Archive for the ‘Interview’ Category

November 16, 2009

Judy Norsigian Featured on “Liberadio(!)”

OBOS co-founder and executive director Judy Norsigian has been in Nashville, TN, for the weekend, and this morning she was a guest on  Liberadio(!), Mary Mancini and Freddie O’Connell’s local political radio show.

Topics covered include the history of the organization and the need for its work (including the landmark book and newer initiatives), the PRIM&R conference Judy attended while in town, Senator Kennedy, health care reform, media portrayals of health reform proposals, the Stupak amendment, abortion, age discrimination, social justice and diversity, among others.

The show is archived online at (you may need to download RealPlayer to listen). Judy’s segment starts at about 1:32 of the 2-hour episode. No transcript is available, but you can get some quick text notes on the segment via Liberadio(!)’s Twitter updates from this morning.

Thanks to Liberadio(!), and to everyone who came out to the OBOS house party last night!

May 29, 2009

OBOS Interview: Georgetown Law Professor Emma Coleman Jordan

emma_coleman_jordanUpon hearing that President Obama had selected Judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace Supreme Court Justice David Souter, Our Bodies Ourselves turned to Georgetown University Law Professor Emma Coleman Jordan to answer questions about the nomination.

Jordan established the field of economic justice in legal theory, and she is well known for her work in financial services and civil rights. Her most recent book is “Economic Justice: Race, Gender, Identity and Economics.”

Jordan also knows something about Supreme Court confirmations — she was counsel to Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings.

Two widely discussed issues have been Sotomayor’s views on a woman’s constitutional right to abortion and her comments on ethnicity and gender. In her 17 years as a federal judge, Sotomayor has had limited experience dealing directly with abortion-rights cases, and Jordan said there’s “nothing decisive” to be gleaned from her decisions.

Referring to the oft-repeated line, made during a speech delivered at University of California Berkeley School of Law in 2001, that has become the rallying cry of some Republicans opposed to Sotomayor’s nomination — “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life” — Jordan said, “If you read the full transcript of her comment you will see that she was only offering an insight into her unique contribution and the wisdom that comes from her unique experiences.”

We’ll see if Republicans can appreciate context — because it’s truly an eloquent speech on the complexities and responsibility of identity and experiences. (Update: Obama is now saying he’s “sure [Sotomayor] would have restated it,” but he goes on to defend the speech and concludes in his remarks to NBC’s Brian Williams, “I think all this nonsense that is being spewed out will be revealed for what it is.”)

Here’s the rest of our interview with Jordan:

Our Bodies Ourselves: How does the selection of Judge Sotomayor fit with what we’ve heard President Obama say about a Supreme Court justice needing empathy as well as experience?

Emma Coleman Jordan: Judge Sotomayor represents the president’s commitment to excellence, above everything else. The nomination is consistent with what we have seen of his judgment in selecting the members of his cabinet. A Nobel laureate for energy secretary, who is also an Asian American; a Wellesley class president, former First Lady and presidential primary rival for Secretary of State, who happens to be a woman.

OBOS: Is this appointment a representation of Obama’s liberal principles or more a part of his pragmatic strategy?

ECJ: Remember that we are only four days into this nomination. With that caveat in mind, I would say that this represents the Obama brand of pragmatic progressivism. Remember that our biggest influence on the direction of the Supreme Court is our vote for president. In addition, when a president chooses a nominee he is engaged in art, not science.

OBOS: What might Sotomayor’s working class background bring to an understanding of economic justice and legal theory?

ECJ: She has spoken of feeling like an “alien” at Princeton. She indicated that she did not raise her hand, or utter a single word in class during her freshman year there. She later won the highest general prize for academic excellence for an undergraduate, graduating summa cum laude. She has referred to passing drug dealers in the stairwells of her apartment complex in the Bronx.

These transitional experiences would be powerfully formative to help her penetrate the complex and difficult constitutional, regulatory and economic puzzles that the Court must confront.

