India Has Problems

India has been in the news lately. In part, for gang-rape (which, as you may have noticed, is a horrific evil on which India does not have a monopoly). A seventeen-year-old girl in India killed herself after she was gang-raped and failed by her law enforcement community. A twenty-three-year-old Indian woman (a medical student) was raped in front of her boyfriend and left in critical condition.

I suggest that you read this post on HelloGiggles (which is an excellent site, by the way, and often covers topics a lot less upsetting than this one). Among other things, it details the struggle that the teenage girl underwent in attempting to file her complaint with the police. Being sexually assaulted is horrible—and that horror should not be compounded by police who try to convince the young woman who survived the assault to drop the charges or to possibly marry one of her attackers. Her attackers were only detained after she specifically named them in her suicide note. Barring the most dreadful of illnesses, I would never counsel suicide as the better option, but I can understand why she did it.

India has more problems than that—and, honestly, nightmarishly high levels of incidents of violence against women should be enough of a problem for any country. I think that a lot of us have read about villages and other local governments in India in which unmarried women are being forbidden from using mobile phones. “Reasons” (using the word reason loosely, here) range from that they might form their own, independent social connections to simply that mobile phone use will “spoil” them. It is disgusting.

Online communication through computers, whether they sit on our desks or we carry them in our pockets, are opening up isolated communities, helping to advance peoples’ educations, and gradually transforming the entire world into one community out of many. It is wonderful. But that is also frightening to some more conservative individuals who believe that too much freedom for younger generations will erode their culture. Honestly, it will. It happens in the US. Sometimes, the internet and television can help a closeted fourteen-year-old boy in rural Alabama …

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Just Another Thing To Do: A Pro-Choice Essay

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I do not have a uterus.

I cannot tell a woman what to do with her uterus.

If I did have a uterus, I still could not tell a woman what to do with her uterus. I also still could not tell a transgender man what to do with his uterus. And others would not have the right to tell me what to do with mine.

I am a huge fan of Emily’s List (look it up; they’re awesome) and I am vehemently pro-choice. I try to be polite and delicate about it sometimes, because I know that abortion is a sensitive topic for some people, but it is not for me. For me, abortion is a medical procedure—except that unlike having teeth pulled or having an appendectomy, it is not a procedure that I will never undergo. Also, unlike tooth-extraction and appendectomies, it is a contested topic. In fact, it is still being contested today (and not just in distant parts of the world to which I am afraid to travel), which is more than a little mind-boggling to me.

But I do not believe that opponents of female reproductive rights are mindless, misogynistic lunatics who want to turn women into baby-making slaves. I do not have many friends who are opposed to abortion rights, but those who are tend to be educated and know how to express and articulate their beliefs without shouting “baby-killer.” In most cases, their beliefs have a foundation in their personal religious beliefs.

If your religious beliefs state that life begins at conception, then I understand that. But I do not understand why you would expect for me to believe that—or conduct myself as if I believe it. I believe in ghosts (not in supernatural ghosts that levitate chairs or start fires or other things like that). And I honestly forget, at times, that not everyone believes in ghosts (although it makes sense; I wouldn’t expect for someone who has never had an experience with something to believe in it, per se). That said, I don’t consciously expect for other people to believe in ghosts. And I certainly don’t expect for people to conduct themselves as if they did believe in …

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Get Thee To A Nunnery

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I’m sure that most of you have heard by now about the Vatican’s “crackdown” on American nuns. Essentially, most American nuns and American nun organizations are spending “too much” time and energy on helping to combat poverty and too little time opposing same-sex marriage and abortion rights.

Nuns are not the female equivalents of Catholic priests. Nuns are the female equivalents of monks. They are in positions of service to the Church and their communities, where priests are in positions of service to the Church but also in positions of authority (along with service) when it comes to their parishioners. Nuns do not lead mass or take confession; they are recognized for the work that they do.

I can see where the Vatican is coming from on this, and I’ll get to that in a moment, but when your complaint is that someone is spending too much time caring for the poor, the sick, and addicts, you should at least realize that your criticism is going to sound a little weird and may not be taken well.

To my mind, nuns are the most popular Catholics. Probably not the severe, ruler-wielding nuns of a couple of generations ago (I do not care if it is on the hand; hitting children is detestable), but contemporary nuns are fairly popular, likable figures. Do you guys remember Sister Peg from Law & Order: SVU? She was a recurring character, a nun who gives out clean needles to addicts and tries to help prostitutes without interfering in their lives. Horrible things would happen to her sometimes because she put herself into dangerous situations in order to help others, but she kept doing her work because she believed in helping people. When watching SVU, you felt bad whenever bad things happened to her, no matter what your feelings towards the Catholic Church might be.

While that’s a fictional and somewhat dramatic portrayal of contemporary American nuns, I do not think that it is inaccurate as far as values and attitudes are concerned.

Now, I disagree with the Vatican. I believe that same-sex marriage should be legally recognized everywhere, and I believe that every woman should have the right to choose. But I do understand where they are coming from with these criticisms.

From their perspective, it’s like the Vatican is the parent and American nuns are the child who is doing lots of work and extra credit and making straight As in most of their classes but neglecting a few classes. I can see how they would want for nuns to work in this area (I guess that saying “the Church wants for nuns to focus more upon pushing social injustice” is a bit melodramatic).

But I think that trying to force this issue right now is a mistake on the part of the Vatican. I am sure that these organizations of nuns have many motivations for choosing their priorities as they have, but one motivation has to be that opposition to marriage equality continues to diminish, and I honestly don’t think that female reproductive rights are going away on a national level any time soon (despite a number of attempts in the past few years). And while nuns enjoy some popularity and familiar recognition now—which the Church, in many places, does not—part of that might be due to the fact that they are focusing upon doing good works that just about everyone can support. If nuns start taking hard stances on social issues, as the Vatican is insisting that they do, then they may lose some of that popularity and good public image, which could, in turn, make it harder for them to do the work that they really want to be doing.

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