#SWAAYthenarrative

Planned Parenthood: Care, No Matter What

Politics

The English idiom: “a picture is worth a thousand words," aptly describes newly sworn-in president-elect, Donald Trump, as he climbed out of the chauffeured vehicle, leaving his wife behind, never once looking for her, or taking the time to do what usually comes naturally for most couples-a little thoughtfulness and a willingness to share such a historic moment with the woman he calls his wife. After all, the U.S. Presidential Inauguration only takes place once every four years. Some might point out that he may have been distracted. Trump did himself no favors to dispel the talk that he's an out-and-out misogynist when he left his wife behind. President Obama, took a moment to wait and welcome her to join in the festivities. Trump's faux pas has been discussed by many as a harbinger of worse to come.


But this article is not about the newly elected president. It's far more important than that. It's about an organization that has transformed millions of lives for more than 100 years.

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. (PPFA), is a nonprofit organization that provides reproductive health services both in the United States and worldwide partnering with organizations in 12 countries. Stateside, PPFA, consists of 159 medical and non-medical affiliates, which operate over 650 health clinics. The organization directly provides a variety of reproductive health services and sexual education, contributes to research in reproductive technology, and performs advocacy work aimed at protecting and expanding reproductive rights.

A relevant history lesson not taught in school...

Planned Parenthood was founded by Margaret Sanger, on October 16, 1916, in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York, where she opened the first birth control clinic in the U.S. Sanger founded the American Birth Control League, in 1921. Sanger, her sister, Ethel Byrne, and Fania Mindell were arrested and jailed, accused of distributing obscene materials at the clinic. Sanger preferred going to jail, turning down the option to simply pay fines instead, realizing that the cause would garner national attention, which it did. Though convicted on misdemeanor charges, Sanger's strategy paid off: the convicting judge modified the law to permit physician-prescribed birth control, a watershed moment that led to major changes in the laws governing birth control and sexual education in the U.S.

It became Planned Parenthood in 1942, because people had found the previous name offensive and against families.

By 1960, the Federation had provided family planning counseling in hundreds of communities across the country. Interestingly enough, Sanger-like many other advocates of birth control-publicly condemned abortion, arguing that it would not be needed if every woman had the education and access to birth control. Following Sanger, Alan Frank Guttmacher became president of Planned Parenthood, serving from 1962 until 1974. During his tenure the FDA approved the sale of the original birth control pill, giving rise to new attitudes towards women's reproductive freedom. PPFA also lobbied the federal government to support reproductive health, culminating with President Nixon's signing of Title X to provide governmental subsidies for low-income women to access family-planning services.

Then in 1978 Faye Wattleton became the first African-American president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

During Wattleton's term PPFA grew to become the seventh largest charity in the country, providing services to four million clients each year through its 170 affiliates, across 50 states. Then from 1996 until 2006, Gloria Feldt became president and activated the Planned Parenthood Action Fund (PPAF), the organization's political action committee, launching what was the most far reaching electoral advocacy, voter education, and grassroots organizing to promote the PPFA mission. Current president, Cecile Richards, daughter of former Texas governor, Ann Richards, and formerly deputy chief of staff to the U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi, started her term on February, 2006. Richards was voted one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World, in 2012.

Our elected officials...

A year ago the 114th Congress kicked off 2016, much like it had in 2015, by voting yet again to strip federal funds from Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest family-planning provider, because its health services include abortion. There's already a federal law preventing taxpayer dollars from being used toward abortions (patients have to pay for abortions out-of-pocket). But Republicans have long despised the family-planning provider for ideological reasons, and now they control the House, Senate and the White House.

Courtesy of Longroom.

Scarlett Johannson revealed she visited planned parenthood as a teen during her speech at the Women's March.

