Michigan Anti-Choicers Seek to Ban Private Insurance Plans From Covering Abortion
With all the various attacks on access to abortion going on in the country, relatively little attention has been paid to one of the more diabolical attempts to deny this access to women, especially low-income women. Twenty-three states have banned women from using their own private insurance plans to pay for abortion. Now Michigan may join that list, as lawmakers in that state are considering whether to keep pushing for a bill that Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed last year, either by overriding his veto or allowing the measure to be put on on a statewide ballot. Proponents of the law suggest women simply buy an entirely separate insurance plan just for abortion, knowing full well that roughly zero women will do that and zero companies will offer it, because buying insurance in case you need only one procedure is not how insurance works.
How can anti-choicers justify banning women from creating a private contract with a company that allows for abortion coverage, particularly as Republicans tend to hold themselves out as lovers of the "free market"? Well, we are talking about people who feel entitled to micromanage your uterus, but the nominal excuse is that since everyone pays into a risk pool for insurance, the fundamentalist Christians in it should get to veto your abortion. Unsurprisingly, anti-choicers are unwilling to take that argument to its logical conclusion, by say, banning Viagra for aging anti-choicers because feminists who pay into the same risk pool object for ideological and aesthetic reasons. Only women's health care coverage is subject to preapproval by a bunch of strangers.
As with most attacks on abortion rights, the primary result of this one would be to hurt low-income women. While not having insurance coverage of abortion is an irritant for better-off women, it's women who can't scrape together $500 or $600 who will really be harmed by this law.
Opponents of the bill are framing the issue as one of forcing women to buy "rape insurance," because if you want insurance coverage for an abortion in the event of rape, you still have to buy a rider that likely won't exist anyway. It's smart framing, as it gives you reason to oppose the bill even if you like to pretend you (or someone you love) would never need an abortion unless you were raped (because you aren't one of those women). However, it also feels like a missed opportunity, since pro-choicers aren't focusing on how anti-choicers have decided that you can't purchase an individually held insurance plan because some religious nut feels your uterus is public property. Being told that our private transactions need to be examined by fundamentalist Christians before they can be completed seems like the sort of thing that many Americans would object to, even some Republicans. But the phrase "rape insurance" is pretty provocative, too, and so Democrats are sticking with it.
Women Hate Sexually Explicit Ads, Unless They're Selling Something Expensive
Being an advertiser is hard. On one hand, sex sells (and sells and sells). On the other hand, women sometimes take offense at lubricious ads, and then won’t buy your product, or let their boyfriends buy it, and before you know it there's a Twitter campaign against your company and oh lord. Yet a new study in the journal Psychological Science shines a light on when it’s OK to objectify the female body in the name of Mammon. According to researchers led by the University of Minnesota’s Kathleen Vohs, women find erotically charged ads less distasteful when they promote very expensive items. We like our objectification classed up, thank you.
In one experiment, Vohs and her colleagues showed 87 male and female undergraduates 20-second commercials for women’s watches. Half the students were presented with ads featuring “majestic snowcapped mountains,” while the other half saw ads drenched in “explicit sexual imagery.” The prices of the watches varied randomly: either $1250 (luxury condition) or $10 (bargain condition). When the researchers took participants’ emotional temperature after viewing the sexy clips, they found that women in the bargain condition felt “more upset emotionally” than women in the luxury condition. Women who saw sexual images paired with cheap watches also reported disliking the ads, while those who got mountains or sex-plus-extravagance reacted more neutrally. (In all conditions, the men were as the mountains: unfazed.)
Katie Couric Hands Her Show Over to Anti-Vaccination Alarmists
"The HPV vaccine is considered a life-saving cancer preventer, but is it a potentially deadly dose for girls?" This was the promo for Wednesday's episode of Katie, Katie Couric's daytime talk show on ABC. Couric, whose husband passed away from colon cancer, is known for being a relatively responsible journalist when it comes to health care issues, so despite this needlessly alarmist advertising, I held out hope that her show would demonstrate that no matter how adamant a very small group of people are that their health problems are caused by the HPV vaccine, there is no evidence that the HPV vaccine is dangerous. Sadly, my hopes were dashed as Couric spent a half hour of her show drumming up fears that the vaccine will make you very ill, or even kill you.
A History of Sexist Video Game Marketing
Why don’t women play more video games? Perhaps it’s because they’re not being sold to us. In Polygon, Tracie Lien has a fascinating history of the gendered marketing of gaming, from the couples-friendly breakthrough arcade video game Pong through the hyper-masculine framing of first-person shooters, and into the more gender equitable branding for modern social gaming.
