Ladyrebecca's Musings and Ramblings

The Increasingly Political Thoughts of Rebecca (Becky) Walker

It’s time for birth control access May 17, 2011

Filed under: Anecdotal,birth,educational,Political — Addicted to Yarn @ 6:50 pm


You know it as well as I do: birth control matters. It matters to the young woman finishing college or starting a career. It matters to the family struggling to make ends meet. It matters to the woman suffering from endometriosis. It matters to the mothers and fathers who treasure the children they have.

When it comes to reducing the number of unintended pregnancies in this country, birth control really matters.

That’s why Planned Parenthood has launched Birth Control Matters, one of the most important campaigns in our history. The goal is to make birth control affordable and accessible for every woman in America. Will you join us me in signing the Birth Control Matters petition today?

The truth is, choice is meaningless without access to affordable care. To protect choice, we must give every woman the support she needs to control her own reproductive health and her life. That’s why birth control matters.

Sign your name to this petition, and pass it on. Together we can ensure that every woman who wants prescription birth control can get it.

To take action on this issue, click on the link below:


Our Deist Forefathers November 8, 2010

“Question with boldness even the existence of God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear,” wrote Thomas Jefferson to his nephew in 1787. Thomas Jefferson and the other early writers of the American colonies, understood the ideals behind the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment was, by definition, “a movement of intellectuals who popularized science and applied reason to human affairs” (Bishop 301). Reason – that, oh-so taken for granted trait that sets humans apart from the other primates – was the driving force behind the Age of Enlightenment, the impetus behind the movement’s key values, and is clearly seen in the United States Declaration of Independence.

The Age of Enlightenment began in the marketplace of ideas. As nobles rubbed elbows with the middle class in the salons of Paris (Bishop 301); as the upper and lower classes mingled in the coffeehouses of England (Jurich 5); as the ideas of the one were shared with the other and vice versa, “new ideas percolated” through them both (Bishop 301). Just as the “exploration and colonization” of the New World widened their physical horizons, this exposure to new people widened the horizons of the mind. The philosophy behind the Enlightenment was largely “[i]nspired by the Scientific Revolution” resulting in an increase in “intellectual inquiry” (301).

This newfound increase in questions and the tool of Science with which to answer them led to many key values, three of which were: 1) the belief that “politics and history” follow natural, universal laws just as gravity does; 2) the understanding that reason could bring a “prosperity” that superstitious beliefs could not; and 3) an understanding that the “chief barrier to human progress and happiness was not human nature,” as was taught by the Christian faith, but rather “social intolerance and injustice” (301).

The Declaration of Independence, the paper that formally severed ties between the thirteen colonies and their overseas oppressor, is a document which embraces these ideals of Enlightenment. With language such as “Laws of Nature” (retrieved from regarding the rights of the people, the writers reveal their belief that politics are governed by natural, universal laws, not just the laws put in place by men. By the fact of their parting with the King, who the Christian church taught was appointed by God (Romans 13:1 “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” NKJV), the writers revealed that they understood the second key value: reason trumps religious superstition. They did not see a god appointed king. They saw a king who was not doing his job. They looked at the facts, applied reason to their situation, and decided that a merit based, rather than religiously based, government would bring the colonies greater prosperity. They revealed their understanding of the third value with the famous sentence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” ( The traditional belief was that human nature, being corrupt, needed to be ruled by one appointed by god, be that a religious leader such as the Pope or a civic leader such as a king. The writers of the Declaration of Independence believed, in accordance with the Enlightenment, that the impediments to happiness, success, prosperity, and progress, rested not in a fundamental flaw in humans but in the flaws of the systems surrounding them. They understood that injustice, inequality, intolerance, and ignorance were the obstacles that needed to be overcome. It is clear from this early American document that its writers were writing in agreement with Enlightenment philosophy.

The Enlightenment had many impulses and factors affecting its development but the primary force was reason. It was reason that led to the Age of Enlightenment, reason which formed the key values, and reason that led Thomas Jefferson and others to draft the Declaration of Independence. As Benjamin Franklin said, “The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason,” and it is clear from the Declaration of Independence, that was not an option.

Works Cited

Bishop, Philip E.  Adventures in the Human Spirit. 6th Ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2011.

Declaration of Independence. 24 October, 2010. <;.

Franklin, Benjamin. Poor Richard’s Almanack. 1758. 24 October, 2010. <;.

Jefferson, Thomas. 1787. Letter to his nephew. 24 October, 2010. <>.

Jurrich, Nick. Espresso: From bean to cup. Seattle, WA: Missing Link Press, 1991.


