August 7th, 2013
June 10th, 2013

This morning I went to Planned Parenthood.  I go every three months to pick up my birth control pills and again in August just before my birthday for my annual pelvic exam.

My usual concerns when going to Planned Parenthood are:

A)     Where am I going to park?  Parking in Center City is never easy.

B)      How long is this going to take?  The folks at the Locust Street branch are always friendly and seem pretty efficient but if you don’t have an appointment, you can find yourself sitting in the lobby long enough to watch an entire Tyler Perry film.

I’m never worried about getting stopped by protestors because let’s face it: this is 2013.  This is Philadelphia.  We’re not like that here.

Plus, my visit to Planned Parenthood has nothing to do with abortion, which makes sense because 90% of the services offered by Planned Parenthood have to do with preventive, primary care.  Not abortions.

But that doesn’t stop the elderly, white-haired man on the sidewalk from accosting me.

“Would you like some information?” he asks.  “Some options?

Although he doesn’t use the “a” word, the message is clear.  I’m a young woman of child bearing age.  If I’m going in to Planned Parenthood, I’m obviously irresponsible, pregnant, and too ignorant to be trusted with making my own decisions about my body.

I’m too shocked to say anything other than, “No thank you.”  Only then, as I hurry past, do I notice the young woman in an orange vest standing a few feet further down the sidewalk.  The vest says, “Planned Parenthood Escort.”

escort-web

I’ve read about the escorts before—I saw a notice in my Meeting’s newsletter about a training session for new escorts to volunteer at a clinic in New Jersey—but I never thought I’d see an escort in Philadelphia.  In my city, at my Planned Parenthood.

“Don’t let them give you anything,” the old man calls out.  “Don’t take anything from in there!”

I’m so angry that I can’t even open the door properly and the security guard has to tell me how to do it.  My hands are shaking as I fill out my form:

Reason for your visit?  Supply Pick Up

Will you be using insurance? No

Do you have insurance? No

I take my seat in the lobby and try to think Quakerly-thoughts like the smart people at my meeting in Trenton who never seem to get angry but only have wise things to say.  Maybe I can talk to that man—talk some sense into him—but then I recognize an acquaintance from the tap community across the lobby and think, before I can stop myself, “Her too?”

Part of me wants to call out “Hello!” but then I begin to wonder if she’d rather be anonymous, protected from those on the sidewalk by the thick blocks of frosted glass that serve as windows and protected from her fellow “clients” by the clipboard in front of her.

And that gets me thinking: I don’t necessarily want to be recognized either.  I get in and out of the clinic as quickly as possible, and whenever I have to pick up my pills, I dodge questions about where I’m really going, especially in front of my grandparents.  I’m always reminding myself that I’m a “good girl,” that I don’t “sleep around” and that I wouldn’t have to go to Planned Parenthood if I had one full-time job and the health insurance that comes with it.

As fate would have it, we get called up to the counter at the same time.  There’s no avoiding “hello” now: we’re both artists, we both work a hundred different gigs to pay the bills and we’re both at Planned Parenthood.  This isn’t something to hide, and yet, I still feel like it is.

The nurse hands me my pills and as per Planned Parenthood protocol, she places them into a small brown paper bag.  They’re already in a protective plastic blister back, a blue plastic envelope and a foil wrapper, but they (like tampons, maxi pads and most things associated with the female reproductive system) have to be hidden.

The nurse tells me to have a good day, but there’s something different in her tone than usual.  She knows the protesters are out there, and she’s warning me to prepare for battle.

I’m still trying to think of something to say to the man outside the clinic when he approaches me again, proffering a fistful of sweaty brochures printed on pastel paper.  He’s holding a rosary.

“Please take one of these,” he begs.  He looks so old.  So unhappy.  So sad and in pain and I wonder if he should even be out here on the sidewalk.  I’m sure he feels like he is doing God’s work and although he isn’t rude or abusive like some of the protestors I’ve seen on TV, he’s laid a sign down on the sidewalk that says, “They kill babies here.”

“No thank you,” I tell him.  And then, because I have an embarrassing habit of being polite to people even when they’re pissing me off, I add, “Have a nice afternoon.”

