First AP History, Oklahoma now tackles STIs

Oklahoma recently made national news when a state legislative committee voted 11-4 to send a bill through for consideration. House Bill 1380 would stop funding to Oklahoma AP History classes in high schools based on the reasoning that some Oklahoma lawmakers believe AP History teaches Oklahoma students the “bad things” about U.S. history. The phrase “history is written by the victors” comes to mind. With 11 Republican votes for this bill and four Democrat votes against it, it’s easy to see the parallel in a red state like Oklahoma.

marriage-license2-460x300Now another (proposed) Oklahoma bill is receiving some attention for its apparent absurdity, but is it in danger of also breezing through the consideration process? Oklahoma Sen. Anthony Sykes (R) introduced Senate Bill 733, which would require Oklahoma couples applying for marriage licenses to get tested for STIs before they can be given the OK to marry. If either or both individuals test positive for “syphilis or other communicable diseases”, the state can deny them the right to marry.

Sykes is the chair of the judiciary committee that will decide whether to send the bill through for a vote in Oklahoma legislature. Conflict of interest, anyone?

There are a few MAJOR problems with this proposed bill.

  1. Once again, Oklahoma is trying to interfere with who we decide we would like to marry!!! State legislators have worked tirelessly to keep gay and lesbian couples from marrying (from denying benefits to all partners of Oklahoma National Guard members just to keep gay and lesbian partners from receiving benefits to proposing to fire county clerk workers who issue licenses to gay and lesbian couples after the Supreme Court ruled the ban on gay marriage in Oklahoma unconstitutional).
  2. Many Oklahomans are not waiting until marriage to have sex! Despite being in the heart of the Bible Belt, many Oklahoma teens and young adults (and adults) are having sex outside of marriage, many without legitimate sexual health education. Oklahoma does not mandate that its schools teach sexual health education, and when schools do have a sexual health education program, they must cover abstinence-only education but can pick and choose what else they want to cover. That means schools can teach whatever they want! Scary, I know. So without comprehensive (and safe) sexual health education, this bill has the potential to limit marriage licenses to adults who have STIs because they were let down by a state who thought it was unnecessary to teach them how to properly and appropriately use a condom.
  3. The bill would require couples to file their tests with the court clerk’s office, which would then become…PUBLIC RECORD! Yeah, you know that thing called PRIVACY we all like so much. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which protects the privacy of our medical records, goes right out the window! So if you don’t really see anything wrong with the first two reasons we should NOT let this bill pass, I hope this last reason at least appeals to you!

I attended the 2015 Take Root conference: red state perspectives on reproductive justice in Norman this past weekend. One of the sessions I attended addressed reproductive justice in the Deep South. The panelists talked about their youth advocacy movements to bring comprehensive and responsible sexual health education to states like Louisiana, Alabama, and Georgia. At least one of those states still require abstinence-only sex education IF a school even decides to teach “sex ed”.

0519-0908-1016-4204_president_barack_obama_speaking_to_a_crowd_at_a_town_hall_meeting_in_rio_rancho_new_mexico_oThis past week I was inspired by two things: (1) the work the panelists in that session continue to do to get our nation’s youth behind responsible sexual health education and (2) that HB 1380 was met with such an uproar that it made national news AND caused the bill’s author to backtrack and claim that the wording was wrong and the bill (in its current state) needs revisions.

I urge my fellow Oklahomans, to please not let these things slide when lawmakers try to play on our apparent constituent apathy. In the 2014 midterm elections this past November, only 29.8% of Oklahomans showed up to vote! This is probably why lawmakers believed they could slip some of these absurd, outdated, and intrusive laws through. Perhaps these bills can be a blessing in disguise and cause Oklahomans to wake up and smell the stale coffee Oklahoma lawmakers keep trying to serve us!


A Killer of Women: WPAC Heart Disease & Women Discussion 02/19

One in four women will die from heart disease. In case you need to see this statistic in numbers, that is 25 percent (or 1/4) of women.

