Monday, July 30, 2012

Where Do We Go From Here

This is the second piece I wrote about the Law Students for Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute I attended this weekend.  The orginal post can be found at the Repossess Reproductive Justice Blog.

The last session of the weekend, called “Where Do We Go From Here? The Future of Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice,” challenged all of us to think about the history of the reproductive justice community, to analyze our successes and, more importantly, the bad habits we have formed, and to think critically about how to move the conversation forward.

One of the speakers was Ms. Sujatha Jesudason, the Director of CoreAlign Initiative. CoreAlign did a study to analyze what was working and what needed to be improved in the RJ community. They found that the movement was extremely well-funded, but that we lack cohesive messaging, inspiring leaders and goals, and actions that are proactive rather than reactive. Instead of looking at the issues of rights, justice, and health as separate issues to be addressed by different experts, we needed to find ways to make connections, share resources, and to focus on RJ heroes rather than victims.

I thought back to an exercise we did the first day where we were asked to design a program around a reproductive justice topic. Many of us who were well-versed on abortion-bans, defunding of Planned Parenthood, and vaginal ultrasounds struggled with the assignment because we had never thought about some of the other RJ issues out there. Even those who had thought about them, had never before considered out to communicate them to a broader audience and in a way that included the voices of those RJ impacts the most.

I also thought about the session I attended on chapter strategic planning. I attended but was skeptical that a campus club like mine would benefit much from a strategic plan; it seemed too formal for what we were. But after hearing Ms. Jesudason talk about how the RJ movement is doomed to stagnation and repetition of bad habits without close self-examination and a plan for success, I am a convert.

I pledge (and I challenge you to pledge) to examine how my organization is doing RJ work. Do we sacrifice a broader message in the name of an easy event? Could we reach a more diverse group of people by spending more time coalition building on campus and in the community? Can we acknowledge the successes of those who came before us while doing something different, better, more successful?

I am so excited to get back to campus this fall to get started on our strategic plan. I wish you good luck on yours!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Doula-ing the Movement Forward

This is a piece I wrote about the Law Students for Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute I attended this weekend.  The orginal post can be found at the Repossess Reproductive Justice Blog.

During the first day at the Leadership Institute, we discussed how the reproductive justice model differs from other frameworks for reproductive rights or social justice.

It made me think back to when I was working as a labor doula before law school.  A labor doula is a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a woman before, during and just after birth.  A doula learns that she is there to help the woman have a safe and satisfying childbirth as the woman defines it. It is not the role of the doula to discourage the laboring woman from her choices, nor to project their own values and goals onto her.

As a doula, I was required to listen more than I talked.  I learned to encourage women to ask questions and get information rather than doing it for her.  I learned that I couldn’t possibly understand all the circumstance of another woman’s life that drive her to make the decisions she does, but that I should do everything in my power to hear her and help her achieve those choices.  I learned to work behind the scenes, providing valuable skills and resources when needed, but never taking the spotlight away from those who really mattered: the woman, her family, and supporters.  Outside of the birthing room, I advocated for changes in a complex system of institutions, laws, and circumstances that make it difficult for women to have the birth they knew was best for them.

What I heard during the RJ 101 session made me think hard about the role of an RJ lawyer.  In law school we learn how to be the interpreter of the law and the one who gives advice.  We are taught to stand up in front and speak confidently.  We are taught to be, or at least act like, the experts our education prepares us to be.

But the reproductive justice framework asks us to focus on the intersections of race, class, sex, age, sexual orientation, gender expression, immigration status, and ability and how they impact access, agency, and autonomy in shaping one’s reproductive destiny.   It shifts our role from achieving a right or winning a case for someone to one that requires us to listen and to act only once we attempt to understand those we serve.  It asks us to work with communities as allies, strategists, and advisers to overcome the complex systems, laws, and circumstances that make it difficult for people to have the reproductive destiny they know is best for them.

We must be doulas in the reproductive justice movement.