Enemy… September 22, 2010

Filed under: educational,Political,Religious — Addicted to Yarn @ 7:59 am

Richard Dawkins at the “Protest the Pope” rally, 18 September, 2010

Joseph Ratzinger is an enemy of humanity. He’s an enemy of children whose bodies he’s allowed to be raped and whose minds he’s encouraged to be infected with guilt. It’s embarrassingly clear that the church is less concerned with saving childs’ bodies from rapists than saving priestly souls from hell and most concerned with saving the long-time reputation of the church itself. He’s an enemy of gay people, bestowing on them the bigotry that his church used to reserve for Jews before 1962. He’s an enemy of women, barring them from priesthood as though a penis was an essential tool for pastoral duties. He is an enemy of truth, promoting bare-faced lies about condoms not protecting against AIDS, especially in Africa. He’s an enemy of the poorest people on the planet, condemning them to inflated families that they cannot feed and so keeping them in the bondage of perpetual poverty. A poverty which sits ill beside the obscene wealth of the Vatican. He is an enemy of science, obstructing vital stem cell research on grounds not of true morality but on pre-scientific superstition. Ratzinger is even an enemy, he is even an enemy of the Queen’s own church, arrogantly dissing Anglican orders as quote absolutely null and utterly void while at the same time shamelessly trying to poach Anglican Vicars to shore up his own pitifully declining priesthood. Finally, perhaps of most personal concern to me, Ratzinger is an enemy of education. Quite apart from the lifelong psychological damage caused by the guilt and fear that has made Catholic education infamous throughout the world, he and his church foster the educationally pernicious doctrine that evidence is a less reliable basis for belief than faith, tradition, revelation, and authority. His authority.

Watch the whole speech here:


Home Birth and Reproductive Rights April 16, 2010

by Becky Walker

On February 6, 2008, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released their statement on home births and reiterated their “long-standing opposition to home births” (ACOG 1). The American Medical Association, at their 2008 annual meeting, made a statement of support to the ACOG’s claim that the safest place for birth was within a hospital or birthing center (which meets their standards), to the extent of supporting legislation stating such (AMA). The American College of Nurse Midwives believes that “[e]very family has the right to the birthing environment of their choosing” (ACNM 1), including the home. Great Britain’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gyneacologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) “support home birth for women with uncomplicated pregnancies,” finding no reason it should not be offered to low-risk clients (Cresswell 1) as does the American Public Health Association (APHA), and the World Health Organization (WHO). The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada, while not taking a specific stand on home birth, calls for more research but considers it the woman’s decision as to where to labor and birth (CBC 1).

Despite the ACOG’s claim that home birth places undue risk upon the mother and child, there is little conclusive evidence to support such a claim. As they themselves say, “…studies comparing the safety and outcome of births in hospitals with those occurring in other settings in the US are limited and have not been scientifically rigorous” (ACOG 1). This is due largely to the ethical concerns of randomized control trials and their infeasibility (Johnson and Daviss 4). Large prospective studies are the best available method of compiling data and the studies that have been done have come to contradictory conclusions in regard to mortality and morbidity. When the studies that have been done are looked at (weakness accounted for) along with the many other factors effecting the decision of where to birth, the evidence is such that every woman must continue to have the freedom to choose where and with whom she will labor and deliver. There simply is not evidence for restricting a woman’s right to this reproductive choice.

There are, as mentioned earlier, studies that show home birth to have a higher risk of adverse outcomes than a hospital birth. Dr. Michael H. Malloy’s study is one such study. Jill Stein, reporting on the study for Reuters Health Information, tells that Malloy is a professor of neonatology at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. He did a study comparing adverse outcomes among place of birth and birth attendant. He compared hospital birth with doctors, Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) and other nurse-midwives, birth center births with CNMs, and home births with CNMs and other nurse-midwives. He found the risk of neonatal mortality was two times higher for home births overseen by a CNM than for hospital births overseen by a CNM (Stein 1). Home birth with a nurse-midwife other than a CNM was the highest risk at 1.77 per 1000, home birth with a CNM next at 1.035 per 1000. Hospital birth overseen by a CNM was 4.96; other nurse-midwife 4.03; and doctor 6.77. Birth center with a CNM was 6.32 per 1000 (Stein 1).

However, there are also studies that have found the mortality rate of home birth to be comparable to that of hospital birth. Kenneth C. Johnson and Betty-Anne Daviss conducted a large prospective study of planned home births in North America. They looked at 5,418 woman who planned on delivering at home and found the mortality rate of 1.7 per 1000 low risk pregnancies to be consistent with mortality rates of low risk hospital births (Johnson & Daviss 1-2). Dr. Patricia Janssen, from the University of British Columbia, et al. conducted a study which compared the outcomes of 2,889 planned home births attended by regulated midwives, 4,752 planned hospital births with the same group of midwives and 5,331 planned hospital births attended by physicians. Janssen et al. found comparable mortality rates between home and hospital births, about 2 per 1000, though the rate of deaths per 1000 births in the first month of life was quite different: .35 for home birth, .57 for midwife attended hospital birth, and .64 for hospital birth attended by a physician (CBC 1-3).

