Who’s Dumb and Stupid? Thoughts on Spin and the Potential Legacy of Don Lemon

All week-long I have watched mainstream media put its spin on the events surrounding the death of Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri. Like many, on the day that it happened, Saturday, August 9, 2014, I was in shock at the senseless gunning down of this young, black male. Brown’s death reminded me of the many black men and women who have been gunned down by white male police officers and pseudo police officers in the last two decades.

As I watched the news, I was reminded of how out of control the cops are in the U.S. They claim to be there for civilians to “protect and serve,” but when it comes to black life in America, it seems that the only interests being protected and served are the interests of white men and white-controlled institutions, such as police departments and correction facilities. Most of the people who I know are extra nervous when they see flashing blue lights in their rear-view windows. And, come to think about it, I don’t know one black person who does not know that the encounter with a police officer, with an over-zealous white male police officer in particular, could go absolutely, positively, horribly wrong in a matter of seconds. Having that understanding is not unjustified in any way, shape or form.

So, along comes Don Lemon in response to the Michael Brown story. Lemon has been with CNN for what – nearly a decade (since 2006) – and he goes live to the scene to Ferguson, Missouri, reporting the news. Late one night, I turned to CNN for an update on the public protest that was underway. And, I watched as Don Lemon described some of the people involved in the protests – the ones allegedly looting and being violent – as dumb and stupid. I was immediately struck by Lemon’s choice of words and his attempt to characterize certain protestors as dumb and stupid – as in lacking in intelligence; as lacking in meaning or relevance. I wondered if Don Lemon would be willing to say the very same thing on camera about the actions of certain officers of the law? I wondered if he would label certain Ferguson PD officers as dumb and stupid to their faces? I doubt that very much.

As I continued to watch the broadcast, a few things came to mind. First, I became uncomfortably aware of Don Lemon’s inability to analyze matters of race and racism on CNN adequately. Time and time again he is front and center (which is a good thing), but he never misses an opportunity to discursively degrade and dehumanize black people; often he says explicitly or implicitly that black people are operating in some dysfunctional or unacceptable way (which is a very common but bad narrative – as in disproportionate, stereotypical, and unsubstantiated). On other occasions, Lemon’s “respectability politics” have been the talk of Twitter and the subject of public backlash and ridicule. That Lemon recently characterized the alleged Ferguson looters as “dumb and stupid” caused me to question what he really knows about social protest; for he seems to lack a complex or critical understanding of looting and how the term “looting” is applied quite liberally and disproportionately to black people when a terrible disaster or injustice has occurred. Don Lemon has often chastised black people, and young, black men in particular, in this very degrading, elementary way. Therefore, I can’t help but ask aloud if Lemon has been commissioned by corporate elites – his bosses – to say – in blackface – what they would probably never say directly to black folk? All this makes me wonder if Don Lemon is the agent for a much deeper and present reality: white male supremacy.

Unfortunately, because of these mis-representations, Don Lemon is losing credibility, and especially amongst those who possess a critical consciousness, language and ability for debunking racism, sexism and heterosexism (which is an acquired skill). Given his most recent choice of words to describe what’s currently happening in Ferguson, Missouri, I personally doubt his ability to understand public protests or social movements beyond a fifth-grade level or vocabulary. I can only hope that Lemon is the puppet of CNN news elites, because if he is not, then ironically, I’d say it’s he, not the looters, who is acting dumb and stupid. And, given the dearth of black journalists on prime-time television, this is very sad to me. It’s sad that a black journalist with that much visibility and influence does not appear able to articulate the complexities and nuances of the black lived experience in the context of racist, white America. I suppose Don Lemon believes that we have actually become a post-racist society, and that racism is a thing of the past? This too could not be any further from the truth.

Of course, in years to come, there will be some who will remember Don Lemon as a trailblazing and pioneering American journalist, but if he fails to educate himself further about the history and residue of racism in America; if he continues to trivialize and demoralize the black lived experience with convenient, simplistic and shame-bearing comments, then Don Lemon’s potential legacy as an American journalist (and an openly black gay journalist at that) will regrettably be cut short by thoughtless commentary about those he repeatedly appears to despise: and that’s just plain dumb and stupid. But, I think he can do better. I hope that he will do better.

© 2014 annalise fonza, Ph.D.

