This post was originally published at The Daily Blog on 25 July 2013.
The state of California has seen teen pregnancy rates drop to a 20-year low, across all ethnicities.
You would, to the surprise of no one who understands what being a teenager is like, be wrong. From a linked article:
Public health experts say state laws are responsible for the decline because they require public schools that offer sex education classes to provide scientifically reliable instructions on how contraceptives work along with information about abstinence.
What’s that? Scientifically reliable information together with “information about abstinence”, which might involve supporting teens’ individual choices and instilling the idea that they can resist social pressure to have sex if they’re not ready? How the fuck could that possibly be effective?
Especially when compared to the amazing results delivered by the “abstinence-only education, scaremongering, and general judgyness” approach.
Over the past decade, teen pregnancy rates have consistently been higher in Southern states that don’t provide students with adequate sexual health instruction. Since abstinence-only courses often present misleading information about contraception, a full 60 percent of young adults underestimate birth control’s effectiveness and are more likely to skip it because they don’t believe it will make a difference. And teens in rural areas still struggle to access contraception, partly because there are fewer health clinics in less populous places and partly because a societal stigma surrounding teen sexuality still pervades conservative communities.
California has also come up with innovative concepts like “getting bilingual moderators when dealing with bilingual teens”. And check out this fucking sexy graphic from the CDC about how to design “teen-friendly” health visits.
The facts are plain and simple. Giving young people actual full information – not “you’re going to get cancer every time you give head” information – and the power or esteem or respect to make their own decisions works. It doesn’t mean there’ll never be any teen pregnancy, it doesn’t mean we’ll eradicate STDs, it doesn’t mean teenagers will stop being emotional hormonal creatures struggling to find their identity and place in society.
But it does mean they’re far better equipped to deal with that than lying to them.
If you’re of a conspiratorial mind, you might ask why lying abstinence-pushers are so insistent on a strategy which empirically does not work. You might think about modern capitalism’s need for a less-empowered class of worker drones, and its use of racism and patriarchy to keep certain groups of people in line when it comes to doing the shitty underpaid jobs which and making the babies which are necessary for the elite’s continued lives of luxury.
Of course it’s possible that they’re honestly such self-absorbed, hateful douchecanoes that they’ll happily throw teenagers under the bus if they don’t conform to said douchecanoes’ personal beliefs about How Things Should Be.
But moral, upstanding compassionate folks? They are not.
This post was originally published at The Daily Blog on 19 July 2013.
On Back Benches this week, Holly Walker cemented her position as one of the most badass MPs in the House by saying the following:
I’ve been thinking…as I approach the end of my pregnancy that I’m really lucky to have a lot of choices about what’s best for me and my body and my baby. Unfortunately a lot of women at the beginning of an unwanted pregnancy don’t have the same degree of choice and control. Now recently Wendy Davis stood up for 13 hours in the Texas senate to stand up for a woman’s right to choose. And we’ve shown in New Zealand that we can work together cross-party on these sensitive issues to update the law and I think it’s time to start the cross-party conversation on modernising our abortion law in New Zealand.
H/T ALRANZ for the transcript.
It’s a huge step forward for the prochoice movement, having a vocal, unashamed, and – because really, it’s a hugely powerful symbol – pregnant advocate for abortion law reform.
The downer is that more and more we’re coming to see how absolutely fucked up our archaic, judgey abortion laws are, and how they endanger the health of pregnant people.
Because it’s not enough to know that abortion is a crime in New Zealand, with strict procedures around when it’s permissible.
It’s not enough that pregnant people aren’t trusted to make their own decisions, and have to justify and plead with multiple consultants in order to get the procedure signed off. (Imagine if they implemented the same process for vasectomies.)
It’s not enough that rape isn’t considered sufficient grounds for an abortion – and it’s not enough that the reason for that is our 1970s, almost-entirely-white-male, Parliament thought women would just lie about rape to get abortions.
No, this week another shoe dropped, thanks to the tireless work of ALRANZ, who revealed that most pregnant people seeking abortions in New Zealand, after jumping through all the hoops, will still be forced to undergo an ultrasound. An ultrasound which may not even be medically necessary (and would be even less necessary if we didn’t have all those hoops, which mean abortions are being performed later in pregnancy.)
