Monday, March 22, 2010

House Passes Historic Health Care Reform Bill!

As many of you know, the health care bill was passed by Congress late last night by a vote of 219 to 212. This bill, one that Obama has been promoting and arguing for since he ran for office, will provide many positive changes in the lives of Americans, and will affect all citizens in one way or another.

In regards to affecting women’s reproductive rights, Planned Parenthood is pleased that the health care reform bill will extend health care coverage to tens of millions of women and families, guarantee access to affordable life-saving screenings for breast and cervical cancer, protect women against gender discrimination by private insurers, end the practice of dropping coverage because of pre-existing conditions, and significantly increase insurance coverage of reproductive health care, including family planning.

Thanks to supporters like you, we were able to keep the Stupak abortion ban out of the final legislation and President Obama did not include the Stupak language in his Executive Order. Unfortunately, the bill includes the Nelson amendment that will impose new and severe restrictions on private health insurance coverage for abortion for millions of women. While we celebrate the passage of health care reform, we're going to need your commitment to fix the damage caused by the Nelson amendment — and that starts right now.

Take a moment to check out the statement by Cecile Richards, President of PPFA, about the bill being passed. Also, this Planned Parenthood website provides a list of representatives and whether they voted YES or NO on the bill. Feel free to follow the links to thank or express your concern about how they voted!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Newest accessory: Condom holders aren't just for convenience.

Condoms? Yes please. A cute, incognito way to stash my condoms…but still have them within reach? Yes again.

Lets be honest, girls will find any excuse to buy cute accessories, whether it’s for their outfits, apartments, or their condoms. Though it could be used as a shopping excuse, the practicality of the array of new, fun condom holders on sale is reason enough to buy. Not many want to display their array of condom choices in public view, but stashing them at the bottom of your drawer, or losing them in that giant “purse” you carry around is just not convenient. Well ladies (and gents) those days of fumbling blindly in your drawer or purse are gone!

There are now a ton of options and ways to store your protection. The Frisky has a great article showcasing different options for condom holders. There are clean, sleek condom dispensers that hold a significant amount and are perfect for a guy’s nightstand, so they are always within reach. If you’re main concern isn’t just convenience but instead want something a little more disguised and stylish, there are several vase-like options. The newest trend seems to be sleek cases meant to hold one or two condoms and stored in your purse. Many look just like a stylish compact. I even discovered a cool website where you can design your own!

Basically, your options are endless when it comes to storing your condoms. Whether you’re looking for an industrial-sized dispenser or a sleek, fashionable holder for your purse, there’s a condom holder out there for you…so get shopping!

p.s. if you’re not in the market for a holder but still want some cute protection, check out the different lines of Proper Attire condoms.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Blog for International Women's Day!

Today is International Women's Day! Gender Across Borders is organizing a massive blog effort - the theme is "Equal Rights, Equal Opportunity," and today, I'm thinking about the Oscars.

Yesterday, Kathryn Bigelow became the first women to win the Academy Award for best director for her work with The Hurt Locker - an important achievement in a field almost completely dominated by men.

Throughout the Oscars, despite this milestone and shattering of another glass ceiling, I couldn't help but see inequality all night. I'm in a class called "Fashion and Feminism: The Politics of Dress" this semester, and I was particularly interested in the fashion throughout the evening. Of course, this is nothing new - the men wear basically identical tuxes (although very expensive and designer-made, of course) while the women strut around in the craziest contraptions. But I kept noticing women having trouble going up and down the stairs on the stage - some women even needed assistance, assumedly because their dresses were too constricting or revealing. Kathryn Bigelow was clutching her chest when she won best picture - I was afraid she would faint (although perhaps it wasn't because of her tight dress, I probably would've fainted had i just won Best Director and Best Picture, back to back). Either way, I was fascinated by this slight juxtaposition.
While women have come a long way, and now a female has won best director, how many female directors can you name? Does this equalizing force mean that women have equal opportunity in this field? Just something to think about.

Changing gears entirely, International Women's Day is a day to recognize women and celebrate women's rights, as well as recognize change and progress worldwide. On the global stage, Kathryn Bigelow's win is meaningful, but there are slightly more pressing matters. Planned Parenthood has been committed to investing in girls and women globally for more than 40 years. In terms of reproductive health, we still have a long way to go. While contraception usage has increased, more women are attending school for longer, and more women are in governments than ever, there are still glaring issues. Over 200 million women who wan't to use contraception don't have access it, and every year, half a million women die from pregnancy-related causes, and 20 million have unsafe abortions. Planned Parenthood Federation of America is working within the federal government, and overseas to help with this epidemic.

I'm in the middle of reading Michelle Goldberg's new book, "The Means of Reproduction: Sex power, and the Future of the World," which addresses these issues head on. I think when we talk about reproductive health and equality, we lose sight of what this looks like from an international point of view, and Goldberg puts a persuasive, urgent lens on the idea of reproductive rights. I recommend it, and maybe I'll make a more cohesive blog post about it in a few weeks (spring break can't come soon enough!). For now though, let's celebrate all the gains women have made internationally, while not losing sight of all the work ahead of us. Happy International Women's Day!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Adventures in Sex City: Can a video game be a Sex-Ed tool?

Though it wasn’t terribly long ago, I can only remember what my sexual education consisted of when I think really, really, hard. I do not even recall any health education classes before high school, and I think this might be due to the fact that I found the whole process of sitting in a classroom, full of my peers, while my crazy teacher held up and pointed out different forms of birth control, terribly uncomfortable and embarrassing.

However, that is basically all my health class covered in relation to sex. Our teacher held up, explained, and passed around a box full of different forms of contraception. We were then required to fill out a worksheet about them, and subsequently quizzed on the varying effectiveness percentages and who they were best suitable for. Sex may have been covered for maybe a week of class time if I round up…and to be honest I do not think anyone absorbed any of the material. This may be due to numerous reasons but personally, I think it is because it was treated as a taboo topic…even in our health class!

The teacher even seemed to be slightly embarrassed to be holding condoms in front of her 15 year-old students…so how could we not exude the uncomfortable feelings right back to her? Because of this mutual uncomfortable-ness, there was no interactive learning whatsoever in this class. There were no discussions prompted, or questions asked, or any sort of interactive learning tactics used at all. In my opinion, interactive learning is most important to keep the message you are teaching stuck in a student’s brain. That, along with connecting it to a way the students will care about it and feel comfortable learning about it, is vital.

The UK seems to have recognized this as well and has come up with a virtual video game to help spread important messages about sex. Adventures in Sex City, created by the UK's Middlesex-London Health Unit, uses characters like The Sperminator, Wonder Vag, and Willy the Kid to engage teens to learn important sexual facts.

Though at first glance I was extremely skeptical, as I delved further into the material and got a sample glance of some of the characters and messages displayed, I started to think that this was genius. Why had someone not come up with a sex-ed video game sooner? Pre-teens and teenagers are notorious of being glued to their computer screens and video game consoles…so of course a video game would get their attention! Topics from abstinence, condoms, STIs to virginity were all covered in the preview that I saw. Though some may think the idea is cheesy, I think it would have definitely gotten my peers’ attention more than the textbook we were forced to read, and the irrelevant facts we were supposed to memorize in my high school.

Hopefully some companies will expand on this idea and bring it over to the States. Though I think the game can be improved to not be so silly and ridiculous, it is a great starting point….and is undoubtedly more entertaining than the old textbooks and sex-ed movies I was forced to sit uncomfortabley through as an adolescent. Hopefully these new interactive video games will save future health class goers from the same health class experiences I had to endure.