Friday, April 15, 2011

Glenn Beck and NARAL Have BOTH Upset Me

Trying to read through some of the avalanche that has become my email inbox, a particular subject heading caught my eye. “Glenn Beck says “hookers” use Planned Parenthood.” My initial response was, “duh!” People of an enormous range of professions, ages, genders, sexual identities, class backgrounds, ethnicities, etc. use Planned Parenthood. That’s kinda what they’re for. I had a feeling this isn’t what NARAL Pro-Choice America was talking about. Having recently attended a Reproductive Justice conference, a Dismantling Rape Culture conference, and a panel on how Class affects youths’ opportunities, all in the span of a week, I’ve had a lot on my mind to say the least. I’ve been surrounded by vibrant, grounded, fierce, loving, healing, and brilliant beings. One of these was Samhita Mukhopadhyaya of, an online community for feminists and their allies, with this fabulous logo:

‘Nuff said?! Her message that you don't need any more than what you've already got! in order to speak up has really stayed with me. Yes, we can read up, talk with elders and neighbors and friends and family, etc. There’s always more to learn, but we can’t let that silence us. So, inspired by that, and learning from amazing presenters at the Reproductive Justice conference, I decided to write back to NARAL.

Maybe they’ll read my email and maybe they won’t. Maybe they’ll take my thoughts into consideration and positive changes will come within the organization. And maybe not. But I couldn’t in good conscious just click “delete” and feel that by being silent I was myself contributing to the stigmatization and violence against those involved in the sex trade and street economies. I couldn’t just let it be decided for me that “hookers” are those that I need to somehow separate myself from and protest, “No, Planned Parenthood is for good girls like me!” In general even organizations that claim to be working toward the liberation of all women treat those involved in the sex trade as needing to be saved or at most, see them as victims and/or survivors, but definitely not allies, teachers, or co-creators.

As I reflect on the term "we," I’m remembering the days way back when I was at a school (college) that finally offered women’s history. I soaked it up, so thankful to have historical role models in the white women that were fighting for the right to vote, while also understanding that their liberation was entwined with the liberation of African American men and women as well. And then we got to the part in history when the white women stepped away from their alliance with African American activists and drew upon their white privilege – saying that they as white ladies surely deserved the vote over ignorant black folks. I was crushed. I believe that this was my first realization that the supposedly all-encompassing “we” that so many middle-class, able-bodied, straight, white, cisgender (non-transgender) women speak of usually means people that look exactly like themselves. Oh, and who aren't part of the sex trade. I wince at this individualistic, myth-of-scarcity mentality of taking this current system of inequality and using it to get ahead and continue standing on the backs of others to gain what we think of as power. I give thanks that there are so many in my life that understand it’s not about more of us being included in this hierarchical system, but rather it’s about us working together, learning our histories, dismantling what’s caused so much pain and trauma, and transforming it into something that includes us all and values us all.

Now, here’s the letter…

Dear Nancy~

I have just received the message that you sent. I had not heard about Glenn Beck's statements, which are beyond out of control and I'm not even going to waste any energy typing about how ridiculous and hatefull he is. Something you said, though, upset me as well. While everyone has a complete right (obligation?) to be disgusted by Glenn Beck, it seems you are most disgusted with him stooping to new lows because he's comparing American women to hookers? Well, though the term "hooker" is offensive to many, some American women are sex workers. I recently attended the Reproductive Justice Conference at Hampshire College in W. Mass and there learned more from those representing the Young Women's Empowerment Project in Chicago, Jessica Yee of Native Youth Sexual Health Network, and others about the realities facing those - particular cisgender {non-transgender} women and transwomen - working in the sex trade and street economies. A movement towards reproductive freedom that contributes to the patriarchal stigmatization of those of us doing what's needed to survive lacks strength, integrity, and solidarity. Organizations such as NARAL should be contributing to and learning from such grassroots and empowering organizations, especially ones led by indigenous youth, women of color, and other groups historically excluded from mainstream feminism, which so often inaccurately claims to support all women. Thank you for your time.

Take care,
Dana L Woodruff

From: Nancy Keenan, NARAL Pro-Choice America
Subject: Glenn Beck says "hookers" use Planned Parenthood
Date: Wednesday, April 13, 2011, 2:38 PM
NARAL Pro-Choice America

Dear Dana,

Women in America… hookers?

I am disgusted: Glenn Beck sunk to new lows on Tuesday when he called women who access health care at Planned Parenthood “hookers.”

With politicians still trying to defund Planned Parenthood, I had to send you this Huffington Post article and ask you to take action again.

Congress is going to vote on Thursday whether to continue to fund Planned Parenthood health centers.

Our last hope is the Senate, where anti-choice senators don’t have a majority. Please call on your senators to oppose attempts to defund Planned Parenthood.

After you take action, will you post our action to Facebook and Twitter, and share this email with your friends?

Nancy Keenan
President, NARAL Pro-Choice America

HuffPost Media

Glenn Beck Mocks Lawrence O'Donnell, Says Only “Hookers” Need Planned Parenthood (AUDIO)

First Posted: 04/11/11 11:16 AM ET Updated: 04/11/11 12:06 PM ET

Glenn Beck and his radio co-hosts mocked Lawrence O'Donnell's emotional defense of Planned Parenthood--and the woman whose email drove him to tears.

On his Monday show, Beck played the tape of O'Donnell--a host whose feud with Beck is long-running--reading the email from a friend of his who described her need for Planned Parenthood's services. He said he couldn't believe that O'Donnell had teared up about such an issue.

"I believe that my country is under attack, and that man's freedom as we understand it is over," he said. "He gets on the air on Friday and [cries] about, 'we're not going to kill babies anymore.'"

He started playing the tape, but asked his producer to stop after O'Donnell read a part of the email where his friend said that she depended on Planned Parenthood.

"Stop just a second!" Beck said. "Hookers? Who depends on Planned Parenthood?" He then impersonated the woman, who said she had had an abortion.

"I've got 400 abortions that I have to have!" Beck said. "I have to have these children aborted!" He and his co-hosts then continued making fun of O'Donnell and the woman for several minutes more.


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