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Not Just Serena

Tue, 16 Jan 2018 19:03:20 +0000

maternal mortality, serena williams Evette Dionne After Serena Williams gave birth to her first child, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., via emergency C-section on September 1, she joined a growing number of women, primarily Black women and women of color, who are facing death after ushering in a new life. In the February issue of Vogue, Williams recounts how she discovered blood clots on her lungs the day after giving birth. She left her hospital room, so she wouldn’t alarm her mother, and told her nurse that she needed a CT scan and a blood thinner immediately. The nurse challenged her, but Williams insisted on the treatment, and the doctors discovered a pulmonary embolism. She later had to have surgery to close her C-section wound after excessive coughing caused it to open, and while in surgery, doctors discovered a hematoma in her abdomen. She had to have another surgery—her third in less than a week. Williams survived, but so many other mothers don’t. Unfortunately, the tennis legend’s scary story is common. American women are dying more from pregnancy-related complications than in any other developed country. Childbirth is even deadlier for Black women who are three to four times more likely to die during or after pregnancy than white women, which points to a complex amalgamation of racism and sexism in healthcare. Few people understand this alarming issue as well as Monifa Bandele, vice president and chief partnership and equity officer at MomsRising, so Bitch spoke with her about Williams’s terrifying ordeal, how we can lower maternal morbidity rates, and how the healthcare system continuously fails Black women. Why was so it important for Serena Williams to share her postpartum medical emergency publicly? It was really critically important. About a year ago, MomsRising launched “Maternal Justice,” a campaign to look at maternal mortality, because no one really knew that the United States has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the developed world and that maternal death among Black women is really driving those high rates. If Texas were its own nation, it would have the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world. When we would tell people that, they’d think we were lying, so we’ve been collecting stories from moms all over the country about their birth experiences and launching petitions with families who’ve experienced maternal death due to hospital neglect, racism, and incompetence. Maternal justice factoid from MomsRising (Photo credit: MomsRising) Those stories really picked up over the course of 2017, and we found that more and more people were learning about maternal mortality. ProPublica and NPR are running a series about maternal death. And what we see is that, by and large, there are a lot of Black mothers dying. Serena Williams is using her platform to shed light on what happens to Black mothers. In general, women are not believed. If a man comes to the hospital and says, “I think I’m having a heart attack,” there are protocols in place to save them. That happened to my husband, and three hours later, they told him he had gas. Women die a lot more because their symptoms aren’t recognized and they’re not believed. There’s a doubling down for Black women who aren’t believed, are being stereotyped, and aren’t getting pain medication. It’s a converging at the intersections of racism and sexism, which makes it so important for Black women to advocate for themselves. Serena Williams is the GOAT, so she was able to get herself up and tell a nurse that she needed a CT scan. She needed that nurse to save her life. But a lot of people, myself included, aren’t in that position. We’re not in that state of mind after giving birth. You can have all of the training and talks in the world, but when you’re actually in the hospital and going through labor, all of that goes out of the window. Hospitals need to do better. Doctors need to do better. We[...]