Each justice adds something unique to the mix of experience available among the nine justices.  For example, Justice Samuel Alito, also a Princeton graduate, told the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearing that his father experienced discrimination against Italian Americans: “[a]fter he graduated from college, in 1935 in the midst of the Depression, he found that teaching jobs for Italian-Americans were not easy to come by, and he had to find other work for a while.”

All of these experiences give us human beings, talented Americans, who reflect the range of experience in America. Together, they provide the wide spectrum of experiences this nation needs for thoughtful judging of the hard cases.

OBOS: While a female candidate was expected this time around, real progress will be made when a third woman joins the Supreme Court. What are the chances Obama will nominate another woman if a second vacancy arises during his administration?

ECJ: I wouldn’t venture a guess on that, except to note that he is the only male resident of the White House, and he appears to be very comfortable surrounded by smart, confident women in his own family.

OBOS: President George H.W. Bush appointed Sotomayor to the federal bench. Will that have any neutralizing effect on Republican opposition? What will Republicans who want to derail the nomination focus on in their criticisms?

ECJ: The earlier Bush appointment to the district court helps defuse the unfair, partisan attacks.

OBOS: Obama’s announcement, which focused on Sotomayor’s personal story, echoed another “only in America” narrative. Sotomayor’s qualifications are evident, and we’ve heard how much she impressed Obama during her interview. Does dwelling on her personal story give her opponents an open door to challenge the selection and use her opinions to show she’s an “activist” judge who will champion the rights of minorities? Or does it help to build public support for a nominee whose life story is relatable?

ECJ: The personal story introduction is a standard Supreme Court nomination framework.  Every justice now sitting was introduced that way. The personal biography helps to humanize some of our most brilliant jurists and to make it possible for ordinary Americans to relate to these extraordinary Americans.

The lines of attack now being launched were formulated long before her name was made public.  These are standard opposition strategies that have long been used against any democratic judicial nominees, even for lower federal courts.

OBOS: You represented Anita Hill during her questioning before a then all-male Senate Judiciary Committee. What has the Senate and America learned from that uncomfortable experience — in a positive or negative way — and how did it later influence the treatment of women before the committee?

ECJ: Anita Hill’s testimony changed the nation’s understanding of the demeaning effect of sexual harassment and inappropriate sexual innuendo in the workplace. One lasting legacy of those hearings is that we have never again had an all male Senate Judiciary Committee. Since Judge Sotomayor is only the third woman nominated to the Supreme Court, she will be the first to face a committee with both male and female senators.

February 23, 2009

A Discussion of Menstrual Activism with Chris Bobel

Following up on our recent post on Chris Bobel’s article on menstrual activism, I discussed the topic further with the author. Bobel’s new book is due out in Spring 2010 from Rutgers University Press. Its working title is “New Blood: Third Wave Feminism and the Politics of Menstruation.”

Our Bodies, Our Blog: Can you tell me a bit about what is covered in the book, in addition to the menstrual activism history covered in your recent article?

Chris Bobel: The book is written for an undergrad/general public audience with lots of lively examples of the very cool activism I encountered — and pictures, too. In short, the book is at once a history and sociological study of menstrual activism using this little-known activism to track changes in feminist thinking and doing over time. There’s a lot of debate right now about the future of feminism: Is the movement dead? Is there something new going on? Is it really new or just recycled?

The newest iteration of feminism (in the West) is called third wave and I wanted to find a concrete way to tease out what third wave is and how it both reflects the past of feminism and takes off in new directions. We talk about feminism in the abstract a lot and we lose people. I wanted to show what third wave feminism looks like on the ground.
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February 5, 2009

Yes Means Yes: Q&A With Lisa Jervis & Brad Perry

Today we’re pleased to present an interview with two outstanding contributors to “Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power & A World Without Rape,” a collection of essays recently published by Seal Press.

Lisa Jervis, the founding editor and publisher of Bitch magazine, and Brad Perry, sexual violence prevention coordinator at the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, take on popular perceptions of rape and what needs to be done to transform regressive attitudes toward sexual violence — in both the media and among young men.