More than 40 years after Roe vs Wade, politicians are still trying to legislate what women can and can't do with their bodies. North Dakota, recently passed a law that outlaws a woman's right to choose, starting as early as six weeks, even if a woman is raped. Forty-two states have introduced laws that would ban or severely limit access to a woman's right to choose--laws that would make it harder to get contraceptive care, laws that would sever access to cancer screenings and terminate educational programs that would help prevent teen pregnancies.

Help spread the word...

Millions are standing with Planned Parenthood with #PlannedParenthood@PPAct and #IStandwithPP because there's simply too much at stake to allow government to interfere with our rights for reproductive health. Today, approximately one in five women in the U.S., visit Planned Parenthood, and nearly 75 percent of those women are low income. “No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body," was the motto coined by Margaret Sanger over 100 years ago.

It still rings true today, but now more than ever, our help is needed. Grassroots protests and fundraisers can have a significant impact toward protecting one of the most relevant organizations, not just in the United States but also throughout the world. It is easy to forget that sometimes the smallest deeds ignite the greatest outpouring of support and action.

Deeds...

Tuffet restaurant, in Brooklyn, raised over $3,500 for Planned Parenthood, through a raffle, silent auction and drink sales. The owner, said that she didn't think that she would be the best person to address questions on the current political climate that threatens the access to healthcare for millions of women across the country. She's wrong. Her actions, like the actions of countless other selfless individuals, who do far more for the betterment of society than so-called elected officials, are a powerful reminder that deeds address needs far more often than words.

Deeds like proposing legislation favored by many elected officials to not only take away the legal right to choose, but also take away life-saving access to cancer screenings, health education, annual well-women exams, HPV vaccine, pap tests (cervical cancer screenings), STD testing and treatment, pregnancy testing, HIV testing, urinary tract infection testing, breast exams, vasectomies, birth control, pregnancy options education, is not only heartless. It's also a not-so-subtle way to discriminate and harm millions of people (not just women) nation-wide. The vast majority of people would certainly agree that everyone deserves access to affordable, good healthcare regardless of income levels and sex. We are better than this.

The vast majority of people would certainly agree that everyone deserves access to affordable, good healthcare regardless of income levels and sex. We are better than this.

Did You Know...?

- Today more than 55 million women have no co-pay birth control thanks to the Affordable Care Act, saving women an estimated $1.4 billion in its first year alone

- In 2014-2015, thanks to Planned Parenthood, we saw a 40 year low for teen pregnancies

- Planned Parenthood's website garners 60 million annual visits

- The FDA approved Liletta, (Feb 2015) an IUD device that is safe and effective for up to three years and is priced at $50 at qualifying public health clinics

- In June 2015, The Lancet published a study conducted by Planned Parenthood affiliates and researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, about how training healthcare providers in contraceptive counseling and insertion of the most effective forms of reversible contraception-IUDs & implants-could affect patients contraceptive decisions and prevent unintended pregnancies

- Since Roe vs Wade, 11 murders, dozens of attempted murders and hundreds of death threats have plagued Planned Parenthood facilities in the U.S.

- In 2015, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, advocated for a landmark law making Oregon the first state in the nation to require health insurance companies to give a year's supply of the pill, patch, or ring up front

8 Min Read
Health

Why Weight Loss Compliments Do More Harm Than Good

Disclaimer: I am writing this piece as someone who has thin privilege. I do not experience weight-based discrimination like those who live in larger bodies. In naming my privilege, I hope to highlight the fact that my experience of this topic is limited to what I have learned from the courageous work of body positivity and fat activists, colleagues, and clients of mine who live in larger bodies.

A note on "fat": Many fat activists and people in larger bodies have made the decision to reclaim the word "fat" as a neutral descriptor. The decision to do so is highly personal for individuals living in larger bodies, as many have experienced the word "fat" being weaponized against them. For the purposes of this article, I stick to the wording of "people in larger bodies" or "people in higher-weight bodies" to respect the journeys of those trying to decide what descriptor best matches their lived experience.

