Archive for May, 2011

House votes to ban federal funds for teaching abortion procedures

May 31, 2011

Now that you’ve come down from the sugar high of the last post, it’s time to focus on something that isn’t sweet at all — that the House has passed a measure that would block federal funds from being used to teach doctors how to perform abortions.

Though this bill likely won’t make it through the Senate, its mere existence is beyond frustrating. Anti-choicers are willing to sacrifice anyone and everyone in their quest to eliminate (legal) abortion completely, and using federal funding as a foundation for their efforts (whether it be Planned Parenthood or hospitals) hurts not only the women they perceive as immoral and heartless for getting elective abortions, but also the people who (1) go to family-planning clinics for other services and (2) people whose abortions are not elective, but rather are necessary to save the life of the mother.

Abortion is one of the safest medical procedures out there — if done by a medical professional who is properly trained. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that only 0.3 percent of abortions lead to a complication that requires hospitalization. When you try making access to safe abortion more difficult, you might succeed in preventing some women from getting abortions — but you’ll also drive some women to get unsafe, life-endangering abortions. Or you might have women in hospitals, bleeding to death because no one is trained to perform a life-saving abortion procedure. Who are anti-choicers really socking it to then?

Abortion is a medical procedure, and it saves lives. To try to curb unintended pregnancies or abortions by holding federal funding hostage in hopes that hospitals won’t teach medical students how to perform abortions is irresponsible, misguided, and dangerous.

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Let them view pictures of cake

May 31, 2011

My brother recently requested that I blog about cake instead of rape and abortion — I think he’s trying to tell me my blog subject matter is a bit depressing? To that I would say (1) what’s really depressing is that I have so much material to write about in terms of the problems with how society views and deals with sexual assault and reproductive rights, but (2) light-hearted material is needed intermittently to avoid drowning in such heavy topics and being consumed by feelings of hopelessness.

And so, I bring you a blog about cake!

My favorite types of cake

First of all, I’m going to admit that I prefer cupcakes to cake. There are cake people and cupcake people, and I’m definitely a cupcake person. That’s partly because I like simple cake flavors, and it’s more difficult to put weird mousse and fruit filling in cupcakes, and partly because cupcakes are so easy to eat and carry around. But this doesn’t mean I will turn down a slice of chocolate cake if someone offers it.

1. Angel food cake with strawberries

I don’t think I’d say this is my favorite type of cake because it is in a category all its own. No frosting (or whipped cream or Cool Whip or whatever weird topping most people like to put on strawberries), just delicious fluffy, light cake with a nice pile of strawberries on top. I probably like this so much because I love strawberries, and the angel food cake offers a different flavor and texture but doesn’t overshadow the strawberries. I also like pound cake and strawberries, but pound cake is pretty heavy in comparison to angel food cake so you can’t eat as much of it.

2. Pepperidge Farm Three-Layer Chocolate Fudge Cake

Now this is a cake. I’m not one for really, really chocolatey desserts (which makes my mom frustrated and wondering if I’m really related to her genetically), but something about this cake always makes me want to eat the entire thing. Layers of chocolate cake with thin layers of a chocolate mousse-type filling (but seemingly denser than chocolate mousse would be) … this cake is just plain delicious. If we were eating cake at any time in my childhood and it wasn’t someone’s birthday, we were eating this Pepperidge Farm cake — maybe that adds to why I like it so much.

3. Red Velvet Cupcakes

I only recently got into red velvet cake, and I think cupcakes are much better for red velvet than a huge sheet cake because the cake is a little sweeter and the frosting is a little tangy (usually cream cheese), so smaller cupcake-sized doses are better than huge slices. Plus their color is so vibrant!

4. Yellow cake with chocolate frosting

My favorite simple, sheet cake combination is yellow cake with chocolate frosting. I’m picky when it comes to desserts, so I don’t like cakes that have nuts, fruit filling, peanut butter … most of the things normal people think are delicious. But regardless of all the toppings and extras that people enjoy on cake, everyone has a simple cake flavor/icing combo that always hits the spot.