In “An Old Enemy in a New Outfit: How Date Rape Became Gray Rape and Why it Matters,” Jervis deconstructs the latest blame-the-victim terminology. Perry’s essay, “Hooking Up With Healthy Sexuality: The Lessons Boys Learn (and Don’t Learn) About Sexuality, and Why a Sex-Positive Rape Prevention Program Can Benefit Everyone Involved,” revisits advice Perry received as a teenager and the more enlightened strategies he has encountered in his work.

Ultimately, they grapple with how to create an atmosphere for a healthy and empowering sexual experience for both women and men.

Please add your thoughts on the discussion, or your questions for Lisa or Brad, in the comments. And don’t miss the next stop on the “Yes Means Yes” virtual book tour: a live chat on Feb. 9 at Shakesville with co-editor Jaclyn Friedman.

Our Bodies, Our Blog: What is the allure of so-called “gray rape” for anti-feminists? How does it help serve a conservative agenda?

Lisa Jervis: The construct of gray rape does two things: it minimizes rape, seeks to make it seem like less of a big deal — if it was a “gray area,” can it really be that bad? — and it also justifies victim-blaming and its close friend, slut-shaming. This actually serves anti-feminists in two really different ways, though they’re both pretty much classics of sexism and misogyny.

The minimizing encourages an attitude of, “What are all those angry women complaining about now?”; and almost every feminist issue has been minimized at some point over the history of the struggle for gender equality.

The victim-blaming part is even more disturbing, as it updates and revitalizes one of the biggest obstacles to transforming rape culture. And it’s particularly insidious because of how it cultivates self-doubt and self-blame even more than previous victim-blaming discourses have. And, especially when paired with slut-shaming — which makes women and girls feel bad about the existence of a strong sex drive and any entitlement they might feel to (gasp!) satisfy their desires — it serves as an attempt to keep a tight cultural lid on women’s sexuality. It’s an updated and vastly more complex version of “good girls don’t.”

OBOB: Brad, how has the notion of “gray rape” complicated your teachings?

Brad Perry: In my experience, the attitude about acquaintance rape (which is what the term “gray rape” is usually referring to) amongst most policy makers, many students, and a good chunk of the general public has not changed drastically since it first entered the public’s awareness 20 years ago. There has been some progress in getting people to understand that usurping another person’s sexual autonomy is rape under any circumstances, but old mindsets die hard.

In that context, the gray rape thing just seems like more of the same but with a new name — as Lisa eloquently discusses in her essay. The only way my work has been complicated by the notion of “gray rape” is that now people have a convenient label. I don’t think it’s necessarily changed many people’s minds on whether or not to take acquaintance rape seriously — the people who are going to deny it are usually going to find a reason to do so until something happens to change their mind — but it has given those folks some hip new contemporary language to dismiss acquaintance rape.

We’re a country found by patriarchal religious fanatics who were (among other things) obsessed with denying human sexuality, so it’s not at all surprising to me that we keep revisiting the issue of social control over women’s sexualities. That’s not too say I think we should throw our hands up and say, “Oh, well” — in order to remember how much history we have to overcome so that we don’t lose our minds trying to make progress.

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December 8, 2008

Emotional Effects of Pregnancy After Infertility or Loss: An Interview With Jen Dozer

When a woman becomes pregnant after experiencing infertility, those around her are likely to expect nothing short of complete joy. Pregnancy, after all, is the long-awaited goal.

But as Jen Dozer, a freelance writer and registered nurse, writes in this article published at Our Bodies Ourselves, a woman who has experienced infertility or a pregnancy loss may find it difficult to push aside feelings of worry and concern.

“The long-desired pregnancy may not be the joyous experience she has dreamed about,” writes Dozer. “The experience of infertility brings its own baggage to a pregnancy: grief for previous losses; anxiety; and fear that her body, unable to conceive on its own, may not be able to carry a pregnancy.”