I am incredibly honored to be at the L I with so many soon-to-be lawyers who will continue to doula this movement, and those it affects, forward with compassion, grace, and integrity.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sex Differences Matter

The fight is to see people of all genders and sexes as socially, economically and politically equal.  In the medical arena, however, there are major sex differences in bodily functions, prevalence of diseases and treatment effectiveness that must be recognized and addressed.

Sunday, July 08, 2012


One recurrent theme I heard when I was working as a doula was dismay about the changing body during pregnancy.  Pregnant mommas put cocoa butter on their bellies to prevent stretch marks, discussed the breast-augmenting and weight-reducing properties of breast feeding, and lamented the loss of their girlish figures.  The most astounding moment for me was when a woman, between contractions discussed with her mother the merits of plastic surgery to even out the different sized lips of her vagina, "since she would need a touch up after giving birth anyway."

BirthMarkings, a 20 Minute film by Margaret Lazarus, the maker of Killing Us Softly, discusses the issues around body image after birth.

From the International Museum of Women, Motherhood Around the Globe exhibit:
Margaret Lazarus’ film “BirthMarkings” explores our post birth bodies—and how our self-image—change after giving birth. “BirthMarkings” reframes the concept of beauty and motherhood, raises important questions about body image, and reveals the incongruity of western standards of beauty with the natural process of pregnancy and childbirth.
You can see the film HERE.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Things I'm Reading

Do You Job Better: Coming Out in Class: On coming out transgender in an academic community. 
Responses to Slaughter's Article: So much good discussion around workplace issues now.
Lots of reviews of "50 Shades of Grey":  The chapter-by-chapter, tongue-in-cheek synopsis at is by far the most in-depth, and most hilarious discussion.  I am still trying to find someone who is willing to admit they own the trilogy so I can read them without having to support them with my dollars.

Surveillance, privacy and the ethics of vehicle safety communication technologies:   Yea this one seems strange, but I do work for a transportation organization.  I am writing a paper on the ethical issues concerning vehicle-to-vehicle technologies.

The Affordable Care Act Decision: veeeeery interesting stuff.  And why Ginsberg Should be given more credit than she was by Amy Davidson the New Yorker.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


This blog started back in college when I was interning on the Hill.  I had taken those posts down so I could work the campaign trail without reflecting badly on anyone I worked for.  Now my past self will only reflect badly on me, so I have put most of the old posts up. 

Some are hilarious in their naivety.  Some are awkward in their prose.  Most of my opinions have benefited from a few years and so appear a little rough in their original forms.  But most posts I have left unedited for your view pleasure. 


Monday, June 25, 2012

Executive Intern

Once I interned at a place so long that they were required to set up a 401(k) for me.  I made so little that when I finally left, it had $107 in it.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Response to Slaughter's "Why Women Still Can't Have It All"