When video games were first popularized in the 1970s, the industry’s central marketing challenge was to sell the same game to both adults and kids. Pong was a two-player arcade game marketed to couples in bars, then to families on Atari home consoles. Tapper was initially marketed as Budweiser Tapper in bars (players took the role of bartender and told customers “This Bud’s For You”), then as Root Beer Tapper in family-friendly arcades (players manned a non-alcoholic soda jerk with the modified catchphrase “This One’s For You”). Then the industry experienced a massive recession, and financial pressures forced video game companies to take a different approach. "Knowing that you have limited funding, you can't just market shotgun. You can't just go after anybody," marketer Rodger Roeser told Lien. "You need to have a very clearly differentiated and specific brand because that's going to play into where you're running your ads and what kind of ads you run. That niche-ing, that targeting makes it easier for marketers to have a very succinct conversation with their target without overspending and trying to reach everybody." So the industry put all of its efforts on catering to boys.
Chirlane McCray Is Deeply Involved in Her Husband's Political Career. Why Is That a Story?
A piece in today’s New York Times describes Chirlane McCray’s “outsize” role in her husband, New York mayor-elect Bill de Blasio’s, political career. McCray and de Blasio have an extremely close intellectual relationship, and McCray weighs in on his appointments and policy decisions. After reviewing previously undisclosed emails and talking to many former aides, reporters Michael Barbaro and Michael M. Grynbaum posit that “there is little precedent in New York for the intense day-to-day political partnership that the mayor-elect and his wife intend to bring to City Hall on Jan. 1.”
But maybe that’s just because the last time a New York City mayor was happily married was David Dinkins in 1994, and Dinkins probably didn’t have email.
Researchers Say Women Should Be More Active to Set a Good Example for Kids. Men Can Just Keep Sitting.
"Modern Moms Aren't as Busy as 1960s Moms Were" reads the headline for Olga Khazan's piece for the Atlantic. But the piece itself is less about busy vs. not busy and more about time spent moving your body vs. time spent sitting on your butt, and a concern that, by spending more time sitting around than doing activities, mothers are setting a bad example for their kids.
The piece is based on a report published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, in which researchers looked at all the time mothers with children at home spent not at a paid job. Unsurprisingly, now that women work outside of the home more, they spend a lot less time at home doing stuff on their feet. Mothers in the 1960s spent 14.2 more hours moving their bodies at home per week than mothers now, but that doesn't mean mothers now spend 14.2 hours more a week sitting on the couch. One reason women's physical activity time at home has declined so much is simply that women, on average, aren't home as much. Indeed, as Khazan notes, women who don't work spend more time on physical activity than women who work, though they also spend more time sitting down than women did in the '60s.
Will Smartphones Kill Femininity?
Ian Bogost’s piece in the Atlantic about hyperemployment—a tech-fueled “commitment to our usual jobs and to many other jobs as well”—has hyperemployed a lot of brain cells and Internet pixels. Over at Cyborgology, a blog from the sociology department at the University of Minnesota, philosophy professor Robin James wrote a thought-provoking response in which she examines the traditional relationship between femininity and technology, as well as how that relationship might change as our devices burrow deeper into our work and personal lives.
Let’s take her argument—a complicated, suggestive thought-maneuver—piece by piece. Piece one: We are all of us (the middle class, managerial “us”) hyperemployed. We work incessantly, thanks to technology. Maintaining our office email accounts, our online calendars, is a job in itself. Off the clock, we’re inundated in personal online business—emails from the PTA, Diapers.com orders—and lured onto sites like Facebook, which make money from the data we generate but fail to compensate us in wages. Bogost writes in the Atlantic that “pay is almost beside the point, because the real cost of hyperemployment is time.” But the bottom line is that our tech-enabled extra obligations and commitments amount to second, third and fourth shifts on our existing jobs—all of them unpaid.
Most Female Journalists Have Been Threatened, Assaulted, or Harassed at Work. Here's Why We Don't Talk About It.
This week, the International Women’s Media Foundation and the International News Safety Institute released the results of an online survey asking female journalists around the world to detail the abuse they’ve experienced on the job. Sixty-four percent of the 875 respondents said they had experienced “intimidation, threats, or abuse” in the office or in the field. Most of the abuse was perpetrated by the journalists’ bosses, superiors, and co-workers. Forty-six percent of female journalists said they had experienced sexual harassment at work, including “unwanted comments on dress and appearance.” That harassment was also overwhelmingly perpetrated by colleagues. Twenty-one percent said they had experienced physical violence—including being pushed, pinned down, or threatened and assaulted with weapons—in the course of their work. Thirteen percent had been sexually assaulted on the job—again, mostly at the hands of co-workers.