Cakes that look cool and/or reflect my favorite things

1. Margarita cake

If you’d like to get me an ideal birthday cake, use this cake as a blueprint and replace “Amy” with “Cathy.” This cake not only is colorful, but it comes with chips and salsa and an actual margarita! Some margarita cakes had margaritas with frosting posing as the margarita inside the glass, but that’s pretty gross — how can you drink a glass full of frosting or a fondant marg? It’s ingenious to instead to have an actual margarita, so the birthday person can enjoy a nice drink with their cake. Make mine a frozen margarita, please.

2. Cat cake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Come on now, I love cakes that not only look like cats, but look like my cats! This cake looks pretty sizable and well-carved out to match the shape of an actual cat (aka impressive). I don’t think I’d want to eat it — I’d rather find a way to preserve it and put it with all my other cat memorabilia.

3. Grilled cheese sandwich cake

I love grilled cheese sandwiches (note the header of this blog). I wish this cake had something sitting next to it to better illustrate how big it is proportionate to a magazine or a person. I also enjoyed googling pictures of cake made to look like pizza, but this grilled cheese cake was more impressive than any of the pizza cake pictures I found (though a lot of them were really cool-looking, too).

4. iCakes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I spend way too much time with my laptop, and a lesser but still probably unhealthy amount of time with my iPhone. These iPhone icon cupcakes are spot on, and this Macbook cake looks awesome. Unfortunately, both are covered in gross fondant, but it’s hard to make cakes that mimic real-life objects without using the fondant.

16&P: Pregnancy, anorexia, and lacking support from mom

May 27, 2011

I haven’t blogged about 16 and Pregnant in a while because the themes have tended to overlap, but this week’s episode proved much different than any previous episode in this or any other season. This week we met Kayla, who not only has an unsupportive mom to deal with, but also an eating disorder that makes her pregnancy very tumultuous.

“Don’t get fat, don’t get fat, you’re gross”

These are the words that Kayla said run through her mind whenever she thinks about eating. Kayla was hospitalized and then diagnosed with anorexia when she was 13 years old, and her pregnancy proved challenging because of the weight she gained. Although doctors were continuously telling her throughout her pregnancy that she was not gaining the appropriate amount of weight, Kayla skipped meals constantly and at one point was hospitalized for pre-term labor relating to dehydration.

Kayla explained to her friends that even though they saw a baby bump when they looked at her, she saw flab and would stand in front of the mirror crying. “Only fat people get stretch marks,” she said, concerned that the stretch marks she was getting were a sign that she was overeating or overweight (stretch marks are a very common side effect of pregnancy and are often even hereditary). She knew that she had to feed the baby, but her eating disorder was always in the back of her mind.

Not only was Kayla struggling with the judgment many teens receive for being pregnant, but she was also concerned about the judgment people would give her because of her weight. She went to the beach with her friends but didn’t want to wear a bikini because she was afraid people would assume she was overweight — and if they did think she was pregnant, then she might receive dirty looks for being a pregnant teen.

Being pregnant changes a woman’s body substantially — hips widen, breasts get larger, and there’s significant weight gain. Average size women should gain about 25 to 35 pounds, underweight women should gain about 28 to 40 pounds, and overweight women should gain about 15 to 25 pounds. For someone who has an eating disorder and has body image issues already, it’s difficult to deal with a rapid, dramatic, and most importantly uncontrollable physical transformation like that. There’s a constant fight between knowing the growing baby needs nourishment and the desire to control the weight gain, and that’s something that is rarely seen on TV but something many women struggle with during pregnancy.

A mom who’s MIA 

And though her friends were supportive and reminded her she obviously had a baby bump and not flab, that she didn’t look fat, and that she needed to feed her baby, she lacked the support system that she yearned for and that would’ve helped her the most: from her mom.