Who Are You? My First Experience as a Humanist Celebrant

I have been certified as a Humanist Celebrant for a little over a year. Humanist Celebrants, who gain their status through the American Humanist Society, which is a part of the American Humanist Association, are legally qualified to perform weddings and any other special ceremonies throughout the fifty states and beyond, just as any traditional preacher, rabbi, imam, guru, or spiritual leader does so amongst their membership or community. It has been an awesome privilege for me to recycle or reuse skills that I once developed as a United Methodist Church (UMC) clergywoman but now as a Humanist Celebrant, and to be there in an official capacity to celebrate with those who prefer to leave the idea of god, or even the mention of a god, out of their most memorable moments. Though it is quite different from what I experienced as a UMC pastor, and I am in the process of developing new skills and creative new ceremonial formats and languages, it is a great way for me to support other atheists, freethinkers, humanists, agnostics and to stay grounded and in community with others. A few months ago, I was surprised when a reporter from CNN called me to inquire about my experience; the reporter claimed that CNN was “documenting atheism” and trying to learn more about it. At that time I had not yet been invited to officiate a wedding as a Humanist Celebrant.  

All that changed on Monday, March 24th, 2014, and I officiated my first wedding  as a Humanist Celebrant here in Atlanta, in Piedmont Park. On Monday, July 28th, 2014, an article that I wrote about my subsequent experience with the Atlanta Fulton County Probate Court was published and featured at The Humanist. Here is an excerpt from that article, but feel free to click the link in this blog to read all about it. And, if you are looking for a Humanist Celebrant in your city or state here is how to find one.

The truth of the matter is that anyone who openly identifies as I do must expect public scrutiny and possible rejection. People in the United States still discriminate against atheists, even though more and more people are using the word “atheist” to self-identify. In other words, just because one uses the term openly and proudly, doesn’t mean he or she will be accepted without question or won’t face rejection. In addition, the religious bigotry and social entitlement here in the South is so pronounced—by people of every color and background. Many, including African Americans, openly discriminate against or exclude other black people from social and professional circles when they learn that those others are atheists.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gobbledeegook Is What We Do! Feminism, Womanism and a Troubling Patriarchal Persistence in Higher Education

Last April (2014), I interviewed for a tenure track position at an historically black college/university (HBCU) with a graduate program in urban and regional planning, which is my academic discipline. Once again, I was willing and somewhat excited about teaching at an HBCU. I have very fond memories of being an undergraduate student at an HBCU, which is where I started my college-academic pursuits. Some of the best years of my early adult life were spent at Clark Atlanta University, my alma mater, and the idea of returning to an HBCU in a tenure-track position is always intriguing to me.

So, upon arriving at my interview (I was one of several finalists), I was ready and hyped for the day that I was about to experience (or at least I thought I was). Finally, near the end of the day, after I had met with departmental faculty members and administration one-on-one I gave a lecture. During the lecture I included a slide where I provided a definition of feminism and I talked about the negative and antagonistic attitudes about feminism and womanism as they are articulated in public and in the academy amongst people who are active in higher education as professors and administrators. I shared that once during a previous interview (at a predominantly white institution or PWI), I was informed (or come to think about it maybe it was a warning?) that any talk of feminism, womanism or any woman-centered, justice-seeking conceptual or methodological framework would probably be received by students as “gobbledeegook.” And, in sharing about that experience, I articulated what my response was to that comment. Recalling that experience, I explained that I think that gobbledeegook is what we – academics – do best. Further, upon the occasion of this new interview at the HBCU, I expounded on that saying that we, as academics, specialize in exploring and examining topics and discourses that seem foreign or like gobbledeegook to new and returning college students. We talk and we teach gobbledeegook, or at least it seems that way for a time. Speaking or talking gobbledeegook is a part of what we do as academics; we generally have deeper, more advanced commands of intellectual vernaculars and ideas compared to the students; and, ultimately, we are in control of the course design and curriculum development. Graduate program professors assume that most students come to graduate school with undergraduate knowledge or a less rigorous set of educational competencies that what we have to offer (yes, structurally higher educational is hierarchical). More than likely, first-year graduate students don’t know what we know, and vice versa; we don’t know what they know. Whatever the case, it is often in graduate school that students are introduced to new ideas and languages, which challenges them to go beyond the terminology and concepts that they learned in undergraduate college, and this so that they can be better prepared to go on to even more advanced intellectual or professional landscapes. At first, getting to that point may seem impossible to first-time graduate students. I remember, for example, during several semesters in seminary that I kept a dictionary next to the books that I was required to read for class. Despite the assistance that the dictionary gave me, I often felt like I would never understand the concepts in those newfound books and pages. Technically, I was unprepared, but I was wrong (momentarily) about my own intellectual abilities.

