Do Religious Freedoms Include Right to Persecute? By Gregory Allen

No. They don’t.
A debate has erupted between the Obama Administration and religious organizations, mostly Catholics. One group is trying to provide contraception to women and preserve their health rights; the other is trying to take them away.
Catholics and others are enraged over a new law which would require employer health insurance plans to cover birth control without copay. This will provide millions of women with access to birth control and the means to protect their health and control their own reproductive functions.
After compromising, the law exempts hospitals and charities with religious objections from providing services they are opposed to, instead the insurance companies will reach out to women and offer contraceptive services. Religious groups and organizations will not have to provide these services directly.
Obama compromised with religious groups. Reasonable. But Catholics were still not satisfied. Because women still have rights. Unreasonable.
Catholics and religious opponents have claimed this is an attack on their religious freedoms and their conscience. But this isn’t an attack on religious beliefs or conscience. Religious beliefs are moderated by our conscience, because very few people follow EVERY mandate of their faith.
Slavery is defended adamantly by St. Paul in the New Testament. The Old Testament encourages assaulting your children. The Qur’an advises killing people of other faiths because it is divinely ordained. But these religious beliefs are not considered freedoms, and are outlawed in the United States because of their negative effects on others.
The Qur’an also preaches that a woman is worth only half as much as a man. The Old Testament commands that women are property, to be regarded with the same value as cattle. These beliefs should also be confronted, because while we know slavery, child abuse, and murder are wrong, misogyny is not regarded with the same serious attention.
In reality, this is an attack on women’s rights, not religious freedoms. 98% of catholic women use birth control. But women aren’t demanding their own rights to be taken from them, religious men are, and this persecution is being disguised as religious “freedom.”
In the theme of the American constitution and the Bill of Rights; your rights end where another’s begin.
American citizens have the right to bear arms, but not the freedom to use them indiscriminately on others. Americans have the right to free speech, but not the freedom to force others to listen to what they have to say.
Religious groups have the right to believe women are only worth half as much as men, but they do not have the freedom to negatively influence the lives of others because of their own beliefs.
One cannot act without restraint or consideration of others just because they declare its part of their religion. Religious freedoms, like all individual freedoms have limits; when they begin to affect others.
Our world already bears the scars of religious freedoms without limits: the Shoah, the Crusades, the Inquisition, Witch-hunt’s. Seriously? Witches?
Religious men who lack confidence are threatened by independent women who control their own sexuality. The notion of “evil” women with powers beyond men’s control appeared during the Witch Trials, yet still seems difficult for religious men to overcome.
Maybe a dose of reason can cure this irrational fear of witches, but reason isn’t mandated by Obama’s new coverage plan.
Women have rights to their own bodies, just as men do over their own. And women who control their own sexuality and exercise it freely are not witches. Witches aren’t real.

Gay Marriage Debate Moves Closer to Supreme Court By Gregory Allen

The U.N. Declaration of human rights, states, in article 16:
 (1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
It is disappointing to note that the United States still discriminates on the basis of religious claims, so long as religious groups are the persecutors, and not those being oppressed.
But a ruling made this week in California could move the nationwide debate of marriage equality closer to the Supreme Court, and a ruling that might favorably affect the lives of many Americans currently denied basic human rights.
A federal appeals court announced this week that the California, voter-approved law, Proposition 8, serves no purpose other than to discriminate and makes the lives of same-sex couples lesser than opposite-sex relationships.
Proposition 8 barely passed, securing only 52% of the vote.
Judge Stephen Reinhardt delivered the majority opinion, stating, “Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.”
While the United States still lags behind most other industrialized nations in terms of equality, it is promising to consider that a new step forward toward equality may be made in the near future, one that could negatively affect the lives of no one, and positively grant equality to many who have been denied basic, unalienable rights.

