Monday, June 30, 2014

5 Reasons Religious Freedom Didn't Really "Win"

I'll be honest with you, I've been a slow simmering pot of rage this morning over the SCOTUS ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby. For those of you living under a proverbial rock, corporations with a small enough board to share a singular religious belief (let's be honest, Christians are the only ones who need apply) have the right to deny healthcare benefits to their employees if they feel that the coverage doesn't align with their personal, collective religious beliefs.

I'm outraged for all sorts of reasons, but I'm not even going to start addressing the obvious. What I really want to address is the mindset of some people who believe that religious freedom won today. They think their counterarguments are logical and sound, and that this is a step in the right direction. It's a protection of religious liberty as opposed to a violation of human rights. It's an easing of Christian persecution. It's a way of putting big bad government back in it's place.

No, no, and still more no.

Here's a few reasons why you may think religious freedom won today (and why it really didn't).
  1. Christians shouldn't have to pay for contraception if it doesn't align with their beliefs. That's religious freedom!
Okay, so you believe that the people (key word here, PEOPLE) at the head of the corporation should not have to use their hard earned money to pay for contraception. Here's a little fact nugget for you: they don't! The money used for health care coverage is not, in fact, coming directly from their paychecks. They are free to do whatever they deem right and Christian with their personal money, which is indeed a form of religious freedom.

However, that isn't enough for them. They are seeking personhood for their for-profit corporation, so they have control over their employees freedom to healthcare. They are essentially using the money they make off their low-wage workers to restrict their healthcare options that they should have been assured of under the ACA.

     2.  They're only restricting access to "abortion" inducing contraception, I can get behind                 corporate personhood if it means the right to life.  

So perhaps corporate personhood doesn't bother you, so long as it's for a righteous cause, and that cause is the right to life. Way to stand your moral ground. Hobby Lobby wants to deny coverage access for Plan B and IUD contraception, because they consider these two form of contraception to be abortion, and you stand by that.

Unfortunately, I have some bad news for you: it's called science.

 Here's the thing, abortion and contraception are not the same thing. In order to terminate a pregnancy (abortion) there needs to be an actual pregnancy (implanted fertilized egg) in the first place. An IUD prevents pregnancy the same way spermicide would: an egg is never fertilized by the sperm, there is no pregnancy. On the extreme off chance that the egg is fertilized it never implants on the uterine wall (pregnancy). Plan B also prevents pregnancy by preventing fertilization or ovulation and on the off chance that an egg is fertilized, once again, no implantation (pregnancy).

     3. There's plenty of other contraceptive options, are those not enough?

In a word, no.

But here, let me explain why using myself as the prime example.

I have a horrific history with hormonal birth control. The patch, the ring, the pill, the shot - in all their variations - release hormones into your system to prevent ovulation. These chemical cocktails work really well for many women, but not for all women. I suffered mild to severe depression, at my worst struggling with suicidal thoughts, as a side effect of hormonal birth control. I tried a few different kinds, all with varying and horrifying results (not to mention getting pregnant during a switchover because I couldn't stay on any one type and was searching for an effective, safe method of birth control).

Is there a type of birth control out there other than the non-hormonal IUD that would suit my needs? Maybe. Would I find it before the search for the right birth control destroyed my life or caused me to commit suicide? Again, maybe, but I don't think anyone should have to make that gamble because they can't afford to do otherwise.

    4. No one is being forced to work at Hobby Lobby; if you don't like their coverage options               don't work there.

Ah, now here's a good one. The people who work for Hobby Lobby don't have to work for Hobby Lobby. Women working at a craft store chain for near minimum wage clearly have options, so why don't they just go out and find another job if they need comprehensive reproductive healthcare that badly.

As a young woman who worked those barely-making-ends-meet jobs for years on end, let me enlighten you as to how promising Hobby Lobby employees "options" are: not very.

When you're working a minimum wage job and hardly scraping by, there's not a whole lot of time to hunt for something better. You're trying to survive. You can't jump from one place to the next because it makes you look unreliable. You need the job you have. Then you get small raises every now and again and so starting back at the bottom of minimum wage (even if you'd only be taking a $1.00 or less pay cut) to get a new job because your healthcare is gutted isn't a viable option. The suggestion that you can purchase the type of birth control you need outside of your healthcare plan is a sadistic joke.

These are real people's lives we're talking about, and your hypothetical jobs aren't going to save them.

    5. This ruling is a win for religious freedom because it means government can't force an                   employer to set aside deeply held religious beliefs to conform to ACA regulations.

