Musings from Sasha By Sasha Sanders (Post One)

“Women in Hip-Hop”
Why is it that women will change our own personalities and sacrifice the things that we have a passion for, in order to become relevant, and feel important? Sadly, I continuously look at the women in the Hip-Hop industry, who are artists, and I notice how often they sacrifice singing about the subjects of popularity rather than desire. I notice how they’re looks change from “street” to “chic” , and their personas no longer display their unique personalities.

The latest example is the one and only, Nicki Minaj, who joined the mainstream rap game less than 5 years ago, and has already become a whole new person (or if you let her tell it, she’s 5 other people). Maybe my frustration stems from the fact that I’m a singer and rapper my self, or maybe it’s just because I’m a true music lover. However, besides the fact that her butt is 60 pounds heaver than it should be because of her butt job, she acts as if she has no intelligence, and this the new role model for many young girls around the world.

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Women In Combat By: Rola H Hassoun

A few days ago my facebook newsfeed was bombarded with angry military men (friends of mine) stating that there was no way they would go into combat with a woman. These concerns were expressed due to a recent pentagon decision to lift the ban on women in combat. My first thought was “military men, of course they would feel this way, they are surrounded by sexism!”, but as I thought about the subject matter more, and researched some of the actions that will be taken by the military I realized, there is a pros and cons list that one must consider.

How I see it: As long as one is able to perform the duties required for a given position, gender is irrelevant. As long as the military is not lowering its current standards and is instead requiring women to reach those standards, lifting the ban on women in combat is a great idea. Based on this proposal, the military will not be lowering its standards; it will be increasing opportunity for both women and the military system as a whole.

Pros: Women who are in better shape than men can be sent into combat. In modern day combat, more than just physical strength is required and valuable technical expertise and skills can be provided by both women and men. Women are more successful than men in different aspects of military operations. Women in combat can diversify the talent in combat units which can better resolve issues and end conflict. Mixed gender forces keep the military strong by increasing the opportunity gap for applicants. Military forces are less effective when they do not appoint the most capable person for a job, which may be a woman. The opportunity to appoint women to the most capable positions increases military effectiveness. Serving in combat is often a requirement for promotion to senior office position. Making this available to women allows them to reach the higher branches of the military which indirectly helps decrease sexism in the military.

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Is Opposition to Gay Marriage “Natural”? By Gregory Allen

2013 could be one of the most progressive years for LGBT rights in American history. With many states and the Supreme Court considering creating greater equality for Americans, this year will be one of the most decisive and historical in decades, regardless of what decisions are reached.

Confronted with change, sometimes desperate resistance is a natural reaction when one’s inherited values seem threatened. Homophobia, however, is not a natural or logical reply.

Prejudice is not natural, because it is not based on fact but on stereotypes, and stereotypes are not based on genuine understanding but a misunderstanding often produced by a lack of interaction or an abundance of seclusion. These beliefs are also spread by a national media with an affinity for the dramatic.

In response to the coming changes in many countries, not just the United States, Pope Joseph Ratzinger, the leading voice of the Catholic Church, lashed out frantically at the LGBT community and their allies in his Christmas address in December 2012.

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The difference between homosexuality…and murder by Gregory Allen

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has been traveling to promote sales of his new book, but has drawn more attention toward his antiquated attitude toward homosexuality. Scalia’s most divisive comments were given in a speech made at Princeton University, “If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?”

According to Geoff Mulvihill of The Huffington Post, “Scalia said he is not equating sodomy with murder but drawing a parallel between the bans on both.” Despite the attempt to disguise his intolerance as philosophical pondering, Scalia is drawing connections between consensual homosexuality and non-consensual attacks against other persons.

The “slippery slope” argument being used by Scalia to defend his obstinate and degrading views on homosexuals is without reasonable justification. There are distinct motivations to be opposed to murder, which is harmful and against the will of everyone who suffers it. Read more

An Optimistic Year for Women’s Sports in America by Gregory Allen

Despite losing the WPS, an elite league for women’s soccer, one of the few professional sports leagues for women in the United States, the year has been filled with bright spots and landmark events for female athletes.

The 2012 London Summer Olympics had female athletes compete in every event for the first time in its history. The United States also sent more female athletes than male to the competition for the first time.

Rhonda Rousey, the first American woman to win a medal in Olympic Judo, became the first female fighter to sign with the UFC.

ESPN writer Josh Gross explains, “The UFC had long balked at the prospect of adding women into its fold because of the perception that there wasn’t enough depth to create meaningful weight classes. Rousey’s rising stardom had a significant impact on the way White viewed the potential for female fighters in the UFC.”

Skier Lindsey Vonn is attempting to enter a men’s skiing event in Canada to find stronger competition to develop her skills against. Vonn told the associated press, “I am just trying to push myself and push my skiing forward to where the men are.”