Of course, I was unprepared for what I encountered in graduate school because the new ideas and languages were much more complicated and theoretically dense than the readings that I was assigned in undergraduate college. Of course it was uncomfortable and, of course it felt like I had not been given the proper training and education to get through the readings with an understanding of the materials and books being assigned. When my classmates and I complained about our struggle to understand the complicated new ideas and languages to our professors (people like Dr. Emilie Townes, Tex Sample, and Kris Kvam) they listened, but they also gently urged us to keep up the effort and they reassured us that once they too had stood in our shoes, but that if we persisted with our discomfort that we would one day break through it and be able to read the materials with ease, comprehension and confidence. Of course, at the time, I was a skeptic because the ideas were new to me and I had to spend at least double the time preparing for class. Of course it seemed that the words and ideas in the assigned readings were beyond me or over my head, so to speak. And, of course, I/we didn’t like it.

Ironically, after I finished the lecture for my recent HBCU interview, which was a lecture that I organized so that those present (that included students, faculty and administrators) would gain a first-hand understanding of my approach to research and teaching overall, and as we entered in to the question and answer portion of the lecture, I was politely informed by one member of the faculty (one of the people who would have some decision-making power over my ability to get tenure in the department) that my lecture was very “interesting” and all (his words), but he asserted that what I had presented would probably go “over the heads” of their students. And, there it was, again. A little annoyed by his comment, I explained why I had given the lecture as I did, and I underscored how in my opinion it is very important for students and practitioners to understand the theories and methodologies that inform the everyday practice of urban and regional planning. In addition, I clarified that my reason for giving a thorough layout of my theoretical and methodological motivations was to model how one can use such theories and methodologies to address other academic and professional questions or issues (and I followed that with a little impromptu role-playing with a black male student sitting in the back of the room). These justifications, however, did not seem to suffice, and one after the other, several other faculty members chimed in and alleged that their students just need “the basics.” At that point I felt like I had been put on notice by key faculty, all men (who were the only ones speaking), that womanism and feminism were not really welcome, and regrettably, it was obvious to me (based on their questions) that teaching from a womanist standpoint (or epistemological starting point) would not be perceived as a strength by my potential colleagues and thus by those who would play a significant part in my getting tenure. To me, their line of questioning and comments had labeled and condemned my ideas as too much and unnecessary for their students, most of whom would be black (so much for academic freedom, right?). I felt like, wow, how first-world, white and patriarchal to assert this about black graduate students without first bothering to ask those students if they felt that what I was saying was indeed “over their heads” or intellectually out of their reach. Indeed, they assumed the power to speak for the students, and tacitly, they assumed the power to speak for womanism and feminism.

Episodes like this are not that unusual. In fact, I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have heard this type of faulty reasoning and covert questioning from academic and professional audiences who do not have a critical understanding of womanism and feminism (they tend to go with what they have heard about womanism and feminism instead of what they actually know for themselves). And, rather than admit that they (the academicians and the administrators) don’t have the slightest clue about womanism or feminism and what those terms mean in theory and in practice (or that they are not really okay with these frameworks), they problematize the most vulnerable in the situation by singling out the students as the ones who will not be able to comprehend any more than the basics, whatever that (“the basics”) means. With this dynamic at work, the students are convenient scapegoats and a silent majority for the ignorance or anxieties of my would-be colleagues who probably wouldn’t be that comfortable in conversation with me about womanism or feminism anyhow; I mean nothing goes over their heads, right? Right. Most graduate students will not openly contest claims made by the persons responsible for their grades, especially not if they see that a faculty candidate is subtly being told by their professors to stay in her own lane or place. Blurring the lines or crossing boundaries is not something that many academics seem to be able to do all that well, even when they claim to have an alleged interdisciplinary approach to their disciplines. It’s easier to pull rank, to assert one’s power and to obscure one’s insecurities than to say that one is clueless about womanism and feminism (or theoretically against them) in front of one’s students or colleagues.

