What Do "House of Cards," "Joyous Sex" and Title IX Have in Common?

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Answer: they are all topics Echoing Ida writers covered in the blogosphere last week.

"Don’t all people deserve to have safe and joyous sex even if they're poor?" That's the question Renee Bracey Sherman asked in her most recent article on Ebony.com. In "Black Women's Health Care in Crisis," Bracey Sherman discusses how restrictive and unjust legislation disproportionately affects low-income women and women of color's access to quality comprehensive health care and basic provisions. For example, Texas's HB2, one of the country's most restrictive abortion laws will close several reproductive health clinics across the state while Congress's cuts to SNAP benefits and public assistance hinder women's abilities to take care of their families. Sherman notes:

"The vast majority of Americans believe that everyone should have access to affordable, competent health care. Over 75 percent of African Americans believe that abortion should be covered by health insurance, and 71 percent believe that health care professionals in the community should provide safe, legal abortion services. When our policies refuse to cover abortion care, we perpetuate the stigma that it isn’t health care women want, need, or are deserving of. One in three women will have an abortion during her lifetime. It is a normal part of a woman’s reproductive experience."

In "When It Comes to Teen Pregnancy, Support is Prevention," Gloria Malone highlights how programs designed for pregnant and parenting youth are missing the mark. She asserts that prevention is the missing piece of the puzzle. Many of these campaigns aimed at young parents focus on shaming them instead of addressing ongoing cycles of poverty and figuring out ways to ensure healthier futures for families. At the same time, these programs also operate on the misconception that teen pregnancy creates poverty, instead of the fact that being poor makes it more likely that a young person will become a parent. Malone makes the point that there needs to be greater attention on preventing poverty and providing solid educational opportunities instead of pointing the finger at young people and young parents.

"It is a widely held truth that the best way out of poverty is a sound and quality education. Instead of improving our education system for all persons living in poverty, many teen pregnancy prevention organizations manipulate this fact. Telling non-pregnant and parenting teens that teenage parents are simply less likely to finish high school puts unfair onus solely on the teen, while failing to acknowledge that schools often push out teenage parents by coercion or noncompliance with Title IX. Teenage parents, and more specifically teenage mothers, face several obstacles when it comes to staying in school and graduating because of policies and practices at their schools, nevermind a condescending and or patronizing school environment. "

Renee Bracey Sherman addresses depictions of abortion in pop culture, particularly television in her piece, "The Second Lady's Abortion: What 'House of Cards' Got Right...and Didn't."Not only do portrayals of abortion lack nuance but the women characters who choose to have them are shown as cold women that care solely about their careers. These stories are one-dimensional and rarely address the complexity of reproductive health decision-making. While there is definite room for improvement in mainstream conversations about abortion, we are seeing more relatable storytelling. 

"The writers of House of Cards reveal the complexity of sharing an abortion story and illustrate how abortion stigma, defying maternal expectations, and the decision to speak publicly all affect Claire. This is a new narrative for audiences, and one that’s reflective of reality. Many characters with a history of abortion have been cast as feeling guilty and depressed as a result of the abortion itself, which research shows is not accurate. Instead of seeing Claire act out of shame—internalizing and accepting that she is bad for making her choices, as society would have her believe—she’s shown as a woman who was confident in her decision to seek abortion care, reflective in her choice to share, and navigating a world that she knows disapproves."
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