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On the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough?: Interpreting Mental Illness

By Mary Elene Wood

A highway patrol officer straddles a woman who lies on her back by the side of a highway. His arm lifts high into the air, then, with what looks like substantial force, he strikes her in the face with his clenched fist. He does this over and over again. Early in July, news programs around the country quickly spread the story of a California Highway Patrol officer caught on videotape violently beating Marlene Pinnock, a 51-year-old homeless, presumably mentally ill, woman, along the side of a freeway in Los Angeles. The California Highway Patrol claimed that the officer was only trying to stop the woman from walking out into traffic, yet journalists across the U.S. decried, in one writer’s words, “the lack of training given to law enforcement officers to handle such people, even though officers all too often are society’s frontline mental health care providers.”

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Marvel’s Fleeting Feminism

by Tony Lewis

The recent announcement of a new creative team for the comic book series Wonder Woman has stirred up some controversy, stemming mainly from an interview in which the artist, David Finch, proved wary of the term “feminist.” His hesitance clearly alarmed people who value the character’s status as an icon of feminism, especially as it came on the heels of Stevie St. John’s article in the Summer 2014 issue of Bitch Magazine that explained how the series’ current creators have undermined the feminist aspects of Wonder Woman’s mythology. What has received less attention is the fact that DC Comics has handed its 75-year-old franchise to Finch's wife, Meredith, a writer who has very little experience working in comics. But, as we shall see, this situation has a historical precedent.

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Excommunicating Feminism in the Mormon Church

By Amanda Hendrix-Komoto

On June 8th, 2014, Kate Kelly received a letter from her bishop telling her that she could be excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for asking that church leaders pray about the possibility of female ordination. She was invited to a council in which three men would deliberate on her fate. If she was excommunicated, she would no longer be allowed to speak in church, partake of the bread during the sacrament, or visit the temple. The act would also sever the ties Mormons believe hold families together in the afterlife. Instead of progressing eternally with her family and becoming more and more like God, Kelly would be barred from the Celestial Kingdom and cast into what Mormons call “outer darkness.” Although women could give testimony on her behalf, men, and only men, would determine whether she would be excommunicated for her actions. Kelly wrote a few days later that it was like “being invited to my own funeral.”

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The Burdens of Conscience: Thoughts on Burwell v. Hobby Lobby

By Ronit Y. Stahl

In the late 1960s, two men refused to fulfill their military service obligations. One was a humanist and the other a Catholic, and both viewed Vietnam as an unjust war. However, they admitted they did not view all wars as unconscionable. This presented a problem because the Selective Service required men to certify that they objected to all war, in any form. They took to the courts in an attempt to make selective conscientious objection—that is, objection to specific wars—valid grounds for classification as conscientious objectors.

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“A singularly intricate situation has developed in Washington”: Some Historical Background on Hobby Lobby

By Lauren MacIvor Thompson

If Progressive Era birth control reformer Mary Ware Dennett hadn’t been cremated in 1947 immediately following her death, she’d be rolling over in her grave today. Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. (or Burwell as the decision was handed down) has abruptly called forward again the long legal story of the fight for reproductive rights. Other landmark cases along this path have included Griswold v. Connecticut (1965); Roe v. Wade (1973); Webster v. Reproductive Health Services (1989); Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), and somewhat more recently, Gonzales v. Carhart (2007). What’s Dennett got to do with all of this and why does it matter? We have to go back eight-five years ago to examine Dennett’s activism and her legal case, to understand the political background for Hobby Lobby.

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The Slippery Slopes of Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby

by Andrea Milne

Everybody and their sister is blogging about the Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby ruling, so I’ll spare you all the gory details, if for no other reason than to preserve my sanity. Here, in my (admittedly biased) opinion, are the most important things you need to know:

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Sex as Construct, Rape as Reality, and Consent as Healing

By Jenna Tucker

I grew up in a culture obsessed with sexual ethics. As part of a group of Christian teenagers in the Midwest in the 1990's, one thing we all knew, for certain, was that our religious and moral identities were directly linked to our relationships to sex. It was the culture that birthed virginity pledges and organized for abstinence-only sex education. I remember going to one of those Protestant mega-gatherings with youth groups from all over the country. The speaker gave us two messages that I carry with me to this day. The first was that we had to stop relying on our parents' beliefs and develop our own relationship to God. The second was that we should not have sex and that anything that gave us sexual pleasure was sex. He was trying to head off our questions. Sex was bad, but what was sex? Could we have sex that didn't risk pregnancy? Could we masturbate? What if we were engaged?

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Parenting and Disordered Eating: How I am Trying to Break the Pattern

by Krista Heinitz

My blood pressure is amazing. My fridge and pantry are full of whole fruits and vegetables, whole wheats, and a very small amount of processed food. My family regularly hikes, camps, and actively adventures (whenever grad school isn’t consuming me). We are a healthy family. My body shows the after effects of childbirth -- my stomach has some loose skin that sags and is rippled with stretch marks. Years of breastfeeding have changed the landscape of my breasts. All of these things, including my strong legs and back that carried my child, create a body I am proud of and happy to have. As I dig into rich, dark earth with my daughter so that we can sow beet seeds, I do not doubt that I am modeling and creating a healthy life for my child.

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The Long and Short of It: Looking Back on the History of Same-Sex Marriage, One Year after Windsor

by Rachel Hope Cleves

Without a doubt, there has been tremendous change to the legal landscape of same-sex marriage during the past year. Even supporters might be feeling winded by the sudden acceleration of the marriage equality movement. So perhaps it is a good time to pause, take a breath, and reflect on the history of this moment, looking beyond the past year’s changes to the centuries-long tradition of same-sex marriage in the United States. During oral arguments in United States v. Windsor, Justice Samuel Alito, speaking from the bench, declared that same-sex marriage was “newer than cell phones.” His comment, intended to discourage his fellow judges from striking down DOMA, betrayed a profound misunderstanding of American history. Same-sex marriage is a minority tradition older than the nation itself.

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Medicine, Modernity, and the Maternal Body

by Jodi Vandenberg-Daves

When I set out to write a synthesis of the history of motherhood in the U.S. back in 2008, I’d been teaching a course by that name for more than a decade. I didn’t anticipate that as I explored this history, I would soon witness a multi-faceted and partisan assault on reproductive rights. Perhaps this political context was part of the reason I found that, as I dug ever deeper into this scholarship, questions about the modernization of the maternal body and the various political tensions embedded within this process kept bubbling to the surface.

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