First, go back to point one and realize that an "employer" as a person is not the same as a corporate entity. Continue.

A lot of conservatives want to hail this as a win in religious freedom versus government control. Here is why that is all sorts of wrong. The ACA is not a perfect system, but it's not one that tramples religious freedom

Yes, the government set up the ACA. It is a way of providing comprehensive healthcare that does not discriminate against anyone on the basis of religious or moral beliefs. It allows everyone fair access to healthcare, and in accordance with religious freedom, it will not force upon you any type of healthcare that conflicts with your deeply held religious beliefs.

Don't like science and choose to believe that an IUD is abortion? Guess what, no one is going to force you onto a table while a doctor inserts one against your will! Want to forgo contraception entirely? Go forth and multiply, you live in a country with tremendous religious freedom and should count yourself lucky. Family planning in accordance with your beliefs is a great example of what religious freedom is.

The Hobby Lobby ruling, on the other hand, severely limits the fair access to healthcare provided by the ACA. It robs women of  the right to choose the best reproductive healthcare as they and their healthcare professionals see fit. It infringes upon personal freedom in a way that cannot be ignored. Hobby Lobby actively seeks to control a group with less power and money, and that, my friends, is not religious freedom.

Religious freedom is all about personal choice and Hobby Lobby is all about taking away personal choice. It's hypocrisy at its worst.

Oh wait, no, Hobby Lobby suing over their "religious freedom" to deny contraceptive coverage to employees while simultaneously investing in actual abortion pills is probably a better example of hypocrisy at its worst.

So if you think religious freedom won today, maybe you should think again.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Men Who Raised Me Up

There are a lot of fathers in my life, and every Father's Day I get overwhelmed thinking about how lucky I am to have all these men by my side. I feel confident about raising my daughter in a family of men who acknowledge and value and support strong women. I feel confident about raising my son in a family of men who will model true manhood for him.

My husband, his father, my father and his father: all of these men who have helped raise my family are leaving a legacy of great kindness and wisdom and happiness for my children and their children. They are all men who raised me up to believe in myself, and will do the same for my babies.

Happy Father's Day, to all of you. My life would not be complete without you.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

I've Been Tired

I know, I haven't been around at all this last week.

I'm still wanting to commit to this blog, get on a better schedule and all that jazz. But, truthfully, I've been tired lately. Physically, emotionally, I'm just spent. And writing here just isn't always the thing to do when I'm feeling spent. In fact, it's usually the wrong thing for me.

I've struggled for a long time with controlling the quality of time I spend on the internet, especially when I'm writing. I get bored and distracted and despondent. I find myself delving into articles that aren't healthy for me. Stupid stuff. Heartbreaking stuff. The kind of stuff I tend to seek out when I'm not in a good head-space. I do that wretched thing where I just scroll down Facebook aimlessly. It's totally unhealthy, and I need to put a stop to it.

I need a little space to find my balance again. A little time to figure out boundaries and schedules that work for me. A reworking of priorities. And for goodness sake, I need some time to sleep.

Do any of you out there struggle with this when you're writing? Or just in your daily life? How to you manage your time, on the internet and elsewhere in your life?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2014."
Avery: Being silly and riding her little pink bus backwards. I can't believe how much this girl is changing, and oh my goodness, you guys, she started walking this weekend. Where is the time going?
 Lucas: All crazy hair and giggles, using my foam roller to "roll out his belly" after disco dancing. Yes, this is my life.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Running The Reno Tahoe Odyssey

We came in 47th out of 250 teams in the Reno Tahoe Odyssey
What a weekend. Seriously. What an amazing, life-changing, difficult, draining and unbelievably wonderful weekend.

At 12:15pm on Friday afternoon I took out the starting gate at Wingfield Park for the 178-mile odyssey through Reno, the Sierras, Lake Tahoe, the high mountain desert, swinging past my high school hometown and up through Virginia City all to come right back where we started.

I ran legs 1, 13, and 25 - a whopping 14.2 miles.
I look at this map, and look back on this journey, and I'm awestruck at the fact that 12 of us ran all these miles - and fast, my god, we were fast (and by "we" I mean my teammates, who made up for my lackluster times and got us down to 8:31 average splits). We ran at all hours of the day and night. We ran when our bodies felt like they couldn't even hold us upright. You guys, it was a lot of running.

And at the end of it all we could barely walk, but I have never felt so strong. I have never felt so proud of myself, and of the strength of my body, other than after childbirth. It's hard to describe what happens to you out there - running many miles alone, talking to yourself in really strange ways, the moments of pure presence you experience in the quiet, the determination you pull from the depths to keep yourself going. It leaves you changed.