After being hospitalized for dehydration, Kayla saw a nutritionist about her eating habits (this is just one important recommendation for pregnant women who have been diagnosed with eating disorders). The doctor told her not to eat alone because it creates an air of secrecy around eating and because having people eat with you makes it more difficult to avoid meals, and also that they should have family dinners. Kayla reiterated this to her mom, who made one home-cooked meal — and that was it.

Kayla’s mom was constantly spending time with her boyfriend instead of Kayla, and she was constantly avoiding having to play the mother role when it came to helping Kayla through her pregnancy. With an eating disorder alone Kayla needs a solid support system, and adding her pregnancy makes a support system essential.

But Kayla’s mom resists being that support system; she makes lots of promises and then breaks them. Or, like when Kayla asks her mom for advice about her pregnancy, what she should expect, what she needs to buy for the baby, and says she is really overwhelmed, her mom suggests that she visit a support group. Kayla practically begs her mom throughout the episode to help her and offer guidance, but her mom doesn’t want to get involved. “I think it’s all going to fall into place,” her mom replied.

I suspect this is because her mom was a teen mom, and she doesn’t want to be sucked into raising another child. I think she stays with her boyfriend so she can avoid dealing with reality (I’d say she was relieving the glory days she missed out on, but Kayla says her evasive behavior only started after Kayla got pregnant), and I think she wants Kayla to deal with everything without any help because she doesn’t want Kayla to rely on her too much.

This is evident when she says she will take a week off work to help Kayla with newborn Preston — keep in mind Kayla’s boyfriend Mike works and Kayla had a c-section so is initially going to be limited in what she can do — and then decides not to take any time off work and tells Kayla and Mike they’ll figure it out. But part of me also wonders if Kayla’s mom didn’t have it so easy as a teen mom, and she for some morbid reason wants Kayla to suffer, too. Her mom even forces Mike to pay $300 rent even though they pay for everything themselves; are literally left with no money after they buy diapers, wipes, and formula; and Mike living there and working there is the only reason Kayla can take care of the baby all day.

Kayla’s mom isn’t required to do anything, but most of the parents on the show who were also teen parents are sympathetic to their kids’ struggles because they’ve been there before. Kayla expected her mom to be supportive, and her mom even said her “biggest fear is that [Kayla] wouldn’t keep it.” Kayla’s mom plays into a common anti-choice theme here: She doesn’t want Kayla to have an abortion, but she doesn’t offer Kayla much support once she decides to keep the baby. Kayla does live in her mom’s house, but she lacks any other financial, physical, or emotional support from her.

Stepping up as parents

I was wildly impressed with both Kayla’s and Mike’s attitude toward this pregnancy. Unlike some teen moms we’ve seen in past episodes who felt their pregnancies and babies shouldn’t impede on their ability to have a normal teenage life (Farrah and Jenelle come to mind), Kayla was more realistic. “I don’t think I should be able to be a regular teenager. I’m not a regular teenager,” she told her mom. On the aftershow, Kayla said that it’s weird to go out with friends now, saying, “I feel guilty about it, like I shouldn’t even get to have that fun.”

Being a parent doesn’t mean your social life is over or that you don’t deserve to have fun, but Kayla realized early on what some teen parents don’t: Parenting involves some sacrifice. And usually it’s the teen mom always making the sacrifices (dropping out of school, falling behind in school, not going to college), but Mike made a lot of sacrifices and to his credit was one of the most involved and dedicated teen dads I’ve seen on the show. He moved an hour away from home to be with Kayla, skipped college, and was the support system she needed throughout her pregnancy. They aren’t together anymore, but Kayla says he remains very involved with Preston.

The importance of support

Kayla’s episode really highlighted how important a solid support system is. She had a close-knit group of friends who were concerned about her health, and she had a boyfriend who was committed and dedicated to her and their baby. It’s unfortunate that her mom — an important piece to the puzzle — chose to let Kayla fend for herself while she struggled with both pregnancy and anorexia.