So if you’re a pregnant teen in Westport, not only do you have to find two certifying consultants you trust to talk to about abortion, then convince them that you tick all the boxes set down by men who were old and judgemental before you were even born, not only do you have to travel to Christchurch for your procedure (time off work or out of school and god help you if the clinic’s shut that day) but you also have to undergo a scan. And you have to be told that you may look at the scan. Because what you really really need at that point is to have an entire society’s baggage about pregnancy and ultrasound and the ~miracle of life~ dropped on your head.
There’s only one solution: clear, straight up reform of our abortion laws. Get abortion out of the Crimes Act. Scrap the humiliating justifications. Let pregnant people make their own decisions.
Don’t like it? Don’t get an abortion when you’re pregnant.
(Unless of course it’s different when you need it.)
This post was originally published at The Daily Blog on 11 July 2013.
Yes, I’m being picky. But if you can’t be picky when you’re looking at somebody’s deliberate, planned, entirely-under-their-control press release, I don’t know when you can be. Emphasis mine:
“Of course, there is a significant number of children who go to school to hungry, because they have not been properly fed at home, and of course poor nutrition has an adverse effect on learning and the subsequent development of the child.
“But that is not the issue – rather, the question is what is the best way of addressing this problem,” Mr Dunne says.
Translated from the original Conservativesian: yeah, kids are hungry and it’s fucking them up, but that’s not the issue.
The real problem is that I can’t support anything with Hone Harawira’s name on it because I’m too heavily invested in camouflage-racist Common Sense.
But of course, a scheme which involves government subsidisation of religious organisations like Sanitarium who pay no tax on their profits (which they then invest overseas) who then get to market themselves as caring about New Zealand children, that’s totally cool!
You may recall that Family First’s line was much the same. Only two questions: how do these scumbags sleep at night, and why do they never get called on their shit by actual paid journalists?
This post was originally published at The Daily Blog on 5 July 2013.
It’s that time of year when whitey complains about the fact that New Zealand is home to a unique indigenous language, and the best efforts of past whiteys has failed to eliminate it, and now we actually dare to treat it like a valuable thing which should be promoted, all to mess with the minds of tiny white babies who will get confused if they’re told there’s more than one way to say “three”.
By which I mean to say, it’s Māori Language Week.
Linguist Nathan Albury has a column in the Dominion Post hoping that we’re going to get a proper Māori language strategy which keeps te reo alive. But that doesn’t let us individual Pākehā off the hook, people.
Here’s some suggestions from Te Taura Whiri i te reo Māori – the Māori Language Commission.
Learn the 100 Māori words every New Zealander should know (and when you’re done there’s 365 additional words and phrases)
Download some resources for your office like bilingual signs
… and whenever you hear people bagging the promotion of te reo, or whinging that their children shouldn’t have to learn some Foreign Devil Tongue, remind them, using as many cusswords as you like, that te reo is unique to New Zealand, that it makes New Zealand English unique, that language learning does awesome things to your brain, and that it’s no more useless a bit of knowledge than all that fucking trigonometry we were forced to do at school.
Tragically, Nickolodeon is no longer hosting the video of the te reo Spongebob Squarepants episode they did for 2009, but here’s an interview with the voice actor!
This post was originally published at The Daily Blog on 27 June 2013.
I was going to start this off with an eye-rolling comment about how Winston Peters clearly doesn’t understand what freedom of speech means.
But really, he does.
And I was going to note the inherent paradox of complaining about !!BEING SILENCED!! while giving a public speech.
But he knows it.
And the urge to laugh and laugh and laugh at the idea that Susan Devoy’s mealy-mouthed musings are going to silence anyone – especially given her track record of taking $200k a year to do sweet fuck all to temper and mediate race relations in New Zealand – was very strong.
But he’s already in on the joke.
The fact is that Winston Peters plays the media (and many voters) in this country like a cheap fiddle. We all know he’s a “populist” in the sense of being someone who will say and do whatever it takes to get votes. We know his track record in being a racist dickhead. We know his fine flair for the dramatic.