If you’re a female journalist, these numbers are unsurprising. Pervasive sexual harassment and violence against female reporters, editors, and writers is rarely aired publicly, but it is an open secret in the field. The majority of incidents of sexual harassment and physical assault detailed in the IMWF survey were not reported to employers; 76 percent of women who met physical violence on the job did not report the assault to police. That’s partly because bosses and cops are the ones responsible for threatening and assaulting us. A small portion of abuse and intimidation reported in the study came from government officials (7 percent of reported incidents) and police officers (3 percent); 23 percent of women who said they had experienced physical violence on the job were assaulted by cops. The majority of these cases involved men we work with. When we do hear about harassment and assault against female journalists, it’s generally in the context of incidents perpetrated by people outside of the business (see: Lara Logan and Erin Andrews).
That doesn’t mean that female journalists are not forthcoming about the issue. We talk among ourselves, naming names in private email threads, drinks outings, and anonymous blogs. This is our “sad coping mechanism,” as Ann Friedman put it this year. Female journalists keep these discussions at a whisper because we know the men responsible are “too professionally powerful, too entrenched to really be held accountable for their behavior.” This year, the IMWF found that men make up nearly three-quarters of journalism’s top managers and nearly two-thirds of its reporters. The percentages are roughly the same in American journalism. Some sectors, like sports writing, are almost exclusively dominated by men. In 2012, 90 percent of American sports editors were men. If we ever hope to join their ranks, it seems safer not to challenge our superiors or our prized male colleagues. Sometimes, we are harassed while applying for these jobs.
Female journalists don’t want to be abused in the course of our employment—the majority of abused journalists said the incidents had a "psychological impact" on them—but we’d also like to remain employed. Calling out these men publicly (and submitting ourselves to a “he said, she said” situation with a more powerful colleague) means that reporting the abuse could become a “defining aspect of the accuser’s professional life, very likely wrecking it,” Friedman says. The stories we tell each other may help us stay on the lookout for repeat offenders, and to be more wary of working with them—but of course, that calculation also affects our career opportunities. When most female journalists are abused, threatened, harassed, or assaulted at work, there are few outlets we can run to where we will not be forced to work with these men, or their friends and supporters. Some of the journalists who responded to the survey were assaulted by journalists with whom they did not directly work, but the news business is an erratic one. We could be working with them soon. And then we could be working beneath them.
So we keep whispering. The survey is still live; female journalists can report their experiences anonymously here.
Hooray for This New Study That Says Women Shouldn't Be the Only Ones Responsible for Making Healthy Babies
“Men and women contribute equally to reproduction.” That’s a statement in a new paper in the journal Gender and Society about how men’s role in making babies has been culturally diminished. It is a painfully obvious sentence, and yet, it bears repeating because we’re so fixated on women’s prenatal and preconception behavior and health. For example, the most emailed article on the New York Times website as I type is about how women’s eating habits affect their babies in the womb. But we barely ever mention how male behavior can affect sperm quality.
The paper, called “More and Less than Equal: How Men Factor in the Reproductive Equation,” notes that since 2004, the CDC has recommended that people of both genders who are looking to have a baby monitor their health more closely—but in practice, this recommendation is generally directed towards women, who are now advised to treat their pregnancies as 12 months long. This means curtailing alcohol consumption and taking prenatal vitamins before they’ve even conceived.
Yet recent research has shown that men’s preconception behavior also matters. According to the CDC, tobacco and heavy drinking can both damage sperm DNA, and we’re just starting to understand how older men’s sperm may affect their offspring adversely. The only venue where male preconception health gets much attention, the authors point out, is at the sperm bank, where men’s sperm is scrutinized in a way it’s not elsewhere.
ACLU Sues Catholic Bishops for Refusing Treatment to Miscarrying Woman
As anti-abortion sentiment grows more extreme, it's inevitable that it will start to interfere with the ability of women to get medical care even when they're losing wanted pregnancies. In El Salvador, the eagerness to arrest women caught illegally aborting has led to the government charging women who have miscarried wanted pregnancies with murder. In Ireland, Savita Halappanavar lost her life when doctors refused to clear out a miscarrying pregnancy, even though it was clearly turning septic. These doctors decided, under Ireland's strict abortion ban, that giving Halappanavar's fetus an opportunity to experience a few days more of a heartbeat was more important than saving Halappanavar's life.
While the United States has much more liberal abortion laws than Ireland and El Salvador, this extremism is affecting women's medical care here, too. Catholic hospitals, which constitute over 12 percent of hospitals in the U.S., usually require doctors to refuse to help a woman who is miscarrying until the fetal heartbeat stops on its own, which is the same rule that led to Halappanavar's death. The ACLU is now suing the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on behalf of Tamesha Means, who went to the only hospital in her area—Mercy Health Partners in Muskegon, Michigan—for help with a clearly miscarrying pregnancy. Twice, the misleadingly named Mercy hospital sent Means home, despite her suffering. From the ACLU's press release: