A Call to Action for OSU Men

This semester I’ve talked a lot about feminism in regard to women’s issues. I’ve briefly touched on how men are impacted by the feminist movement. Today, I’m going to focus on why feminism is important to men and the role of men within the movement.

Many people believe that men cannot be feminists. The word alone seems to be exclusive only to women. This is incorrect. While the experiences and historical oppression of women are the basis behind the feminist movement, essentially as explained over and over before, feminism seeks to put all genders on equal ground. In this essence, men may not be able to know what it’s like to be a woman, but they can sure as hell support the equality of women and men.

Feminism does not seek to overthrow men. It seeks to overturn the patriarchal society that instills that men are inherently better than women and therefore are entitled to better things like better jobs, higher wages, recognition, positions of power, sexual domination, etc. etc. The list could go on. If you think this oppression isn’t real, just think about the fact that women around the world are attacked verbally and physically when they speak out for gender equality.

I was recently verbally assaulted by a young man outside of a bar who was making racist remarks about some of my friends who were international students. I stood up for my friends, who were inside and unable to defend themselves or their nationality. The young man said, “Why are you even talking woman?” Whoa, so a racist and a sexist. Wonderful. I didn’t back down. My boyfriend and the male bar manager, stood up for me and my friends. The young man quickly realized that racism and sexism wasn’t going to fly there. He ended his offensive rhetoric. Thank you support system!

Instead of making a battle out of gender issues, why not recognize that everyone as an individual, regardless of gender, is capable of bringing something unique to the table. Let’s quit judging one another on the basis of gender alone.

A woman goes back to work after having children and she’s judged as a bad mother or an undesirable employee. A man gets upset when his child is sick and he’s judged as weak for not holding it together. A young girl is looked at as “odd” because she doesn’t like playing with Barbies or wearing makeup. A young boy is scolded by his mom for picking up a pink hula hoop because it’s a “girl” color. I actually saw this last situation happen right in front of me at the Stillwater Arts Festival last weekend. Luckily, the man who I assume was the father stepped in and said, “Let him play with whatever hula hoop he wants.” He then proceeded to pick up a bigger pink hula hoop and started hula hooping with the young boy. Kudos sir…kudos.

There were two events on campus last week that specifically looked at how men can make a change in overturning this patriarchal system that hurts BOTH women and men. I hope you were able to attend, or at least that the events caught your attention and caused you to look into the message.

The “Blurred Lines and Axe Body Spray” workshop was hosted by the OSU Student Conduct Office last Wednesday. The workshop sought to examine and challenge the negative portrayal of the treatment of women in the media, whether that involved victim-blaming, violence against women or just an overall acceptance of the type of behavior that encourages rape and entitlement culture.

Last Thursday, the OSU Ethics Center hosted its last event of the 2014-2015 year with its discussion on “Race, Masculinity & Identity” with guest speaker Dr. Elon Dancy from the University of Oklahoma. On a more specific level, this discussion addressed issues black men encounter as they are raised in a society that expects them to live up to certain masculine expectations.

If you weren’t able to make it to any of the events, you could also take a Gender & Women’s Studies course during your time at OSU. If you need some incentive to not think the class is completely a waste of time, many of the courses fulfill the diversity (D), international (I) or social (S) requirements OSU students need before they graduate. I believe, however, students will get much more from these courses than a graduation fulfillment.

I wanted to write about feminism in relation to men because as gender equality activist and self-identified feminist, Jackson Katz (yes Jackson as in a man Jackson), explains in his TED Talks speech, for too long have men been left out of the conversation. Gender issues are perceived as women’s issues, but many people fail to realize that there are a spectrum of gender identifications, and most often the cis-male gender identification often gets left out of these conversations. Interestingly enough, he also points out the white cis-male gets left out of a lot of conversations.

I’m not pointing this out to harp on white straight men. To the contrary, I bring it up to point out that many men don’t even realize they are being left out of the conversation. Maybe some just don’t care. I’m not above admitting that, although I wish it weren’t the case. I think if more men realize the impact they could have by involving themselves in the conversation, what a change it could make. Yes, I know I can stand up for myself when I’m being discriminated against or looked down upon simply because I’m a woman (and this doesn’t just happen from men either), but I appreciate knowing I’m not alone when my male friends are willing to stand up for me and other women as well.

So men of OSU, the next time a situation arises that appears to put down women, stand up and say, “That’s not OK!” I can’t speak for every woman, but I think it’s probably safe to say that most women will appreciate it, even if they don’t see you do it. And I can’t speak for every man, but you might be surprised just how liberating it feels to finally be able to stand up for your girlfriends, sisters, mothers, and wives when they are unable to.

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“The Honor Diaries”: A post-evaluation

Honor DiariesOn Wednesday night, Oklahoma State University hosted a free screening of “The Honor Diaries”, a documentary about honor-based violence facing women around the world.

I had watched the documentary before on Netflix prior to the screening at OSU. As someone who frequently reads and checks out articles and films about women’s rights, it caught my eye one Sunday afternoon and my boyfriend and I sat down to watch it. We had heard about and read a little bit on the subject, but by no means were he and I experts.

We were surprised at how pervasive the practice of honor-based violence against women is in areas of the country you’d least expect. Honor-based violence includes, but is not limited to, practices such as:

In Canada and the United Kingdom, to where larger populations of Middle Eastern, Asian and African families immigrate, these practices are actually more common than you’d think. Even in the United States, these cases are on the rise. Perhaps living in Oklahoma where we are less culturally diverse than other states, we don’t hear about these cases often, but they are happening.

Many people don’t understand the history behind this gender-based violence, and one of the criticisms of the film is that is seems to perpetuate that the honor-based violence and killings are a result of the Islam religion. While it is true that these practices can and do take place in Muslim communities, Islam itself does not promote violence against women, or anyone for that matter.

Honor killings and violence also take place in countries such as India where Hinduism is the predominant religion. FGM takes place in many African countries where there is no dominant religious influence. Clearly, honor-based violence is not just an “Islam” problem.

honorkillingprotestInstead, the practices seem to be deep-rooted in a cultural (not religious) environment of patriarchy. Although many women and men around the world have begun to stand up to these long-standing practices of violence, there are still many women who do not speak out against a practice that has become “tradition.” In fact, a root cause of this silence stems from a systemic history of gender inequality within those societies. Simply put, some societies really don’t know any other way of life and family members face fear of punishment if they deviate from the family’s wishes.

How do we end these practices of honor-based violence against women? I believe one of of the most effective ways to achieve this is through education of the problem. People need to be educated on the facts (not stereotypes), on the benefits of gender equality (both men and women), and on a larger scale (because “out of sight, out of mind” is a real thing). But there are other ways activists can work to end honor-based violence against women. I hope by writing this blog, I’ve at least shed some light on an issue that while uncomfortable for some to talk about, needs to be addressed as a conservative estimate of 5,000 women die annually from honor killings alone and more than 130 million girls and women today have been affected by FGM.

Denim Day: No excuse for rape

Denim Day 2-01You might have seen a flier around campus advertising for Denim Day at OSU tomorrow.

You might have even pieced together that it has something to do with prevention of sexual assault. Perhaps you’re thinking, “Oh, this is just some new thing OSU created as part of the 1 is 2 Many campaign or the online sexual assault training students are now required to complete.”

Well, you would be partially right. The OSU Student Conduct Office, which oversees the 1 is 2 Many campaign at OSU, is the office that is in charge of promoting Denim Day at OSU. However, this event has been around for almost two decades and, is in fact, an international movement arising from a real-life event.

In 1992, an 18 year-old-girl in Italy was raped by her driving instructor. Six years later, his conviction was overturned because the Italian Supreme Court said that her jeans were too tight, and she would have had to helped the driver get them off therefore indicating consent. The next day, women of the Italian Parliament wore jeans in protest and soon the case was receiving international attention and protest. In 2008, the Italian Supreme Court overturned the “denim defense” as a valid defense for rape.

