Archive for the 'Public Service Announcements' Category

Bloggers For Haiti

NS January 18th, 2010

shelterbox

Have you been wanting to give something to Haiti but have perhaps hesitated, not knowing which organisation to donate to and what they’ll do with the money? Do you like the idea of helping to purchase a specific item that you know will be put to good use?

Some fantastic bloggers have gotten together and started a Just Giving page to help raise funds for ShelterBox, an organisation that is incredibly vital in the aftermath of disasters such as the earthquake that has destroyed much of Haiti. As pictured above, each box contains a ten-person tent designed to withstand heavy rainfall, extreme temperatures and high winds and comes with partitions so private spaces can be created inside. It also includes other vital survival equipment like thermal blankets, water purification and cooking supplies, a wood-burning or multi-fuel stove, a tool kit enabling latrines to be dug, firewood to be chopped and basic repairs to damaged dwellings to be made.

The box itself is lightweight and waterproof and can be used to store food and water or even double as a cot for a small baby. A supply of colouring and drawing materials for a child, who will likely have lost all of his or her possessions along with family members, is also included. It may seem irrelevant, but it’s often the small kindnesses and distractions that can help a child cope and bring a smile to his or her face.

Please, I beg you: give whatever you can to this fantastic organisation. They need our help to get as many of these boxes to the families in Haiti who have suddenly found themselves bereaved, injured, ill, homeless, thirsty and hungry. Each box costs nearly £500 so the more funds we can raise to ensure as many boxes as possible are sent, the better. As I type this, over £2,000 has been raised so far by the Bloggers For Haiti campaign, in the short space of a couple of days. That’s four boxes, ready to be shipped out! That’s shelter and supplies for 40 people.

Let’s help another 40, and then another. Just give.

Donations can also be made to Save The Children and UNICEF, amongst many others.

Transforming our views of transgender

NS November 20th, 2009

transgender remembrance

Do you ever read an article about a transgendered person (most likely about his or her death) and think nothing of the reporter’s use of quotation marks around “he” or “she?”

Have you ever stared openly at a woman on the bus wearing a skirt but sporting somewhat masculine hands, eager to determine ‘what’ she is?

Have you ever called a person whose gender you can’t readily identify according to the biological and social cues you’ve been conditioned to look for a “tranny” or “shim?”

Do you consider yourself a kind, compassionate, open-minded and progressive person?

If the answer to any or all of these is ‘Yes’, please stop. Stop and consider what your words and actions and prejudices mean and how they compromise not only your own ability to be truly accepting of who people are, but the very safety of those who identify as transgendered. As Ruth stated so eloquently, simply not hurling abuse at them yourself is not enough. We need to address transphobia when we see it happening before our very eyes or hear transphobic ‘jokes’ with our own ears, by our very own friends and family. Because 162 trans people being murdered in the last year is no joke. 162 people trying to go about their lives as who they are, murdered for skewing someone’s rigid view of Male and Female and daring to cross those lines, is not the mark of a progressive, open-minded society. It’s 162 too many and we can all do our part to remember those who have lost their lives to senseless hatred and endemic violence. Read this and this and this for more personal insights and information on what you can do to remember and honour them.

As for what I’m doing to remember and to fight…I’m marching through the streets of London tomorrow evening, demanding an end to violence against women and claiming our right to be safe in our city’s (and every city’s) streets. Even though I know the Reclaim The Night march is a contentious issue amongst feminist and trans groups and that many trans people have called for a boycott of the protest, I hope they will understand my reasons for going. I am going not because I don’t care about the need for more explicit inclusion (and not just vague tolerance) of trans women at events like these, but because it is my chance to make my voice heard and speak for ALL women who have experienced violence at the hands of misogynist and transphobic and homophobic people.