Malloy attributes his findings on infant mortality to correlating Apgar scores (an Apgar score is the measurement of certain attributes – Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, and Respiration – to “access the health of newborn children immediately after birth.” A score under 3 is critically low, 4-6 is low, and 7-10 is normal (wikipedia)). Apgar scores of less than four were eight times higher for CNM home births than for CNM hospital births (Stein 1). Malloy suggests the low Apgar scores are the “casual pathway” to the higher rate of neonatal death through “asphyxiating conditions at birth that are not as easily handled in the home environment” (qtd. in Stein 1).

Yet, Ursula Ackermann-Liebrich et al., authors of a prospective study which matched Swiss women planning a home birth with comparable women planning a hospital birth, found that the one minute Apgar scores were higher for the hospital birth group (8.03) than for the home birth group (7.78). However, at the five minute mark and at the ten minute mark, the home birth group’s Apgar scores (9.26 and 9.7 respectively) were higher than the hospital birth group’s scores (9.01 and 9.48) (Ackermann-Liebrich 7). Janssen et al. found that home birth infants, compared to midwife attended hospital birth infants, were less likely to need resuscitation or oxygen therapy after 24 hours (.23 times less likely) and also less likely to “have aspirate meconium (inhaling a mixture of their feces and amniotic fluid)” (.45 times less likely) (CBC).

As seen, mortality rates and rates of other adverse outcomes alone can not be used to show one place of birth as superior to another. What then motivates a woman to consider birthing at home if there’s not concrete evidence that it is safer? What motivates the ACOG and the AMA to make such a strong stance against home birth without solid research to back them up?

The ACOG defends their stance against home birth by saying, “Complications can arise with little or no warning” (ACOG 1) and hospitals are designed to deal with those complications – especially those complications which can quickly become emergencies. From IV fluids to electronic fetal monitoring, from epidurals and spinal blocks to cesarean sections, hospital birth has “technological advances” over home birth (Raymond 9-10). These technological advances may be what caused Malloy’s study to show the safest place to give birth is in the hospital with a CNM (Stein 1). Complications can and do arise quickly but home birth practices have shown that “most complications can be anticipated in enough time to transfer the mother/infant to the hospital with enough time to deal with the complication successfully” (Raymond 3). A receptive and non-hostile environment is essential to quickly caring for complications that require a transfer to the hospital (ACNM) and a delay in the process “may have serious consequences” (Cresswell 2).

The occurrence of complications may be lessened by the reduction in obstetric interventions. A desire to have fewer interventions is a big reason why some women choose home birth and the research solidly backs that up. Interventions among the home birth group in Janssen et al.’s study occurred with much less frequency than among the hospital group, even among women transferred to the hospital, suggesting the lowered rate may be due to the mother’s determination to not have them. Those having home births were .32 times less likely to have electronic fetal monitoring and .41 times less likely to have an assisted vaginal delivery (CBC). Johnson et al. found the same occurrence with an even greater difference. They looked at electronic fetal monitoring, episiotomy, cesarean, and vacuum extraction between planned home births and planned hospital births among low-risk women. Home birth had rates of 9.6%, 2.1, 3.7, and .6 respectively while the hospital group had rates of 84.3%, 33, 19, and 5.5 respectively. Johnson and Daviss reported electronic fetal monitoring rates of 9.6% for the home birth group and 84.3% for the hospital group; episiotomy: 4.7% home birth, 33% hospital births; forceps: 1% home birth, 2.2 hospital; vacuum extraction: .6% home birth, 5.2% hospital birth; cesarean section: 3.7% home birth, 19% hospital births (Johnson and Daviss 4).

Women may be motivated to consider home birth because they wish to have fewer interventions. As Tina Raymond explains, there are pros and cons to every intervention (9). One of the cons is the increased “risk of subsequent complications for the mother” (Ackermann-Liebrich 8). Ackermann-Liebrich et al. did not find the advantages of lower intervention (and subsequent lower rate of complications) to be outbalanced by an increase of adverse neonatal outcomes (8), leading the researches to the conclusion that “home delivery has advantages over hospital delivery” because of the lower rate of interventions and increased comfort of the mother (Ackermann-Liebrich 9). Janssen et al. came to similar conclusions: “Women planning birth at home experienced reduced risk for . . . interventions measured and similar or reduced risk for adverse maternal outcomes” (CBC 1).