Each time I hear claims like this (at HBCUs or PWIs) I know better than to go along with the assertion and the assumption that a collective group of young, black college students (or any group of students) will not be able to get where I am coming from, and that womanist and feminist frameworks are not appropriate epistemologies for teaching courses on research methods, data collection, geographic information systems, or any other subject relative to city and regional planning in general. I am a former pastor, and I am very good at making complicated topics/matters quite plain; looking back, I have worked at it for damn near two decades. For me, this is a familiar hermeneutic; writing and teaching in an accessible way, and with a very clear understanding about where I stand as a thinker and a scholar (and whether they admit it or not, everyone stands in a particular historical place and from a particular social location and with a particular lived experience). In and of themselves, unsubstantiated claims about black college students in graduate programs and the implicit attempts that non-black men use to explain or delineate where womanist and feminist hermeneutics ultimately belong reveal to me that a very powerful and enduring white, patriarchal tradition is at work. It also illuminates popular fears, stereotypes and anxieties about black women in the academy, in addition to an irrational concern about the influence that black women may allegedly have upon black students. It is very regrettable that such thoughts are being articulated in higher education all the time, but being a professor does not rid one of biases, racist or sexist thinking. In fact, racism and sexism, all oppression, thrives on fear and institutional power. One can perceive of the oppressive weight of an institution, for example, when a powerful gathering of men or women (which could be just two or three) comes to the realization (whether consciously or not, and whether individually or collectively) that black graduate students might discover or develop deeper educational or professional interests in response to coming into one-on-one contact with older black professors who have a critical and even profound grasp of womanism, feminism or any other gender-centered ideological framework unbeknownst to them. I believe that those fears and anxieties are complicated when those with decision-making power surmise that said black graduate students might also simultaneously admire said black professors as role models, mentors or friends. Consequently, those who are nervous about the potential for this kind of attachment and the concentration of power and popularity that might develop between black women professors and their students (especially black students) don’t then seem to have a problem belittling and dismissing womanist and feminist frameworks as gobbledeegook and subsequently announcing that all this talk about womanism and feminism is much too much for students who allegedly only need “the basics.”

This kind of talk/behavior is cowardly and it puts students in the middle of something they don’t deserve. It is convenient to blame the students (as not being able to get it) and dismiss womanism or feminism as gobbledeegook and unnecessary for educational enrichment. Claims that womanism and feminism are not really a valuable part of a post-secondary education can and should be interpreted as covert smack-downs, or as attacks on the psyche of black women, black educational achievement, and academic freedom in general. This kind of institutional rejection is reflective of traditional, white, and patriarchal fears about the rise of women and men who are uniquely qualified to teach graduate students how to think and think critically and ways that are beyond the capacity or “over the heads” of those who hold the keys to granting tenure, but who have no desire to learn anything new or different from what they already know (or think they know). Without a doubt, racism and sexism, and all other “isms” for that matter, ego-trippin’ and jealousy are discernible and quite tangible among those who are employed in higher education.

Well, suffice it to say, that I am so very glad that some of my professors did not dumb me down, nor did they obscure their own theoretical and methodological motivations for a life of teaching in higher education. They did not think that just because my classmates and I had little to no knowledge of the ideas and topics that we were being introduced to in graduate school that we were incapable of handling anything beyond “the basics.” Instead, they believed in me/us, and they believed in teaching in a way that crossed intellectual and even institutional borders and boundaries. They knew how to cross the line and come back to see about me/us; to see if I/we were still trying to find my/our way around academia and the rigorous ideas that were brought to our attention by critical writers and thinkers. Frankly, it is because of professors like these, the ones who were willing to work openly out of their epistemological and ontological situatedness, and challenge me/us at the same time to do the same, that I learned to believe in my own intelligence and in the need to develop a critical consciousness towards my education. Unfortunately, my encounters with academicians and administrators who are anxious and afraid of black women in particular who are afraid to teach openly from their epistemological and ontological realities illuminates the fact that anti-woman and anti-black attitudes are still deeply entrenched in the higher education industry and that any talk or activity that disrupts white, patriarchal and hierarchical philosophies and foundations upon which higher education is built will be met with a collective and troubling control-driven xenophobia. This is the current reality that many black women face in the academy or at least the ones who dare to say and embrace the words womanist or feminist without apology.