The Women’s Programming Advisory Council will be discussing heart disease and its relationship to women at the WPAC general meeting, today (Thursday, Feb. 19) at 5 p.m. in CLB 114.

WPAC Heart Disease

We see the impact that the breast cancer awareness movement is having on the way women approach breast cancer. In reality, women are dying from heart disease at a rate FIVE TIMES MORE than breast cancer, yet approximately one in 10 women actually considers heart disease her greatest threat.

What is causing this epidemic to go largely ignored by women? Studies show that the general population (men and women) perceive heart disease as a “man’s issue.” Over the past half century, the attention given to heart disease was approached largely with a focus on men by men. As heart disease education and treatment in men began to produce declining numbers of heart disease related issues in men, the numbers for women were climbing. Since 1984, more women than men have died each year from heart disease.

I don’t think it’s any secret that there are key differences between the male and female bodies. Why then would we expect heart disease treatment tailored to men to work the same for women? In fact, the symptoms that present themselves when women are experiencing a cardiovascular crisis are vastly different than they are with men. Unlike men, the most prominent symptom is not pain or pressure in the chest. If you’re a woman experiencing these symptoms, you should consult with your doctor to make sure you’re not at risk for a cardiovascular crisis, and if these symptoms are very severe and sudden, you should call 911.

  • Neck, shoulder, upper back and abdominal discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Lightheaded/dizziness
  • Unusual fatigue

Visit Go Red for Women and get involved of the national movement to raise awareness for this number one killer of women!

The Vagina Monologues at OSU: Cast Bios

Many people have misconceptions of the people who participate in The Vagina Monologues. Referencing the first blog I did this semester for the O’Colly, Feminism at OSU, the women AND men who actively work to address women’s issues on a daily basis are not these scary, man-hating, bra-burning (although I think not wearing a bra would be pretty amazing…damn dress codes!) figures of conservative folklore and myth.

I want to introduce you to a few of the women who are participating in The Vagina Monologues at OSU this weekend, to show you we’re just like everyone else! We’re just not afraid to talk about women’s issues in front of a large crowd of people. Also, thank you to the men who are helping out off-stage this year!

image1Anna Facci, director

Lecturer at OSU, M.A. in Sociology

Facci is currently a lecturer with the sociology department at OSU. She teaches sections of SOC 1113, Introduction to Sociology. She also continues the research work she started during her thesis involving indigenous women’s involvement in an online social movement called Idle No More, specifically addresses issues of how gender ideas are challenged or reinforced through the interactive narratives of Facebook posts.

Were you involved in any organizations in high school or college before now that addressed women’s issues?

I always jokingly say I’m an accidental feminist. I was raised by Catholic parents, but my mom always was teaching me these kinds of feminist ideas that challenged the way we would look at gender. I wasn’t allowed to own Barbies until I was 8, because she didn’t want me to have an unrealistic sense of women’s bodies, but she never identified to me as a feminist while I was growing up. By the time I was in high school, I was pretty well into activism groups focusing on LGBTQ issues because I felt called to do that. I’ve always been compelled to help the marginalized portions of society. Later, when I came out as queer, it was important to me because that was part of my identity. Coming in to college, I joined what is now Oklahoma State Queers & Allies (OSQ&A) and through that met some women who were in the National Organization for Women (NOW). That’s when I first auditioned for The Vagina Monologues. It’s been a wild ride, but now I know student activism is what I want to do. I think it’s so important, especially in college, to figure out what you’re passionate about and find the group that helps you be active about it. For me, it was activism that centered on my gender and sexuality.

What are the experiences you’ve had being involved in The Vagina Monologues as both cast and director?