As the RCOG and the RCM state, physical safety is not the only factor. Emotional and psychological health should also be considered when making the choice of where to give birth (Cresswell). Increased comfort and relaxation are two such reasons. As Raymond urges, “ . . . relaxation should not be underestimated when considering the safety of home birth” (9-10) and home is, generally, more relaxing and comfortable than the hospital, regardless of how “home-like” a hospital has attempted to be. Having only the people she has chosen present and not being distracted by nurses bustling about or by other laboring women, leaves a woman free to focus on her own labor (Raymond 9-10). Being able to move as one wishes greatly increases a woman’s comfort as well. In the Swiss study, “. . . ninety per cent [sic] of women delivering at home reported that they could always move freely” as opposed to only 57% of those birthing in the hospital (Ackermann-Liebrich 8).

Women having a home birth are also freer to choose what position they will birth in. Midwives in the home environment, as opposed to doctors in the hospital environment, monitor labor, help the mother change positions, and, when it is time, “catch” the baby from whatever position suits the mother best and not what is most convenient for the midwife (Lake et al. 1). Fifty-nine percent of the women in the home birth group reported that they were able to choose their birthing position, according to Ackermann-Liebrich et al (8). In the hospital group only 35% were allowed to choose the position they wished to birth in. They also found that while mothers in the hospital typically gave birth while lying down, women at home typically gave birth on elbows and knees, standing, or sitting (6) – mostly vertical positions in which labor is aided by gravity.

It is this autonomy that draws suspicion upon the ACOG and the AMA’s motivation in their drive for legislation limiting home birth. The ACNM, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada, the UK maternity policy and the ACOG all agree that a woman has the right to make her own choices in regard to her pregnancy and birth but only the ACOG does not acknowledge the right of a woman to choose home as her place of birth. The ACOG and the UK maternity policy both state that birth is a normal life event but the UK maternity policy goes on to say that a mother’s experience of having “choice and control” throughout the birthing process can have a substantial, positive effect on her children’s healthy development (Cresswell 3).

By coming out against home birth the way they have, proclaiming their lack of support to those that provide home birth and partnering with the AMA to:

support state legislation that helps ensure safe deliveries and healthy babies by acknowledging that the safest setting for labor, delivery and the immediate post-partum period is in the hospital, or a birthing center within a hospital complex, that meets standards jointly outlined by the AAP and ACOG, or in a freestanding birthing center that meets the standards of the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care, The Joint Commission, or the American Association of Birth Centers (AMA 15).

the ACOG is, by default, limiting a woman’s reproductive choices. Some physicians fear the ACOG’s statements could be used to make having a home birth more difficult if not impossible.

Distrust between home birth providers and the hospitals and doctors they must, in order to remain within the ACNM guidelines of safe home birth, have as a back-up plan is the first way choice is limited. If through their statements, the ACOG and the AMA, very influential organizations, convince most doctors and nurses to see home birth as irresponsible and a woman’s choice to have a home birth as her simply following a trend or “cause célèbre” (ACOG 1), they will resent being called upon to pick up the pieces. Hostility between home birth practitioners and the medical establishment may create delays in the transfer process and is not going to achieve “best practice” (Cresswell 2). As such, women’s choices will become limited.

Secondly, the ACOG’s statement against home birth may, as Dr. Stuart Fischbein, a dissenting member of the ACOG, fears, affect insurance companies and their willingness to provide coverage to midwives who provide home births and to the doctors who oversee those midwives (Hunter 2). If those doctors are unable to get insurance or unable to get affordable insurance, they will cease to provide support to home birth providing midwives. The midwives, in turn, will either stop providing home births or practice home birth without a doctor’s support, stepping outside the safety guidelines. If the midwife is unable to get insurance for herself, she will either cease to provided home births or move her practice underground, further removing herself from the guidelines of safety. A woman’s choices becomes limited either because her midwife is no longer practicing or is practicing unsafely.

Thirdly, although the ACOG does not call for a ban against home birth, Dr. Fischbein fears that is the direction they are headed (Hunter 2). The AMA, pledging support to proposed legislation, “Resolution 205,” supports the ACOG’s position that home birth is unsafe. Gregory Phillips, ACOG spokesman, said that criminalization of home birth is not the goal (Hunter 2) and yet, as Aina Hunter asks, if not seeking criminalization, why “legislation?” Why not just issue a public service statement (Hunter 2)? Dr. Erin Tracy, in an interview with, said that though the AMA is calling for legislation, there was no “talk of criminalizing women who have home birth” (Hunter 3). What is also not mentioned is whether they plan on not criminalizing those who provide home births. Criminalization of midwives who provide home birth would effectively limit women’s access to home birth.