Vonn isn’t the only female athlete challenging men in traditionally male-dominated sports, internet sensation Samantha Gordon has also gained significant attention for her phenomenal football athletics and has drawn many to consider the future women have in the contact sport.

Republicans Lose 2012 War on Women by Gregory Allen

Republicans spent 2012 trying endlessly to defund Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides health services like cancer screenings to women in need. The GOP’s efforts were also focused on finding ways to evade laws which prevented employers from denying insurance coverage for birth control based on a belief that women’s reproductive rights are choice only men could possibly understand.

In 2011 and early 2012, the Republican primary debates appeared across the country the country as a traveling circus of candidates featuring a homophobe (Rick Santorum) who believes states have the right to outlaw birth control, an ironic misogynist (Michelle Bachmann) and cowboy (Rick Perry) who hope to ban abortions in all circumstances including rape and incest.

Surprisingly, Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate who failed to remove himself from this train wreck of sexism, homophobia, and intolerance toward minorities, lost the presidential election and the vote among these mentioned interests which proved well sufficient to send Barack Obama to a second term. Read more

Upcoming Miss Representation Screenings and Events by Gregory Allen

On November 13th at 5:00 PM in the Woodland Commons, the Center for Women, Gender and Sexuality will be hosting a screening of Miss Representation, a 90 minute documentary about how women are presented in the media to mainstream culture and how this affects women’s role in society.

According to, the official website of the documentary, “While women have made great strides in leadership over the past few decades, the United States is still 90th in the world for women in national legislatures, women hold only 3% of clout positions in mainstream media, and 65% of women and girls have disordered eating behaviors.”
As of 2012, Women hold only 16.8% of the seats in the American Congress, and only 23% of positions in State Legislatures, according to the Center for American Women and Politics, Eagleton Institute of Politics, at Rutgers University.

The documentary was selected to participate in nine different film festivals, including being an official selection at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. Miss Representation was written, directed, and produced by Jennifer Siebel Newsome, and contains interviews with Condoleezza Rice, Nancy Pelosi, Katie Couric, Rachel Maddow, Margaret Cho, Rosario Dawson and Gloria Steinem.
The Center for Women, Gender and Sexuality, along with aid from the UMass system, Zuckerberg award, will be starting a pilot program using this documentary, in which the film will be shown at each of the UMass schools. Students who attend screenings will then be invited to a social justice/feminist media literacy conference to become facilitators of the film, and help share the film with high schools across the state.
The goal of the screenings coming up on November 13th at UMass Dartmouth, March 5th at UMass Boston, and March 12th at UMass Amherst, and also at the high schools and middle schools over the following two years, is to educate students on women’s role in the media, how women are portrayed in our society, and how we can work for change.
According to Miss Representation’s website,“The film challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls, which make it difficult for women to achieve leadership positions and for the average woman to feel powerful herself.”

One of the messages contained in the film is that people cannot be something which they are not shown lies ahead as a possible achievement. When media shows women in derogatory roles, or absent prominent ones, such as in legislature or intellectual roles, then women are dissuaded from trying to strive for positive positions in society.

LGBT Civil and Spiritual Rights to Marriage By Gregory Allen

The popular opinion on marriage equality is shifting and becoming more tolerant, with the Supreme Court expected to weigh in on the issue and more potential states looking toward legally recognizing same-sex marriages. Opponents, however, still provide obstacles for those wishing to practice a cultural tradition in their private and public life.
The most vocal opposition to marriage equality recently has been from organizations citing religious faith and practice as their motivation for denying the rights of others. Brian S. Brown, the president of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has appeared on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC.
Despite many public media appearances, the group does not represent every member of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or any other organized religion; nor does NOM speak for a majority of the American population, religious or secular.
However, their justification for why marriage should be limited from certain parties and available to others is drawn from religious tradition and supported by passages in religious texts.
It is important to note this, because religious justification and defenses of marriage directly imply the LGBT community is not experiencing religion correctly, or by sharing a same-sex lifestyle, incapable of practicing certain religions genuinely.


