Ladyrebecca's Musings and Ramblings

The Increasingly Political Thoughts of Rebecca (Becky) Walker

My, oh my, how times have changed December 22, 2009's so much easier.

Prior to opening Women’s Voices, Feminist Visions, I had a fairly narrow view of feminism and the many different issues the broad umbrella of “feminism” entails. All the info I had on feminism came from Hollywood, shock jocks, overheard conversations, and 20 years worth of indoctrination into the conservative Christian tradition. Though I had largely rejected my religious upbringing and had begun to question many of the opinions which I’d thought were fact, many remained, simply because they were unexamined. The readings from Women’s Voices, Feminist Visions have caused me to examine my views of feminism, the role of women in society, the patriarchy, activism, and cosmetic surgery. Two readings in particular have proven catalytic in broadening my mind; Feminist Politcs, written by bell hooks, and Hermaphrodites with Attitude, by Amy Bloom.

In Feminist Politics, hooks provided me with a definition of feminism I couldn’t not support (ironically, it was also the first definition I’d heard, despite having a strong, albeit ignorant, opinion about feminism): “Simply put, feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression” (2000, p. 40). Hooks went on to address why this is not a commonly understood and accepted definition of feminism and I had my eyes opened again. I was not a big believer in the “patriarchy”— the idea of a group of men in expensive suits, sitting around a cigar-smoke-filled room, conspiring to keep women oppressed seemed preposterous. With a simple phrase, “[Most people’s] misunderstanding of feminist politics reflects the reality that most folks learn about feminism from patriarchal mass media” (p. 40), I realized that it didn’t take a conspiracy of peers to oppress a group of people.

The term “radical feminist” was a cause for concern to me before hooks explained the difference between “reformist feminism” and “radical feminism.” Reformists want, primarily, “equality with men in the workforce” while the “original radical foundations of contemporary feminism…called for reform as well as overall restructuring of society so that our nation would be fundamentally anti-sexist” (2000, p. 41). Reforming our current, sexist society is not enough. Gaining equality in one area (such as equal-pay-for-equal-work), is not enough to end (or at least push back) all the ‘ism’s that oppress millions every day.

The second reading that cataclysmically altered my point of view was written by Amy Bloom. In Hermaphrodites with Attitude, Bloom writes that infants born with “ambiguous genitalia” are more common than those born with cystic fibrosis, about two thousand times a year in the United States alone. (2002, p. 244)

I myself am not a hermaphrodite, nor do I know anyone who is (that I am aware of). Prior to this reading, I had done no research about the subject whatsoever. And yet, I had an opinion about hermaphrodites and people I considered “gender confused.” My thought was naively, “Whatever genitals are most prominent, that’s what you are. Just be that.” Very few hermaphrodites are true 50/50 splits so this seemed an easy judgment to make.

This opinion was challenged upon my reading about the “corrective” procedures, which, “if necessary” involve “some enlargement of the vaginal cavity by metal dilators, inserted by the parents daily for six months….Monthly dilation of the seven-or eight-year old continues into adolescence to prevent the narrowing or closure of the vaginal cavity” (p. 244). Further challenges arose when reading about the mentality of those performing such procedures. Bloom quotes a doctor as writing, “After stillbirth, genital anomaly is the most serious problem with a baby, as it threatens the whole fabric of personality and life of the person.” One must wonder how much more a baby’s personality will be shaped by having non-consensual genital surgery and by the postoperative “dilation” in order to make her vagina “normal” than by having a “genital anomaly.” Bloom quotes Dr. Richard Hurwitz, in the instructional video “Surgical Reconstruction of Ambiguous Genitalia in Female Children” as saying, “The finding of ambiguous genitalia in the newborn is a medical and social emergency.” There is a common understanding among doctors and surgeons that a boy can not have a fulfilling life with a small penis and a girl can not have a fulfilling life with a large clitoris and therefore, “corrective” surgery must be performed as soon as possible. These same doctors believe that parents are incapable of truly loving a child whose genitals do not conform to the “normal” standard of genital conformation. The American College of Surgeons training video on how to treat female genital abnormality makes clear that they believe it highly important to appear normal while making no mention of functionality or feeling. (Bloom, 2002, p. 248)

My ignorant opinion that one should just “be what they are” was challenged and ultimately destroyed upon reading about Klinefelter’s syndrome, AIS, PAIS, and CAH, all of which result in fairly “normal” looking genitals but with various hormonal or chromosomal abnormalities which result in varying degrees of natural variations, such as a man developing small breasts but not the typically “male” traits such as a hairy chest, deep voice, and heavier musculature.