It may not mean much to anyone else, but it is very important to me that I publicly express my personal anger and discontent with the current state of affairs and I will not hesitate to ask my fellow marchers to pressure the London Feminists Network (with a petition perhaps?) to openly and actively include self-identified women on the literature and PR for next year’s march, and to halt any and all associations with feminists who deny transgendered existence or seek to minimise and ridicule it.

This is how I will remember and this is what I will do. I know it’s not enough and it’s probably not even adequate but it’s a start. I urge you to find your own way to start transforming your views and the views of those around you. It’s the least we can do for the 162 who aren’t able to.

Photo credit

Yes, you do need to talk about “the parts”

NS August 31st, 2009

Via Feministe

The following is a PSA released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about how parents should be talking to their children about sex.

In the video,  a father is nervously approaching his daughter for The Talk. He’s obviously dreading it and scared shitless; embarrassed and hesitant. The little girl looks up and her voicover intones: ”Just tell us how you feel. Tell us what you want us to do. Tell us to wait to have sex.”

Ah, yes, good. Wait, WHAT? That’s it? The government’s big, brilliant suggestion for what parents should say to their kids about sex is something as stunningly meaningless and vague like “Tell us [them] to wait?”

I mean, what, exactly, should they be waiting for? Their friends to do it first? Marriage? Junior high to be over?  A half-off sale on Durex featherlite condoms?

To add Stupider to Stupid, the voiceover goes on to say: “We know it’s hard to talk to your kids about sex. It’s embarrassing. You don’t have to be explicit about it. You don’t have to talk about ‘the parts.’”

Oh sweet Jesus, NOT THE PARTS!! Do you mean disgusting things like PENISES and VAGINAS? For all that is good and holy, surely these are not the parts of which you speak! I thought we were telling kids these days that babies were made by rubbing strawberry slushies over Labrador puppies frolicking in sunshine-filled meadows, not this disgusting “Part A (the filthy, out-of-control man-shaft) goes in Box B (the dark and dirty lady cave) to make Human C. Next thing you know, kids will think it’s okay to have sex FOR PLEASURE and Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy will all be sucked into the black vortex of liberal ideology where childhood, religion and family values go to die.

Needless to say, I am not embarrassed about “the parts.” I mean, I don’t go around the house just randomly saying “Penis! Vagina! They’re all beautiful, man! Ebrace your inner goddess!” but I have a real problem with the euphemisms people give genitals to avoid “embarrassment.” Have you actually heard some of the things people call their kids’ bits? For boys the standard seems to be Willy or Pee-Pee or Tackle but there are a multitude of code names for lady caves (see, there’s one right there!) and they include such ridiculousness as Flower (it’s waiting to be pollenated, get it?), Yoni (Sanskrit for ‘the divinity of the womb’ or something), Front Bum/Butt (just plain offensive), Fanny/Fanjo (WTF?), Va-jay-jay (vomit-inducing), Lady Garden (ditto) and the mother of all euphemisms,  Honey Pot (I kid you not).

In the Noble household, we just say ‘bits’ or ‘privates’ until the children are old enough to grasp more complex terminology and then it’s the proper names all the way. I mean, I might not say “Okay, TNC, wash your labia minora now!” but I certainly won’t be all coy and shame-inducing by just waving in her bottom half’s general direction with a wrinkled nose and toss her a washcloth and some Lysol to clean her “flower.” It’s vulva and vagina (and used appropriately — I hate when people refer to the whole female  genital area as ‘vagina’ which is incorrect) and when TNB is around the same age he will learn that his dangly bit is called a penis, not named after a man who wears a top hat and puts children through rigorous moral testing as he leads them through a chocolate factory.

Sure, I will probably be a bit red-faced on at least one occasion by a child calling out “Mummy, that man has a penis!” at the bank or grocery store, but I’d rather take on that brief moment of embarrassment than have my children think that their genitals are something to be afraid or ashamed of. And saying vague things like “Just wait to have sex” won’t be part of our Talk either. Things like the mechanics of sex, birth control options, STDs and the feelings and expectations surrounding sex will be.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to work on my Master Plan of Innocence-Robbing. Next on the agenda: telling the kids that the bird the cat drug in is dead as a door nail and isn’t able to fly away, not “asleep” or in “birdie heaven.” Their tears are useful for oiling my Heartless Realist/Atheist machine.