The reason this movement is important is that it seeks to end the culture of victim-blaming (aka rape culture) through the absurdity of the “denim defense.” Flimsy reasons such as, “She was asking for it” and “She was dressed slutty” and “She shouldn’t have been drinking” are just excuses to not spend the time and energy to actually address the root cause of many sexual assault cases, in that perpetrators are usually driven by a sense of entitlement, societal expectations of masculinity, or just flat out ignorance as to what sexual assault is and why it is WRONG!

Students Speaks Out Against Rape on Denim Day

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and OSU will be holding Denim Day on April 14 instead of the national day of recognition this year on April 29. The purpose behind the movement can and should be promoted more than one day a year. Wings of Hope will be on campus to offer information about its services, many of which provide help to survivors of sexual assault. So wear your denim tomorrow to campus for Denim Day at OSU and feel free to share your support on Twitter or Facebook using the hashtags #Okstate, #DenimDay or #DenimDayOSU.

Oh, final note…you don’t have to wear denim to support the cause. Having conversations with your friends and family about the issue surprisingly works just as well!

Women in the Workplace: Turning Issues into Opportunities

Turn on any news outlet these days and you’re sure to find discussions going on about the gender pay gap that still exists in the United States.

Take a variety of intro level sociology, political science, or business classes and you’re sure to hear the term “glass ceiling” come up as well.

These are two common points of discussion that come up when talking about the issues women face in the workforce, but several other factors have been brought up lately that haven’t received as much media attention in the past couple of decades.

Women in the Workplace PanelThese factors among others will be discussed at a “Women in the Workplace” panel hosted today at 5 p.m. in 114 Classroom Building by the Women’s Programming Advisory Council and Minority Women’s Association of OSU.

Let’s get down to some stereotypes that are underlying causes as to why women and minorities are held back in the workplace (so minority women are dealt a doubly bad deck of cards when it comes to career advancement).

  1. Women are expected to have kids and quit their jobs.In the past decade, more women are waiting to get married AND to have kids, with many choosing not to have kids at all. Of course, with that choice comes the inevitable, “When do you plan on having kids?” or “Don’t you want kids?” questions. It’s a double-edged sword for women who driven with their careers because many people still believe the highest priority should be popping out babies before our “biological clock” runs out of batteries.
  2. Women are expected to be their child’s primary caregiver.All I’m going to say on this one is men can be equally as awesome, if not better, than women at caring for a child. Many men actually enjoy being the caregiver but are often looked at strangely for not wanting to be the “breadwinner” of the family. Apparently when women are providing the primary income of a family it threatens the masculinity of a man who truly enjoys being with and caring for his children. This stereotype, however, is also starting to change.
  3. Women are judged more harshly when voicing their opinions.“Bossy”, “aggressive”, “bitch”…these are all words describing women who voice their opinions in a workplace environment. Men, when voicing their opinions, are described as “leaders”, “assertive” and “direct.” Unfair much? Sheryl Sandberg’s best-selling Lean In seeks to change the way we perceive assertive women in the workplace through education and a little bit of help with the “Ban Bossy” campaign. If you would be proud of your mother, daughter, girlfriend, friend, sister, etc. for accomplishing a major achievement at work, how would you feel if you knew she was being called a “bitch” for it?
  4. Women are expected to have good “soft skills.”Because of the misconception that women are meant to be caregivers, they are also often attributed to being good at compromise (not negotiating), communication (not strategy), and mediation (not problem solving). Similar to the word choices used to describe assertive women, we are often guilty of describing the same set of skills in a “feminine” manner when a woman possesses them and in a more career-friendly “masculine” manner when men possess them.
  5. Women are still seen as secondary to their husbands.We’ve come a long way in perceiving men and women as equal human beings, yet internally there is still exists much conflict for women who are equal (or better) than their husbands with their careers. A study found that women who make equal to or more income than their husbands tend to overcompensate with housework “in order to appease the blow to their husband’s ego.” Women shouldn’t feel guilty about their hard-earned success, and men shouldn’t make them feel that way either. In the words of Tom Haverford, take that extra money, hire someone (who maybe needs the extra income to begin with) to take care of some of those household/caregiver duties and “Treat yo’ self” every once in a while.
  6. Women are perceived as naturally weaker than their male coworkers.This goes back to the “soft skills” stereotype from earlier, however, women who are career-driven tend to have a higher work ethic and commit more time to working hard to earn their success. This leads to a lot of men being displaced from jobs they historically were “entitled” to have available to them. As more women prove that they’ve got the chops to do as good or better of a job than their male counterparts, this argument is becoming less valid, but still exists as men feel edged out of the traditionally male-dominated workforce.
  7. Women are judged more on their looks than men.I’ll say this…damn high heels. But seriously, women are expected to look a certain way, have an endless number of outfits, wear their hair a certain style, wear makeup, and present themselves outwardly in ways men don’t have to worry about. The media tend to worry about this more for high-profile women, and focus little on their actual qualifications and accomplishments. Yet, there’s also a fine line women must tiptoe in order to be attractive but not “too sexy” at the workplace. With this, I’ll leave on the note of ultimately, be in charge of defining yourself. With more than 7 billion people in the world right now, who’s got time to worry about what everyone else thinks about you?