This essay also reaffirmed to me the dangers of homophobia. Dr. Philip Gruppuso (quoted in Bloom, 2002), speaking on the treatment of infant hermaphrodites said:

“…in the history of treating these kids, there is an element of homophobia…If you look back at the standard texts of the fifties and sixties, the underlying concern was that people who were ‘really’ male but looked female would want to have sex with males, and the same for females who appeared male. Homosexual sex was the underlying fear.” (p. 247)

While understanding that homophobia was dangerous and damaging to adults, I had not realized the extent to which the irrational fear of consenting adults having relations with other consenting adults of the same sex was causing harm upon the most innocent and defenseless people in our midst.

I know that I have many more ignorant and judgment views remaining to be examined, but due to the writings of bell and Bloom, there are at least some which are no longer mucking around in my brain.


Bloom, A. (2002) Hermaphrodites with attitude. In S. Shaw, J. Lee (Eds.), Women’s voices, feminist visions. (2009). (pp. 244-249). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

hooks, b. (2000). Feminist politics: Where we stand. In S. Shaw, J. Lee (Eds.), Women’s voices, feminist visions. (2009). (pp. 40-42). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.


Women’s Studies Final and a good law December 18, 2009

YEAH! I am done with my Women’s Studies class! Hurray!

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed learning about feminism needed to learn about feminism. It was NOT especially enjoyable. I spent yesterday morning in tears as I read about some of the heartbreaking stories that lead Margaret Sanger to found Planned Parenthood. (A mother of three died following an illegal abortion…after she had BEGGED the doctor and Sanger, her nurse, to tell her how to keep from getting pregnant again. The doctor’s answer? “Tell Jake [the woman’s husband] to sleep on the roof.” Great answer, doc.) And yes, I am somewhat familiar with her racists views…that doesn’t change the fact that she was unable to help this woman because of a “gag” rule. I read about a woman in Ethiopia who lived for two years in a shack, isolated and alone, because of a obstetrical fissure (a tear between the vagina and bladder and/or rectum, causing the constant leakage of urine and feces). Because of higher quality of obstetrical services in the western world (simply better health as well), obstetrical fissure is almost unheard of and is insanely easy to fix if it does occur. This woman, abandoned by her husband, starving and dehydrated (as eating and drinking caused increased leaking), lived for two years curled into the fetal position, wishing she could die. Her parents finally sold all of their farm animals (I wonder how they will make a living now) to pay for her surgery. It was less than $500.

And as I read that, I couldn’t help but remember all the missionaries to Africa I had listened to. I remembered hearing of how they needed Jesus. Of how they needed to be freed from their barbaric religions. And I remembered the sometimes overflowing offering bowl and I couldn’t help but wonder how much more good it would have done to send doctors instead of missionaries? Even when I was a Christian, I could not make peace with the idea of preaching the gospel before taking care of people’s physical needs. *sigh*

Daily Mail photo of Twiggy and Twiggy

One of the problems I had during this class on feminism was the question of “so what?” So women (and many other sub-groups) are still being marginalized. What are we supposed to do about it? Make legislation that makes being a jerk illegal? That’s no better than legislating morality in the bedroom. Then today, just after returning from my final, I saw this article on Olay’s blatant false advertising. This is good legislation. Olay is LYING! They are showing a picture, quoting the woman in the picture as saying, “This product made me look like this” when in fact Photoshop made her look like that. That’s called a LIE and the British Parliament called them on it. Good for them. I wonder what the chances are of having a similar law passed in the U.S.?

There, Heidi, I said something positive about an article. 🙂


Women’s Studies: What is it? October 17, 2009

feminism“What is women’s studies?” you ask.

In short, women’s studies is the study of women – their lives, their works, their struggles, their accomplishments, their desires and fears, their future. In length, it’s much, much more – at least for me. Women’s Studies is the rejection of eighteen years worth of indoctrination. It is the shedding of a decade of willful ignorance.