Socialism fever: America is dying

NS August 10th, 2009

I got this email from a family member yesterday, who was passing it on from a friend of a friend. As I sat there reading the forwarded message, which was written by an American woman who’d received health care while visiting Scotland last month, I found myself growing very angry and depressingly sad. This woman used her story to “prove” that socialized medicine doesn’t work, is inhumane and utterly inferior to the system in the USA. I almost couldn’t make it to the end of the email and had to stop myself from Replying All and letting loose with a detailed response. Instead, I’m posting it here.

This is what was contained in the email:

I, Karen Sparks, found myself in need of hospitalization and surgery while I was visiting Scotland in July 2009.  I had a critical health issue and had emergency surgery  within 7 hours of admittance to the UK National Health Care system at the Royal Aberdeen Infirmary for a septic knee.
My first stop was a dingy ward room to speak to a doctor to evaluate me.  There were people there waiting to get a bed in the hospital for treatment, but no beds were available to them until someone else left.  I had some tests done and then i was sent to my bed upstairs. I was fortunate to get one. It was a shock to me to be put in a ward room with 6 other women.  I had not saw that since I was a child.  I was being told I would soon have my surgery by a doctor who was not going to be my surgeon.  I never ever saw the person who operated on me.  I only saw doctors and interns who had been in a general meeting about the surgerys of that night. That is not any way to get any clear answers to your questions or fears.  You really don't know anything when you are there.
My husband was beside himself and followed the gurney to wait to talk to the surgeon.  As we got to the elevator the nurse told my husband he could not come down to surgery and there are no provisions for waiting during surgery. He could see me the next day at 2pm visiting hours! It was now 10:30PM. You do not get public relations in government health care systems.
Now he had to call home and tell my mother ,who was worried sick, he did not know a thing about how I made it through surgery and wouldn't until the next afternoon. He did hide out in the hospital during my surgery but did not know anything about how I did, all he saw was me going back to my ward. Actually you never see any doctors as a family member unless you get lucky and they come speak to them at visiting hours, but you have to ask.  It makes you feel totally at their mercy without much say in your own life or treatment.
I was assigned to a womens orthopedic ward with 6 beds, all full, three whose ages were 93, 87,and 85, all of which had broken hips.  Those elderly women laid in their beds NO LESS than five, yes I said 5 days, before they took them to surgery to fix those hips.  The doctors would come in most every day and tell them that they were not an emergency situation and maybe tomorrow we will have time.
I had an IV port in my arm from surgery and it was used to main line my antibiotics by syringes.  You took oral pain pills, no drip Iv's to sustain you. If you couldn't eat and drink on your own to sustain yourself you got weaker which I saw the elderly do. I don't know if my 93 year old roommate made it through her surgery. I never saw her again after they took her to "theater".
The pain of those aged women lying with badly broken bones, in  bed getting joustled about all week in the name of cleanliness was cruel and depressing.  I am sure they did not care to get a bath or clean sheets by the sounds of their protests and crys. They wanted medical help!  As sick as I was I knew I was the lucky one.
Remember we are are closer to the United Kingdom than any other country in the world by the way we live and have compassion. They are living with this horrible health system and we could be next if the powers in Washington force it  upon us.
I don't believe any of us are going to want a national socialized health care.  Everyone will suffer except those in control who set it up for the masses.Do you want your family member lying in a bed suffering for days because they aren't precieved as an emergency?  Yes it is expensive to have health insurance in the United States but we do have health care that far outweighs what I saw in the United Kingdom.
God bless and help us to keep our leading doctors, specialists  and  research doctors.  We will loose all of that with the new reform and the rest of the world depends on us to be leaders in health care and prevention.  They come here to our doctors and hospitals when they
can not get a life saving procedure in a timely fashion in their socialized country of health care.We are the United States of America and we need to start protecting our valuable human resourses, the citizens of The United States of America.  Wake up before it is too late America!