For a moment, I consider asking him to join me for a cup of coffee at the café just next door.  After all, good Quakers don’t try to talk sense into people; they listen.

But I’m not quite good enough.

In fact, I’m thinking of the summer before last, the time I went to Planned Parenthood for my annual pelvic exam and was told that I would have to go for a transvaginal ultrasound because they found “something” on one of my ovaries and since my grandmother died of ovarian cancer, it would be best to check…

I was so scared coming out of the clinic.  I couldn’t tell anyone.  I had only just met my boyfriend at that point and it was my brother’s birthday so I didn’t want to ruin our family dinner with the announcement that I might or might not have cancer.  I ended up wandering around the city by myself, finally stopping in at a café for an iced coffee only to discover that I had forgotten my wallet.

Those few days were the scariest days of my life.  And I turned out to be just fine.

But what if it wasn’t just a cancer scare?  What if it was a baby?  A baby that wasn’t planned and that I couldn’t support?  What if I was still a teenager?  What if my parents were going to kick me out?  What if I had been raped?  What if I did have to make that choice?

Should I have to put up with an old man and his rosary and his signs and his wrinkled pamphlets making assumptions about me and my situation?

Part of me wants to tell him that I’m not pregnant.  That I’m good person, that I pay my taxes and that I have a job.  That I teach at a college, actually, and that I’m only here to pick up birth control, not to get an abortion.

But the truth is it’s none of his business.  Unless of course he’s there to offer his services as a foster parent for all of the babies he’s trying “rescue,” in which case it’s still none of his business but it wouldn’t be quite so hypocritical at least.

His presence there on the sidewalk does have one effect though.  Before I realize what I’m doing, I turn around and head straight for the escort.

She doesn’t look particularly tough, or brave, or even much older than some of my students.

“Thank you for being here,” I say.  “Do you need more volunteers?”

Her face lights up.  “Yes.  We always need more help.”

I’m sick of hiding.  Sick of lying to my grandparents when I’m going to pick up my pills.  Sick of worrying that little kids at soccer games are going to find that tell-tale blue envelope in my purse when they start rooting around in search of chocolate.  I’m sick of hurrying down the sidewalk for fear that someone might recognize me when I’m on my way into the clinic, sick of feeling embarrassed over the fact that I don’t have health insurance and that I can’t afford it.

Most of all, I’m sick of being afraid to say “hello” to an acquaintance inside the clinic simply because she might think  I’m here for something “worse” than birth control pills: a pregnancy test, maybe, or an AIDS/HIV screening.  And I’m sick of the way I react to seeing other women in the clinic, of wondering, “What’s wrongwith them?

There is nothing wrong.  What’s wrong is the hiding—that and the fact that women’s bodies have become grounds for political debates that have nothing to do with reproductive rights or “saving babies.”

I doubt the old man on the sidewalk will ever read this, but just in case I want you to know that I don’t hate you.  We have a broken system in this country—multiple broken systems, actually, with healthcare being just one of them—and I can only assume (since I didn’t have the courage to invite you for that cup of coffee) that you are out on the sidewalk because you feel it’s your duty.  Your tactics aren’t working though; your tactics are convincing folks like me to volunteer for Planned Parenthood.  And I didn’t stop there.  I went a little crazy in the “Shop” portion of the Planned Parenthood website as well, so the next time I see you, I’ll be sporting my new PP gear with pride because I am done hiding.

Update: Thank you to the folks over at Freshly Pressed for featuring this post.  If you feel moved to make a donation to Planned Parenthood as some readers have already done, you may do so here. Thank you for reading and for helping to shed some much needed light onto this important issue.

September 6th, 2012

I was at Planned Parenthood today.

That’s right. Planned Parenthood.

Why?

Well, not because I am not terminating a pregnancy, looking for prophylactics, treating an STI or anything else like that. (All those “dirty whore” things that people love to hate on.) Actually, I am sick and I can’t get well. Down there. Not that it really matters why. (TMI?)

You know they do that at Planned Parenthood, right? They help women who are sick. Who need help down there.