As for me, needless to say, and after a series of actions and non-actions by the HBCU institution with whom I interviewed, I withdrew my application for the position in early July in part because, in my opinion, no job in higher education or elsewhere is worth that kind of internal and unnecessary collegial tension and treatment; and not when there are so many other viable options available today to womanists and feminists with PhDs. That situation, the fact that I/we womanists and feminist academicians have a much wider range of options, a bigger ocean perhaps in which to cast our nets than the generation of womanists and feminists that went ahead of us, is due to the courageous work of women, men and all those in between, who were not afraid to speak of gobbledeegook and of ideas and concepts that others wouldn’t be able to grasp for decades and perhaps centuries to come. And they did this regardless of the costs. For them, I am very grateful.

© 2014 annalise fonza, Ph.D.

Black Women, Motherhood and the Resolve to Live Anyhow: a random thought on freedom now

I am in a bakery finishing my coffee and a young black woman who works here ends her shift. She leaves and returns momentarily carrying her beautiful baby in a car seat to show off her infant child to her co-workers (and to curious customers like me who want to have a look). We all oooh and aahh over her child and her pride as a mother. Then, as I think to myself, just 40 or 50 years ago this probably would not have happened or been possible here in the #ATL in a local bakery and in a part of the city that is predominantly white and affluent.

Just that fast, it dawned on me that black mothers in the U.S. have not experienced this kind of social affirmation and personal freedom for very long at all, for once they were not permitted to show this kind of love and motherly identity so freely in public spaces. When black people like me consider the struggles of our mothers and grandmothers in a world controlled and defined by white cultural practices and values, we have much to be thankful for. And upon that consideration, all of us, regardless of color, can be aware of what it took for non-white mothers to live anyhow in the face of those controlled and diminished by the hate and disregard of black mothers in particular. Finally, we must then remember, in light of the recent Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision, that the next generation of women won’t be able to live so freely in the future unless we do our part to secure their freedoms now.

© 2014 annalise fonza, PhD

It’s Called PlanB for a Reason: Emergency Contraception and the Supreme Mess of Corporate Sexual Politics

When I was young, I learned to be petrified of getting pregnant. Getting pregnant as a teenager was one of the things that my father was totally against. By the time that I had graduated high school, I was taking birth control pills, mainly to address the excruciating menstrual cramps that I was having, but also as a way to ensure (prompted by my family’s concerns – mainly my father) that I would not get pregnant before I had a chance to reach my adolescent dreams of going to college. In all actuality, my dad, and my mom for that matter, had very little to worry about. I had such a fear of getting pregnant and disappointing my parents (and I really wanted to go to college) that having sex was the last thing on my mind in high school. Even when my female friends were sneaking or having guys over to spend the night, I was often the “nerdy” one who did not participate or who retreated alone to the bedroom. Though I had several “boyfriends” before I graduated high school, I didn’t actually “do it” until I was nearly out the door and on my way to college.

On the other hand, I did not get over my fear of getting pregnant, and thus my fear of having sex, until many, many, many years later. And, I wouldn’t say that I truly gained a sense of personal empowerment about the whole act of sex until recently, in the last two decades or so. Really – and I am forty-five years old. Hear me when I say that it was not until the mid to late 1990s that I started to feel good or okay with the act of sex with a man.

One of the other reasons that it took me so long to let go of the fear of having sex and getting pregnant was because I grew up Roman Catholic. All throughout grade school and high school, I was taught that sex outside of marriage was a sin; that it was fornication and something that the god of my childhood and of my family would only approve of in marriage (and of course that meant marriage between a man and a woman…the same man and woman…for life). My deep-seated fears about sex (and thus my relationship to my religion) didn’t begin to dissipate until the late 1990s, when I was a preacher (go figure that!) and I experienced love (not necessarily sex) with a man who I really cared about, and I believed that vice versa that he really cared about me. I have written about that man and that experience in other blogs. Anyhow, even then, when I desired to be sexual with him and thereafter, when I was finally willing to break a very long period of sexual abstinence (at least four or five years, I practiced what I preached when I was a preacher), did I begin to break down decades of indoctrination that taught me to fear sex and to only think of it in terms of confinement and punishment. I was so afraid of having sex and expressing myself sexually that when I tried it, I obsessed over getting pregnant ad nauseam, even when I used a condom successfully with my partner. On the other hand, I suppose that having an enduring sense of love from a man who loved me helped me to feel safe enough to reconsider my sexual practices and consequently, at one point, to break my commitment to sexual abstinence. I was able to set aside a lot of my fears about sex because I gained a better understanding of love and of the human reproductive system. To do the latter, I had to seriously educate myself, for the first time in my life, about the process and the facts of the human female reproductive system. I resolved to take responsibility for knowing about this process for myself, and it freed me from the fear and guilt around the matter of sex upon which I had grown up.