Karen T Sparks
Bartlesville Oklahoma

Well, Karen, let me tell  you something: you are a propaganda pusher. You are ignorant, arrogant beyond belief and your “concern” for the “citizens of the United States of America” is a facade. What you *really* care about is covering your own ass. You, as a fully insured person with enough material wealth to be traveling abroad, don’t want things to change FOR YOU. You don’t give a rat’s ass about the 40 million Americans without any health insurance, or the millions more who are underinsured. You speak only to those fortunate enough to have jobs or pensions with good health benefits attached; those middle class and educated enough to have access to the state-of-the-art facilities your pampered ass is used to being in. You consider health care a business and you are a customer whose needs and demands must be met and satisfied at all times. And as long as that happens, you’re happy.

How DARE you take your one isolated experience of socialised health care  and use it to make direct comparisons and predictions for what health care reform would mean for America? How DARE you tell me, an American citizen who went uninsured for several years because I couldn’t afford it and now, as a UK resident with instant and unlimited access to health care based on my status as a HUMAN BEING instead of as PAYING CUSTOMER, that I’m the one missing out? How DARE you tell the people who arent insured, or who don’t have adequate insurance, that they don’t matter, so long as you get your clean, private room and your husband gets his own personal PR agent to hold his hand while he waits for news of your progress?

You say you were confused, your questions unanswered. Do you think that perhaps it had more to do with the fact that you were already in an unfamiliar environment, in an unfamiliar system in a foreign country, than with the system itself? That perhaps because of that, you were too scared and unsure of yourselves to ask the proper questions? That perhaps you were too arrogant to bother asking them at all, too shocked that someone wasn’t spoon feeding it to you through an IV drip so you didn’t have to do any work at all? Because that’s what you want, right? To lie back and let the doctors do their work on your behalf, sure that they have your best interests at heart since you’re a goddamn American citizen and therefore the best, most worthy patient in the world?

Karen T. Sparks, socialised medicine isn’t sick…you are. And I’ll tell you why.

I have two children and don’t work outside the home. I take care of them while my husband works to pay our mortgage and bills. We are very fortunate to be able to do this, and we know it. Many people need two incomes to even make their basic payments. We are blessed, and lucky. My husband likes his job but if he didn’t, he would be free to go out and look for another where he’d be happier. He can change jobs without endangering his family’s ability to access health care. He could even lose his job and we’d be okay. If worse came to worst and we had to sell our house and move in with family, at least we’d know that our health wasn’t compromised or that we’d be bankrupted in the process of making sure it wasn’t. We wouldn’t have to sit up at night with a sick and feverish child, agonising over whether to see how it goes a little longer or rush her into the hospital, thinking about what it’s going to cost us instead of focusing on getting our daughter well again.

When I went into the hospital to have my first baby, I didn’t have to fill out a bunch of insurance forms while I was in labour or sign a consent form allowing the doctors to perform a zillion procedures and interventions so that they could guarantee a perfect outcome and reduce the chance that I’d sue them. Because that’s what Americans do, right? If something goes wrong, they sue. If their hospital “experience” wasnt’ what they feel they paid for, they get a lawyer and they sue the shit out of the doctor, the nurse, the hospital, the janitor…whoever they can cut down with their merciless need to blame someone for all of life’s ills. You pride yourselves on your work ethic and bootstraps mentality, don’t you? You think you’re the greatest nation in the world and that you can do anything if you set your minds to it or are paying top dollar for it. You, and others like you, have gotten so above yourselves and stuck your heads so far up our own self-congratulatory asses that you have no time for things like Nature, or Death or Human Fallibility. You want only Service, Results and Accountability. Having a health care system based on ability to pay has turned you into clients, not patients, and your health care practitioners into business owners concerned only with the bottom line.