And sometimes “down there help” does include terminating a pregnancy, getting prophylactics, or treating an STI. Sometimes it’s cancer screening, diagnosing ovarian cysts, treating irregular periods, investigating pain that won’t go away. Down there gets complicated.

I don’t have medical insurance. Not because I am reckless, stupid, “dependent on the state” or anything even close to that. And not because I like to gamble.

I am a freelancer with no “employer provided plan.” I am member of 3 unions who can barely afford to cover their members, so they just keep putting more and more restrictions on that coverage. I cannot afford “independent insurance” as the New York state premiums are so high that it would cripple my household to pay the monthly rate. Oh, and Healthy New York? Well, I’m too rich to qualify. Too freakin’ rich. (Come over and hang out on my yacht sometime.)

I am white, middle class, educated, married, and employed. Double income, no kids. (I have all the safety nets, right?) I pay my bills and taxes. I have held up every end of the bargain that is the American dream and I am nobody’s charity case. I am paying for my visit. Because I can and because, if I can, I should. And because my money will help the next woman who can’t.

I am sick and I can’t get well. Sick enough that I can’t wait for another program to approve me for a doctors visit. I can’t wait until I can afford insured healthcare. I can’t even wait for the “promised land” of “Obamacare.”

I’m sick right now.

And I’m lucky to be sitting here in a safe facility, surrounded by a compassionate and professional staff that is insuring that I will get help today. They are so funny, helpful, and positive.

I am also surrounded by a multitude of diverse women, old and young, well-heeled and Payless, black, Latina, Asian, Arab and yes, white-as-bleached-towels like me. Some of them are chatty, some of them are pensive, some of them are downright terrified. But, whatever the reason they are here, none of them are “dirty whores.” They are just women who need help with a medical problem. Right now. And this might be their only resource.

And (thank the good lord above) that Planned Parenthood is here to provide help to them. And help to me. Your friend, Jenny Wren [waving at the camera].

When I arrived today, I had to go through a full security screening like what you see at an airport and I thought, “Seriously? why would someone bring a gun to the gynecologist?”

And then, “Oh… Oh my god. I forgot.”

I actually forgot for a moment that there are people who hate Planned Parenthood. Who want to stop Planned Parenthood. And that there are people who would not simply use legislation or bullying to accomplish that.

Once I enter this building I am not safe. Because there are people who WANT TO KILL the doctors for providing care “down there.” There are people who WANT TO KILL me for coming here. That think I’m a “whore.”” A not just a woman who needs to see a doctor for a reason that is nobody’s business.

I stand with Planned Parenthood. I stand for a women’s choice, privacy, and access to medical care.

I stand with Julia who treated me, LaVinna who ran my lab tests and Stan the guard who told me to have nice day. (You too, Stan.)

I stand with all the other women I encountered in the clinic: alone, with friends, wearing hospital gowns, reading magazines, getting tests.

This November, stand with me.

ETA Permalink: http://standwithpp.blogspot.com/[1]

August 20th, 2012

Rape is rape and the idea that we should be parsing and qualifying and slicing what types of rape we are talking about doesn’t make sense to the American people and certainly doesn’t make sense to me.

We shouldn’t have politicians making health decisions for women

Obama

BBC News article on Akin’s rape controversy. Again. 
June 24th, 2012

A new poll released this week by Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) shows that American voters overwhelmingly support access to affordable contraception. According to the poll (PDF), the Obama Administration’s rule under the Affordable Care Act that requires all employers, including religiously-affiliated employers, to include contraception coverage without co-pays or deductibles in their health insurance plans is viewed by most voters as being about economics and women’s health, not religious liberty.

In a joint press release, Marcia Greenberger, co-president of NWLC and Cecile Richards, president of PPFA, announced the results of the poll and emphasized the wide support for affordable contraception. Marcia Greenberger wrote, “This polling demonstrates, once again, that Americans across the political spectrum and religious beliefs support affordable access to prescription birth control and reject opponents’ claims that this is not a matter of basic health care. The use of birth control is nearly universal among sexually active women, regardless of their political or religious beliefs, and this new polling mirrors that reality. For a majority of voters, this is a matter of basic health care, not of religious freedom.”