I was raised believing that a women’s place was in the home. No, my parents would never have said, “A women should be in the kitchen bare foot and pregnant” but their disdain for working moms and feminists was clear. I was also raised in a Christian home where the man was head and the woman was submissive. “This models the church’s submission to Christ and to act any other way is a sin,” I was taught. Women were not allowed to preach or even lead prayer in church, teach to a co-ed group nor have any say in adult leadership (women were free to teach and lead male children). My exposure to feminism was through my Christian school, Focus on the Family, and people like Rush Limbaugh. Needless to say, my views were really skewed.

Even though I had a negative view of feminism, I couldn’t have given a definition if I’d been asked but I’d certainly not have guessed it to be anything like the one bell hooks gives in Feminist Politics: “[F]eminism is a movement to end sexism, sexual exploitation, and oppression.” If you had told me that was feminism in a nutshell I would have agreed wholeheartedly. But I didn’t know that definition (nor any other) and, as far as I’d been taught, there was no need for feminism any longer. Women had been “given” the vote, we’d complained enough that we’d been allowed into previously all-male schools and careers and now all was equal and fair. There was nothing left for feminism to do.

Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards’ essay, A Day Without Feminism, revealed to me how wrong that line of think is. No child care? I stay at home with my daughter but I can’t imagine a world where there is no other option. I was appalled to find out that the National Honor Society will rescind a girl’s membership if she gets pregnant. (What happens to a boy if he fathers a child?) The Pill’s side effects were horrifying. The double standard of curfews for college women but not for men made me furious. I was fascinated by the fact that women weren’t the only disregarded ones. Baumgardner and Richards write, “The absence of women’s history, black history, Chicano studies, Asian-American history, queer studies, and Native American history from college curricula implies that they are not worth studying” (A Day Without Feminism, in Women’s Voices Feminist Visions. 2009). I was shocked by what they said about newspaper want ads being divided into “Help Wanted Male” and “Help Wanted Female.” The restrictions placed on a married woman’s ability to secure financial services was mind-blowing.

By the end of the article I was furious. Furious that my mom had never talked to me about this. Furious at myself for never questioning the status-quo. Furious at society for making this information so easy to hide. Furious at the universe for being indifferent. Furious at the fact that change happens when people make it happen and those people are people like me.

Then I got scared. I realized then what Women’s Studies meant to me. Women’s Studies was going to be my own personal revolution. My world was shifting and I didn’t know what was going to happen and I didn’t know how it was going to look when it was done and I didn’t know if I was ready but more than anything, I knew that this was the right road. I knew that hiding from the truth was not the answer. I knew that facing this thing head on was the only way to be true to myself and all that I hold dear.

Women’s Studies is the study of women – their lives, their works, their struggles, their accomplishments, their desires and fears, their future. I am a woman and therefore, Women’s Studies is the study of me – my life, my work, my struggles, my accomplishments, my desires and fears, my future.


Abstinence-Only Education is No Education At All August 29, 2009

Abstinence-only education isn't

Abstinence-only education isn't

Abstinence only education is insidious. It does not teach students the things they need to know but instead attempts to indoctrinate them to a religious standard through the clever use of misinformation and outright lies. Curtis Porter, writing for the Administration for Children & Families (ACF), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, laid out the guidelines for abstinence only education. These guidelines for “educating” students are an affront to progressive thinkers everywhere and abstinence-only curricula distorts the truth, bending it as far as it can without breaking it and, in some situations, snaps it completely.

Abstinence-only curriculum, according to ACF, must teach that a person’s life will turn out better if he or she waits until marriage to have sex. However, researchers Else-Quest, Hyde, and DeLamater, writing for The Journal of Sex Research, found that any attempt to form a causal relationship between premarital sex and negative life outcomes to be “unwarranted” (2005).

The curriculum must define marriage as “only a legal union between one man and one woman as a husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife” (p. 1), effectively sentencing homosexual teens to a lifetime of celibacy, along with any who do not believe in traditional marriage. The “one man and one woman” definition of marriage is one of a religious sentiment and one that the Iowa courts, among others, have deemed unconstitutional.

The curricula “must teach the psychological and physical benefits of sexual abstinence-until-marriage” (p. 1), yet the National Association of School Psychologists “believes comprehensive sexuality education is essential to promote the mental, physical, academic and emotional health of our children” (2003) and Lawrence Finer, writing for Public Health Reports, has found that 95 percent of the populace has had premarital sex by the time they are forty-four years of age (2007, p. 1).

