Monday, May 27, 2013

Anti-Choice Groups Lead Petition, Attack Access to Abortion Care Coverage in Michigan

The nightmare isn't over yet in Michigan. Last year, anti-choice politicians wrought a series of harmful attacks on women's reproductive healthcare through the state legislature, opposed by many. Unfortunately, Right to Life is revamping its reign of anti-choice measures – and this time, through a backhanded tactic through which less than 3% of Michigan's voters could decide the fate of its female citizens.

Right to Life has announced its part in driving a petition that would require women to purchase separate riders to their health insurance policies in order to have abortion coverage. This “plan for your unplanned pregnancies” initiative would serve as an economic strain on women and their families, and prevent many women from having access to abortion care due to their inability to afford the rider.

Economics aside, Michigan residents should be outraged at the petition's blatant disregard for women's health and bodily autonomy. In December of 2012, Gov. Snyder agreed that the initiative was harmful when he vetoed legislation with the same intent, reportedly saying it “just went too far.” According to the Detroit Free Press, with a mere 258,088 valid signatures and the approval of Michigan's legislature, anti-choicers' overt assault on women's access to safe, affordable reproductive care will “become a law without a signature from the governor,” or even “a public vote.”

Sidestepping Gov. Snyder's decision and leaving women's lives to the discretion of a fraction of the voting population of Michigan isn't just underhanded of anti-choice extremists – it's disrespectful, malicious and will serve only to harm women and limit their choices. When it comes to women's personal decision making, Michigan is in a precarious condition. Quietly opposing this vindictive anti-choice measure is not enough. Arm those you care about with the knowledge: allow them to protect women's reproductive rights by refusing to support this treacherous proposal.

Kai Niezgoda, NOW Intern

Thursday, May 23, 2013

What Does Disney Tell Us About Society?

Controversy transpired as Disney released its new look for main character Merida of the Oscar-winning animated film Brave. Though originally presented as a redheaded tomboy, her inclusion into the Disney princess collection left her, well… take a look.

Note the changes in the photo of Merida: plunging neckline, smaller waist, sparkly dress, and a little makeup. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with a little sparkle and makeup, but there is also nothing wrong with the absence of both. And that’s exactly what the change says, that this absence is unacceptable. The pressure on Merida and her physical appearance directly parallels the issues of women today concerning physical appearances. As long as you meet a certain visual standard, then be whomever you’d like. Nobody cares to point out the storyline, what Merida does or does not do. Rather they only care about what she looks like, emphasizing her physical appearance.

A petition was presented to the studio, demanding that Merida be returned to her original form. Brenda Chapman, creator and co-director of the film, expressed her disgust with the change, stating that Merida’s original look was intended to break to mold and presenting young girls with a strong, self-accepting role model1.

The movie-going public agreed with Ms. Chapman, and loudly complained about this obvious sexualization of Merida's appearance. Rather than support the idea of a strong female role model at center stage in their films, the industry had once again used an outdated and sexist standard of physical beauty.  The message continues to be that young women who fall outside the "standard" of beauty aren't quite good enough.

I’m a 90s baby. I grew up on ladies like Belle, Ariel, Mulan, and Cinderella – the Disney princesses of the decade. Looking back retrospectively, each character presents a different representation of the capabilities of women, some more “damsel in distress-like” than others. But it is not necessarily the plot line that irks me. I mean, yes, the incessant “search for love above all else” is played out, but it’s the physical representations of these women I call attention to. All of are thin, busty, makeup-wearing women.

This voyeur-esque attitude is outplayed and outdated. I applaud those who have taken action, advocating for an array of Disney princess representations. Now we can all wait for a bigger-than-size-2 princess, or an emphasis on personal characteristics beyond looks. Baby steps, I suppose.

Tori Whitworth, NOW Intern 

1 Child, B. (2013, May 16). Disney retreats from princess merida makeover after widespread criticism. The Guardian. Retrieved from

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Former Sexual Assault Prevention Chief Charged for Committing Battery

If the former chief of the U.S. Air Force branch against sexual assault can molest women, who can't? This is a question we must ask in light of the recent arrest of Lt. Col. Jeff Krusinski, charged with sexual battery after groping a woman in a parking lot on Sunday, May 5. Krusinski is reported to have been under the influence of alcohol, but it is a mistake to accept intoxication as an excuse or accept the incident as a mere drunken mishap.

Krusinski has been removed from his position as the head of the U.S. Air Force branch that deals with sexual assault incidents therein. Evidently, his job assisting survivors of sexual assault was not enough to impress upon him the enormity of the issue. According to RAINN, about one in six American women experience sexual assault in their lifetime – and while committing sexual abuse in any form is inexcusable, reports of sexual abuse committed by those in supposed opposition to sexual assault are nothing short of a travesty.

Sexual assault in the U.S. military is not a new issue by any means – but for both men and women, its prevalence has steadily been rising in recent years. In 2011, Newsweek reported that women in the military are now “more likely to be assaulted by a fellow soldier than killed in combat,” a statistic that might startle even the staunchest advocates of sexual assault prevention.

Ideally, Krusinski's arrest would shed light on the frequency of unreported incidents of sexual assault in the military, and – of the few reported cases – how few perpetrators of assault are actually facing consequences for their unwarranted sexual crimes. Will the Air Force try to sweep yet another sexual assault case under the rug? Only time will tell.

Image: Arlington County Police Department/Associated Press

Kai Niezgoda, NOW Intern