The poll found that 73 percent of voters agreed that Americans should have access to affordable contraception, and 55 percent strongly agreed. Fifty-four percent of voters who identified as pro-life agreed with this, as did 66 percent of Catholics and 58 percent of Evangelical Protestants. Fifty-six percent of voters identified the Obama Administration’s rule as a matter of economics and health while 36 percent viewed it as a matter of religious liberty. The poll had a margin of error of +/- 3.1 for the full sample.

June 20th, 2012

Last week, a Michigan state legislator was barred from speaking on the House floorbecause she used the word vagina in a statement about proposed abortion regulations in what is arguably the most restrictive bill yet proposed to curb reproductive freedom. State Republicans who rescinded her speaking privileges for a day variously expressed offense at Rep. Lisa Brown’s use of the word vagina or the context in which she used the word vagina or her use of the phrase no means no in describing a 50-page proposed bill that contains the wordvagina three times.

Republican Rep. Mike Callton noted later that Brown’s comment “was so offensive, I don’t even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company.”  

The scourge of women being allowed to speak the word vagina in a legislative debate over what happens when women use their vaginas must be stopped. And if women are not capable of regulating their own word choice, the state should regulate it for them. To that end, we propose that the Michigan House promptly enact HB-5711(b)—a bill to regulate the use of the word vagina by females in mixed company.

The bill will include Part A(1)(a) providing that any women who seeks to use the word vagina in a floor debate be required to wait 72 hours after consulting with her physician before she may say it. It will also require her physician to certify in writing that said woman was not improperly coerced into saying the word vagina against her will. Section B(1)(d) provides that prior to allowing a female to say the word vagina a woman will have a mandatory visit with her physician at which he will read to her a scripted warning detailing the scientific evidence of the well-documented medical dangers inherent in saying the word vagina out loud, including the link between saying the word vagina and the risk of contracting breast cancer.

Because some women who say the word vagina in legislative proceedings occasionally come to regret having used the word, Part C(7) provides that there will also be mandatory counseling with counselors who have never used the word vagina in their lifetimes, and who would indeed die before they ever used such a word. Moreover the state health code is to be amended such that no woman who says the word vagina may do so out loud or in mixed company until and unless she is in a facility with full surgical capabilities. Objections that speech is not in fact a surgical procedure notwithstanding, it’s clear that the risk of saying the word vagina out loud is such that it should not be undertaken without proper medical safeguards to guarantee against any and all risks of negative consequences.

There is to be no exception in the event that a woman uses the word vagina as a result of rape, incest, or to preserve her health or ability to have future pregnancies. If women were intended to use the word vagina there would be a word for vaginas.

Also, provision d(9)(a) of the bill would amend the current law to ensure that if any listener who hears the word vagina spoken aloud—although it may be the medically correct term for a woman’s reproductive organs—feels any religious objections to such speech, that speech may be curtailed in the interest of preserving the listener’s religious freedom as detailed in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Any other marginally relevant provisions of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution are herein rescinded as needed.

Finally, Michigan state health statutes shall be amended by provision 12(b)(6) which provides that prior to speaking the word vagina out loud, any female resident of Michigan shall undergo a mandatory trans-vaginal ultrasound procedure, during which she must watch such ultrasound while listening to a government-scripted speech about the grave dangers of speaking anatomically correct words, aloud, in an enlightened democracy.

Such speech will, by necessity, include the word vagina.

Gee, ladies, do those proposals sound at all familiar?

I love the way this article was written. It’s a marvellous cross-over with pretty much all the anti-abortion legislation going around. (Just in case you needed it spelling out.)

As much as reproductive rights were catapulted into major campaign issues this cycle – in the Republican primaries and beyond – one political football has remained unaddressed. That would be the global gag rule, which bars international organizations receiving U.S. funding from providing, referring for, or even discussing abortion. It’s been implemented by every Republican president since Reagan and promptly lifted by Clinton and Obama. But reproductive health advocates here in Kenya haven’t stopped worrying.

Rosemarie Muganda-Onyando, a longtime women and adolescent health advocate who now works with the group PATH, put it pretty bluntly.

“We’re not sleeping at night.” She added, “If Mitt Romney did win – oh please do not talk about it.”

During the most recent round of the gag rule, lack of clarity even among advocates created a chilling effect. (Abortion is legal in Kenya in cases of risk to health and life, as well as in cases of sexual violence, though the constitutional provision is still poorly understood.)

“I think people just got really scared,” said Muganda-Onyando. “From our understanding, if you had any work on abortion, whether it was just prevention or education, even if that funding came from somebody else, you couldn’t get any funding at all. Even for a project on agriculture.”

An estimated 30 to 40 percent of maternal deaths in Kenya are attributed to unsafe, illegal abortion. At the same time, the decline in the fertility rate flatlined. There was another complication: “As HIV/AIDS money increased by leaps and bounds, you also did see a substantial decline in support for family planning.”

“We know that a Republican win could reverse some of the gains that have been made because since it was listed, “there’s been an increase in the U.S. government’s investment in family planning,” though another advocate told me that not that much has changed and some international staff don’t seem aware the policy has been lifted. Still, she says, “Right now the U.S. government invests more money in health in the region than any other country”, including healthcare projects like PATH’s, which serve an estimated 8 million people.

“I’m not exaggerating,” she said. “This is a real fear for us.”

June 17th, 2012

When discussing the politics of reproductive rights, many of us focus on abortion access and care (which is essential, of course), and forget about the other side of the coin — that birth and birth choices are also a feminist issue; and many women* are being kept in the dark, unaware of and denied their options.

June 1st, 2012
April 30th, 2012

TRUE STORY: I BUY BIRTH CONTROL FROM A TRUNK

My first thought on buying car trunk birth control? Ewww. But six months later it’s more like, “Yay!!”
Shayla

8 hours ago | 121 Comments

All this happened because I had the audacity to want to go to grad school. To make that happen, I had to put my grown-up life on hold and live in the back room of my mom’s house until I got my fancy pants master’s degree. Having a kid in that situation would be beyond inconvenient.

So without money or health insurance, I hightailed it to Planned Parenthood once a month to pay $30 bucks for birth control in an concious effort to keep my womb fetus-free. This worked wonderfully until (one particularly broke weekend) the cost of my NuvaRings spiked $20 dollars without explanation.  

For $50 bucks a month, I figured it’d be less expensive to just go on ahead and raise my hypothetical baby.  Fortunately, my thesis (and total lack of motherly instinct) knew that having a kid was still a very bad idea. But I only had $30 dollars, two of which were in quarters. Then and there I decided Susan G. Komen is somehow responsible for this nightmare and I left the clinic empty-handed for the first time in months.

The next day I sulked on over to the hair salon to beg my stylist for a freebee.  When she relented, I sat in her chair to vent about my lack of Nuva Ring dilemma, because aside from executing a mean “press n curl” she’s there to listen to me complain. I expected her to nod absentmindedly at my pain in the same way she does every other Saturday afternoon. But instead, after listening to my womb woes, she bent over and whispered the sentence every fiscally challenged person longs to hear: “I got the hook-up.”  

Now “the hook-up,” in laymen’s terms, is an unauthorized connection to goods or services that is typically illegal in nature. I’ve received said hook-up on cell phone chargers, the occasional bootlegged DVD and a $50 dollar store credit at Wet Seal that I swear was for a friend. But a hook-up on birth control?  Eww.  

Before I could even fix my lips to give my hair stylist a courteous, “Hell no,”  she tells me that her best friend’s second cousin charges $15 dollars for a month’s supply. Fifteen dollars? Maybe bootleg birth control wasn’t such a bad thing after all. 

Fast forward to 30 minutes later and I’m outside the salon next to a rust-colored Plymouth Reliant, shaking hands with a portly young woman who introduces herself as Ruwanda. She pries open the trunk and rattles off the names of pills like list of fine wines;  “Loestrin, Yasmin, or Alesse?” Fingers crossed, I whisper, “NuvaRing?”   

It’s a freakishly warm November day. Ruwanda snaps her fingers and reaches into her oven of a trunk for one of the rings I’m pretty sure is supposed to be stored at 60 degrees. When I grab for it, I’m worried that, not only has the Indian summer destroyed its contraceptive power, but that the ring may singe my va jay jay on the way up.  But Ruwanda hands it over and, lo and behold, it’s cool to the touch.  

