame for Jamie Lynn Spears’s underage pregnancy?

The public is given five choices:
-Jamie Lynn and boyfriend Casey Aldridge, who should have known better.
-Sister Britney for setting a bad example.
-Mom Lynn, who seems to be a two-time loser at this point.
-A society ill-equipped to teach teens about sex.
-Blame? Let’s make a silk purse out of this: ‘Zoey 101: Sex Ed!’

I looked at the choices, laughed a little and casually clicked what I thought was the most logical answer: A society ill-equipped to teach teens about sex.

With the surprised comments from Jamie Lynn and her mom, it seemed obvious to me that there is a serious lack of sex education in the Spears household.

Jamie’s mom, Lynn: “I didn’t believe it because Jamie Lynn’s always been so conscientious. She’s never late for her curfew. I was in shock. I mean, this is my 16-year-old baby.”

Jamie Lynn in OK! magazine: “It was a shock for both of us, so unexpected, I was in complete and total shock and so was he.”

Yes, Lynn, your “baby” can get pregnant without breaking curfew, especially when her boyfriend lives in the house. Yes, Jaime, you can get pregnant if you have unprotected sex.

Maybe it’s because I’m more attuned to the horrors of the sex education in this country, but even so those statements seemed like there was some misinformation.
However, it seems that the majority of Washington Post readers feel that it is Jaime’s fault (51%) and followed by her mothers fault (35%). A mere 5% thought it was the failure of sex education.

Of course Jamie and her boyfriend should have been responsible, but if no one ever educated them about how to be responsible, they can’t bear the brunt of the blame. The same goes for her mother, it would be nice to think that she would know by now, but her comment clearly shows her lack of understanding of teenagers.

National Polls have shown that most parents are in favor of Comprehensive Sexuality Education, yet (unless Post readers are significantly different from the rest of the nation, which I doubt) the poll results indicate that there is a disconnect between support for sex education and understanding why it’s needed.

Instead of putting blame on Jamie or mom, why not take this time to highlight the need for comprehensive sexuality education? Parents and children alike should be educated in human sexuality and understand their bodies and be able to have a consensual and safe relationship. Thankfully, many news outlets have highlighted the issue in segments about how to talk to your children about sex. The Today Show had author and psychologist Dr. Gail Saltz on the show to give advice to parents on how to talk to their kids. Unfortunately, the Today Show anchors countered that with their worry about talking to young children and the possibility that maybe you don’t have to.

This story is undoubtedly going to reach the children that watch Zoey 101. Message boards discussing the event have many posts from parents and teachers that say kids as young as eight are talking about the news. Let’s hope that parents take the time and advice from Dr. Gail Saltz and others to give their children age appropriate information about sex instead of just condemning Jamie Lynn.

World AIDS Day 2007: Truth Telling

Last Saturday marked my second World AIDS Day with the UUA. Last year, Rev. William G. Sinkford, President of the UUA, came to DC and we held a “For Whom the Bell Tolls, Resounding Vigil”, he also spoke at a UNAIDS event, and conducted a couple of lobby visits. This year, Rev. Sinkford met with the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator (OGAC), rallied outside of OGAC, and spoke at a Rally in front of the White House.

Both this year and last, Rev. Sinkford has come to D.C. and taken every opportunity presented to him to practice truth telling. He speaks with conviction about our moral obligation to confront the spread of HIV/AIDS with honesty and with sound science. His unwavering support for using evidence-based, comprehensive information about sexuality to save lives is crucially important when confronting a political establishment too easily swayed by ideological insistence on the use of ineffective abstinence-until-marriage programs.

While Unitarian Universalism has never purported to have the “truth”, we are committed to use our best reasoning abilities to help us sort through the mysteries of life. We do not rely on revelation to find our truth. World AIDS Day is a day when an undesirable and downright shameful truth must be told: so many are suffering needlessly. My work has been driven by the truth that HIV/AIDS is 100% preventable. My work has been targeted at the truth that the United States’ steps towards preventing HIV/AIDS have fallen far short of that truth.

It has been an honor to work for the UUA and to see Rev. Sinkford lead this journey towards truth. While there are many religious advocates for health care workers, health infrastructure, and anti-retroviral drugs, few have tackled the complexities of sexuality and spoken the truth as Rev. Sinkford has. Hopefully this courageous moral leadership will inspire others to passionately confront the reality that abstinence-until-marriage programs fail to protect vulnerable people around the world, and they bring us no closer to the end of HIV/AIDS.

Next year the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is due for reauthorization. The UUA Washington Office for Advocacy will be working to ensure that the harmful abstinence-until-marriage funding restrictions currently attached to PEPFAR will be removed. Please join us in advocating for this crucial change in U.S. policy.