The curriculum, and its teachers, are restricted on how much information than can provide to their students. The ACF states that “[i]nformation on contraceptives, if included, must be…presented only as it supports the abstinence message being presented. Curriculum must not promote or endorse, distribute or demonstrate the use of contraception or instruct students in contraceptive usage” (p. 1) (emphasis mine). The reason for the omission of comprehensive contraceptive education is explained by abstinence-only supporter, Linda Klepacki, who says that teaching children about condoms and abstinence, sends them a mixed message. She says, “In other areas of health education as well as abstinence, the highest health standard is communicated (i.e. alcohol, drugs, cigarette use, weapon carrying, etc.) The healthiest choice for school-age youth is to remain sexually abstinent.” However, this logic falls apart when applied to other activities. There are risks to playing football or riding in a car and yet we do not teach our children to abstain from those activities. Instead, he or she is taught the proper way to wear his or her protective equipment and a passenger is taught to wear his or her seat belt. In the same manner, so should students be taught the proper way to use sexual protection. In addition, they should also be taught the “rules” of the game. They need training in making good choices, choosing quality friends, developing and maintaining healthy relationships, sexual and not.

The ACF also states that the curriculum must contain material consistent with eight principles.

A. It is essential that the abstinence education curriculum has as its exclusive purpose, teaching the social, psychological, and health gains to be realized by abstaining from sexual activity (p. 2).

Abstinence-only supporters claim there are benefits to abstaining and yet Alan Farnham (Is Sex Necessary?), reports that regular sexual intercourse has many mental and health benefits, ranging from decreased depression to a reduced risk of heart disease (2003).

B. It is critical that the abstinence education curriculum teaches abstinence from sexual activity outside marriage as the expected standard for all school-aged children (p. 2).

During an evaluation of five years of abstinence-only education in Arizona, “eighty percent of students reported that they were likely to become sexually active by the time they were 20 years old” (Hauser. 2004). Why is abstinence until marriage the expected standard? It certainly is not based in reality. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that over 70 percent of girls and 60 percent of boys report having had sex before they turn twenty (2009, p. 7). The expectation of abstinence until marriage is an expectation based on the morality of the religious and is, quite frankly, a ridiculous one. Time would be much better spent teaching students how to have sex in as safe a manner as possible once they choose to become sexually active; physically safe and psychologically safe as well.

C. Abstinence education curriculum must teach that abstinence from sexual activity is the only certain way to avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and other associated health problems (pp. 2,3).

Subthemes to “C” are to give students the statistics and rates of failure for condoms and other contraceptives. Representative Henry Waxman found that “abstinence-only curricula contain false and misleading information about the effectiveness of contraceptives.” Several of the curricula cite a 1993 study (which was rejected by the Department of Health and Human Services), which states that condoms only reduce HIV infections by 69 percent. One curriculum states: “[T]he popular claim that ‘condoms help prevent the spread of STDs,’ is not supported by the data” (quoted in Waxman. 2004, pp. 8-10).

Uganda’s fight against the spread of HIV would suggest otherwise. Professor W. Phillips Shively summarizes Uganda’s success in Power and Choice. In 1991, the AIDS infection rate had reached about 15 percent. By 2005, it had dropped to 7 percent. President Musevini achieved this successful reduction when he began promoting the usage of condoms with his simple, straightforward plan. Titled ABC (Abstinence, Being faithful, and Condoms), his program was able to promote condom usage while embracing and encouraging the traditional values of abstinence until marriage and monogamy. Without the addition of increased condom usage, Uganda would not have seen the 50 percent reduction in HIV infection they’ve been able to achieve. (2008. pp 93, 94) Obviously, condoms work.

D. It is required that the abstinence education curriculum teaches that a mutually faithful monogamous relationship in the context of marriage is the expected standard of human sexual activity (p. 3).

Buss and Shackelford, authors of Susceptibility to Infidelity, found that about fifty percent of married people will not remain monogamous (1997, p. 194). Marty Friedman, author of Straight Talk for Men About Marriage, cites on his website that 41 percent of the population is not married and 24 percent have never been married (2009) and yet, according to Lawrence B. Finer, PhD, 80 percent of unmarried men and women will have had sex by the time they are 44 years old (2007. p. 74). Obviously, sexual activity regulated to within only a “mutually faithful monogamous relationship in the context of marriage” is not the expected norm of human sexual activity and it is erroneous to prop up an unrealistic standard for youth and expect them to meet it when most adults to not.