As Lake et al. writes, anti-home birth legislation flies in the face of the “right to privacy, to bodily integrity, and the right of every adult to determine her own health care” (Lake et al. 2). The ACOG and the AMA’s actions prompted Dr. Andrew Kataska to write to the ACOG board saying, “If ACOG and the AMA are passively-aggressively trying to coerce women into having hospital births by trying to legally prevent the option of home birth, then their actions are a frontal assault on women’s autonomy” (Hunter 3).

Women must be allowed to maintain their reproductive freedoms. The ACOG does not have sound reasons for their claims, beyond scare tactics in an attempt to restrict access to more care options. There is simply not clear evidence that home birth places mother and child at higher risk of adverse outcomes and the ACOG’s willingness to limit a woman’s access to reproductive choices casts a shadow of doubt as to their altruistic intentions.


Ackermann-Liebrich, Ursula. Et al., Home Versus Hospital Deliveries: Follow up study of matched pairs for procedures and outcome. September 1996. British Medical Journal 31, March 2010 <>

American College of Nurse Midwives. Position Statement: Home Birth. Dec. 2005. p. 1. American College of Nurse Midwives. March 27, 2010 <>.

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. ACOG News Release: ACOG statement on Home Births. 6 Feb. 2008. American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. 27 March 2010 <>.

American Medical Association., retrieved 4 April, 2010.

American Public Health Association. Increasing Access to Out-of-Hospital Maternity Care Services through State-Regulated and Nationally-Certified Direct-Entry Midwives. 1 Jan. 2001. American Public Health Association. 27 March, 2010 <>.

CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company). Home Birth with Midwife Safe as Hospital. 31 Aug. 2009. CBC News. 31 March 2010 <>.

Cresswell, JL, and Stephens, E. Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives Joint statement No. 2: Home Births. April 2007. Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives. 25 March, 2010 <>.

Lake, Ricki., Block, Jennifer., Epstein, Abby. 18 June 2008. Docs to Women: Pay No Attention to Ricki Lake’s Home Birth. 26 March 2010 <>.

Hunter, Anita. “Are Home Births Dangerous?” abc News 11 June 2008. 19 March 2010 <>.

Johnson, Kenneth C., and Daviss, Betty-Anne. “Outcomes of planned home births with certified professional midwives: large-prospective study in North America.” British Medical Journal n.d. 23 March 2010 <>.

Raymond, Tina. “Home Birth, Birth Center, or Hospital Birth: How to Help Your Clients Choose.” International Journal of Childbirth Education (May 1992): page 9-10. 17 March 2010 <>.

Stein, Jill. “Midwife-Attended Home Births Less Safe Than In-Hospital Deliveries.” Reuters Health Information. 5 May 2009. Baltimore, Maryland. 19 March, 2010. <>.

World Health Organization. Dept. of Making Pregnancy Safer. WHO Recommended Interventions for Improving Maternal and Newborn Health. 2009. 28 March 2010 <>

Wikipedia. Apgar Score. 3 April 2010. <>.


ACOG April 1, 2010

I think I hate the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. A lot. There’s just so much to dislike. They have most recently been brought to my attentions because of the research paper on home birth I’m doing. They are anti-home birth and have no facts to validate such a stance but home birth is not the only thing they are ignorant (or greedy bastards) about.

Take their recommended order of treatment for shoulder dystocia (fetal shoulder caught on mother’s pubic bone). Despite ALL evidence pointing to the order of treatment being 1) Get back up, 2) McRoberts, 3) McRoberts + suprapubic pressure, 4) everything else in whatever order until the baby is born.

The ACOG’s recommendations? 1) Get backup. 2) Generous episiotomy. Um… really? The second step to solving shoulder dystocia (shoulder stuck on the mother’s pubic bone) is to perform a “generous” episiotomy? Slice and dice is step TWO? And the McRoberts maneuver, which is 50-60% effective, is regulated to step FOUR? What is wrong with this group? Do they even know what they are doing? I am seriously going to look for a doctor who is NOT a member of the ACOG if I ever get pregnant again. Or maybe find a dissenter. There are a few. Maybe someone who’s been kicked out for noncompliance to their barbaric practices. That would be sweet.

The ACOG also says that there is no way to recommend an “ideal” rate of cesareans while the WHO (who doesn’t make money off of a high cesarean rate) recommends 10%. They say home birth is unsafe while the rest of the civilized world (and again, the WHO) recommends it. And, low and behold, they have better birth stats than we do. Huh.