I am back down memory lane today for a reason. This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it is okay for Hobby Lobby, and other similarly situated companies, to deny certain types of birth control methods to its women employees. It is my understanding that while Hobby Lobby may offer birth control options, it is now perfectly legal for Hobby Lobby and other private companies like it to refuse emergency contraception coverage, which is otherwise known as PlanB, and, which is also known as “the morning after pill.”

Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about PlanB. Some, in error, liken it to abortion, but that it is not. Taking a PlanB pill is not the same as taking an abortion pill, or going to a clinic or a doctor for abortion services (which, of course, I am not against, by the way). It is called PlanB for a reason, and most importantly as a backup birth control method to whatever PlanA is, like using a condom. In other words, if PlanA doesn’t work, if the condom breaks during sex and when and a woman is in the fertile zone (having sex at or near the time of ovulation), then it is possible that she could get pregnant, and if the woman would like to continue the prevention of the pregnancy, which she started with PlanA or the use of the condom (which was a way to prevent the first stage of the fertilization of the egg), then she can legally resort to PlanB thanks to recent legislation. The PlanB pill does not abort a pregnancy, rather, as I have understood it (because obviously I have used it before once or twice), the PlanB pill changes the conditions of the uterine lining so that a fertilized egg, if actually fertilized in the tubes, cannot complete the final stage of fertilization in the uterus: implanting itself upon the wall. Ideally, if one is using PlanA cautiously and wisely, then PlanB, emergency contraception, won’t be necessary. That is the goal: that PlanA will be enough.

At one point, when I considered my sexual history, I realized that I had spent many years being worried about something that I knew very little about: the human reproductive system. Due to a lack of information and my religious training, I thought, falsely, that I could get pregnant each and every time that I had sex. I didn’t have a clue as to when it was the safest for me to have sex without the fear of pregnancy. Most of the men that I knew sexually, some twenty or so years ago, can attest to the degree to which I freaked out when our PlanA method failed. If the condom broke, I was an emotional basket case until my period came. As you can imagine, that was not fun. I obsessed over being pregnant. Finally, when I took the time to educate myself about the steps that would lead me (or not) to pregnancy, I began to feel quite empowered when it came to my sexual politics. And, as it turned out, I felt much more “in charge” of my own destiny.

I think that this is one of the fears that many have about women and the use of birth control. And, regrettably, women as well as men have major fears about women and the discretionary use of birth control. Because most of us lack a coherent understanding of the female reproductive process, and a good deal of that is complicated by religious ideologies, many fear what it would mean for society, and corporations, like Hobby Lobby, to experience women who are totally “in charge” of their everyday sexual practices and politics (the ways in which sex is articulated and negotiated). What’s behind this? Religious bigotry and religious ideologies, which are often informed by patriarchal norms and societal rules about who is the rightful owner of a woman’s sexuality and thus her sexual and social choices. Show me a society where men and women are educated about the facts of the human reproductive process and I will show you a society that is truly empowered and moving forward. Men, women and everyone in between, will experience better lives if we live by the facts of the human reproductive system and not by ancient and patriarchal (serving the interests of powerful men) religious ways of thinking or flawed philosophies about when life or conception begins. It perplexes me that in spite of what we know scientifically about the human body, many, nevertheless, choose to believe that a life is complete at the point that the sperm and the egg meet. Everything that I have read to educate myself about the human reproductive system says that the fertilization process is not complete until the egg has traveled successfully down the tubes and is safely where it needs to be, upon the uterine wall. At that point, it is done and allegedly, PlanB cannot change that if it has occurred. Obviously, when it comes to sexual politics, many use PlanA to prevent the first stage of fertilization – the meeting between the sperm and the egg. If PlanA fails (usually with a condom), and if one does not want pregnancy, then PlanB must be employed. Ideally, the use of PlanB will rarely happen.