I want to ask how she gets them, but can’t, because the rule for this and any other illicit transaction is always, “Don’t ask.  Don’t tell.”

Before I hand over the money, I give the city block around us the shifty eye to make sure no one is watching. I inspect the packet with trembling hands. The little blue package isn’t some Canal Street knock off. It’s the real freaking deal. I caress the ring, resist the urge to hiss, “My precious,” and I shove it into my back pocket.

If this were an episode of “Intervention,” I’d be shooing the cameraman away not to keep my face out of frame, but to protect sweet Ruwanda’s identity. I have to make sure she’s not in jail this time next month when I’ll need another fix.

After a convincing sales pitch, I decide to buy three rings for less than the price of what Planned Parenthood charged me for one. Ruwanda even throws in a free ring, part of her new customer promotion. Before we part, Ruwanda grabs a satchel out of her steamy trunk. It’s filled with packets of Plan B pills. Apparently, they sell like hot cakes at the barbershop next door.

It’s six months later and my lady parts are still vacant, save for the NuvaRing.  Meanwhile, a bunch of white guys in Congress, none of who will probably ever get pregnant, are trying to make it even harder for me to get the birth control that’s keeping my life plan on track.  I guess to keep me from screwing half the county on the taxpayers’ dime when all I want to do is NOT have a baby before I have a grown up house, a grown-up job and all the other means to take care of one. 

I’m willing to bet that Ruwanda’s dozens of other customers and the one in five women without health insurance have a similar American dream. But unlike many of them, soon I’ll graduate and hopefully be able to get a real job with real benefits. Until then, Ruwanda and her entrepreneurial American spirit will keep making my birth control as accessible as a freshly delivered pizza. So she’ll continue to get my birth control business, as long as her car continues to run.

April 18th, 2012

Last week, the Alabama Supreme Court agreed to consider an amicus (friend of the court) brief filed by the Liberty Counsel in support of the prosecutions of Hope Ankrom and Amanda Kimbrough. The Liberty Counsel describes itself as an organization whose mission includes protecting “the inalienable right to life guaranteed to all, including unborn children.” While a number of “pro-life” leaders claim that recognizing the rights of the unborn and re-criminalizing abortion should not and will not lead to the arrest or punishment of women, the Liberty Counsel has clearly and unequivocally taken the position that “restoring the historic right to life accorded to unborn children” requires that women, including new mothers who have given birth, go to prison.

Ms. Ankrom and Ms. Kimbrough are two of approximately 60 women who have been arrested under Alabama’s 2006 Chemical Endangerment law. The overwhelming majority of these women have given birth to healthy babies.

The Chemical Endangerment law originally was passed to create special penalties for people who bring children into methamphetamine labs. Despite the law’s clear purpose, prosecutors have argued, and the Alabama’s mid-level Court of Criminal Appeals has agreed, that the law may also be used to arrest and jail women who become pregnant, eschew abortion, and go to term, despite having used a controlled substance. In other words, the Court of Appeals has ruled that under Alabama’s Chemical Endangerment law a pregnant woman who has never been to a meth lab and who has never brought a child into a meth lab, can be punished for bringing a child into the world if she tests positive for a controlled substance—even one prescribed to her by her doctor. 

The result? Women have unwanted abortions instead of facing jail for overcoming their addictions during pregnancy. Women avoiding prenatal care and any drugs or help that doctors will give them.

The Liberty Counsel has established that the “pro-life” position is “pro-punishment,” not just for doctors who perform abortions, and not just for women who intentionally end their pregnancies and have abortions, but also for pregnant women who have no intention of ending their pregnancies and go to term.

Feminists for Life has, apparently, distinguished itself from this point of view. But what about all of the other groups including Priests for Life, Generations for Life, and Americans United for Life that have assured the public that women will not go to jail if their point of view becomes law? If “pro-life” does not mean “pro-imprisonment,” now would be a good time to speak up and stop the growing assault on the dignity, sanctity, and liberty of the women who bring forth life.