And how Kayla’s mom doesn’t see this is beyond me. In fact, at one point, her mom suggests they go on a diet together. Even Kayla looked at her with confusion — her mother, knowing she’s been diagnosed with anorexia, a disease that leaves you starving yourself and not eating enough food, wants to encourage Kayla to focus on losing weight and “portion control”?

Part of combatting an eating disorder is learning to eat in a healthy way, but her mom suggesting that she (1) needs to lose weight and that (2) Kayla could teach her something because she knows how to avoid food leaves me speechless. This doesn’t support Kayla at all, but merely asks Kayla to focus on losing weight and eating less.

I wish her mom would be more of an all-around support system for her, because her friends are leaving for college soon and she isn’t with Mike anymore. That is, if she can figure out how to properly support her daughter.

For more information on eating disorders, including treatment and support groups, visit the National Association for Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Eating Disorders or the National Eating Disorders Association.

This cat video will cheer you up

May 27, 2011

In accordance with my decision to intersperse my blogs with some light-hearted material (most likely cat pictures and videos), please enjoy this video of a cat hugging her sleeping, twitching kitten:

Your brain will explode into little pieces of cuteness right about … NOW!

‘Real World’ tidbits: Idealizing a partner, forgiving family

May 26, 2011

This week on Real World, there were two interesting themes (surprisingly neither has to do with Dustin doing porn): idealizing someone you have romantic feelings for and mending fraught relationships. The former is all about trying to make a relationship work based on a skewed image of the person, and the latter is all about trying to make a relationship work based on a real image of the person, with it being difficult in either case to look objectively at the person in the present.

Ideal vs. real

It boggles my mind that anyone could actually idealize Adam, considering he has zero redeeming qualities, but Nany had idealized Adam and their relationship until he returned for a final visit with Nany. He came back, got belligerently drunk, and tried to get into the Hard Rock Hotel (which he is banned from). Nany didn’t stay the night with him and proceeded to ignore him for the next two days, obviously annoyed that his visit was not going as she’d imagined.

I was actually quite surprised that she so quickly turned against him, since he was constantly belligerently drunk when he was still living in Vegas. His behavior was classic Adam — everything you’d think Nany would expect. But I’m sure that Nany had a skewed and idealized memory of Adam. He wasn’t around to remind her that he is manipulative, out of control, and violent, so she could remember him exactly as she decided — and I’m sure that idealized memory disintegrated as she watched him drink vodka straight from the bottle.

We often and unknowingly stay in unhealthy relationships because we rely on these idealized images of people, suppressing the bad stuff and remembering the good stuff. It’s why people stay in and return to bad relationships, because they either forget or ignore the bad stuff in hopes it’ll play out differently. Nany was willing to ignore a lot of the bad, but eventually she reached a point where she couldn’t ignore how skewed her memory of Adam was and came back into reality.

So I say kudos to Nany, who didn’t try to keep “reforming” another bad boy, something she admitted in episode one that she likes to do. I disagree with her assessment that Adam is fine sober, but I do hope that she meant it when she said she was going to stop going after guys like Adam. Part of that will mean identifying manipulative, violent behavior and not brushing it off or excusing it.

Forgiving someone vs. forgetting someone

This week Mike’s mom and her boyfriend came to visit, and he hadn’t seen her in two years and didn’t know what to expect from the visit. He has detailed in past episodes that she wasn’t around during his childhood, frequently got arrested, and had substance abuse problems throughout his life. She was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and Mike confessed that he didn’t know if he wanted to rekindle a relationship with her because she might just be taken away from him once again.