White Dystopias

Tue, 16 Jan 2018 17:37:03 +0000

Red Clocks s.e. smith Leni Zumas’s Red Clocks is an extraordinarily frustrating book, though it seems destined to become a “feminist classic.” After being called “the book you’ve been waiting for in the wake of The Handmaid’s Tale,” “a thoroughly affecting and memorable political parable,” and “nothing short of a miracle,” Red Clocks should be ripe with potential. However, Zumas’s third book doesn’t deliver—it teases and tantalizes what it could be before abruptly backing away. Red Clocks revolves around the intersecting lives of Mattie, a pregnant teenager; Ro, her teacher; Susan, a housewife trapped in a dull marriage; Gin, a mysterious woman of the forest; and Eivør, a long-dead polar explorer. It’s set in a near-future world where conservative extremists have gained control of the government and passed a fetal personhood law that ushers in a host of other policies that commodify and control women’s bodies. This isn’t a new concept. The Handmaid’s Tale might be the most famous example, but Hillary Jordan’s When She Woke, published in 2011, served as a modern-day update. Sarah Hall explored reproductive coercion and control with Daughters of the North, a 2008 novel about people being forcibly implanted with IUDs and subjected to a lottery that determines who gets to become pregnant. Even Louise Erdrich’s 2017 novel, Future Home of the Living God, revolves around a superstitious society controlling pregnant people. Yet, there’s still a lot of terrain to explore in reproductive dystopias, such as the heavily racialized nature of reproductive coercion and control, or the disability implications of a world in which access to parenting is tightly controlled. Limitations on fostering and adoption would also be fruitful avenues to delve into, as would the gendered nature of how these conversations typically happen—usually the subjects of reproductive coercion are “women,” though texts about “women’s oppression” turn the trans community into a glaring lacuna.  Joy Williams praises Red Clocks (Photo credit: Little, Brown and Company) To see a book hailed as the “dystopian feminist novel for a new generation” is encouraging, for surely such a lauded text would tackle some of these new angles. And to Zumas’s credit, she does explore one unexpected consequence of a fetal personhood law: Ro desperately wants a child, but she’s single and having trouble conceiving. She’s feeling pressured to conceive via artificial insemination because the government has outlawed in vitro fertilization since it “deprives embryos of their rights.” A new law driven by Christianist attitudes about family and parenting will soon forbid single people from adopting as well, which adds more strain to her struggle. The challenges of people who want to become parents, but are struggling to conceive, aren’t always explored thoughtfully and with sensitivity, but Ro’s struggle feels very raw and real. At times, it’s even deeply ugly, as when her resentment about Mattie’s fecundity is revealed. Ro is perhaps the most intriguing character, spending much of the book caught between her stated feminist values and her desire for a baby at any cost, but she alone can’t carry the novel—though a book focused specifically on her might have been a powerful entry into the reproductive dystopian genre. A novel about a woman fighting to have a child under a coercive Christianist regime could center stories that are often neglected or pushed to the fringe, and crafted well, it could also be a provocative reflection on how we talk about fertility, adoption, and parenting. Alas, beyond the narrow exploration of this storyline, Red Clocks leaves a lot to be desired. The character of Mattie feels listless and dull. When she finally gets an illegal abortion, it magically takes place in a clean, loving, warm place with skilled medical professionals—thanks, one suppo[...]



On Our Radar—Feminist News Roundup

Tue, 16 Jan 2018 14:00:17 +0000

TODAY’S MUST-READ NEWS AND ANALYSIS

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On Our Radar—Feminist News Roundup

Mon, 15 Jan 2018 14:00:38 +0000

TODAY’S MUST-READ NEWS AND ANALYSIS

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5 Episodes of "Black Mirror" to Kickstart Your Obsession