Broaden your horizons and support women and LGBTQI+ artists!

Throughout your college career, you’re supposed to stay focused on your academics and make straight A’s, but then as you walk to and from class, you’re probably bombarded to sign up for classes you don’t need, to join student organizations or a fraternity/sorority, to go out and be social, and to attend events on campus. It can be overwhelming!

But there is evidence that shows that trying new things can have positive mental and physical health benefits, so it might be good to try one of these new classes, clubs, or events every once in a while.

PRISM-01Well lucky for you, the Women’s Programming Advisory Council (WPAC) is hosting a FREE arts event today from 6:30-9 p.m. in the Browsing Room of the OSU library (2nd floor). PRISM Fest is a way to showcase women and LGBTQI+ artists who may not be recognized as often in the art world.

PRISM Fest is also a great way for you to expand your horizons. There will be a variety of artists, both visual and performance, at the event. This include painters, henna artists, poets, singers, photographers and sketch artists.

Been in a funk lately? Come have a personalized poem created by local poet Shaun Perkins of ROMPoetry. She creates poems on the spot that are as unique are you are!

Want to experience international art? Come get a henna tattoo design and learn about the tradition from a henna artists.

Need to bring some new life into your home? Browse the tables of many artists who will be selling their pieces. Maybe you’ll find a painting or drawing that you’ll be proud to show off in your living room and you’ll feel good knowing you supported a local artist!

Who knows? By trying something new, you might find a new hobby, passion, or group of friends. Or it might just make you want to come back to PRISM Fest next fall.

poemswithluke
Shaun Perkins, of ROMPoetry, at the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Women in Politics: The “Who’s Who” for 2016

WPAC movie night-01The Women’s Programming Advisory Council (WPAC) is hosting a free screening MAKERS: Women in Politics this evening at 5 p.m. in 114 Classroom Building. The episode is part of a PBS series that seeks to highlight influential women in various areas.

In accordance with the theme of this week’s episode, WPAC would like to highlight a few up-and-coming and well-known names of women in the political world. 2016 could be the year we see the first woman elected as President of the United States.

hillary_clintonOf course we can start with the obvious, Hillary Clinton, who is the rumored front-runner for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016. Clinton is a jack’tress’ of all trades. An alumna of Yale Law School, First Lady to 42nd President William ‘Bill’ Clinton, former senator for the state of New York (2001-2009), and former Secretary of State (2009-2013) under President Barack Obama, Clinton brings a plethora of legitimate experience to the table if she pursues the presidential nomination next year. **On a side note, let’s not forget to mention Clinton’s protege and senate seat successor, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who is fast making a name for herself in the Democratic party.

