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Posts from the ‘Activism’ Category

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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Make Love Not War: Changing the Conversation on Abortion

By Jacqueline Antonovich

Things have been pretty hectic lately for the folks who work and study in Lane Hall, the small, historic building at the far end of University of Michigan's central campus. Over the past two months the building that houses the Women’s Studies Department and the Institute for Research on Women and Gender (IRWG) has been the target of anti-choice protesters. Lane Hall has been peppered with anti-choice leaflets, the main entry steps have been vandalized with chalk, and protesters have picketed the sidewalks in front of the building. Staff in Lane Hall have also been fielding phone calls from angry activists, alumni, and others. As Debra M. Schwartz, senior public relations representative for IRWG told me recently, “Some of us in Lane Hall and a few other university offices have been distracted from our routine work. But, in general, the protest has scarcely been noticed on campus. It feels like a tempest in a teapot.”

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Announcing the First Ever Wikipedia Edit-a-thon at the Berkshire Conference

By Heather Munro Prescott

Last year I reported on the gender gap in Wikipedia and efforts by women's historians and others to remedy it. To recap: Several years ago, the Wikimedia Foundation, the organization that runs Wikipedia, collaborated on a study of Wikipedia’s contributor base and found that less than 15 percent of its hundreds of thousands of contributors are women. These sobering statistics gained widespread publicity in a January 2011 New York Times article by Noam Cohen and an ensuing flurry of media coverage in various venues, including Mother Jones, the Atlantic, and NPR. Blogger Tenured Radical (aka Claire Potter) reported on gender bias in Wikipedia in an article titled “Prikipedia? Or, Looking for the Women on Wikipedia.”

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Censoring the Maternal Body

By Rachel Epp Buller

In the last decade or so, scholars across disciplines have worked to shed light on the complicated ways in which Americans praise the pregnant body while simultaneously rejecting the post-pregnant body. For example, in a recent guest post for Nursing Clio, Carrie Pitzulo traces the history of how the pregnant body has shifted in our societal perceptions, from scandalous and invisible, to highly celebrated, at least in the case of thin, white women and especially in cases of celebrity pregnancies. In Pregnant Pictures, Sandra Matthews and Laura Wexler examine the ways in which we create roles for women (and how women resist those roles) through visual images of pregnancy.

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Circumcision Debate: Cut the Hyperbole

By Elizabeth Reis

What frustrates me about the circumcision debate is that both sides exaggerate their claims. Maybe this happens with most controversies, but I am particularly attuned to this one because I have been researching the history of circumcision in the United States. A recent article by Brian J. Morris and others in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings overstates the health benefits of circumcision and downplays the risks. They argue that the public health benefits (i.e. reducing sexually transmitted diseases) are so great that circumcision should be mandatory. Mandatory?

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Obama, Ryan, O’Reilly, and the Poverty of the Political Imagination

By Austin McCoy

President Obama, Paul Ryan, and Bill O’Reilly walk into a bar. Rather than engage in abstract conversations about the role of America in the world or the federal government’s role in the market, they decide to talk about an issue where they can forge some common ground. What issue could the three men come together around? It is probable they would likely converge around trying to explain and address the poverty of black men and women in the United States. This common ground is possible because national conversations about public policy never seem to escape the orbit of culture, meritocracy, colorblindness, and normative understandings of gender and family. More specifically, Ryan’s, Obama’s, and O’Reilly’s recent comments on the subject revolve around two political archetypes—the heteronormative family and the black male. When considered together, they take a special place in our nation's "gendered imagination."

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The Paralympics, Past and Present

By: Adam Turner

The Paralympics originated in Britain as a venue for people wounded in World War II to compete. Today, the Paralympic Games is one of the largest sporting events in the world. It provides an avenue for people of different physical and developmental types to compete on the world stage in a way they were never allowed to before. Like the Olympics, it celebrates friendly competition, teamwork, determination, and athletic accomplishment. The history of the Paralympics, however, reveals a far more complex picture, fraught with political, social, and even medical tensions. For many years, the Paralympics has received little media attention and poor funding. What little coverage it has gotten often reinforces stereotypes about disability as a personal tragedy to be "overcome" rather than highlighting ability and athleticism.

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Eating to Live: A Short History of Health Rap

By Austin McCoy

Political hip hop songs tend to focus on the typical manifestations of state violence, structural racism, and corporate capitalism—police brutality, poverty, the prison-industrial complex, ghettoization, and war. Themes of healthy eating and food justice, however, are underappreciated topics in rap music. One is more likely to hear rap songs about drug, alcohol, and eating binges than the merits of eating a healthy diet. Rapping about consumption of these substances reflects how much popular rap music tends to celebrate materialistic excess and a partying lifestyle. Rappers like Lil’ Wayne, Rick Ross, and Action Bronson have all earned notoriety for performing songs about food consumption and drug and alcohol use. Corporate vendors also try to capitalize on the relationship between hip hop and food. McDonalds’s use of hip hop culture to sell its food to young, and presumably black, consumers is rather conspicuous.

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Let’s talk about sex work…in Northern Ireland

By Helen McBride

In 1999, Sweden passed the Law against Procurement of Sexual Services, criminalizing the purchase of sex, which punishes johns but not prostitutes. Worldwide, the law is considered a progressive way to improve the lives of sex workers while also combating the root causes of exploitation in the industry. Currently up for debate in Northern Ireland’s government is a similar measure, a new law, titled the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill, which seeks to limit human trafficking in Northern Ireland. Clause 6 of this bill emulates the Swedish model in an attempt to criminalize those who pay for sexual services. Problematic, however, is the lack of distinction made between individuals who choose to become sex workers and those who are trafficked.

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