The only thing I hate more than a career panel* is a career panel that focuses on work-life balance.  I go to them looking for sage wisdom from the lawyers-with-lives who came before me.  But, they are inevitably attended only by women and cater to women because women are supposedly the only ones who care about this topic. 
Similarly, I really want to like Anne-Marie Slaughter's "Why Women Still Can't Have it All."    
I want to like it because I really hope to be one of those women who have to struggle with the oh-so-difficult problem of whether to stay in my awesome, time-consuming, high-powered job, or go back to my awesome, less time-consuming, professionally-satisfying job.  I am glad she gives the nod to the fact that there are many factors to the problem.  I heart that she realizes that her view is mostly a rich, white lady view of a much larger problem of having a life while paying the bills for people of all income levels, genders, stages of life, and in all industries.  
But I am so tired of this being structured as a women's issue.
I get it.  The way society is set up means that most of the time women do end up the only ones that have to worry about this topic.  Even when the topic of men's work-life balance is brought up, it is done is a poorly-executed way like the May 2012 Forbes article, "Real Men Don't Need Work Life Balance."   These articles aren't actually saying that women are they ones that have all the options and men are the ones who have it rough, but it certainly comes across that way.
The solution that the career panels I attend and these articles profer run in two veins.  The first is:  change the work environment through hard work and perserverence.  I will call this the Slaughter Approach.  She advocates for talking a lot about your kids and about going home to dinner so it will normalize flexible schedules.  But then she goes on to say that she works on nights and weekends in order to get stuff done, much like the "super women" she said are outside the realm of what is posible for most of us.  She also implies that you have to be a woman in power to make changes, which does very little to help me now, as I am not (yet) a woman in power.
The second vein is: have a supportive partner.  That's great and all, but what if I don't want a partner?  What if he or she wants to have a high powered job, too?  Gloria Steinem is famous for saying that she didn't need a husband so much as she needed a wife.  A high powered job takes an army of support staff to make everything work.  If you want that life, you either have to hire a nanny or ask your partner to take one for the (family) team.  Doesn't that seem like throwing out the old chauvenism for the new feminist kind?
I would really like to see a new approach that writes articles for high-powered men titled, "Go Play with Your Kids and Stop Worrying About Putting Yet More Bacon on the Table."  And articles for bosses called, "Require Employees to Leave at 5pm."  And articles for society called, "Increase Social Benefits so Normal (not-so-rich) People Can Have Work-Life Balance, Too."  Or even one called, "Family Planning and Better Daycare So I Can Be a Career Woman Without Kids If I Wanna Be."
This is a multi-faceted problem that is not going to be solved by women alone.  I wish we could stop talking about it that way.

*I promise to rant more about career panels someday soon.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Some things I'm Reading

From CNN Health: The Battle Over Housework Breeds Stress.  With perception of inequality in the relationship seen as a major factor.  Duh.

From Time Healthland: Why Most Mothers Don't Meet Their Own Breast-Feeding Goals.  Interesting article on the barriers to mothers meeting their breast feeding goals.  FYI: the CDC and WHO encourage exclusive breastfeeding for six months and continued breastfeeding in addition to other foods for as long as possible.

News coverage on new study from the University of Adelaide: Earlier Birth is Best for Twins.  This one scares the bejesus out of me.  The study suggests that an elected birth at 37 weeks is best for twins.  According to the Cochrane Summaries (an organization that reviews medical procedures to see if their are evidence-based), the evidence is really inconclusive, but articles like this one make it sound like fact.  Also, it is really hard to tell the actual gestational age.  That means you could deliver a baby you think is 37 weeks but be off by a couple...and with babies' lungs the last thing to develop, there could be serious ramifications. I'm obviously concerned.

Monday, June 18, 2012

43 Thousand Emails

When presented with a seemingly Terrible Task, you know -- are just positively sure -- that there has to be a less terrible way of doing it.  There is no way on Earth that you are the first person presented with this particular Terrible Task. 

More importantly that person who came before you OBVIOUSLY took the time to figure out an easier way of doing it and then kindly documented it online for the next poor soul presented with the Terrible Task.

Right?  Please?  Somebody?  No?  Crap.

For future generations of those asked to do Terrible Tasks, let me document this for you:  HOW TO SORT THROUGH 43,000 EMAILS WITHOUT CRYING
  1. Skip the panicking, the call to the help desk, the desperate reading of the Outlook Help Guide (which will be infuriatingly vague).  Skip the Googling random email-related terms in hopes that someone else had figured out how to do this before you.  I've done all that for you.
  2. Go to and download the software (if you can't get your work to buy you the program, just use the trial version).
  3. Read their three-page tutorial.
  4. The tutorial doesn't mention that it is easier if you import the emails into your outlook first (instead of searching them as files).  It will save you an hour.  Just thought you should know. 
  5. Perform the search that you have been requested to do and narrow the emails down to a more manageable number.
  6. You are now the master of all that is on your computer.  You are basically magic.