In summary, I must say that I am no medical doctor, and nothing that I have written here should be taken as personal or sexual advice, but what I have offered is a part of my story and what I had to do, including what I had to learn about my own body so that I could empower myself sexually and emotionally. The information that I have learned as an adult has helped me to appreciate the human body and the female reproductive process, which I never really learned about before, at least not as a child and adolescent. Was that information deliberately kept from me so that others would feel in control of my sexual politics and my personal destiny? Probably, but, my final thoughts are simply this: every woman should educate herself on the female reproductive process because, more than like, no one else can or will do it for her (and nor should they). Each adolescent who is able to become pregnant and each woman should know what days it is safe for her to have sex, whether she uses protection or not, with a trusted partner or not, so that she can be free from all unnecessary fears that are associated with having sex. And, most importantly, every woman who has sex with a man should have at least one PlanB pill in her medicine cabinet to use at her discretion (since it is available over-the-counter at this time, and perhaps even on Amazon), because nobody, not the Supreme Court justices, not Hobby Lobby, not President Barack Obama, not the Democratic Party or the GOP should be in charge of woman’s everyday sexual politics. There is only person who can muddle through the mess that this case and its attendant religious mores have caused, and that one person is she, each and every woman who is the rightful owner of her body and her own reproductive system, and she should have PlanB on hand for one primary reason: her’s.

© 2014 annalise fonza, Ph.D.

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Religious Bigotry: Why You’re Really Not Entitled to It!

Many Christians fail to understand (or more accurately one might say that they have forgotten) that it is possible to use religion in a bigoted way. In other words, there are, unfortunately, some believers who feel that it is okay, and that they are entitled to use their religious beliefs to exclude or discriminate against others who do not believe as they believe in a supernatural god or other so–called celestial beings (such as “the ancestors”). Recently, in response to a situation where another entrepreneur stopped all communication with me and informed someone else that I am affiliated with that she had “concerns” about me (and thus about our ability to work together) when she learned of the fact that I am an atheist (which, btw, wasn’t something that she heard from me), I named that behavior as religious bigotry. Of course, the person who I said that to justified the behavior of this woman (perhaps because he is also is also a believer?), and, he alleged that I was not being objective but rather over–sensitive in my take of the situation. All this and I was not even going to work for the woman in question; we were merely contemplating an opportunity to collaborate on community development projects! As to the one who justified the woman’s behavior (ironically out of an unacknowledged subjectivity or sense of entitlement), if that was not projection and the pot calling the kettle black, then I don’t know what is.

Dear readers, and especially those of you who live in the Bible Belt, what I have described above is religious bigotry. Why? Because on the one hand, while a believer is entitled to his or her opinion about a non–believer, when that opinion leads one to articulate discriminatory actions of exclusion or some form of disparate treatment towards a nonbeliever (especially when one is receiving public or taxpayer dollars to carry out his or her business) then one is using one’s opinion as a tool (or perhaps a weapon) of privilege and exclusion, and as a way to position one’s self over and against others.

These behaviors are divisive and hateful in orientation, which are contrary to the ideals that many Christians allegedly say that they embrace, i.e., love, peace and forgiveness. That many Christians behave in such bigoted ways without even realizing it is painful to experience and to accept (I always want to believe in the good of humanity). I also find these actions particularly troubling when they are enacted and justified by those who are the descendants of indigenous peoples who were consistently excluded and discriminated against by 1) fear–based and ignorant white religious opinions (that a god intended for there to be segregation and separation of “the races”), and 2) by the violent exclusions and actions of those who felt entitled to their alleged higher power’s scripts about life and the alleged social and political order of that life. Further, it is terrifying to see how utterly unaware some Christians are to the reality that their religion or belief system has turned them into the spitting image of their oppressors and thus unable to accept those who are different and not beholding to their gods (without wanting them to be utterly destroyed or punished). No one is entitled to be a religious bigot. And some of us who know this are not going to roll over and take such blatant and not-so-blatant displays of religious bigotry without a fight!

© 2014 annalise fonza, PhD

In Memory of Dr. Maya Angelou: A Nova Star!

More and more, as I hear people talk of gods
I am convinced that many do not know and perhaps they are afraid of the
Power that is within us as human beings.
For if Maya Angelou was the teacher
The writer,
The healer,
The truth–teller,
The mother,
The rock,
The anchor,
Then, also, it is not unreasonable to say
That to some
She was like a god,
A higher being,
A force to be reckoned with, and, indeed,
A nova star (as declared by her son Guy).

And yet, she was human.
Just like us.

Oh, that we could see and revere
The awesome beings that we are
Without needing to give or imagine ourselves away
To gods invented to be that which many are afraid of being or comprehending.

© 2014 annalise fonza, Ph.D.