Everyone is Pro Life, see for Yourself By Gregory Allen

One of the most controversial topics of debate in the United States is abortion. There appear to be two clear sides to this argument, Pro Choice and Pro Life. But this is a myth, and a relatively easy misunderstanding to make. As it turns out, everyone is Pro Life. Just observe Pro Life supporters.
Mitt Romney is Pro Life (this election), and supports life, so long as your definition of life doesn’t include people who are impoverished or unemployed. He also supports military action against foreign countries, simply for their development of technology the country he would like to be President of stockpiles.
Rick Santorum, another presidential hopeful in running for the Republican nomination, is a well recognized Pro Life advocate. He adamantly opposes abortion. And also affordable medicine.
Recently Santorum remarked of affordable, government regulated drug prices, “People have no problem going out and buying an iPad for $900. But paying $200 for a drug they have a problem with — that keeps you alive. Why? Because you’ve been conditioned in thinking health care is something you should get and not have to pay for.”
That’s right. Because the first image that comes to mind when one thinks of ill patients struggling to pay for treatment, is the caricature of someone holding an iPad in one hand and a pile of cash in the other.
But Santorum clarified his response, “But the bottom line is, we have companies with the incentive to make those drugs. And if they don’t have the incentive to make those drugs, your son won’t be alive and lots of other people in this country won’t be alive. We either believe in markets or we don’t.”
That’s right. Motivated by his Christian faith, he observed what Jesus would do, and that of course is always the most cost-effective and monetarily motivated decision. But let’s not forget Faith isn’t free either; Santorum is Catholic, and Jesus supports tithings. How else would he pay for that stylish attire and those fancy last dinner’s he throws?
The Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization has garnered attention recently for their decision to stop funding cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood clinics. That’s only 97% of what Planned Parenthood does; cancer screenings and contraception and health services for men and women.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg addressed the situation before pledging to donate $250,000 of his own money to Planned Parenthood.
“Politics have no place in health care,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “Breast cancer screening saves lives and hundreds of thousands of women rely on Planned Parenthood for access to care. We should be helping women access that care, not placing barriers in their way.”
Mayor Bloomberg and others are struggling with the notion of how one could be Pro Life, but anti-cancer screenings. Simple: they support life, and fighting cancer, so long as it remains undetected and unknown to them. Santorum isn’t concerned with treating diseases, because he doesn’t suffer from them.
The perspective is simple. Pro Life – just not other lives. Cancer? Not my problem. Poverty? Ditto. With these standards, to care for your own life seems the only prerequisite for adopting a Pro Life bumper sticker and permanently grumpy expression. Everyone is Pro Life, but not everyone is Pro Sharing Life.

Rape and TV: Desensitizing Viewers and Trivializing Victims By Gregory Allen

A recent article published in USA Today (Issue December 15, 2011) provided readers with rape statistics found in a new study released by the CDC. The first line of the article, written by Janice Lloyd, reads, “A major government study examining sexual violence in the USA reports the majority of the victims have serious physical and mental health consequences that can last a lifetime.”

Basically: rape causes mental and physical harm that lasts longer than simply the duration of the assault. This isn’t common sense for Americans, especially those who read the paper?

It seems hard to believe that literate Americans need be instructed that “38% had difficulty sleeping” after experiencing sexual violence. The article also enlightened readers with findings of the study, which reported, “Violence often begins at an early age and commonly leads to negative health consequences across the life span.”

These findings might appear blatant and common sense, yet readers may not be aware of sufficiently committed to understanding the affects of sexual violence. And perhaps more disturbing, American television viewers may be encouraged not to take sexual violence seriously, as motivated by programs such as
Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.

Television programs like Law and Order: SVU trivialize victims of sexual abuse to gain ratings and maintain an audience whose only concern is the traumatic and graphic incident itself, instead of the repercussions of sexual violence. Viewers are desensitized when they are constantly exposed to a stimulus, and those instructed to be entertained by something as sexual violence, might not only be less likely to care about the victims of such assaults, they may also be more likely to emulate this behavior if its consequences are stripped of meaning.

The Only Known Cure to Poverty By Gregory Allen

As of 2011, on a poverty line of $1.25, 1.4 billion people live impoverished. Aid is applied but these conditions hardly disappear. In a debate on the subject of suffering with Tony Blair, Christopher Hitchens offered a solution; stating, “The cure for poverty has a name in fact; it’s called ‘the empowerment of women.’”
The empowerment of women and the creation of equality is the only known cure to poverty. In modernized countries, such as Sweden where feminism is not socially stigmatized; development occurs and is sustained. In countries where the subordination of women is tolerated, the opposite occurs, and instability and conflict are far more prevalent.

 