Michelle was a three-sport athlete in high school. While there was a part of her that enjoyed the camaraderie with her teammates, the sense of accomplishment she felt when setting new records — there was another part of her that participated in the hopes of shrinking her body. Michelle, who is now studying to be a therapist, didn't know about eating disorders when she was younger. She reflects, "I had this idea that I wanted to become a professional swimmer so that I would be able to exercise even more. I would get many compliments on my body during swim season, even though that was when I hated my body the most."

The comments Michelle received on her weight and body when she was restricting and compensating fueled her eating disorder. "There was an underlying message" she adds, "that my body wasn't good enough before I lost the weight."

"There was an underlying message" she adds, "that my body wasn't good enough before I lost the weight."

As an eating disorders treatment professional, I, unfortunately, hear accounts like Michelle's on a daily basis — a person loses weight due to an increasingly problematic relationship food — that weight loss is complimented, and the person continues engaging in behaviors that are extremely harmful. I've also heard countless stories from friends, family, colleagues, and complete strangers sharing that they have received weight-loss compliments when they were experiencing immense pain and suffering — dying from cancer, grieving the loss of a spouse, or suffering from another debilitating illness.

With at least 20 million women and 10 million women in America alone suffering from an eating disorder at some point in their lives and countless others suffering from any number of physical or mental illnesses that might contribute to weight fluctuations, one would think that it would be common sense not to comment on a person's weight. Why are weight loss compliments such a common social gesture, despite their glaringly inappropriate and problematic connotations?

Why are weight loss compliments such a common social gesture, despite their glaringly inappropriate and problematic connotations?

It's a complex issue — while some people equate weight loss to desirability, others associate it with health and longevity (and many believe the two go hand-in-hand). But why? Why are these beliefs so deeply ingrained? One answer is fatphobia.

What is fatphobia?

Fatphobia is the fear of being fat or becoming fat, which results in the stigmatization of individuals that live in fat bodies. Fatphobia, which has both racist and classist origins, is at the root of our cultural obsession with thinness and diet culture.

Author of Fearing the Black Body, Sabrina Strings explains in her interview with NPR that 19th-century magazines, such as Harper's Bazaar, warned their white, middle and upper-class women audience that they must start to "watch what they ate" as a mechanism for differentiating themselves from slaves, creating a new aspect of racial identity (if you're interested in learning more about the racial origins and history of fatphobia check out the resources I've outlined at the end of this piece).

Fast forward 100 or so years, and our culture's fear of fatness shows up regularly on an individual, institutional, and systemic level (much like racism).

From a young age, we receive messages that being smaller is better — from thin barbie dolls with tight skin, thigh gaps, and virtually zero body fat to Disney princesses that are all more or less the same (thin) size. We see fatphobia on TV shows and movies both in casting (most people who land major roles live in thin bodies) and in the actual scripts (fat jokes). Not to mention that airlines don't make seats suitable for people in larger bodies, or that the fashion industry is particularly exclusive in its sizing and clothing lines.

From a young age, we receive messages that being smaller is better — from thin barbie dolls with tight skin, thigh gaps, and virtually zero body fat to Disney princesses that are all more or less the same (thin) size.

Weight stigma also impacts a person's chances of getting hired and the quality of health care they receive. Research shows that individuals who fall into higher weight categories are less likely to be hired than their thin counterparts. Additionally, weight-stigma in the health care system runs so rampantly that many individuals in higher weight bodies avoid the doctor's office for fear of being shamed or embarrassed. It's not uncommon, for instance, for someone who is "overweight" or "obese" to go to the doctor's office for a sinus infection and leave with a recommendation for weight loss.

Perhaps one of the most heartbreaking aspects of fatphobia is that individuals in larger bodies often internalize these attitudes, which leads to greater body image concern, anti-fat attitudes, depressive symptoms, stress, and reduced self-esteem.

Our collective fear of fatness is directly linked to the fact that it's extremely burdensome for people in higher-weight bodies to exist in this world.

Why am I telling you all of this?