Van 1 after the finish line. We couldn't corral our whole team of twelve.
I'm already dreaming of next year, mapping out training regimens and considering half marathons, who knows, maybe someday a full. I'm already excited to see these faces again, to run with the unwavering support of some of the best people I've ever met.

What an adventure. What a joy.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2014."
Avery: Poor baby broke out in a horrible rash this weekend (of course, the long weekend when no doctor's appointments can be made. Ain't that always the way?) but we still spent plenty of time outdoors playing on a blanket in the shade. She's doing much better now, by the way. No more splotchy face.
 Lucas: He had his first sleepover with his Mimi and Grandpa this weekend and loved it. He helped build a wagon, plant a garden, went out for ice-cream with his uncle and got to go to Lake Tahoe. Yet somehow he came home with energy galore, so we sent his outside to clean Dad's bike with a paintbrush.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Why #YesAllWomen Matters Most For Men

This morning, I read a piece on The Atlantic about the #YesAllWomen taking twitter by storm in the wake of the UCSB shooting. It resonated with me deeply, as I'm sure it did with every single woman who read it. Because these tweets aren't exceptional examples of misogyny. These are examples of the everyday, the norm for all women.

I think the hashtag is wonderful for women, but far more important for men because it sheds light on an issue that they don't believe exists. Or if they do believe it exists, they don't understand the extent of the problem. They don't understand the feeling of panic when a man is walking behind them when they are alone. They don't understand the hoops we must jump through just to feel marginally safe. They don't understand how different the world looks when you've been taught, all your life, to fear it.

But the one problem I see most in the good men I know (which is the majority, I might add), is that they don't think acts of misogyny happen to the women they know and love.

 It does. It happens to all of us. Every. Single. One.

When I would walk to the grocery store with my friends, men would catcall from their trucks. Sometimes they would slow down, make sure we heard them loud and clear. We would walk at the same pace, stay quiet, because anything else might provoke them. We were 11, maybe 12 years old. It grew worse as we grew older.

I remember a Halloween when we were 13 and we were allowed to go out in a large group to trick-or-treat in a gated neighborhood. We were chased and called-after by a group of teenage boys. When we ran, they ran after us getting angry and loud, calling us names, throwing things. We dispersed. We hid. We hoped we'd all find each other safe, and thankfully, luckily, we did.

I went to a Christian school where dress code was always a topic of great importance for girls. We were told to dress for the Lord - to dress modestly so we wouldn't cause boys to think impure thoughts. One day I came to school in pants that a teacher thought were too tight. I was publicly shamed on the blacktop. Didn't I have any idea what boys were thinking when they looked at me? Didn't I realize how "easy" I looked?

And do we really need to talk about high school? About the unwanted gropings at parties, at dances, in the hallway as we were going from class to class? About the anti-women jokes we were supposed to laugh at? About the advances we were supposed to feel flattered by? About how we stopped walking anywhere at night without boys we knew? About how we stopped walking anywhere without boys at all? About those nights when something horrible could have happened because we dropped our guard for a moment?

In college I never put a drink out of my sight. I walked with my hand on a can of pepper-spray in one pocket and my keys laced between my fingers in the other. When I worked the night shifts at the mall, we walked out to our cars in groups, drove one another to our cars. I started to favor a pocket-knife instead of keys - we'd all heard the stories of what might happen, what had happened, to women who dared to walk to their cars unarmed.

After any outing we text each other that we got home safe. We live terrified for one another.

Even now, older and married and a mother, I find myself in the grips of that fear. A few weeks ago, I walked an extra half-mile home from the grocery store so I didn't have to walk through an alley short-cut, because a man was following me and my daughter. I have a long list of trails I cannot run alone while I am training for RTO. I'm still harassed on the street, even with children in tow.

And for all the folks who want to write off the hashtag as man-hating, it's not. #YesAllWomen isn't attacking men. It's attacking misogyny. It's attacking the dangerous cultural norms women are taught to live with. It's exposing the everyday fears we talk about amongst ourselves, but rarely with the men we know. It's not an attack, it's an opportunity for understanding. It's an opportunity for change.

I think it's eye-opening and important, and I hope all the men I know take the time to consider #YesAllWomen without becoming defensive and missing the heart of the problem. It's a problem women alone cannot fix. We need the good men in our lives to listen, to understand, to acknowledge rather than dismiss. Because the problem isn't only the bad guys, it's the good guys who let it happen.

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