Anyway, they just royally suck. If they had a chapter here, I’d go egg their building. And if you ever see Amy Tuteur, MD, punch her in the face for me.


What? You can’t take undocumented children out of the country? January 31, 2010

Filed under: Anecdotal,educational,parenting,Political,Religious — Addicted to Yarn @ 7:56 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Uh…duh…These people are retarded. I’m not trying to be inflammatory but seriously, how much thought does it take to realize that you are going to be suspected of child traffficking if you take a bus load of undocumented children out of the country? Oh, you were just trying to help? Really? A likely story. And I’ll bet every child trafficker out there says, when stopped by the police, “Oh, you caught me. I was planning on selling these children into prostitution.”

I understand that there are kids who need help in Haiti. Well, really all of Haiti needs help. But it’s kind of like being on a moving job. Let me explain.

My dad ran a moving company for many years. We could empty a house, load two large U-Hauls in a day with my dad, me and one, maybe two, helpers and not break a thing and everything go as planned, or mostly as planned. The other way of doing it is the way this guy we moved did it. He was a popular guy and he had EVERYONE and their dog come over to “help.” We must have had 15 people trying to help us. My dad never left the truck. He just tried to fit things in. The problem is, you can’t just load a truck with random crap. You have to load it carefully so that everything arrives the way it should. Heavy furniture on the bottom, medium stuff in the middle, and light, randomly shaped things on the top and progresing to lighter and lighter loads as you move towards the back of the truck. When he’s being brought random stuff and never has a chance to go back inside and see what should go next, it ends up really sucking.

So the truck is loaded badly.

Then, there is the fact that random people don’t know shit about moving furniture. And they don’t listen when you tell them they are doing it wrong. At the time, I was 19 years old. One of the older men (probably in his late forties) was putting a file cabinet on a box dolly. I said, “Oh, don’t use that. If you put a filing cabinet on a box dolly, the ledge of the dolly will pop the bottom out of the filing cabinet. You have to carry it.”

He ignored me.

He took it down two stairs before the ledge of the dolly pushed through the bottom and the whole thing tumbled down the stairs spilling LOOSE sheet music everywhere. I helped him pick up the mess he’d made, while biting my tongue to keep from going ape-shit on him.

The entire move was like that. One mistake, one bumble, one screwed up thing after another. And it took much longer than it should have because nothing went smoothly. It was chaos and disorganization and frustration.

And that is what needs to NOT happen in Haiti. What is happening in Haiti is terrible. A bunch of yahoo’s running down there and “helping” when they don’t know what they are doing is going to make it more terrible. Imagine that you are a parent who has been searching for your child only to find out that “someone” took them out of the country to “help” them. Is that going to reassure you or freak you out?



Michelle Obama and the Balancing Act December 29, 2009

This lengthy post was my second essay for Women’s Studies. Here it is:

Katherine Lewis, writing for, reports that one of Michelle Obama’s goals as First Lady is to help women find the balance between working, mothering, and living (2009). Finding such a balance is something Michelle has extensive experience in. Liza Mundy, author of the biography Michelle, notes that not only did she manage to balance career, marriage, and childrearing, she was also able to balance being the wife of an up-an-coming politician with the “dinner-together-every-night” kind of family she desired (2008. p. 129). However, her balancing acts are under new scrutiny and the rules of the game have changed a bit since she began her move from, as she describes herself, “that little girl who grew up on the South Side of Chicago” (quoted in Michelle by Liza Mundy, 2008, p. 173).

When her husband, Barack, decided to make a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, balance took on a whole new meaning and importance to Michelle. Never one to stand aside when she felt something needed to be done, Michelle made stump speeches and hosted fund-raisers. She gave interviews and appeared on talk shows. As a potential First Lady, Michelle was catapulted along with her husband into the spotlight.

She faced then and continues to face issues that require poise, grace and tremendous amounts of balance in order to navigate through successfully. As the spouse of a politician, success can be defined as not decreasing constituent support for one’s spouse. One of the first tightrope walks Michelle faced was the backlash of her oft repeated statement made on February 18, 2008: “For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country…” With that one sentence, taken from the middle of a speech about how people are getting involved and are working to make the changes they want to see, Mrs. Obama lit the news sources and bloggers alike on fire as they tore into the presidential candidate’s wife. Webblogger Mickey Kaus, writing for Slate, an online magazine, says “She sure seems to have a non-trivial chip on her shoulder” (2008) and Jim Geraghty, a blogger for National Review called the remark “strikingly ungracious” (2008). Mark Steyn, also writing for National Review accused her of “narcissism and self-absorption” in the same issue that featured a picture of a scowling Michelle with the title “Mrs. Grievance” (2008, April 21, She was called, “unpatriotic, racist and downright shameful” by blog commenters. (×4658171) Of course Barack defended her, explaining that her statement was referring to America politically and Michelle clarified along the same lines, saying in an interview with Good Housekeeping: “It’s a mischaracterization that has nothing to do with the intended statement” (2008). But because of the focus the Obama/Biden campaign made on “Change,” Michelle and her husband could not proclaim too loudly of how proud they were of America because of the inability of so many to understand the difference between love and pride. Arthur Brazier clearly expresses the difference:

