Thursday, May 12, 2011

Taxing (or Fee-ing) Non-profits

I read this article this morning about Boston (and other cities) turning to nonprofits to increase revenue for the city. I have mixed feelings...

Squeezed Cities Ask Nonprofits for More Money Michael Cooper, New York Times, 5/11/11As recession-racked cities struggle to balance their budgets with everything short of feeling behind sofa cushions for loose change, a growing number are seeking more money — just don’t use the word taxes — from nonprofit institutions that occupy valuable land but by law do not pay property taxes.
On the one hand of course, I think it is outrageous to put burdens on nonprofits. They do great work and are even more essential as governments cut back on social services to save costs.

On the other hand, I grew up in Baltimore, a city that struggles to have money to pay for basic things like quality public education. It is also a city that is a hub for nonprofit organizations, schools, and hospitals, so it loses out on a lot of taxes in this way. Johns Hopkins takes over half the city (*not intended to be a factual statement), and I think that they should be contributing to the wealth of the city so all can enjoy it. Especially because most of the people benefiting most financially from the institution live outside the city, and don't even pay city income and property taxes... but that's another issue that you'll never hear the end of from me.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sterilizing Pets

Alright, so I’m all about family planning, right? I believe in easy access to various types of birth control methods for EVERY PERSON so that every person can find the method that is right for them. When people can control their family size, they have more opportunity for education, wealth and happiness. I think it is no surprise that I am opposed to forced or coerced sterilization or reproductive control… for people.

Yet I am a huge fan of sterilizing pets. The Humane Society explains that one should sterilize pets because there are plenty of pets in the world that are already unwanted, homeless, and/or euthanized. On a personal level, I spayed and neutered my cats because I knew I didn’t want any more cats. I did not and never intend to have the space, time and money to care for 6-10 cats. If my cats could make the decision for themselves to reproduce or not, I would let them. But of course, they cannot, so the responsibility is mine. So sterilizing my cats comes from a place of personal responsibility, just as I use birth control because I know I currently do not have the resources to care for another human. (Bob Barker had it right).

Obvious conclusion. Why did I write about it?

Mostly because it is just ruminations in family planning, so it is remotely relevant to this blog. But also because I have been getting this weird feeling that my female cat would be sad if she realized she will never have kittens. There is just something about her that makes me think she would really enjoy being a mother-cat.

(Is this the first step to going baby-crazy?) 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Why I Love Being a Roller Girl

Before last June, the most interesting story I could tell at a party was that my sister is a clown (truth!). Guaranteed, this conversation would go on for at least the next 15 minutes. I loved pulling it out because it instantly made me the most captivating person at the party even though I share none of her talent.

But now I have an interesting line to drop that is actually about me- I play roller derby. That’s right, I play women’s flat track roller derby; I am a roller girl. I was part of Charm City Roller Girls league down in Baltimore, and now I am in the process of transferring to the Long Island Roller Rebels.

When I drop this tidbit at a party, it usually halts any other conversation that was going on and begins a barrage of questions.
     Oh is that like that thing from the 70’s / that movie with that chick in it?
         (No, it is never more specific than that)]
     So you like totally beat up other girls, right?     Do you have a cool name?
While I love to answer those questions and explain exactly what derby is, I also like to tell people what I think are the cooler parts about it that most people miss:
  • All of the leagues are completely run by the skaters and volunteers. It is so beautiful to see volunteers getting involved simply because they have something to contribute and think roller derby is great. It is also great to see all the athletes take responsibility for their league, and it helps everyone to appreciate how much work goes into the league.
  • The DIY strategy wouldn’t work so well if roller derby did not bring together such diverse people as it does. Roller girls and volunteers come from all backgrounds, all professions, all ages, all stages of life. Together, we can tackle any obstacle from creating the art for bout posters or rigging sound and lighting to writing league by-laws or filing taxes. Socially, the diversity is really great too. There are opportunities to make new interesting friends, get involved in new activities as well as get advice, recommendations, babysitters, jobs and more.
  • The diversity part also tickles my feminist fancy because we have women of all shapes and sizes that are awesome at what they do. I used to play basketball and lacrosse, and most of the players looked pretty similar. Since there are different positions and different strategies of play, not everyone has to have the same speed, strength and size to excel at roller derby. There is even a place for awkwardly tall and lanky women like me (as soon as we get comfortable being 4 more inches off the ground and on wheels).
  • Roller girls aren’t “too cool” for pads. We wear knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards, helmets AND mouth guards. We have to wear ALL our gear in practice and games, and most of us wear at least some of the pads when we skate recreationally. It is nice to not feel pressured to be “tough” and risk seriously injuring a vital body part. I think this is a pressure that skateboarders and many other extreme sports feel. I also feel good knowing that we set a good example for young people.
These are my favorite parts about derby, but I think everyone has their own. Some people love the names and outfits. Others just like it as an interesting way to work out or release aggression. I have always been a team sport athlete so I know the great feeling you get from being on a team, but many of the women that join derby are feeling this camaraderie for the first time. I am glad to be a part of a sport that gives adult women that opportunity.