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 23:24:35 +0000

Dahlia Grossman-Heinze I’d heard about Black Mirror before I started watching, and its reputation as being a dystopic and creepy look at futuristic technology intrigued me, but it was the coverage of its fourth season that made me have to start watching. Except I had already missed three seasons! I consulted my friends and the internet and I started my journey. Though the episodes of Black Mirror lightly intersect with each other—events and themes in some episodes are referenced in others—the episodes stand alone and you can pick as you like. All you need to know is that the world of Black Mirror is almost like ours, but trippier and technology is a serious blessing and curse. These are the best five episodes to get you started on the show that’s shaping up to be the new Twilight Zone. 1. San Junipero (Season 3, episode 4) allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen="" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/OzbLgl0h-YM" width="853" height="480" frameborder="0"> Kelly (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and Yorkie (Mackenzie Davis) meet in an ’80s nightclub and spend a night together. When Yorkie comes back the next week looking for Kelly, she has to find her in another decade. This episode carefully sustains its mysteries—where are Kelly and Yorkie and where is San Junipero?—for so long, that only when you figure it all out do you really realize how clever the episode actually is. Many Black Mirror episodes are bleak and creepy—I promise that this one has a beautiful and happy ending. 2. Hang the DJ (Season 4, episode 4) allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen="" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/e5N_Tq1EtRQ" width="853" height="480" frameborder="0"> A dating app has been created that can predict the length of any relationship—in order to find your soulmate, you date the people it selects for you for the length it says before you are ultimately matched with your true love. But what if you don’t want to break up when the app tells you to? 3. Fifteen Million Merits (Season 1, episode 2) allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen="" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/uSNOWCY9VRA" width="853" height="480" frameborder="0"> Bing (Daniel Kaluuya!) lives in a cubicle-box made of TV screens and spends his day riding a power-generating stationary bike and watching more TV. When he meets Abi (Jessica Brown Findlay!), he helps her buy a ticket to audition for a talent show—and what they both end up with is more horrible than their lives before. In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 million merits. 4. Black Museum (Season 4, episode 6) allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen="" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/CV0J3Bq3BIc" width="853" height="480" frameborder="0"> Nish (Letitia Wright) stops at the Black Museum during a roadtrip to see creepy exhibits of medical and technological curiosities. Read more about this episode in “Intergenerational Trauma: Black Museum and The Toll Activism Takes On Black Women” by Stacie Williams. 5. Nosedive (Season 3, episode 1) allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen="" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/R32qWdOWrTo" width="853" height="480" frameborder="0"> A Facebook-like scoring system has taken over, and humans rate every interaction they have on a one-to-five star scale. Lacie (Bryce Dallas Howard) really wants to boost her rating, and when she gets invited to the wedding of a childhood friend, she thinks she’s found her opportunity. I will think of this episode every time I use Facebook and every time I go to a wedding from now on. by Dahlia Grossman-Heinze View profile » Dahlia Grossman-Heinze is Bitch Media’s Senior Engagement Editor. She’s passionate about horror films, ’90s music, girl gangs, and Shirley Jackson. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter. [...]



Douchebag Decree

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 20:16:10 +0000

douchebag decree Dahlia Grossman-Heinze On Sunday night, James Franco won a Golden Globe for doing an impression of Tommy Wiseau, the star of the cult film The Room. He won over Daniel Kaluuya’s life-changing performance in Get Out, which is a travesty in itself, and when Franco took to the stage wearing a Time’s Up pin, he invited Wiseau up with him, only to clothesline him when he tried to speak. That night, in a now-deleted tweet, the actress Ally Sheedy implied that her interactions with Franco were part of the reason she left show business. An aspiring filmmaker tweeted that Franco had pressured her into performing oral sex on him in a car. Another actress wrote that she felt her nude scenes in two of his films had been exploitative. Since then, five women have come forward in the Los Angeles Times to accuse Franco of inappropriate or sexually exploitative behavior. Four were his students and another said he was mentoring her. In 2014, Franco launched Studio 4, an acting school in California with another branch in New York City. Franco promised that Studio 4 would give actors a unique opportunity for exposure because his production company, Rabbit Bandini Productions, would “cast roles directly from his classes, and will involve his students in a variety of his film and art projects.” Franco used that opportunity to put his students in situations they weren’t comfortable with or hadn’t agreed to. He cast a student in a nude orgy scene and during filming “removed protective plastic guards covering other actresses’ vaginas while simulating oral sex on them.” He fired an actress who refused to do an unscripted topless scene, and got angry when other actresses wouldn’t volunteer to be topless. Another student said that Franco “would always make everybody think there were possible roles on the table if we were to perform sexual acts or take off our shirts.” It’s a success of rape culture that sexual harassment and assault are so often framed as “misunderstandings.” That serial predation is brushed aside as one-off behavior or not that serious or just kidding around. I think often of the 2015 film The Hunting Ground, a documentary about sexual assault on college campuses. The title comes from the premise that college campuses are a hunting ground for sexual predators with an unending supply of victims. Hunting is based on the power dynamic between predator and the prey in which the predator has the higher advantage. In human talk that could be clout, physical strength, experience, age, tenure, or reputation. The offer of a part in a movie. These things are weighed in a currency that predators use to their advantage. Franco taught a sex scenes master class at Studio 4 in which students were filmed in sexual situations. Franco suggested that his best students, his most compliant students, would be able to make an acting career through him if they impressed him enough. If not, they were replaceable, fired and the part filled with another student who might be more agreeable to his demands. Both Studio 4 locations were “abruptly closed” in 2016, which suggests that there’s a lot more dirt on Franco that we don’t know about yet. It’s a success of Franco’s PR team that any of this behavior might be a surprise. In 2014, he tried to arrange a rendezvous with a 17-year-old over Instagram. Even knowing her age, he pressured her into coming to a hotel room to be with him. Franco faux-pologized on ABC’s Live! With Kelly and Michael when his messages to the teenager got out, saying “I’m embarrassed, and I guess I’m just a model of how social media is tricky. I used bad judgment and I learned my lesson.” Franco has appeared on two late-night shows since his Golden Globe win and both Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers asked him about the allegations against him. In both awkward [...]