Basically, I loved being a cast member, because it was a great outlet to be able to perform in something that wasn’t a full-theatre production. As a cast member, everyone has a “oh if I was in charge” kind of moment. The next year I was the vice-president of NOW and I was asked if I would be interested in directing and I immediately said yes. Before I took over as director, the rehearsals were what you’d expect of a theatre rehearsal, with vocal warmups and everyone taking turns practicing. For me, the show is more about building a community of women and more about the cast members than it is about the performance. A lot of that comes from how I feel about the message of the show in general. The show opens by addressing how vaginas need context…they need a community. My goal became to build a space and that community for women who, especially on a conservative campus, lack that space they can feel comfortable to talk about their experiences with other women.

Do your expectations stay fairly similar each year you’re involved with The Vagina Monologues? Or do you find them changing each year?

They change a little bit with each cast. I had one cast who bonded immediately, and it was like this group of girls had never been apart before. The goal then became not to help them bond but how to push themselves further in their activism and involvement and how they felt about women’s issues. I think every year I go into it with the same initial goal and then adapt it to the cast. This year we have a lot of big personalities, which personality is a large factor that influences how the productions will go. It’s been a really fun process to navigate that space and make sure everyone has their voice heard.

For people who don’t think The Vagina Monologues apply to them or think it’s something that needs to be talked about, what would you say to them about why the play is important?

The number one thing about this show is that more than any other book or play or essay, other than maybe “Feminism is for Everybody” by Bell Hooks, this play for me helps to communicate so well some of the unseen issues women face. For the monologue, “I Was There in the Room” which deals with childbirth, Eve Ensler mentions someone who once said to her that he didn’t see the connection between a play about vaginas and birth…there are so many things we don’t think about when we talk about women’s issues. This play shows the spectrum, especially in terms of inclusiveness, for example, a monologue about the issues of trans* women. The issues of being a woman aren’t just that we would like reproductive rights or about abortion. It’s about feeling safe and loved and being happy and fulfilled. I encourage people to see this show if they want to know themselves and their partners, sisters, and friends. Women are people, too. This gives a comprehensive experience of what a lot of the hardest parts of being a woman are.

Rebecca Ortiz, Chair of the Women’s Programming Advisory Council, cast member, “Introduction” & “My Revolution Begins in the Body”

Junior, Psychology

Prior to The Vagina Monologues, were you involved in any organizations in high school or college before now that addressed women’s issues?

I was on the executive team of OSQ&A, and I was with them when we underwent the name change to be more inclusive as an organization. While they addressed LGBTQ issues, they also represented women’s issues because they are an underrepresented issue at OSU. When I was approached to be in WPAC, I was super excited simply for the fact that I was going to be able to move forward with my interests with other women who were interested in the movement.

When you learned that WPAC was going to host The Vagina Monologues at OSU, was it something you had to think about before you decided to do it? Or was it something that immediately struck a chord with you?

I was ready to talk about vaginas. There was no question about it.

What do your friends or family think now that they know you’re participating?

My friends will be there to support me, however, my conservative Mexican family has NO idea that I will be in The Vagina Monologues. When your family comes from a different country, the idea of feminism and being open and honest and raw about your body is not something typical of the Mexican culture and households at all. I am doing this for my own self though.

What are you expecting for yourself by participating in The Vagina Monologues?

I’m really excited to be onstage because I’ve never done anything like this before. I hoped that I would come away from this more empowered and gain confidence.

What do you hope the people who are attending are able to take away from the play?

My hope is that people will understand why we’re doing this. That women will feel more empowered about themselves. I would like more of a sisterhood with the women on campus. So far, it’s nice to meet other women who are interested in women’s issues and speaking about them openly.

For people who don’t think The Vagina Monologues apply to them or think it’s something that needs to be talked about, what would you say to them about why the play is important?

V-Day is a global movement to end violence against women and girls. Its a very real issue that not just women in far off places experience, but women in Stillwater also experience daily. It’s extremely important to have these types of programs and events to bring awareness to things that are happening right here in our front yard.

SmolaJulia Smola, cast member,

Sophomore, Political Science with a minor in Gender and Women’s Studies

Prior to The Vagina Monologues, were you involved in any organizations in high school or college before now that addressed women’s issues?