E. It is essential that the abstinence education curriculum teaches that sexual activity outside of the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects (p. 4).

Representative Waxman found no scientific support for these statements. In fact, he writes that “one curriculum tells youth that a long list of personal problems – including isolation, jealousy, poverty, heartbreak, substance abuse, unstable longterm commitment, sexual violence, embarrassment, depression, personal disappointment, feelings of being used, loss of honesty, loneliness, and suicide – ‘can be eliminated by being abstinent until marriage’” (2004, pp. 20-21). Alan Farnham writes, “Having regular and enthusiastic sex…confers a host of measurable physiological advantages, be you male or female. (This assumes that you are engaging in sex without contracting a sexually transmitted disease.)” (2003). However, it is hard to engage in sex without contracting a sexually transmitted disease when one has had no education in how to go about protecting oneself. Abstinence-only education’s omission of education on correct condom usage is more likely to cause “harmful psychological and physical effects” than “regular and enthusiastic sex” practiced safely is.

F. It is critical that the abstinence education curriculum teaches that bearing children out-of-wedlock is likely to have harmful consequences for the child, the child’s parents, and society (pp. 4-5).

Teaching a student about the harmful consequences of something but not providing him or her with the resources to avoid it – resources beyond abstinence – is worse than a pointless waste of time and money, it is negligence to the extreme.

G. Abstinence education curriculum must teach young people how to reject sexual advances and how alcohol and drug use increase vulnerability to sexual advances (p. 5-6).

H. It is required that the abstinence education curriculum teaches the importance of attaining self-sufficiency before engaging in sexual activity (p. 6)

Some of the principles of abstinence-only education are commendable. Attaining a degree of self-sufficiency before becoming sexual active is a good goal to shoot for. However, like many goals, there may be bumps along the road that abstinence-only education does not prepare a teen to handle. Teaching teens how to avoid unwanted sexual advances is good. Teaching them that condoms are ineffective is wrong. Teaching kids about the cost of parenthood is good. Blaming mental health problems on premarital sex is bad.

While abstinence-only education may appear to be the answer to STDs and unwed teen parents, it is doing much more to exacerbate the problem than to solve it. Logical fallacies, misinformation, outright lies – these seem to be the standard for abstinence-only education. As such, abstinence-only education needs to be removed from our school curricula. It has no place there; certainly not funded through public funds. Teens need to have real information, real facts. In short, they need the truth and not a thinly veiled religious curriculum based on unrealistic expectations of morality and lies about the effects of sexual activity. Sadly, many adults are unwilling or unable to teach their children the lessons they truly need: how to choose friends; how to choose significant others, for marriage or not; how to make good life decisions; how to be themselves in a healthy and beneficial way. These lessons are not easy. They are not easy to learn nor are they easy to teach but we are definitely not going to find an answer by propagating misinformation, religious bias, and lies.


Buss, David M. and Shackelford, Todd K. (1997). Susceptibility to infidelity. Journal of Research in Personality, 31, 193-221

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexual and reproductive health of persons aged 10-24 years – United States, 2002—2007, Morbidity and Morality Weekly Report. July 17, 2009/58(SS06);1-58

Else-Quest, N. M.; Hyde, J. S.; DeLamater, J. D. (2005, May). Context counts: long-term sequelae of premarital intercourse or abstinence. Journal of Sex Research. Retrieved August 22, 2009, from Find Articles database,

Farnham, Alan. (2003, August 10). Is sex necessary?. Retrieved on August 23, 2009 from

Finer, Lawrence B. PhD. (2007, January-February). Trends in premarital sex in the United States, 1954 —2003. Public Health Reports, 73-78

Friedman, Marty. (n.d.). Marriage and divorce statistics. Retrieved August 23, 2009, from

Klepacki, Linda. (n.d.). Abstinence Education: Myths and the Truth. Focus on the Family Issue Analysis. Retrieved August 23, 2009, from

National Association of School Psychologists. (2003, April 12). Position statement on sexuality education. Retrieved August 22, 2009, from

Porter, Curtis (2006). Guidance regarding curriculum content. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children & Families, Family and Youth Bureau Retrieved August 23, 2009 from

Shively, W. Phillips. (2008) Power and choice: An introduction to political science. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill

Waxman, Henry A. (2004, December). The content of federally funded abstinence-only education programs. The United States House of Representatives, Committee on Government Reform – Minority Staff, Special Investigations Divisions