I don’t think we can ignore Winston. There’s a point where yeah, you do have to say “remember, people, Winston will play a racist dickhead for votes” – because like Peter Dunne’s party list of fundamentalists, it’s something we tend to forget over time, so taken in are we by the latest policy or speech which is just coincidentally on the side of good.
On the other hand, can we at least stop reporting his carefully-worded temper tantrums as though they have any credibility? I know “Orwellian oppression!!!” and “PC police silence warrior of the people!” make for great headlines, but you’re only encouraging him.
Just remember: one day he’ll be gone, and then you’ll have to remember how to write real news articles.
This post was originally published at The Daily Blog on 20 June 2013.
So, last night’s episode of The Vote, a show where Guyon Espiner and Duncan Garner really strut their “we are such fucking awesome journalist” peacock stuff, dealt with a complex issues which affects the lives of many vulnerable Kiwis, especially children, in a thoughtful, sensitive and informed way.
No, wait, I’m sorry, that’s completely wrong.
What Espiner and Garner did was happily reduce the issues of poverty, deprivation, child abuse and a vague, undefined notion of “bad parenting” to a circus act.
Look! Here we have lined up the extremist Christian right of the country, representatives of Family First, the Conservatives, and Destiny Church, to say money don’t buy me love and hate on parents who are doing it wrong!
And look! Here we have actual advocates for the poor and unprivileged, representing the medical community, poor and unemployed Maaori, and “dysfunctional families”! (The silly fools think they’re here to actually discuss the issues, but we’ll soon fix that!)
And throughout it all Garner and Espiner grandstanded (grandstood?) and pretended to have one view or the other, while a studio audience and denizens of social media came to probably exactly the same conclusion they started with, either “I hate poor people and have no concept of real poverty” or “I think this is a fucking complex issue so I’ll pick the bigger structural cause.”
The tell is at the end, when Espiner and Garner crowbar in a little talk-piece about how obviously it’s a complex and difficult issue and obviously both parenting and poverty place a part in kids’ lives, standing there and pretending they haven’t just reduced serious social issues into a custard pie fight.
Like they haven’t let Christine Rankin talk about “a bowl of cereal and milk costs 37c” – because they, too, live in a magical world where supermarkets sell you a single serving of cereal and milk at a time, and milk doesn’t require refrigeration (even when it’s in the more-expensive-brand’s lightproof bottle) and refrigeration doesn’t require electricity.
Like they haven’t just let Hannah Tamaki waffle on about how families in cold houses should just snuggle under a blanket – literally a minute after Celia Lashlie talked about horrible cases of family sexual abuse – and pretend that no church ever forces people to tithe.
Like they haven’t just brushed over Hone Harawira’s clear, brutal facts about the median income in Te Tai Tokerau ($12,500) or incidences of “third world disease” rheumatic fever (90, I believe in the last year.)
As much as I knew the “debate” itself was going to anger me, it was the cheap theatrics combined with the overwhelming sense that we were all meant to be so very impressed by the Serious Journalism going on that saddened me.
But then I reminded myself that this was exactly as to be expected, given the trailer for 3rd Degree basically involved a circle-jerk about how amaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazing Espiner and Garner were as journalists.
So of course the Vote’s production team turned 270,000 children living in poverty into a farce. They probably don’t even realise.
This post was originally published at The Daily Blog on 13 June 2013.
[content note: violence against women, domestic violence]
Wait, sorry, I’m completely mischaracterizing that story, what I meant to say was
A leading Waikato scholar and opera singer is fighting to clear his name after admitting assaulting his ex-girlfriend three times.
… because that’s how the Waikato Times chose to frame a story about a violent thug who
… grabbed his victim by her clothing and threw her into a chair. He then threw a bag at her and slapped her.
Later that month he choked her.
The last and most violent incident – in October 2011 – saw Douglas grab the woman by the throat, leaving her struggling to move or breath. Her glasses were broken in the attack.
I’m assuming that use of the word “victim” in the first quoted sentence is a terrible oversight on their part, since apparently the real victim here is a scumbag who thinks $500 is decent reparation for abusing his partner and just cannot handle the idea that
for the rest of his life he has to apply for a visa every time he travels
HOLY FUCKING SHIT, Y’ALL, HE HAS TO APPLY FOR A VISA.
TALENTED YOUNG MEN DO NOT APPLY FOR VISAS.