Not in high school, but I am in the American Association for University Women, which is the only women’s-oriented club I’m in right now.

When you learned about The Vagina Monologues at OSU, was it something you had to think about before you decided to do it? Or when you saw WPAC was auditioning for cast members, was it something that immediately struck a chord with you?

I read the book a couple of years ago. I found it in an old bookstore and thought, hey, this could be cool. I read through it and it rocked! I did more research on it and it helped with my feminist awakening. When I saw the A-frames up on campus, I thought, why not and I made the decision on my own to audition. I didn’t really talk about it with my friends at first.

What do your friends or family think now that they know you’re participating?

They all know me as the capital ‘F’ feminist friend, and they’re all really excited about it. A big group of them are coming and I’m in a sorority and my house mom is coming. I’ve been explaining my monologue to practice and people ask me about it because it has ‘Vagina’ on it.

What are you expecting from participating in an actual production versus what you had thought when you had just previously read the play?

I think it’s a lot more community and less of a theatrical production. It’s about getting to know other people and discuss real-life vagina monologues and not just the ones you read from a script.

What are you hoping the people who are attending are able to take away from the play?

Ultimately a goal would be for women and other people to not be afraid of the word ‘vagina’ and for women to realize they are the owners of their own bodies. They’re allowed to express whatever they want about it.

For people who don’t think The Vagina Monologues apply to them or think it’s something that needs to be talked about, what would you say to them about why the play is important?

I think a lot of people feel threatened by it. A lot of my guy friends crack jokes about going to their penis diaries rehearsals. It really is an important issue for women to feel like they can talk about their own bodies and have ownership about them. I want everyone to come see it.

jamieJamie Hadwin, Treasurer of WPAC, cast member, “Introduction”

Senior, Strategic Communications

Prior to The Vagina Monologues, were you involved in any organizations in high school or college before now that addressed women’s issues?

It wasn’t until I returned to college in 2013 that I began to get involved with women’s issues through an organization called the Women’s Resource Center at OSU, which is now WPAC. I wish I had sooner though. I feel like I’ve always held feminist ideas, but I never was around a group of people I could talk about those ideas around. Which is a shame, because I’ve never felt more confident about myself than I do now.

When you learned about The Vagina Monologues at OSU, was it something you had to think about before you decided to do it? Or when you saw WPAC was auditioning for cast members, was it something that immediately struck a chord with you?

Because of my involvement with WPAC, there was no question I was going to be involved with the productions. I did, however, want to extend the opportunity to read a monologue to any person who auditioned before I chose one. Three WPAC members chose to do the ‘Introduction’ because we thought it would be a good way to kick off the play and to break the ice for the other people performing. Although, I’d love to perform another monologue, I’m really glad we have such a great cast that took on all the monologues. Maybe next year, I’ll do more!

What do your friends or family think now that they know you’re participating?

Well, I often digress to conversations about gender and sexuality issues while we’re hanging out or enjoying some drinks during our free time. I’m ‘that’ feminist friend! Some of them still feel uncomfortable talking to me about it though. I think it’s just weird for some people to be open about these issues that affect people on a daily basis. That’s why I talk about those issues though. They support me though, regardless. I’m expecting to see a lot of friends in the audience. My family supports me with this and any decision I make for myself, but they won’t be able to attend.

What are you expecting for yourself by participating in The Vagina Monologues?

I have to give it to Anna, our director. She has been really great about making this production about building a community and not just performing a play. It’s been great to be around a group of people that I can talk freely to about issues that we all want to talk about. I look forward to carrying that level of honesty into the production and beyond.

What do you hope the people who are attending are able to take away from the play?

I want people to realize that it’s OK to talk about these issues in a healthy way. Gender and sexuality issues are nothing to be ashamed about! We live in a society that tries to push topics under the rug for our own selfish reasons. A good example is the infamous ‘Birds and the Bees’ talk…parents hope to avoid the talk because it makes the parents uncomfortable, not the children. The children are the ones asking about it!