BitchTapes: Standing Up for Haiti

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 20:14:46 +0000

Haiti Evette Dionne Donald Trump has put his foot in his mouth—again. Those who’ve been paying attention have known for a long time that Donald Trump is a racist. Whether it’s calling for innocent Black and Latino teenagers to receive the death penalty or saying that immigrants from Mexico are “rapists” and “criminals,” Trump has built his political career on maligning people of color and championing white supremacists. When it seemed that Trump couldn’t top his own racism, he did just that: In a meeting with lawmakers about DACA, Trump said he’d rather have immigrants from Norway than immigrants from Haiti and Africa because the latter two countries are “shitholes.” Not only did this ignite cable news anchors, including Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon, but it also showed that maintaining white supremacy through policy is Trump’s primary motivation. Haiti has a beacon of freedom for Black people since they revolted against France in the late 1700s. Their music has reflected that deep investment in being a free people from a sovereign nation. In honor of their fight, this BitchTapes celebrates Haitian musicians (except for alleged scammer Wyclef Jean) who embody the spirit of the island. allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="480" scrolling="no" src="https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/bitchmedia/playlist/6ICBuaP0kuhrhYH7OWIQki" width="853"> Track List: 1. Carimi - “Ayiti (Bang Bang)” 2. Shabba Djakout #1 - “Jou-A-La” 3. Saskya Sky - “My Haiti” 4. Rebecca Zama featuring Sexy Beef - “Can’t Let You Go” 5. Riva Nyri Précil - “Ou Fe M’” 6. Princess Eud featuring Ded Kra-Z and Admiral T - “Caribbean Love” 7. Phyllisia Ross - “Konsa” 8. Rutshelle Guillaume - “Kite’m Kriye” 9. Toto Bissainthe - “Tezin” 10. Yanick Étienne - “Se Ou Mwen Reve” 11. Lolita Cuevas - “Haiti” by Evette Dionne View profile » Evette Dionne is Bitch Media’s senior culture editor. She’s all about Beyoncé, Black women, and dope TV shows and books. You can follow her on Twitter. [...]



On Our Radar—Feminist News Roundup

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 14:00:49 +0000

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Backtalk: Is It Really Time’s Up in Hollywood?