THAT SHIT IS FOR REAL CRIMINALS.
Not talented young men who choke people and have bright futures.
Guess what, Chase Douglas, 23? When you’re an abusive piece of shit, your life should be harder. You should have to declare that crap and if declaring the facts of your abuse gets in the way of your star-spangled career, you fucking cope with it.
What kind of message do we send to victims of intimate partner violence, who are overwhelmingly women, especially women of colour, trans women, and women with disabilities, if a dude who throws his partner around and chokes her on multiple occasions gets to walk away scot-free?
Why the fuck do you think we have such low reporting rates for this kind of violence?
Fuck, let’s just be glad he’s not an All Black. The case would have been discharged already amidst a tearful press conference and Dame Susan Devoy labelling him a hero.
This post was originally published at The Daily Blog on 6 June 2013.
Once upon a time, sex education – when it was provided at all, which wasn’t a given – was a simple biology lesson, which assumed that all people identified with the gender which corresponded to their genitalia, which were in the standard configuration.
Students learned the “facts of life” and, if they were really lucky, got a lecture about how they weren’t allowed to use their societally-approved genitalia until God said so.
Because in those days, people were happy to ignore the fact that not everyone’s a man or a woman or heterosexual or cisgendered. So it went without saying that boys grew up knowing they had to force themselves to at least look like they were men, and girls, women.
There were a lot of sexually transmitted diseases, but everyone pretended they didn’t exist because they were associated with immorality, and thus those who contracted them weren’t worth caring about.
Certain behaviours were labelled as “not normal” and there were harsh social and even criminal punishments for being at all different.
Things have changed. Kinda.
Now we have comprehensive sexuality education, which acknowledges the fact that humans are generally social creatures who have relationships and emotions and and aren’t all heterosexual cisgendered men and women. Children learn they’re sexual from birth, because we install sexchips in their brains, and that the proper time for sexual activity is when they’re ready, because we want them to be sluts.
They’re taught they have a right to pleasure, birth control, and abortion, because … um, they are.
The terms husband and wife aren’t used, ever. Using them is punishable by death. The union of man and woman is one of several options, because, um, it is. And trying to erase the glorious diversity of human relationships under the guise of “morality”? Well, that’s judging, and judging is douchey.
You will find biology in sexuality education, it’s just part of a wider curriculum designed by heathen sluts who understand that relationships are about a little bit more than Tab A entering Slot B to produce Baby C. There’s also voluminous information on the existing, factual varieties of sexual expression, the pros and cons of different contraceptives and abortion, and the harm of gender stereotypes.
Gender itself is taught like it’s a complicated matter. Because, um, it is.
We now actually discuss the many types of sexually transmitted disease, and how common a lot of them are, which some people insist on pretending means that we think getting one is totally cool.
And childhood innocence? Well, we no longer treat sexuality as an inherently immoral thing from which children must be protected in a fake, sheltered state of grace. On websites recommended to students, things are explained, even if they were previously labelled “deviant”.
Oh, Dr Grossman, I wish it were so. What a fantastic world it would be where we treated sex like a natural part of human existence (which it is) and stopped trying, with words, peer pressure and naked violence, to force everyone into little boxes labelled Husbandfatherworker and Wifemothercarer.
We don’t. But giving the rising panic amongst fundies, I think we’re getting closer.
Source. Click for her armchair-albeit-professional psychoanalysis of Alfred Kinsey, which oh-so-conveniently aligns with her own biases.
This post was originally published at The Daily Blog on 31 May 2013.
Today, 31/3/13, marks the fourth anniversary of the murder of Dr George Tiller, a man who despite very real threats to his own life and safety provided safe, legal late-term abortions to the women of Kansas.
Late-term abortion is one of the contentious issues even within prochoice discussions. People just inherently find it “icky” – even more so than abortion in general. A lot of that probably has to do with the way the abortion debate has been framed for so long in an attempt to make it as palatable as possible – focusing on the very early, non-baby-like stages of pregnancy.
Yet that’s not a misrepresentation. The vast majority of abortions do occur early in pregnancy.