“I was drafted in the army in World War II. When I got my notice, I didn’t burn my notice or go to Canada, because I love my country. I went to war, but in my uniform I was in a segregated army, totally and completely segregated. And in my uniform, when I was training in the South, I had to ride in the back of the bus. If I wanted to drink water from a drinking fountain, I had to drink from a fountain that said ‘Colored.’ It was greatly humiliating. But I loved my country. I was awarded two bronze stars. I still loved my country. But I wasn’t proud of it. There’s a difference.” (cited in Mundy, 2008, p. 189)

Michelle must find a way to balance loving her country and being proud of America for what it has allowed her and Barack to accomplish alongside seeing clearly the problems in the nation in order to find solutions to them.

Another example of a balancing act she must perform is that of race relations. Michelle Obama is black. She is married to the first African-American president of the United States of America. She is the first First Lady to be a direct descendant of slaves. She is the first African-American First Lady. The African-American community looks up to her as a role model for their daughters and to her husband as a role model for their sons. Katherine Lewis writes “For African-American women to be able to say to their sons, ‘This is an example of a relationship,’ is very valuable” (2009, While the Obama’s are role models for all Americans, regardless of race, their contribution to African-Americans is not something that can be discounted. Lewis writes, “[Michelle]’s in a good position to be a positive image for American society and also for black America.” Yet, Michelle must balance the knowledge of the barriers she has broken for the African-American community with the knowledge that focusing too much on race may alienate non-African-American constituents. Worse yet, if she focuses too much on what an accomplishment it is for an African-American to attain the highest office in the land, focuses too much on how hard it is for African-Americans to get a fair shake, focuses too much on how racism is still alive and well in the United States, or focuses too much on white privilege and black oppression, she will be lambasted as “anti-white,” “racist,” and even, “a terrorist.”

Michelle also finds herself balancing the gravity of the issues she cares about (universal health care, soldiers in combat, education opportunities for all children, the plight of the poor, to name a few) with the frivolity the media (and the audiences who pay for it) seem obsessed with. The Money Times (Dec. 12, 2009) reports that Barbara Walters listed Michelle Obama as her most fascinating person of 2009. When Walters interviewed Michelle, did she ask her about her journey from segregated Chicago to two Ivy League schools? Did she ask her about the community work Michelle engaged in? No. Instead, Barbara asked her about her famously “toned arms.” She asked about Michelle’s workout routine. Michelle balances this focus on her body with a push for healthier eating habits and regular exercise. While it may seem frivolous to appear on the cover of Vogue, Michelle being touted as a beauty ideal or a fashion icon is a huge benefit to African-American women. Writer Allison Samuels said it best in her article “What Michelle Means to Us.” “Who and what is beautiful has long been a source of pain, anger, and frustration in the African-American community. In too many cases, beauty for black women…has meant fair skin, “good hair” and dainty facial features.” Samuels quotes a California mail carrier as saying, “It’s nice to see a brown girl get some attention and be called beautiful by the world. That just doesn’t happen a lot, and our little girls need to see that—my little girl needs to see it.”

Ruben, Fitts, and Becker (2003) wrote about the need for realistic “beauty ideals” for African-American women in their essay, “Body Ethics and Aesthetics Among African America and Latina Women” (Shaw & Lee 2009). “…Western mainstream media” creates an image of beauty that is a white, thin, with delicate facial features, and “good hair,” that is, not “nappy hair” (p. 262). While there are more African-American women in the media now than previously, “they typically reinscribe prevailing stereotypes by featuring women with lighter skin and “Anglo” features to the exclusion of other women.” (p. 256).