In addition to discussing the emotional effects of infertility that a woman may experience once pregnant, Dozer lists a number of useful ways to “ameliorate the doom and gloom expectations that years of repeated failures have led you to expect.” Links to related resources are also provided.

Dozer writes from experience. She went through almost two years of infertility before giving birth to a boy on Mother’s Day 2008 and blogs about infertility, motherhood and health care at She recently spoke with OBOB.

Our Bodies Our Blog: What was your experience with infertility?

Jen Dozer: It took almost two years to conceive our son. I had never had any sign that there could be anything wrong with me reproductively. After 12 months of unsuccessful attempts, my husband and I underwent testing. Other than my progesterone being slightly low, and a mildly misshapen (arcuate) uterus that should not interfere with conception, all the tests were normal. Our official diagnosis was unexplained infertility.

According to our doctor, we had a 3-to-4 percent chance of conceiving on our own. We underwent several cycles of me taking Clomid to stimulate my ovaries to release eggs, and one cycle of Clomid combined with intrauterine insemination. I was set to begin injecting myself with stronger medication when I became pregnant spontaneously. Our doctor could offer no explanation other than the previous medicated cycles may have “jump-started” things. A non-answer, really.

Most infertility patients are able to conceive with relatively low-tech means. In the future, for us, there are no guarantees about how easy or how difficult it might be to have a second child. There is always the possibility that we may need IVF to conceive, or we may never have a successful pregnancy again. There is a lot of uncertainty.

OBOB: In the OBOS article you wrote: “If a pregnancy finally does occur, it can be difficult for a woman who has experienced infertility to view herself as just another pregnant woman.” What was your pregnancy like, and how did you cope with your fears or concerns?

JD: There was definitely a higher level of anxiety, and I have never even had a loss. I can’t imagine the anxiety level I would feel after a stillbirth, or six miscarriages, or seven years of infertility instead of 20 months. I approached my ultrasounds and the heartbeat searches with the Doppler with trepidation: Was my baby still alive? I don’t think that is going through the average woman’s head. Disaster could be around any corner.

I think I called the office nurse in a panic twice a month. My OB was kind and bumped me to appointments every two weeks by the time I was 20 weeks. I needed the extra reassurance. I was successful in not caving in to renting a Doppler to listen to my son’s heartbeat. I really wanted to have faith in my body. It can be almost an impossible task when your body has shown month after month concrete proof of its dysfunction. How could I be sure that it could get the pregnancy and birth part right, too? Those were uncharted waters. After all, there had been no indication that my body would have problems with conception.

To try and cope with the ramped-up anxiety, I chose a provider — an OB who worked with two midwives — who was known for trusting women’s bodies, yet at the same time sensitive to my background of infertility. It’s easy to say, “Get over it,” or, “Trust birth,” but those statements just invalidate the very real experience of having a body that doesn’t function properly.

What I loved about my providers was that no one ever said anything like that to me. They took the stance of “innocent until proven guilty” when it came to my body, yet still were willing to provide extra support in the form of more appointments, and taking the time to address my anxieties and reassure me that my baby was fine. In the end, when there really was a problem with my son, they took it seriously. Perhaps I wasn’t “supposed” to worry or fret over my body’s ability to carry a pregnancy, but, despite my best efforts, I did. The head can only strong-arm the heart so much.

I also did a lot of reading good birth stories. My copy of “Spiritual Midwifery” and “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth” were well-thumbed. I avoided watching birth shows on TV. They tend to show pregnancies as complicated and births as emergencies, and I had enough fear rolling through my head already. I tried to avoid Googling my symptoms. Dr. Google is notoriously full of misinformation.

I had some small experience as an OB nurse, and I found calling and asking the OB nurse to be more helpful and less likely to send me into a panic. Last, I took a hypnobirthing class. I used my relaxation techniques every night. I admit, this class would probably not be a good match for the average infertility patient, who would likely feel they had nothing in common with their classmates. In our circles, it seems like hubris to desire more from a birth than a living child.

OBOB: How well does the media cover infertility?

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