Our collective fear of fatness is directly linked to the fact that it's extremely burdensome for people in higher-weight bodies to exist in this world. Instead of identifying this as a social justice issue, the majority of us have bought into the narrative that fat is bad and weight is always a matter of personal responsibility (spoiler: it's not).

Do individual choices impact a person's weight and health? Of course.

However, it would be irresponsible to not acknowledge that there are a number of factors that impact a person's weight even more so, than certain individual elements. These influences include but are not limited to: family history and genetics, race or ethnicity, socioeconomic status, age, sex, dieting history, exposure to trauma, chronic stress, racism, and/or discrimination, food insecurity, family habits and culture, sleeping habits, medical conditions, medications, and eating disorders.

Simply put, weight is far more complicated than most of us are willing to admit.

But what about health? What if a person has or desires to lose weight for "health reasons"?

Good question, to which I would say this:

  • This question assumes that in order for a person to "be healthy" they have to pursue weight loss (they don't). In fact, putting weight loss on the back burner and focusing on healthy behaviors, rather than weight has been shown to improve clinically relevant in various health and physiological markers, including blood pressure, blood lipids, eating and activity habits, self-esteem, and body image.
  • Assuming that everyone should be able to fit into our culture's irrational thin ideal and obtain a perfect picture of health while doing so is ill-informed.
  • If diets actually did what they promised they would do, the $70 billion dollar diet industry would be null and void. What most people don't know is that the diet industry — fueled by fatphobia — actually sets its consumers up to fail (and keep coming back for more). There is a large body of research that actually shows that dieting usually results in initial weight loss followed by weight gain. While there's nothing wrong with weight gain, most people don't set out to diet thinking they will gain weight. The human body is incredibly adaptive, and often, weight gain after dieting is a result of a person's body trying to protect them from starvation.
  • The people who lose weight and keep it off generally fall into a few camps:

1) They follow meticulous diet and exercise regimens in order to maintain the weight loss (one might call this disordered eating).

2) They are suffering from a serious mental or medical illness that results in suppressed weight.

3) Their survival genetics aren't quite as strong as the majority of the population, and for whatever reason, their body was okay with losing the weight and keeping it off (while there are some individuals who do fall into this camp, this certainly isn't the majority).

This brings me back to my main point: Weight loss compliments do more harm than good because we don't ever really know how the person lost the weight and there is a high likelihood that they will gain at least some of it back. Although they may be well-intended in the moment, weight loss compliments say nothing more than "Congrats, you're closer to matching our society's incredibly narrow beauty standards…"

So what do we do with this information? How do we move forward? Here are a few practical tips:

1. Continue to educate yourself about fatphobia, diet culture, and weight-inclusive principles. At the end of this article I, with the help of my colleagues, have provided a list of resources to help you get you started. Once you learn more, speak out about these issues, and seek out initiatives and policies that are more inclusive for all bodies.

2. Make an unapologetic commitment to refrain from weight loss compliments. Just. don't. do it. As I previously mentioned in an Instagram post above, it can feel pretty uncomfortable to not offer praise to someone who is subtly or not-so-subtly asking for it, especially if you love them. And yet, how powerful is it to say to someone "I love you for who you are, not what you look like."

3. Consider these alternatives to weight loss compliments:

4. Say nothing. Literally. Close your Mouth. Don't comment.

- "I'm so happy to see you"
- "I love you so much"
- "How are you doing?"
- "What's new?"
- "I so enjoy spending time with you!"
- "I'm glad you're feeling good" — only use this one when you know, for a fact, that the person is actually feeling good.

In summary, there just really isn't an appropriate reason to comment on another person's weight. Weight loss compliments do more harm than good by upholding oppressive systems, perpetuating excluding beauty ideals, and often inaccurately equating thinness to health. On an individual level, you never really know how or why a person loses weight or if they will gain any of it back. So, in the spirit of being kind, sensitive, and decent human beings, let's lay off the weight loss "compliments" for good.

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