Mike’s dilemma was extremely difficult, and it was juxtaposed with Nany’s quest to find her birth father. Whereas Mike had known his mother all his life (though at one point did refer to her as his “birth mother,” implying his relationship with her is very minimal in scope), Nany never knew her father at all. She hired a private investigator to find him, who eventually revealed that her father had died in 2002.

Nany was desperate to form a connection with a father she never knew, and Mike was unsure if he wanted to form a connection with a mother he always knew (though not in a way that he wanted). Nany’s learning that she could never build relationship with her father led her to warn Mike not to take his mother for granted, and this seemed to resonate with him. It would be easier in the short-term to forget about her, but likely much more difficult in the long-term if she passes away and building a relationship with her is impossible.

Social context for DSK apologists followed by victim-blaming

May 26, 2011

You know, this Daily Beast article discussing how sexual harassment has historically been downplayed in France had potential. Nina Sutton, a French female journalist about the same age as former IMF director and alleged sexual assailant Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK), described how in the ’70s, a male boss would approaching his female subordinate and “[grab] her breasts with both hands while making some lewd comment or depositing a kiss on her neck.”

It provides a window into why many French men of DSK’s age are dismissing the severity or legitimacy of these sexual assault allegations, writing defenses that simultaneously exemplify rape apologism and victim-blaming. I appreciate the social context, but I don’t appreciate that it takes a turn for the worse and inevitably plays into that same victim-blaming she so blatantly associates with older French men:

And the accusations were so numerous, they seemed so extravagant—I still find it hard to believe that, in 28 minutes, a 62-year-old man weighing some 224 pounds can rape three ways (per the complaint) an unwilling woman of 32, pack his suitcase and (we all know he was naked) get dressed adequately enough to appear composed to a couple of French tourists in the elevator—that it was difficult for many of us to feel sympathy for the woman who was said to have uttered them.

It’s exhausting reading all the DSK-related articles that start reasonably, just to arrive at, “Now I’m not saying she’s a liar, but [insert comment implying she is a liar].” No one should brush off allegations simply because the people involved didn’t have physical appearances that match how we think a rapist or a victim look like, or when the time frame doesn’t fit how long we think a sexual assault would last. In fact, it is mindboggling that someone even suggested that it didn’t last long enough to qualify as plausible.

This mindset runs dangerously close to mimicking the blasé attitude toward sexual harassment and assault that Sutton discussed in her article, so it’s especially concerning that she shares this feeling.

If you’re looking for a healthy dose of saxophone solo …

May 26, 2011

… then look no further. Sax solos might become the latest craze — thanks to Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory” to Katy Perry’s “TGIF” — but let’s not forget what a real saxophone solo in a pop song sounds like:

I dedicate this YouTube video of “Urgent” by Foreigner to my friend and saxophone solo enthusiast, Erin.

Taking the spare tire/abortion coverage analogy even further

May 24, 2011

A Kansas state representative has compared being raped to getting a flat tire, during a discussion on the Kansas House floor about banning private insurance companies from covering abortions on general health plans. Women could buy separate riders for abortion coverage, with some lawmakers insisting that if women want access to abortions, they need to pay extra in preparation for unintended pregnancies.

When Kansas state Rep. Barbara Bollier questioned expecting women to plan ahead for pregnancies they can’t control, e.g. in the case of rape, Rep. Peter DeGraaf replied, “I have [a] spare tire on my car.”

Feministing’s Maya addresses this best:

But DeGraaf’s comments also reveals just how absurd and disingenuous anti-choice opposition to insurance coverage for abortion is. “We do need to plan ahead, don’t we, in life?” Why, yes, indeed! And one way that we generally “plan ahead” for unexpected problems that may or may not befall us is by doing things like, oh I dunno, buying health insurance plans.