Michelle’s balancing abilities also come into play when dealing with issues of gender stereotypes and traditional gender roles. Much of Michelle’s job during the nominating campaign, when speaking to professional women, was to show them that Barack had their interests at heart as much as his opponent, Hillary Clinton did. Michelle drew upon her own experiences as a college graduate and career woman and, wrote in U.S. World News Report, “As first lady, I’d take [working women’s] stories back to Washington to make sure that the people who run our country know how their policies touch their constituents’ lives” (2008, Oct. 17). One of the issues Michelle brings up is the inequality between the sexes in the job market. Michelle writes, “We’ve talked to mothers whose salaries can’t cover the cost of groceries—but if they take a second job, they can’t afford the additional cost of child care. More than 22 million working women don’t have paid sick days. Millions of women are doing the same jobs as men—but they’re earning less” (Oct. 17, 2008). Michelle Cottle reports, “In a 2004 interview with the Chicago Tribune, Michelle [Obama] observed: ‘What I notice about men, all men, is that their order is me, my family, god is in there somewhere, but me is first…And for women, me is fourth, and that’s not healthy.’…Looked at one way Michelle was issuing a pointed call for female self-empowerment…For all the talk about this being a partnership of equals, the domestic roles Michelle and Barack have assumed are, in many ways, strikingly stereotypical.” (The New Republic, March 26, 2008)

Michelle has the title First Lady because of the position her husband is in. Her role in society is defined by her husband’s role. She has put her career on hold to provide the support her husband needs in order to succeed. However, if she were to address gender roles as such and were to decry her current traditional role, she may very well alienate the many constituents who believe in traditional roles for men and women. She must balance the fact that she is in a position to affect positive change for women in nontraditional roles with the fact that she is in such a position because she is in a traditional role herself.

Michelle’s ability to balance seemingly incompatible ideals comes into sharp focus when looking into her stance on social programs. Michelle Obama’s story is one of personal responsibility, hard work, and opportunities, both fought for and taken, equalling success. This aspect of Michelle appeals to the Conservative/Right wing constituents of the country. Her boot-strap story is just that: a story of someone who pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps.

Or is it? Hers may appear to be a bootstrap story but if she were pulled up by bootstraps, she wasn’t the only one pulling. Michelle recognizes the precarious nature of her rise to success and is quick to acknowledge that not everyone is afforded the breaks she was and not everyone is in a position to capitalize on the breaks that come their way. Mundy writes, “[Barack] was touched” during their courtship, “by what he saw as the occasional hint of vulnerability, the sense that her good fortune could vanish with one misstep, ‘as if, deep inside, she new how fragile things really were’” (2008, p. 96).

One of her greatest motivators to work hard in everything she did, was the work ethic instilled upon her by her hard-working, self-reliant father, Fraser Robinson (Mundy, 2008). Lexington, writing for the Economist, reports that “More than 60% of black children these days are brought up without a father” (2009, p. 38), and aside from “The Cosby Show,” “there are still woefully few public examples of solid, stable black marriages” (Samuels, 2008). Because of how much respect Michelle had for her dad, Mundy writes, she was very picky about the men she dated (2008). Had she not held out for as good a man as her father had been and had she not had her father’s work ethic, Michelle’s story may have gone a completely different direction.

Fraser Robinson worked for the city, a respectable job for an African American in the 1950’s, writes Mundy. A job with the city was coveted as it offered security and decent insulation from the turmoil of a collapsing blue collar job market. Many African-American’s did not have access to city jobs and the privilege of such a job was paramount to the Robinson’s success.

Michelle was entering middle school as the city was making inroads to deal with the heavy segregation of its school system. One of their solutions was magnet schools. Michelle applied and was accepted and it was there, in the exception to the rule, that she received an accelerated, multicultural education that equipped her to succeed in the two Ivy colleges she attended. Without that opportunity, her college choices, her success in the college environment, and her career options after graduation might have looked completely different.

It is these stereotypes, ideals, contradictions, and priorities that Michelle must balance if she is to be successful. She can not be “too” angry about racism, the plight of the poor, or the frivolity of the media without being labeled “an angry black woman.” She can not ignore racism, the plight of the poor, or the frivolity of the media without denying who she is, where she comes from, and the issues at stake. She can not be “too” black without being labeled as a “black elitist” nor can she be “too” white without being labeled a traitor. She can not promote the bootstrap myth without trivializing the situation of the poor and placing blame upon those in poverty. She can not deny that there is an element of personal responsibility in her own story of success. She loves her children and wants them to have the best life possible, including the best president possible. She loves her husband and wants him to be as successful as possible. These loves require her to make personal sacrifices that may not be seen as demonstrating “equality.”

Michelle, in fighting stereotype and overcoming hurdles, has reached a position where she must simultaneously be a stay-at-home mom and advocate feminist ideals; preach the qualities of “bootstrapping” but avoid victim blaming; be a role model for African Americans while not alienating white citizens; and try to steer attention towards important, lasting issues without offending those fascinated by her “style.” Our nation’s 46th First Lady has her work cut out for her but if anyone is up to the challenge, it’s Michelle.


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