Thu, 11 Jan 2018 23:11:13 +0000

Amy Lam In this first episode of 2018, Dahlia and Amy get into this year’s Golden Globes, the Time’s Up movement, and the misguided obsession for Oprah 2020. The Golden Globes is the first awards show since the fallout from the Weinstein effect and it didn’t shy away from talking about #MeToo and the latest movement to announce that Time’s Up for sexual harassment and violence against women in the industry. But is it all for show and what will real, concrete change look like? Plus, they kick off another segment of Petty Political Pminute with all the best/worst details from Michael Wolff’s tell-all of the first days of the Trump White House in Fire and Fury. frameborder="no" height="300" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/382250372&color=%23ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&show_teaser=true&visual=true" width="100%"> On each episode, we share one thing we saw, read, and heard this week.  WATCH: The Netflix mini-series Wormwood, directed by Errol Morris, examines how we think about truth and storytelling in this documentary and drama.  READ: Helen Oyeyemi’s novel Boy, Snow, Bird breaks narrative convention to tell the story of women and girls, mothers and daughters, and what it means to survive—especially when you have to pretend to be someone you’re not.  LISTEN: Cupcakke’s latest track, “Crayons,” is all the queer-positive vibes you need to kick off the beginning of the new year.  Subscribe to Bitch’s podcasts on iTunes, Soundcloud, or the Stitcher mobile app. Subscribe to Bitch’s podcasts through our audio RSS feed. Download an MP3 of this podcast on Soundcloud or just browse our podcast archives here on Bitch Media.  by Amy Lam View profile » Amy Lam is Bitch Media’s contributing editor. Find her at @amyadoyzie. [...]



Losing To Gain Humanity

Thu, 11 Jan 2018 20:53:04 +0000

serena williams, sports, pregnancy Britni de la Cretaz Serena Williams made her much-anticipated return to the tennis court in December, just three months after giving birth to her first child, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. Williams has built her career on winning. So, when she did not win her comeback match against Jelena Ostapenko, headlines proclaimed, “Serena Finds It ‘Super Hard’ As She Makes Losing Court Comeback” and “Serena Williams loses in comeback match after pregnancy.” The media maligned Williams because she failed to follow the expected narrative: Elite female athletes are supposed to give birth and return to competition without batting an eye. But that expectation should’ve never been placed on her to begin with. Since WNBA star Sheryl Swoopes made headlines for having a baby in the late ’90s, female athletes who take time off to have kids have been placed in an impossible position. The media vacillates between two extremes: Either the woman (I’m using “women” to describe these athletes because they’re cisgender women, but they’re not the only people who carry babies or give birth) who returns to sports so soon after childbirth is eschewing the responsible (and “natural”) role of motherhood, or she’s moving too slowly, and it’s unclear if she’ll even return to the sport or her athletic form. This fixation on the bodies of women athletes doesn’t begin at pregnancy. Female athletes are more likely to be photographed in provocative positions that undermine their athletic ability. The women who receive endorsements and rise to the top of their field are often rewarded for being athletic and conventionally attractive. Making women sex symbols first and athletes second sends the message that their value comes not just from their athletic feats, but from their ability to conform to mainstream beauty standards. (It’s also worth noting that Williams’s has been subjected to racist, sexist, and transphobic insults because of her muscular figure.) Sheryl Swoopes pregnant on the Spring 1997 cover of Sports Illustrated Women (Photo credit: Autographs for Sale) For childbearing athletes, many patriarchal constructs collide, including the expectation that women should be caretakers; the obsession with the bodies of women athletes; and the fatphobic fixation on watching celebrities get their “pre-baby bodies back.” All of these competing narratives project unachievable standards onto premiere athletes. We expect their bodies to bend to their will. For instance, Williams won the Australian Open while she was eight weeks pregnant, and Olympic runner Alysia Montano has competed when she was five months pregnant and eight months pregnant, respectively. Paula Radcliffe won the New York Marathon in 2007 after having her daughter and returning to training just 12 days postpartum. In 2009, golfer Catriona Matthews won the British Open just 10 weeks after having her second child. In July 2014, Olympian Jessica Ennis-Hill, gave birth to her son, Reggie. She then began training, so she could compete in the 2016 summer Olympics and become the second female athlete to give birth and retain her title in the same Olympic cycle. “I was an athlete before I had Reggie, so my body did get back quicker than your average woman’s,” she told The Telegraph in August 2016. …My body is my job, so I had to get back.” Yet, she also acknowledged that she “could never have imagined how hard it would be” to get back into training shape after giving birth. To be fair, male athletes are also chastised for being present for their pregnant girlfriends and wives: In 2014, sports radio host Mike Francesa said New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy should “hire a nurse” ins[...]