I know you’ve been wondering, “What’s your derby name?”, but I can’t tell you yet. My alter-ego and boutfit aren’t quite ready for the public eye. But watch out! I’ll be on the prowl soon enough! 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers

Today, March 10th 2011, marks the anniversary of  Dr. David Gunn, the first abortion provider to be murdered for the work he did. Many other have faced the same brutal fate since. Others have been injured in attempted murders and bombings. When abortion providers and clinic workers are lucky enough to not be harmed, many still face threats and protests at work and even at their homes.

I wanted to bring a batch of fresh baked muffins this morning to the clinic nearest me (I make a delicious bran muffin), but I realized that they probably wouldn’t be eaten. Of course my intentions are good, but what was there to keep an anti-choicer from baking muffins, poisoning them, and then posing to give a gift to the clinic. Yes, this is unlikely and yes, maybe if you worked at any off ice and a stranger came in with baked goods you would be wary, but clinic workers have to take these kind of potential threats very seriously. It is ironic that the whole reason I want to bring the muffins was the same reason I couldn’t.

We can’t even publicly thank all providers, since many are just OB/GYNs that do not publicize that they provide abortions for their patients. These doctors could be in danger if their community learned that they provide abortions. And unfortunately, many bills, like one up for debate in my old homestate Maryland, seek to “out” these providers.

Beyond being aware of potential threats to themselves and their patients, clinic workers also have to face constant shaming about what they do. If not from the protesters outside their clinic, they hear it from websites, blog comments, and conservative news outlets. No matter how much you believe in what you do, I am sure being called a baby-killer, murderer, or being told you’re going to Hell takes its toll on you. At least it does if you never hear someone call you a hero, a brave champion, or say thanks for what you do. Most clinic workers do hear this appreciation from their patients, and that is why they continue to do what they do.

I want to thank abortion providers and clinic workers because without them, the right to choose would be meaningless. If I can choose to have an abortion but cannot get one, it isn’t really an option. The more providers there are, the more options women have for safe, affordable, accessible abortions. As a young woman of reproductive age, that is the world I want to live in.

So thank you clinic workers, for making a world I want to live in.

Read stories from clinic workers at, or read or write Thank Yous to providers at

You can follow the tweeting on the issue with #NDAAP, but know that is it about 50% thanks and 50% anti-choice harassment. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Happy International Women's Day

Happy International Women’s Day!

Yes, March 8th is International Women’s Day. The UN says they adopted the day for two reasons: to recognize the fact that securing peace and social progress and the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms require the active participation, equality and development of women; and to acknowledge the contribution of women to the strengthening of international peace and security.

I couldn’t go to any of the hundreds of global events taking place worldwide, so I spent my day commemorating in the Twitterverse by following hashtags #InternationalWomensDay, #IWD and #IWD2011. I am proud to say that #InternationalWomensDay was even a trending topic today!

I am inclined to believe that knowledge of and participation in International Women’s Day was much bigger this year than any other. Yes, it is the 100th anniversary, so it could be just this year that the day is getting more recognition everywhere. However, I learned that in countries like Italy and Russia(video), men buy flowers for the women in their lives to show appreciation. Why doesn’t the US do that? Why doesn’t Hallmark have Women’s Day cards? Even my beloved alternative doesn’t have them! Not that I think we need another commercialized holiday in our country, but it would be nice if women were celebrated for being women, not having children or being an administrative professional or having a birthday. Why should women get this special day when men don’t? Because being a woman is hard, at least it is harder than being a man.

In the UK, a PSA playing off the James Bond character has Daniel Craig dressed as a woman and Judi Dench telling of the inequalities women endure (see end of post). These are the sort of Women’s Day events I would like to see happening in the US next year.

Of course, we could not expect to be free of obnoxious woman-hating tweets that I can only hope were meant as jokes. And of course, since woman-beating mentally unstable Charlie Sheen is “so hot right now,” I was not the least bit surprised when I saw this being retweeted through the universe:
@charlieesheen I'd like to say a few words on behalf of #internationalwomensday ... SUP BITCH? lolz!
To be fair, this is not Charlie Sheen’s Twitter account, just an imposter account that has since been deactivated. Still, it reminds me that our culture is at best ignoring and at worst glorifying Charlie Sheen’s unacceptable behavior and attitudes towards women. (More on that from Anna Holmes in the NYT)

Here’s to hoping that next year, knowledge of and participation in International Women’s Day will be even bigger in the US and worldwide. In the meantime, we can focus on empowering women, demanding legislative change, and unfollowing Charlie Sheen (HaHa yes! There’s an #unfollowcharlie movement! Learn more!)