Recent legislation passed in the United States provokes inquiry as to where our nation stands in respect to equality. Despite seizing the House in 2010 on claims of creating jobs, the first and most frequent bills proposed by Republicans are designed to eliminate women’s freedoms. Attacks have been made on women’s health rights, such as closing clinics that provide cancer screenings and contraception. Cuts made to Medicare and Social Security will also disproportionately affect women.
Women’s reproductive rights are also besieged, with cuts to Planned Parenthood and legislation passing limiting access to abortions. With the passage of the “Let Women Die Bill” (HR 358), doctors with religious faith may refuse medical care to women who will die without treatment, so long as they cite merciful Jesus as the motivation for their apathetic cruelty.
Another bill, HR 212, has been introduced with the intentions of granting personhood to zygotes. Through this change, many forms of birth control will be banned as well as other medical procedures. It will also allow for the criminal prosecution of women who miscarry.
Oppressing the heath rights of others prevents them from controlling and exercising their reproductive functions in a healthy manner of their choosing. Without the ability to access and exercise these rights, women are subordinated to a livestock lifestyle of reproduction.
Women are also losing career support in the United States. Cuts are being made to public sector jobs; 90% of elementary teachers and 95% of nurses are women. Day care and job training programs are also being defunded, further affecting American women’s opportunity to join the workforce and positively affect the economy.
Attacking the health and reproductive rights, job opportunities and educational aid of women prevents society from improving, because it negates equality and exacerbates instability.
Countries that do not encourage both genders to flourish face detrimental societal consequences, such as economic deterioration.
Afghanistan displays the fallout from unrestrained misogyny, as Sam Harris describes, “Afghan women have a 12% literacy rate and a life expectancy of 44 years. Afghanistan has nearly the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the world. It also has one of the highest birthrates. Consequently, it is one of the best places on earth to watch women and infants die.”
Harris elaborates further on the connection, “And Afghanistan’s GDP is currently lower than the world’s average was in the year 1820. It is safe to say that the optional response to this dire situation-that is to say, the most moral response-is not to throw battery acid in the faces of little girls for the crime of learning to read.” The attacks described occurred recently and are not limited to these methods.
The discrimination examined by Harris may be more extreme in Islamic countries lacking modernization, but the misogynistic beliefs that provoke these behaviors are not limited to third-world nations alone.
Perhaps it is not the best decision to share ideological similarities and behaviors with countries whose economic and social situations we do not envy, nor wish for our own nation to mimic.
Only freedom and equality will improve and preserve the future, because no country can move forward if more than half of its population is held back.

Powder Puff SUCCESS!

This past weekend on Saturday the 5th at 1:00 pm at the UMass Observatory field, I was lucky enough to participate in the first MVP hosted powderpuff game. A total of 10 young women participated and a group of supporters showed up. The event was a success. It was so enjoyable we decided to reselect teams and play another game! Due to my unbelievable athletic skills, I was on the winning team both times of course! Winning aside, we all had great fun and decided we would try and start an intramural tackle football for women and with the support of the Center for Women, Gender and Sexuality. This decision was made after several aggravated “accidental” tackles during the game.

The 10 women who participated in the powder puff game.

This game not only represents the mentors in violence prevention but the dedication and support of people on this campus. Hopefully, when another game is held in the future, we will have more support and even more participants! Thankfully there were many photographers present and a multitude of pictures were taken. Enjoy!

An intense moment

Team Mujeres Clientes!

Natalie Allen with the ball

Team Under-dog

A beautiful representation of both the support of your teammate and the aggressiveness the game had. This is why we need WOMEN’S CONTACT FOOTBALL! Pictured is Kayla Akin bringing down her fellow woman for her fellow teammate, Rola Hassoun. 


It Gets Better Project Event!

THE PLEDGE: Everyone deserves to be respected for who they are. I pledge to spread this message to my friends, family and neighbors. I’ll speak up against hate and intolerance whenever I see it, at school and at work. I’ll provide hope for lesbian, gay, bi, trans and other bullied teens by letting them know that “It Gets Better.”

This is the pledge that is on the front page of the It Gets Better Project at http://www.itgetsbetter.org/page/s/pledge . Not only does it represent the message we should be sending to our youth, but it gives hope to those who are still struggling with their identity and sexuality. Countless LGBT youth struggle with coming out. They don’t know what their lives might be like as openly gay adults. They find it hard to imagine a future that is built in a comfortable environment with people who are supportive and understanding. This projects aims at showing LGBT youth what the future holds for them and being the support that they need. Many LGBT kids and teens are bullied and tormented on a daily basis. This treatment instills a feeling of isolation and misunderstanding. Many of these youth hide their sexuality to avoid the daily harassment.

On October 11, 2011 UMass Dartmouth is holding its very own spin of the It Gets Better Project Event! It is taking place in the Fredrick Douglass Unity House from 3:00pm to 5:00pm. We are also having a special film project where LGBT members of the UMass Dartmouth community come together and share their stories about how their lives got better after high school. Please come and show your support! We want to hear your story! To be involved contact Donald Dow at ddow@umassd.edu. Or stop by the Center for Women Gender and Sexuality, located on the 2nd floor of the campus center. Room 207. Or call 508-910-6567!

Visit the website and take the pledge. This is a great way to get involved, helping spread the message of hope to LGBT youth. With your help, many will soon have hope that It Gets Better.

Blame it on Fraternites or Rape Culture?

After reading Chloe’s post: Caitlin Flanagan calls for the end of fraternities @ Feministing.com
I quickly realized that this is a battle both myself and some feminist friends on campus have been dealing with all semester. What is the real problem here? Why don’t we have more co-ed fraternity/sorority groups? Why don’t we start a feminist one?