Also, another problem with this analogy (besides the insensitivity of comparing being raped to getting a flat tire)? DeGraaf talks about having a spare tire in his car as if he went and purchased it himself in case of an emergency (like they want women to separately purchase abortion coverage). Newsflash: Cars typically come equipped with spare tires (used cars might not, but for the sake of argument, let’s assume most people don’t have to buy their own spare tires). So I guess under DeGraaf’s analogy — that the auto industry put a spare tire in his trunk that makes him better prepared in case of an unintended flat tire — the health insurance industry should put abortion coverage in general health plans so women are better prepared in case of unintended pregnancies?

But I could see anti-choicers taking issue with this idea — for many of them, you don’t fall into the category of incest, rape, or your health is in danger (and even some anti-choicers don’t think abortion should be allowed in those scenarios, either), then you shouldn’t be allowed to choose abortion. You had unprotected sex, so now you must deal with the consequences. What if access to spare tires worked that way? You saw that pothole in the road but you drove over it anyway — POOF! Your spare tire is no longer accessible because your flat tire was not caused by circumstances outside your control, but by your own decisions.

Things happen that we don’t anticipate will happen, whether in or out of our control, and it makes more sense to be prepared than not to be prepared. It also makes more sense not to make it difficult to be prepared. Or maybe the difference between a flat tire and an unintended pregnancy is that an old white guy never has to worry about having the latter? Just sayin’.

‘Real World’: Porn star ≠ sexual predator

May 19, 2011

So this week on Real World, I actually felt bad for Dustin. Usually I find him to be egotistical, manipulative, and judgmental, but he definitely didn’t deserve to be equated with a child molester because of his porn past.

Mike, who doesn’t like Dustin and gave him a letter post-porn-discovery basically saying that he hated Dustin for what he did, had an idea for their internship to raise money for local schools’ music departments. After a meeting about the idea, Mike warned Dustin that he might not be allowed near the school or the students because of his porn star past. They’d do a background check, Mike insisted, and Dustin wouldn’t be allowed near the children.

Firstly, the type of porn Dustin did isn’t illegal, so it wouldn’t come up in an actual background check — maybe in a Google check, though. Mike seems to equate porn with other devious sex acts such as child molestation — acts that actually are illegal and would prevent you from getting near children. Dustin was right to be upset, because being a porn star is not the same as being a sexual predator.

Obviously this speaks to Mike’s own values — that porn is on the same level of “immoral” or “wrong” as sexual assault. And though Mike can have his own beliefs about pornography, I’m not sure if his insinuating that Dustin’s porn history (with consenting, of-age adults) is trying to rile Dustin up or if Mike really thinks that being in pornography means you are a danger to young children. They were going to the school to listen to the kids play music, not to give a sex ed demonstration.

I also think there’s an element of homophobia here, and that the combination of gay sex and pornography is too much indecency for Mike to handle. He’s projected his own morality (“I wouldn’t want my kids around someone who does gay porn”) onto society at large, but it’s important to remember that Dustin didn’t break any laws or abuse any children. Therefore, he doesn’t deserve to be treated like a criminal or a sex offender.

I admit, I’d have felt a little sympathy for Mike if Dustin had actually put that birdcage on his head, though.

Don’t forget that sexual assault is all about power, control

May 18, 2011

Though I do appreciate Washington Post columnist Matt Miller’s focus on why men rape — rather than the usual focus of what did the victim do that invited the rape — his analysis unfortunately doesn’t mention a key motivation for men who sexually assault: power.

Miller asks if Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s womanizing reputations are “merely extreme examples of a beast that lurks within all men,” but far too often the culpability for sexual assault falls on testosterone or primal urge. He interviews his wife about this quandary, who replies:

“That drive for sex seems to overcome every rational, moral anchor that otherwise ‘good’ men have,” Jody says. Because men are so susceptible to this, it gives some women enormous power — as Cleopatra and others through the ages have shrewdly sensed. But most women are subject to abuse because of these male urges.

But sexual assault and rape aren’t just about men who are trying to quench their insatiable sexual urges. They are about power and control more than mere sexual satisfaction, and that is essential to understanding the motivation behind sexual assault.