For people who don’t think The Vagina Monologues apply to them or think it’s something that needs to be talked about, what would you say to them about why the play is important?

Although The Vagina Monologues primarily focuses on the experiences of being a woman and/or having a vagina, being able to have an open conversation about this issue will more likely lead to having an open conversation about other important issues. Many women are ashamed to even hear the word ‘vagina’ although they all have one! By being ashamed of their vaginas, they’re in essence ashamed of themselves. That really sucks to hear! For men, attending the play or becoming involved in women’s issues helps you to (1) help your female friends, girlfriends, wives, colleagues, etc. have a better self-image and (2) understanding women’s issues allows you to better understand men’s issues as well, because ultimately we’re talking about GENDER ISSUES here. It takes women AND men to work on these issues. It’s not a one-way street.

WPAC General Meeting 02/05: Stress Management

Four weeks into the semester and 14 weeks to go…are you in need of some stress management yet? If you do, you’re not alone.

One in five college students say they are constantly stressed.

The Women’s Programming Advisory Council’s (WPAC) general meeting this evening will go over stress management techniques as a way to boost confidence, productivity, and personal well-being. The meeting starts at 5 p.m. in CLB 114.

One of the resources WPAC will be promoting is the OSU Reboot Center, which is located at 320W Student Union and is part of University Counseling Services.

The Reboot Center’s mission is to offer a relaxing and supportive environment for developing skills that improve stress management, academic achievement and well-being.

Its services are FREE and include:

  • Development of stress management skills
  • An inviting space to relax, re-charge, and re-focus
  • Computer software to build stress management skills
  • Individual consultation about managing stress and improving performance
  • Presentations on stress management, performance enhance and Reboot services

The Reboot Center has a variety of computer programs that use the latest technology, such as heart-rate sensors 3-D technology, to help you learn to lower your stress levels normally. You can also just stop in and listen to some relaxing music in between classes.

The Reboot Center is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to noon and from 1-5 p.m. No appointment is needed.

For more information visit the Reboot Center website or call 405-744-6434.

Super Bowl Ads and Gender Equality

Everyone knows the real reason more than 112 million viewers tuned in to Super Bowl XLIX was for the commercials, right?

Okay, now that that’s established, I’d like to say a few things about this year’s Super Bowl ads. Football is traditionally considered a “man’s” sport, so it’s refreshing to see, however, that in the past few years, some companies are not afraid to shell out the big bucks (and I mean big bucks) for a Super Bowl ad that is empowering to women. The following include several of those empowering ads that show how far we’ve come and a few of the sexist ads that show we still have a ways to go.

I’ll start off this post-Super Bowl ad evaluation with probably one of the most obvious “commercials” that dealt with “women’s issues” aired during this year’s halftime: the PSA.

I commend the airing of this moving PSA during halftime. I hope the NFL continues to push this campaign forward and spotlights it during all of its games. Otherwise, it could very likely lose momentum and and the issue of domestic violence and sexual assault could fall back into obscurity. has actually been around for five years but is only starting to see awareness since the NFL jumped on board as a partner a few months ago following the Ray Rice domestic violence incident. If the NFL half-asses this movement, its fans will continue to not be affected by the campaign’s message, so please NFL, don’t be doing this just to save face.

Second commercial: “Like a Girl” – Always, Proctor & Gamble

This campaign has been out for a while. I really like the simplicity of balancing reinforced gender stereotypes among adolescent men and women against the opinions from young girls who haven’t yet been brainwashed to think that being a girl indicates weakness. When I was younger, I would climb trees, play baseball, ride my bike on trails, and play and study just as hard as the boys around me. I saw myself as strong, capable, and powerful. Somewhere along the way, however, me acting “like a girl” became more important than me feeling empowered. In fact, I began to get the feeling that being empowered as a woman was a bad thing. Kudos Always for making gender stereotypes look silly.