When I had my second child, I had a choice in where and how I gave birth. I wasn’t treated as a pod carrying a precious “pre-born person” who had more rights than me. Since I was healthy and having a baby is a natural process, I was given the option to give birth at home. I had two midwives in attendance and no drugs. No IV drip, no scalpel, no monitors or wires strapped to me, no paperwork to fill out. I birthed a baby and they were there in case anything went wrong. It didn’t.

I got one-to-one care and they even came back every couple day for the next few weeks to check on me and the baby so I didn’t have to get myself together and take a newborn baby into a doctor’s office full of sick people. Not once was I asked how I was paying or for proof that I had a right to receive their care. I was treated as a person, not a “customer.” Me and my baby were the bottom line, not what procedures and length of stay my insurance would cover.

Don’t get me wrong, the national health service here is not perfect. There are longer waiting times for non-life-threatening procedures and cleanliness and understaffing can be a problem. These problems are transparent because they are government run and therefore constantly in the public eye, up for scrutiny, as they should be. Though an imperfect system, the NHS is always striving to improve. The American system is not perfect either, though. There are mistakes and long waits and dirty hospitals and not enough staff to go around and aged women are left in pain on gurneys and alone on hospital beds. You just don’t know about it because you don’t have to frequent the facilities where these problems are more prevalent. You don’t see this because you have insurance, and good coverage at that. You are blind to the inadequate care that millions and millions of Americans receive (or don’t receive at all) because they aren’t  valued top-paying customers. You are in the VIP room of health care;  you are so blind to your privilege that you don’t know any other room even exists.

You may have noticed that I keep using the pronoun ‘they’ when talking about Americans, and that I must not identify as one. Well, I was born and raised in America. I will always be American. I love my country. But I hate the mentalities of many of its citizens and how it is run. This resistance to change is a resistance to criticise yourselves. And a society that cannot criticise itself and work to change for the better — to evolve and grow as a nation — is not a healthy one, nor one that I want to be a part of. Callous disregard for such as basic human right as the right to health care is not something I want to be a part of anymore. As much as I miss my family and the land of my childhood, and as many good qualities as America has, I can never go back. I can never go back because it is not the country I thought it was. It is so sick that it doesn’t even KNOW it’s sick and refuses to take any medicine. All the pleading and cajoling in the world won’t make that bitter pill go down, as sad as that is. So like any sane person who can’t take anymore, I proclaim to wash my hands of it. Let them get sick and die in their millions then! I won’t be witness to it anymore. I’m finished.

Except, I can’t turn away. My family and my friends still live there, and my children are American citizens, too. One day we’d like to move back and allow them to experience that part of their heritage — MY heritage — but I refuse to take them to a place that doesn’t value their health as a right, but a privilege. It would be like taking a step backwards in time after having seen the future. I won’t make them feel like second-class citizens if they are not fortunate enough to have good jobs with good insurance, or force them to stay in jobs they hate so they can go to the doctor when they need to. I’d rather never see my homeland again then expose them to a system that disregards its most vulnerable citizens in such a callous way. I’d want them to know the beauty and the aching kindnesses that I know are somewhere underneath all the layers of fear and hate, but I don’t think Iv’e got the strength, or enough shovels, to dig them out.

So, Karen T. Sparks, I will take my socialised health care over the American system any day of the week. I am saddened and angered that people such as yourself , who I’m sure are caring and kind, can be taken in by the propaganda and be blind to the changes that are needed. It takes courage and humanity to move from a hierarchical system to a more equitable one and I guess in that department, America is sorely lacking. The land of the free and the home of the brave, indeed. You’re so shackled by the IDEA of freedom that you don’t even know what it is anymore. Those of us living under socialised health care don’t need or want your pity. It is us who pity you.

God bless America? God save America.