The problem in campus communities is that everyone wants to believe everything is all fantastic and wonderful. Women fail to remember how they hold their keys between their fingers as they walk to their car at night.  Men laugh and call women pathetic when multiple women go to the bathroom together. Women lock their doors the second they get in the car and check the back seat for unwanted company. We live our lives in fear.

A lot of these actions are imbedded within us because our mothers, sisters, aunt and grandmothers have taught us by sharing their stories and telling us that the night is not ours, we are never safe and every man is a potential rapist. We then want to believe that when we move away to college to further our education and break free of our gender stereotypes, that we will remain safe and protected. Well unfortunately we remain as women in this rape culture where women are seen as sexual objects and are asking to be raped when they dress up to go out on Thursday night.

I challenge you to educate yourself more on the rape culture in your country, state, town and university. When looking at a college and you see low statistics or no statistics of sexual assault, wonder why? Is this because it doesn’t happen on this campus or because the majority of assaults are acquaintance rapes and women are terrified.

I challenge sororities to challenge fraternities.

I challenge fraternities to evaluate what they are doing for their philanthropy project. Check out Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, The White Ribbon Campaign, Mentors in Violence Prevention, Men Standing Up,  & Men Against Sexual Violence. There are many men out there making an change and letting women know that they are working for and with women to help end sexual assault, sexual violence and rape in our present rape culture.

I challenge you to challenge someone else.

Yours Truly, Samantha Coffin

How do you tell someone you have an STD? By Samantha Coffin

After viewing the video below I decided it was time for me to share my opinion on talking to sex partners about STDs.

http://www.itsyoursexlife.com/gyt/talk/tips/i-have-an-std/

In 2007 I was diagnosed with an STD. Herpes. I got genital herpes from a boyfriend I had been dating for six months but just started sleeping with. He was my first sexual partner after my rape in 2005. I was very confused when my doctor told me what I had and who I got it from. Convinced I got herpes from my rapist, I apologized up and down to my “then” partner and told him I couldn’t believe that happened. Why did we have sex that one time without a condom? OMG?

It felt like my life was over and I was stuck with my partner for the rest of my life and we should just start picking baby names and talking about marriage. I was 18 years old.

In 2009 my partner decided to end our relationship. I wanted to go places and he didn’t. I wanted to travel and he was comfy right where he was. So the relationship ended and I was left as a single 20 year old women with an STD that I would have FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE!


I had a ton of first dates, first kisses and then the little fling thing ended over and over again. My friends thought I was playing all of these guys and no one understood. I couldn’t expect them to understand. They didn’t have an STD. If they had, they were gifted with a the temporary one that fled your body after a few naps, heavy medication and terrible regret. I couldn’t bare to tell anyone I was thinking about sleeping with that I, me, this 20 year old college student who had only been with in one serious relationship, had an STD that would last forever.

After many tears and potential amazing boyfriends that I never even gave the chance to accept my “condition”, I ran to one of my closest mentors. “Me too!” Was the first thing out our her mouth. She told me how she dealt with Herpes in day to day life. A year later I found myself still unable to tell anyone and being abstinent for almost two years IS NOT FUN. I asked another mentor about my situation hoping she would be shocked and tell me “I’m so sorry” like they always do. She said “ME TOO!” WHAT?? The second women I asked had herpes too? Damn. I am not alone.

So then the first time I was going to tell someone was only a few hours away and I started throwing up. This is such a hard thing to do.  I just said it. ” I have Herpes”. “Oh” pause ” How did you get it?”.No negative reaction at all. Just a group of questions and an ok. That was that and how it has been with the few I have told since. Now I am “out” and say proudly that I was an ignorant teenager that now can educate friends about herpes and about how easy it is to get. The partner that gave me herpes got it from his ex when she had a cold sore. It is that easy.

My advise is, just say it! Tell them. If they are worth your time they may ask some questions and you both my need to sign onto google and look it up. The worst is, you don’t have sex with that person! The world is not over! I promise!

Were You Watching?

Women’s basketball continues to gain recognition thanks to the outstanding play of the college elite. This year’s NCAA tournament provided upset and superior athleticism, as well as showcased a blend of talent and dedication to academics offering positive examples to women of all ages.

Were you watching? You may be reminding yourself at this point that you came across a game or two by accident while you were watching the men’s tournament. Unfortunately this may be the case for many as the women’s games were not easily found on the major networks until the final four. However the women of college basketball certainly made sure that someone was watching this year. The defeat of UConn in the semi finals shocked every sports fan as it opened up the door for an unlikely champion. Texas A&M took the title this year defeating Notre Dame 76-70.

If you were wondering what became of the UConn women after their loss…you likely missed the WNBA draft on April 11th. Senior, Maya Moore took the number one pick sending her to the Minnesota Lynx where she’ll begin a lengthy professional career. Continue to follow and support these amazing athletes and amazing women as they begin their WNBA season this Spring! Viva women’s sports!

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