Elizabeth_Warren_CFPBRight on her heels, is Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a former Harvard law professor and considered one of the foremost scholars on the issues of the U.S. economy and personal finance. Although, Warren has stated she is not interested in running for the Democratic presidential nomination, many see her as a legitimate contender, especially after her speech about Wall Street and government bailouts on Dec. 12, 2014. Warren is seen as a woman who works for the working class and was instrumental in the formation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. If a presidential run isn’t in her future, we can still expect to hear more from her over the next election season.

220px-Kelly_Ayotte,_Official_Portrait,_112th_Congress_2Not to leave the Republican party out, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H) has been generating buzz about her involvement on a presidential ticket since she was considered as a potential vice-presidential candidate on the 2012 Romney presidential campaign. Ayote has established a strong and firm opinion on core conservative issues that have been key talking points in the Republican party as of late. With prior experience in public and private law and as attorney general of New Hampshire (2004-2009), the junior senator is now making a name for herself in Congress.

Susana-MartinezAnother frontrunner in the Republican party is New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez. With the GOP’s efforts to sway the Latino vote, Martinez’s experience as a Latina politician who has been on both sides of the Congressional aisle, could pose a threat to the Latino population’s traditional support for Democrats. Since making the switch to the Republican party, Martinez has been firm with her stances on abortion and same-sex marriage. Many love her firecracker personality, which she attributes to her humble and strict upbringing by her three-time boxing champion father.

<> on February 16, 2011 in Washington, DC.More of a moderate candidate, Alaska’s Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has proven she what it takes to stay in the game. In 2010, after losing a controversial primary for reelection, Murkowski launched a write-in campaign and became the first senator in more than 50 years to be elected through write-in votes. While the Republican party usually appreciates a tenacious attitude, they may not, however, appreciate her moderate stances on abortion (she is pro-choice), stem-cell research, and the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy of which she voted to repeal. But who knows, maybe a little bit of moderation could do this country good.

Governor Mary FallinAnd let’s not forget Oklahoma’s very own, Gov. Mary Fallin, who has also been making a name for herself over the past few years for her rigid stances on many key conservative issues. 2012 Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin has said she views Fallin as a fellow “liberty loving Mama Grizzly“. Since becoming Oklahoma’s first female governor in 2011, Fallin has been a poster-child for enforcing key conservative values. Time will only tell if a future congressional or presidential ticket will have her name on it.

WPAC hosts arts festival for LGQBTI+ and Women artists

It’s no surprise that as with most areas of life, the art world is still considered a ‘man’s world’. In this world, women and LGBTQI+ artists struggle to get the recognition they deserve.

Although women account for half of the MFA degrees received in the US, only a quarter of solo exhibitions in New York galleries feature women. For artists of the LGBTQI+ community, the numbers are even worse.

Call for Artists-01The Women’s Programming Advisory Council (WPAC) at Oklahoma State University seeks to turn the easels on the art world by co-hosting PRISM Fest, an on-campus arts event, with Oklahoma State Queers & Allies (OSQ&A) and ARC. PRISM Fest seeks to give LGBTQI+ and women artists, musicians, designers, etc., a chance to shine in a community setting. The deadline for LGBTQI+ and women artists to register to participate is March 31.

Email WPAC.okstate@gmail.com with any questions or register at the following link: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/10u7Z-hgn-9_zdD0FOgaYVfh562fGpzU65h9UrjhpODI/viewform?edit_requested=true

PRISM Fest will be held next Thursday, April 2, from 6:30-9 p.m. in the Helmerich Browsing Room (2nd floor) of the OSU library. Featured at the festival will be LGBTQI+ and women painters, sculptors, poets, musicians, apparel designers, and more.

The festival is free to attend and there will be food and drinks. Any of the art is available for sale (dependent on the artist).

Although the struggle for equality for the LGBTQI+ community (marriage equality) and for women (gender wage gap) exists in the national spotlight on many levels, PRISM Fest seeks to level the playing field on a local level.