Third commercial: “How Great I Am” – Toyota Camry

I just love that they have Amy Purdy, a kick-ass woman, at the center of this commercial and that this was aired during the Super Bowl! Let’s not forget, while we’re watching a game of a male-dominated sport, that there are some pretty awesome women in the world, too. Plus, I drive a Camry. I might have to start calling it Purdy.

Fourth commercial: “#InvisibleMindy” – Nationwide Insurance

Oh Mindy Kaling, where do I even want to begin?!?! So, I included this commercial because 1) Mindy Kaling is an amazing example of a woman who dares to get important conversations started and 2) this commercial started a conversation about minority women in the U.S. and how one woman wishes she were, at times, invisible in her home country due to the danger and stigma associated with simply walking outside as an Indian woman. While perhaps there was no underlying societal message intended by Nationwide, it did seem to strike a chord with a woman who identified with Mindy’s dilemma.

Fifth commercial: “#KimsDataStash” – T-Mobile

Oh, Kim Kardashian West…where do I even not want to begin? Okay, while I appreciate the occasional self-deprecating humor (and Kim does it pretty well in this commercial), it’s doing no service to women by continuing to reinforce her seemingly vapid, self-absorbed selfie taking personality. I say “her seemingly” because I don’t know her personally, but I hope this type of personality is not what we’re aiming for our young women AND men to aspire to, because yes, as Kim’s husband Kanye shows, men can be affected by the “me me me” bug, too.

Sixth commercial: “#RealStrength” – Dove Men + Care

I liked this commercial because it also works to knock down gender stereotypes on the male side, which can be empowering to women as well. When men are allowed and encouraged to be tender and caring, affectionate and emotional it benefits everyone, just as it benefits everyone to allow and encourage women to be assertive and strong, determined and independent. Being a dad doesn’t mean you have to “be a man”.

Seventh commercial: “My Bold Dad” – Toyota Camry

So this is the second commercial that Toyota paid for to be aired during the Super Bowl. Going along with the theme of the Dove Men + Care commercial and the fact that Toyota featured Amy Purdy in its first commercial of the night, it seems pretty clear that Toyota wants to break down gender stereotypes as well. Fathers can be great role models for their children, and as this commercial reiterates, their daughters.

Eighth commercial: Victoria’s Secret

To all the people who complained about the PSA and the “Like a Girl” commercial being included in Super Bowl ads because they have “nothing to do with football”, I think this is one of the most unnecessary ads of them all, but I don’t hear a lot of people complaining about this one. If you’ve figured out the tone of my blog, I probably don’t have to explain much here, but just in case, check out the blog I did for the Women’s Programming Advisory Council’s meeting on “Body Image and the Media.

Honorable (or dishonorable) mention:

Nissan – “With Dad”: In the first Super Bowl ad Nissan has done in 18 years, Nissan reinforces some of the stereotypes that fathers have to be out in the world earning money in manly ways while the family stays at home missing him and the mom having to take care of the kids. I know Nissan was trying to play the emotional card for this one, but I think it really missed the mark. Hopefully, if it takes another 18 years for Nissan to make another Super Bowl commercial, they’ll be more with the times.

Carl’s Jr. – “All Natural” w/ Charlotte McKinney: Carl’s Jr. is known for pushing the boundaries for its sexist commercials. This ad was banned, and for good reason. Women’s body parts are more than pieces of fruit and vegetables to be squeezed, poked, and prodded by men who obviously can’t interact with women in a mature way. I’m really tired of Carl’s Jr.’s marketing methods, but it gets them in the news and their videos usually go viral, so I doubt they will be changing anytime soon.

Game of War – “Who I Am” w/ Kate Upton: Kate Upton, former Carl’s Jr. girl, once again uses sex appeal in a commercial geared toward an audience that is already dealing with its own controversy with the GamerGate scandal. At least she has some type of “clothing” on, which is more than I can say for the above commercial.