Now you will have 1,300 emails.  Which is way less than 43,000.  Inevitably, you will want to dance a little at this point.  You will be expecting someone to refer to you as "The Miracle Worker" and offer to buy you lunch at the food truck across the street. 

At this point, they will ask you to PDF all 1,300 emails. 

  1. Skip the hour-long phone call with the help desk.  And the sinking feeling in your stomach when the experts have to escalate it to their boss who has to escalate it to their boss who still is stumped at first.  And the pleading that PDF isn't that cool of a format and who wants to read a PDF anyway?  You can skip that, too.  I did all that for you.
  2. Create a .pst folder in your Outlook.
  3. Drag all the emails into it that you want to pdf.  
  4. Right click on the folder and then click "create pdf."
  5. Create portfolio.  It is easier to read/manage than individual pdfs.
  6. Pretend like you had to pdf them one by one, freeing yourself up for an afternoon of Words With Friends.**

You are welcome.

*I'm sorry if this only works in Outlook 2010 and you don't have 2010.  That would suck.
**For the record, I've never played WWF in my life.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Plain Writing Act of 2010

I was asked to put together a presentation for senior staff on the agency's obligations under the Plain Writing Act of 2010.  It basically requires the government to write documents for public consumption that the public can actually consume.  Emphasis is placed on short, easy-to-read sentences and friendly, what-up-girl phrasing.

I enjoy this Act so much for its straight-faced irony.  It uses ten (or fifty) words to say what could be said in five.  It refers back to other paragraphs in the same document (forcing you to go back and reread) instead of just telling to what you need to know.  In addition, there is a six page guidance from OMB referring to a 118 page guidance from the PLAIN Committee tasked with implementing this plan.

Here is my favorite piece of guidance demonstrating the way to write more clearly (version 2 is supposed to be the correct version):

Oh, sentences ending in a preposition.  You just can't make this stuff up.*

Anyhoo . . . In order to create my presentation for senior staff, I looked up my agency's point-person for implementing the Act.  I drafted a nice email (making sure it was in plain language) asking for information I could use.  Reread it for content.  Ran spell check.  Sent it off to the correct person.

And as I hit send, my short little intern life flashed before my eyes.  I had just committed a grievous error and I realized it too late.

The point person for these types of things is usually a VERY high level person, but the actual work is usually handled by their staff.  That's why there is often a general email address associated with government actions like this one.  So basically, an intern (read: me) sent a polite yet rather inappropriate email to a very high level individual.  Whoops.

I called her staffer: "Um, I'm an intern and I messed up"

"How much did you mess up?"

"Only a little bit."

"Oh, do tell."

"I sent and email to [the official].  Can you fix my mistake for me, dear sir?"

And the staffer thrice pounded his head on his desk and thought so loudly to himself that I could hear it resonate from his brain through the phone, "God, I hate intern season."**

*Actually, my dad and I get in fights over this grammar rule fairly frequently (yes, my family is strange).  The Grammar Girl clarifies when it is ok to end a sentence with a preposition.  I would argue that this is not one of those time.

**And then he did, indeed, fix my mistake and send me some very informative materials.  And was totally pleasant doing it.  Thanks, dear sir!

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Interning Again

I am in the ridiculous position of being back in DC as an intern after several years of full-time employment.  I am also back at the same agency I was at previously being paid a very handsome wage to do much of what I am now doing for an intern's stipend (not that I am complaining THAT loudly....many of my colleagues are not being remunerated for their efforts this summer).

The real problem?  I am 26, which in intern years is like inviting your mother to your kegger.  Generally, I am pleased that I pass as an employee among my former co-workers, but among the interns, I become THAT intern as described by the Washington Post.  I thinking owning a full contingency of suits/work-appropriate clothing really gives me away.

Actually, the post did another article about the phenomenon of older interns.  I think we are getting more respect (pity?) in this iffy economic climate.

In any case, restarting this blog in order to talk about my experiences as the Girl Intern, Part Deux.  Will still continue to blog about knitting over at Ambitious Knits.