NOM provides several religious defenses of “traditional marriage” across its website. On behalf of Catholic tradition, the site proclaims, “For Catholics, marriage is a sacrament. A loving, faithful, permanent union of husband and wife mirrors Christ’s sacrificial love for us; through marriage we also experience his grace.”
NOM’s website also provides further support, drawn from its Protestant section, “Most Christians know from the Bible that marriage is part of God’s original order.” This is followed by quotes from Genesis (2:18) and Mark (10: 6, 7, 9), while further elaborating on the ties between marriage and a family unit previously kept reserved from same-sex couples because of reproductive implications.
A Jewish justification of why marriage should be limited to heterosexuals is also present in NOM’s online propaganda, “In Jewish tradition, the joining of a man and woman in marriage is known as kiddushin, from the root kadosh, or holy.” Immediately after this, the group’s webpage declares marriage is a means of mimicking Adam and Eve.
A religious definition of strictly opposite-sex marriage applying to everyone, regardless of what or any faith they practice, is an ignorant insinuation; and directly opposed by religious groups who do recognize LGBT rights. Christianity, Islam, and Judaism (as well as other religious denominations) contain groups that identify as LGBT and consider themselves genuine members of these traditions.
Believe Out Loud, The Evangelical Network, Dignity USA, Integrity USA, and numerous other Christian organizations believe sexual orientation does not limit one’s ability to understand or follow the messages of Jesus or Christianity.
Islamic organizations like Salaam Canada, CALEM, Al-Fatiha Foundation, Muslims for Progressive Values, and the Masjid Al-Nural Isslaah mosque in Washington D.C. welcome Islamic LGBT community members and recognize their faith. Jewish groups like Keshet and Nehirim also support Judaism’s LGBT followers.
Members of religious groups are not privileged to decide who is and who is not a member of a particular faith based on whether they agree with their lifestyle or oppose the differences between them.
While religions often attempt to define marriage, they only present one particular style. Members of religious organizations are entitled to practicing their traditions, but only in a manner which does not inhibit others from doing the same, regardless of the source of practices or ideals.
The United States government does not represent any one style of religion, and its purpose is to provide all of its citizens with opportunities for happiness. If every person is created equal – the Declaration of Independence identifies this truth and our right to pursue happiness – then all persons deserve equal opportunities and rights.

Common myths and misunderstandings about contraception By Gregory Allen

An undercover study, “Pharmacy Communication to Adolescents and Their Physicians Regarding Access to Emergency Contraception”, published by the journal Pediatrics found that 19% of American pharmacies are illegally preventing young women from obtaining the morning-after pill. The pill is legally available without a prescription to women 17 and older.
The study, conducted by Dr. Tracey Wilkinson and other doctors from Boston University, found that women received incorrect information from 19% of pharmacies and were denied access to Plan B. Doctors seeking permission for their patients, however, were given the correct information from the same pharmacies 97% of the time.
When false information is intentionally spread regarding contraception, it’s done so to deter people from using legal contraception some parties feel should be outlawed or made unavailable because of private personal beliefs. Obstacles like misinformation and denying access are designed to make the time-sensitive medication irrelevant.


Plan B One-Step is not the only contraception slandered and mislabeled, but it’s one of the most prominent. Some who oppose pills like Plan B One-Step do so because they feel the medication is equivalent to abortion. But, science does not support this perspective.
Scientific research reveals pills like Plan B One Step and Next Choice contain the hormone progestin, which is found in birth control. These pills do not prevent fertilized eggs from attaching to the uterine walls, as many antagonists advertise.
Plan B prevents eggs from detaching from the ovaries. Morning-after pills delay ovulation and thicken cervical mucus to prevent sperm from reaching eggs. This research was recently validated by International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics, who declared Plan B’s ingredients “impair ovulation,” and “do not inhibit implantation.”
Many myths stick to birth control. According to Dawn Stacey M.Ed, LMHC who wrote for, one of the most frequent misunderstandings regarding birth control holds “the pill is not safe and causes birth defects.”
While all medications may produce side effects, those related to the pill are rare, and according to Stacey, “It is actually safer to use the pill than to have a baby.” Stacey also cites there is no evidence currently linking the pill to birth defects, and is “one of the world’s most researched and prescribed medications.”
Stacey also identifies other myths, like “the pill makes you gain weight” and “long term use can affect infertility” as lacking any genuine support. On infertility, Stacey cites “There is NO connection between taking the pill and infertility.”
Opponents often insist abstinence is a safe alternative to using the pill; abstinence is a highly ineffective replacement, and those who take abstinence pledges seem to miss the point.
Jessica Valenti explains in her book Full Frontal Feminism, “Recent studies have shown that teens who take virginity pledges are actually more likely to have oral and anal sex.”
Valenti provides other interesting statistics about misinformation regarding women’s health rights, “A 2006 report showed that 87% of ‘pregnancy crisis’ centers – which have received more than $30 million in federal funding – provided false or misleading information about abortion.”
Abstinence and deterring myths also disregard the medical benefits the pill provides. These benefits well deserve attention, as the pill can have many positive effects not related to contraceptive purposes.
Stacey supports this, “About 100 million women worldwide use the pill. For many women, their quality of life is better while taking the pill than when not.”
Data provided by Planned Parenthood illustrates birth control pills help “reduce menstrual cramps” and “make periods lighter,” as well as prevent against “acne, bone thinning, endometrial and ovarian cancers, serious infection in the ovaries, tubes, and uterus.”
For those interested in using the pill or Plan B, and those avoiding them because of misinformation, it’s important to consult doctors and physicians who have access to scientific and medical data regarding contraception, rather than rumors spread by figures in popular culture, news, and media.
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