The only one in the room: perceptions of power

NS May 13th, 2009

Have you ever been the only one in the room?

Not alone in a room, no. I mean the only (fill in the blank) in a room full of people. If you haven’t you should. Not much else has a way of humbling, frightening and enlightening like this simple act does. Being the only _______ in a room has the ability to highlight socioeconomic or cultural divisions that you might not have otherwise noticed. Being the only ______ in a room has the ability to force us outside of our comfort zones, thereby acknowledging our privileges or questioning our Otherness.

As a white, straight, able-bodied, educated, English-speaking, partnered, middle class woman living in an influential, Christian-centric, industrialized nation, I have many layers of privilege that pad my life and protect me from the hardships of reality that the majority of people in the world experience on a daily basis. I have the luxury to pick and choose which causes I will campaign for or against, which charities I will donate to and which issues I will hold close to my heart. I have the ability to be amongst my peers 99% of the time. Even when I was the only ____ in a room, it was almost always a choice, sometimes even one I had to seek out.

For example, I took a Black Politics class at university, partly because it fulfilled a qualification for my degree but also because I wanted to put myself outside of my ‘comfort zone.’ Now, by that I don’t mean that I was uncomfortable around black folks beforehand but the truth is that I hadn’t ever been in a situation in which I was the racial minority. Growing up in Podunk, Midwest USA will do that. So I signed up for the class not only looking forward to learning more about the subject matter but also to acknowledge my privilege and be humbled by it. That I was the only white person who signed up for the class reinforced to me the division of race on campuses (and society as a whole) with anything outside the norm being made into a ‘special class’ to placate the few.

I didn’t want to intrude or feel like an interloper on what was sure to be an important and emotional subject to the black students in the room, but at the same time I wanted to experience that uncomfortable feeling of….guilt, perhaps? Shame? Regret?….when we discussed the Civil Rights Movement and the centuries of oppression their ancestors and they themselves had experienced. It doesn’t mean I felt personally responsible for these things but was able to admit that I had, in fact, had advantages in life as a result of the oppression of an entire race of people. As awkward as it felt at times, I’m glad I took that class. I learned a lot about respecting the emotional and public space of those with less privilege than me, and to keep my mouth shut and listen for a change. That I was able to choose to put myself in a position of minority only reinforced the extent of my privilege though. Very humbling indeed.

As it is, I have still never been:

  • The only able-bodied person in a room full of those with disabilities
  • The only educated, middle class person in a room full of the working class or poor
  • The only English-speaking person in a room full of people who didn’t
  • The only Christian culture-centric person in a room full of non-Christian-centric people
  • At other times I have been the only:

  • parent in a room full of those without children
  • woman in a room full of men
  • American in a room full of other nationalities
  • straight person in a room full of GLBT folks
  • and they were all very different experiences. Sometimes it was enlightening, at other times frustrating, or even frightening. Most of the time the differences between us didn’t even appear to be an issue, but they were always there, lurking. For all the common threads we have running between us, the ones that are missing make the social web we all share that little bit weaker. But does it have to be? What can we do to combat it? Can we really foster positive associations of one another without discussing the elephant in the room: Power?

    I’m no expert on these issues so don’t take what I say as gospel by any means, but I think it’s important to step outside that ‘comfort zone’ from time to time, even if it means actively choosing to do so. Use that experience to examine your prejudices, misconceptions, strengths, weaknesses and, most of all, privilege. Listen to what others are saying instead of making it about how these issues make YOU, the more powerful part of the equation, feel. Respect the space and need of these groups to include or exclude you as they see fit. Forcing your way in, demanding a “better understanding” and that you all start “working together” makes it all about you again and should be avoided. In short, shut your trap and do some thinking while you have the opportunity to be put in a situation where you’re not automatically afforded better, more varied or numerous opportunities because of what’s between your legs, on your skin, your passport, or rolling off your tongue. I can assure you that you won’t regret it.

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