Dr. Amy Foster visits OSU, MAKERS: Women in Space

whm_banner2

Hey, did you know that March is Women’s History Month and this past Sunday was International Women’s Day? The Women’s Programming Advisory Council (WPAC) has planned a variety of events to coincide with this month.

Although with any __________ History Month, we feel we should all be honoring the

accomplishments of all individuals, regardless of gender or race throughout the entire year : )

In preparation for WPAC’s free screening of the PBS documentary, MAKERS: Women Who Make America, this Thursday, March 12, at 5 p.m. in CLB 114, WPAC would also like to recognize another event coming to OSU that is being planned by the OSU Gender & Women Studies and American Studies programs and the OSU history department.

Foster Poster, Final VersionDr. Amy Foster, a notable space historian, particularly on the history of women and gender in space, will be at OSU today and tomorrow to talk to the OSU community about the impact of women on the U.S. and international space programs. Today, Foster will be giving a lecture at 3:30 p.m. in Room 416 of the OSU Student Union titled, How Lt. Uhura changed the world: The history of NASA’s women astronauts.

Tomorrow, March 11, Foster will host a reception and book signing at 5 p.m. in the Noble Research Center (NRC) atrium. Foster will be featuring her book, Integrating Women into the Astronaut Corps: Politics and Logistics at NASA, 1972-2004. Following the reception, MAKERS: Women in Space, in which Foster is featured, will be screened for free in Room 207, NRC.

The Foster and WPAC events are free to all students, faculty, and staff at OSU, so I encourage you PLEASE take advantage of these educational and cultural opportunities while you’re here in Stillwater. There are free events like this going on all the time around campus. An easy way to find them is to go to OSU’s calendar on the OSU homepage! We hope to see you at either or both of these MAKERS screenings!

OSU Women’s Expo: Women Helping Women

We’ve all heard the stereotype that most (if not all) women secretly hate each other. They’re jealous of each other. Women view other women as competition.

Women's ExpoIn the spirit of showing the opposite is true and that women can actually empower one another, the Women’s Programming Advisory Council (WPAC) is hosting OSU’s first ‘Women’s Expo’ event. Several women’s organizations will be sitting side-by-side as they work to spread awareness of the organizations at OSU that seek to empower women.

Clearly, women can get along, so what is with this longstanding myth about ‘catfights’ and ‘girl fights’ being the norm?

To reference the theory of Occam’s razor, the simplest explanation is often the best. What then, is the simple explanation for this woman vs. woman phenomena?

Society’s desire to label.

We are exposed to it from a very young age. Boys wear blue. Girls wear pink. Boys are supposed to be adventurous and play with cars and toy guns. Girls are supposed to be pretty or cute and play with Barbies and dream houses. In the case of girls, we are told from a very young age that much of our self-worth is tied directly to our looks and whether we are considered more or less attractive than the girl down the street (the one who used to be your best friend growing up, but now you don’t speak to because you fought over the same boy in high school).

Mean Girls, 2004, Paramount Pictures
Mean Girls, 2004, Paramount Pictures

We see this stereotype of women as competition perpetuated throughout history, with TV shows and movies doing most of the work in the past century. Films like Mean GirlsBring it OnBridesmaids, and the ’80s cult classic Heathers, are prime examples. I can hear the argument that these films end with a life lesson about how women should not hate on other women. I will counter that argument with the fact that those films spent 90 percent of the film focused on “girl drama.” So sure, the last five minutes offer some kind of moral lesson, but movie audiences generally don’t pay to see the last five minutes of a film.

TV shows like the Real Housewives series, Bad Girls Club and Desperate Housewives, which last way longer than a two-hour film, are as popular as ever. “Reality TV” feeds on over-exaggerated drama, and many of the most popular shows center on “girl drama.”

It’s time for women to say enough is enough. We do not have to settle for society telling women that it’s normal for us to be jealous of one another right off the bat. I’ll admit, I’ve been guilty of it in the past, but in the last few years, I’ve embraced my fellow females and have made some great friends in the process. In the words of Ms. Norbury, “you all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores.”

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!