New Zealand has a soft limit on how late abortions can be performed – after 20 weeks, a fairly typical cut-off for defining “late-term”, it is only legal to save the life of the mother, or to prevent serious permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the mother. And it’s a very small number – according to Statistics New Zealand, in 2011 only 908 abortions, or 5.7% of the total, were performed after 14 weeks’ gestation (they don’t get specific after that). In 2009, only 14 abortions were performed after 24 weeks – which is the legal cut-off in places like Great Britain.
I don’t know of any research in New Zealand on why pregnant people need later-term abortions, but there’s been a lot done in the United States. It’s pretty simple: people who are less privileged, by being young, less educated, or women of colour, are far more likely to access abortion later in pregnancy.
According to a study in 1987 of people in the US who had had late-term abortions:
- 71% did not recognize [they were] pregnant or misjudged gestation
- 48% found it hard to make arrangements for abortion
- 33% [were] afraid to tell [their] partner or parents
- 24% took time to decide to have an abortion
And I just have to include this one:
- 8% Someone pressured [them] not to have abortion
When there are obstacles in the way of pregnant people accessing abortion, it takes longer to get an abortion. And the further into pregnancy you get, the fewer, and less safe, and in many places more expensive, your options are. That’s why so many anti-choice campaigns are aimed at delaying abortion – through patronising “waiting periods”, which presume that pregnant people simply can’t be trusted to know their own wishes, or forced trans-vaginal ultrasound scans, which add the fun element of coerced medical penetration into the mix.
In New Zealand, having to see at least two certifying consultants, plus getting an appointment at a clinic which may be a day’s journey away, while needing to take time off work and find someone to take care of the kids (over half the people who have abortions have already given birth to at least one baby) creates delays.
Add a frankly bullshit system of sex and sexuality education, add the huge social stigma around abortion, add being poor and panicked and just trying to ignore the problem away … and you have people getting later-term abortions.
Late-term abortions are not a problem in of themselves – they’re a problem because they reflect the shitty situations a lot of pregnant people find themselves in, with a lack of education, a lack of support, and a system set up to make it as hard as possible for them to get quick, safe access to abortions.
We’ll always need late-term abortions, because sometimes things go wrong.
But we also need a complete overhaul of bullshit social attitudes which deny people the knowledge and ability and support to make the decisions that are right for them.
Pregnant people deserve to be trusted to make their own medical decisions. They deserve to have information on their bodies and reproductive systems. They deserve access to early, affordable, safe abortions. And when they need them – because when you need them, you really, really need them – they deserve access to late-term abortions.
More posts remembering Dr Tiller will be collated at Abortion Gang – once the Americans wake up, of course!
This post was originally published at The Daily Blog on 23 May 2013.
God, we’re a terrible society to be a teenager in. Scary, dramatic adolescent shit is going down, you’re trying to discover who you are and what you want to be in life, and at a time when you could seriously just use a little bit of understanding and hands-off-yet-supportive guidance from the adults in your life …
Things which are apparently news now:
- Teenagers have sex
- Teenagers don’t tell their parents they’re having sex
- Teenagers, especially teenage boys, aren’t really hyper-focused on the legality of their actions
Things which are apparently the problem:
- The teenage brain is so underdeveloped that they’re literally incapable of understanding where babies come from. And walk into poles a lot.
- Binge drinking culture, which affects only young people and is not a reflection of their parents’ generation’s behaviour and attitudes at all
- Teenagers watch TV and go on The Twitters and that’s how they figure out that they have fun nerve endings in their genitals (seriously, go re-read paragraph 8)
Things which are totally not the problem:
- Adults throughout history treating teenagers like they’re fucking idiots/criminals who must be monitored and tracked at all times
- Adults throughout history panic-mongering about young people having sex
- Our media constantly panic-mongering about SEX!!!!!!!!!! yet ignoring the wider social context even when that context is described in their coverage
- Young adults being denied decent information on sex and relationships because ew, sex is icky
Things which you would think are the solution but clearly aren’t because ew, sex is icky:
- Comprehensive sex and sexuality education which emphasises consent and gives teens the power to resist peer pressure
- Not treating sex like it’s the bubonic plague – because maybe teens would feel like they had more of a support base if our answer to them having sex wasn’t LOCKDOWN! CURFEW! CONSTANT VIGILANCE!!!