March 16th, 2012

It’s a strange sensation to start something as a joke, expecting that only your friends on Facebook will see it, and then all of a sudden to see it all over the internet. That’s what happened with my decision to report on my menstrual cycle to all of the Virginia legislators (not just the Republicans, contrary to popular news sources) who voted “yes” on HB462, the “mandatory ultrasound” bill.

The idea itself started as a passing snarky comment, at a meeting of the Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project- the abortion fund with which I work. It was before the bill even passed- I think we were discussing all of the current legislation that was slated to legally subjugate women - HB1, HB462, etc. I made a comment about how we should keep legislators updated on our bodies, since they are “so concerned” about them. I may have also mentioned sending hand-painted valentines using menstrual blood. Just sayin’.

A few weeks later I was at home, sick in bed, and getting really bored. I was browsing Facebook, and found myself getting angrier and angrier as I read through a frenzy of posts about the newest competitors in the “which state can oppress people the fastest” Olympics. And all of a sudden, something kind of snapped. All of my rage, all of my disgust, my stir-crazedness, culminated into a sarcastic Facebook post. I started with Senator McDougle, the Republican Caucus Chairman, and then made my way down the list of Representatives who had voted in this absurdist, shaming legislation. I went to each one, and I wrote this message:

Hi Senator/Delegate _____________! I just wanted to let you know, since you’re concerned with women’s health, that my period started today! Color looks good, flow not too heavy. Cramps are pretty manageable but don’t worry - I’ll make sure to let you know if that changes! Thanks again for caring so much about women and our bodies!

I took a screenshot of my post on McDougle’s wall, and posted it on my page. My friend Stacey Burns, the Online Communications Coordinator at the National Network of Abortion Funds, asked if she could post it on Twitter, and from there it made its way to the RHRealityCheck tumblr page, and it went on, and on, and on… all of a sudden, in what a friend dubbed “Project TMI”, women all over Virginia were doing the same!

A few folks were critical, calling me “catty,” “bitchy,” and “overly emotional” (is it coincidence that these are all insults frequently used to delegitimize women’s opinions? Probably not); others said that I was “playing into” the idea that menstruation is “icky.” With that I greatly disagree. I’m not ashamed of my body, or the way in which it functions. I think that menstruation is an amazing thing, and I believe that others who posted openly and honestly about their bodies did so without hesitation, without shame. I believe that this was intrinsic to why Project TMI is such a hit - it is a way to fight back against legislators who were attempting to shame us, who were attempting to tell us not to worry our pretty little heads, because they were there to take care of things for us.

So, despite some critiques, most were hugely supportive. It spread like wildfire. Last I heard, there are efforts to do the same in Arizona and Texas and now in Kansas as well. And I think that it SHOULD continue. In this time of desperation, where it has become blindingly apparent that our government doesn’t give a damn about female-bodied people, as well as other historically-marginalized peoples, I think that a touch of humor was sorely needed. People are hanging onto it as a shred of humanity, as a way to call out to our legislators, to demand accountability. These legislators have no problem playing doctor in the GA - so why not have some follow through, and play doctor to your constituents? Because that’s who these people are that are posting these items. We are not mere “protestors”. We can’t be dismissed as “humorless feminists” (because, let’s face it, this is utterly hilarious).

We are constituents. We are the people who are being represented by these legislators. Legislators like Dave Albo, for instance, who voted “yes” on HB462. In a disgusting display of public misogyny disguised as a (pathetic) attempt at humor, Delegate Albo felt it necessary to stand on the House floor and tell an utterly inappropriate story about how his wife wouldn’t have sex with him because of it - but he couldn’t even bring himself to say the word “vagina!” Instead, he used the sanitized “trans-v this, trans-v that.” Because apparently, when it comes to vaginas, it is always necessary to retreat to adolescent baby-talk. Legislators need to know that if they can’t bring themselves to say the word “vagina,” they probably shouldn’t be legislating them.

This is a way to show our legislators that misogyny isn’t funny. But rather, that anything they can do? Feminists can do it better.

The Secretary of State’s fiery speech at the Women in the World Summit featured a rare dip into domestic politics