Monday, December 16, 2019

Birth Control, Out of Control

Birth control changes lives, that is a fact. Its benefits range from preventing infectious contagious diseases like HIV/AIDS, to the amazing power of women’s body autonomy. In between, there are things like preventing adolescent pregnancy and lowering the infant mortality rate. According to World Health Organization, there are 214 million women around the world who would like to be able to have access to contraception, but who are unable to receive it. You guessed it these numbers affect the developing world mostly. However the picture of readily available birth control is skewed. There is no doubt that the developing world needs more change into improving contraception numbers, but in this country, in the U.S. we have a crisis.

The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, that president Obama put in place helped level out the playing field of health insurance. Health insurance, however, does not solve it all. There are approximately 75 percent of women in the U.S. who have insurance. However, a study showed that women with private insurance pay 50 percent more for oral contraceptives.

In political talk there is always this saying of “following the money”. It is used for everything, from vaccinations to a political race sponsorship. From one end of the spectrum in the political compendium to the other one, financial circumstances are always brought up to the contraceptive conversation table. Why is that? How much does money actually have to do with birth control?

Planned Parenthood one of the agencies that serves women, specifically lower income women, helps millions of women throughout the country. Consultations that result in a prescription for birth control are available daily in these clinics. Free condoms, IUDs for a low cost, and free counseling are at the center of this resource. These services are all vital for a healthy population. However, throughout the years, governments have tried time and time again to defund Planned Parenthood.

The defunding of an organization like Planned Parenthood would result in millions of women left without access to essential services. Not only would birth control be more limited to these women, but other medical things that are vital would vanish. Amongst those services are the cervical cancer screenings and prenatal care, for example.

The reason why organizations like Planned Parenthood and others who do things that are similar are so vital, is because the financial stability of many women around the country do not allow for them to go a private clinic. Almost 50 percent of women between the ages of 18-34 who live in households for which the income is $75,000 or less have reported they need to postpone or limit their ability to have children due to economic hardships, planned parenthood reports. The average income for working adults in the same age cohort is $27,458.

According to Planned Parenthood, the prices of birth control vary greatly depending if the client has health insurance or if they qualify for Medicaid or any other government programs that might cover the cost of birth control pills. 1 pack of pills, which typically last a month, range between $0-$50. They are free with health insurance.

The problem with these pills, for example, is not whether they are covered by health insurance or not, because almost always they are virtually free with any health insurance. The issue lies with the requirements needed to obtain contraceptives like the Pill. The most important is a prescription. To get a birth control pill, a prescription is mandatory. Prescriptions are only obtained through a medical appointment, which costs money. Some of these appointments only cost a small copay, but many can cost up to $250. That can be the price of an appointment for a birth control prescription. This immediately makes birth control costly for women of low income.

Panic becomes rampant when laws or rules are changed and women are left without ways to obtain contraceptives due to their financial situation. There was recently a case of outrage from college students, particularly married students. For a minute it seemed like BYU-Idaho was putting in place a new rule that would not allow students to use Medicaid to fulfill the insurance requirements. They would have had to by the school’s private insurance that did not cover many things and is very expensive. BYU-Idaho reversed its decision only a couple of weeks ago after much pressure, both within the school and from the media.   

These are cases that need to be taken seriously. Oral contraceptives are an investment. They are expensive and in some cases they even approach 29 percent of out-of-pocket spending for women with private insurance. Fertile years are much more expensive for women then they are for men. Women scrambling for change to afford their contraceptives is just as real as women scrambling for change to feed their families.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Taylor Swift and a Modern Version of a Dowry

            Taylor Swift, one of the most famous singers in the world right now, recent winner of the coveted Artist of the Decade award from the American Music Awards, and by all accounts a modern legend does not own her own music. The story was everywhere: Scooter Braun, manager of singers like Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato, and more, bought out Taylor’s old record label, Big Machine, and with it, the rights to her Master’s.
On a post to Tumblr, Taylor wrote concerning the situation: “For years I asked, pleaded for a chance to own my work. Instead I was given an opportunity to … ‘earn’ one album back at a time.” Taylor says she refused this offer and decided to start fresh instead of being stuck in the same cycle. She states that she “knew Scott Borchetta [owner of Big Machine Records] would sell the label, thereby selling [her] and [her] future.” She claims that Scott selling her masters to Scooter is her “worst case scenario.” Taylor says that Scott knew about her anger and resentment towards Scooter and did this on purpose to spite her.
Scott Borchetta, on the other hand, claims that he let her know in advance of the sale and tried to keep things as civil as possible. He leans into the business side of the music industry in his response and posted part of a deal they offered Taylor asking for ten more years with Big Machine and during that period she would earn back her music. He states that “Taylor had every chance in the world to own … her master recordings.” Scott claims that her dad was aware of the transaction deal and that any lack of communication between the two was not the fault of him or Big Machine.
Taylor’s dad owns a portion of Big Machine Label Group from back in 2004 when a 14-year-old Taylor Swift signed with the startup label. He bought shares of the company in order to sit in on meetings where his underage daughter would be surrounded by adult men. Her dad, Scott Swift, also did this in order to help boost her career. This concept of having her father there in the country scene to ensure she would not be taken advantage of is similar to the idea of coverture. Coverture is an old term of when a woman is under the protection of her father until she is married and then becomes under the protection of her husband. In this case, Taylor’s masters were “covered” by Scott Borchetta, a man her father had a hand in picking with her. Until the day they were sold to another man, Scooter Braun who should protect her. This is similar to an example of a worst-case-scenario-marriage. Taylor’s masters would be her dowry and her father entrusted them to Scott Borchetta who sold her and her life’s work out to another man who now controls all her music up until 2018.
Understanding the principle of coverture is important when it comes to the Taylor Swift/Scooter Braun situation because of the unique circumstance of her dad’s shares in Big Machine. Historically, women have always had to be covered by men (their husbands and fathers) legally, creatively, etc. Taylor’s situation is a modern version of that, and her “worst-case scenario” is that she does not own her work and that a man she claims has tried to sabotage her now figuratively owns her.

Monday, December 2, 2019

100 Years of Suffrage: Cause to Celebrate?

Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, the amendment which finally granted women the right to vote. As organizations and communities come together to celebrate this momentous occasion, a segment of the population seeks to also shed light on the movement’s complexities as varying strains of racism permeated the movement. Suffrage Leaders such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton vehemently spoke out against the 15th amendment which granted black men voting rights before women. These women resorted to the racist rhetoric of the day to explain their horror of “colored men of inferior status” receiving voting rights before they did.  During the fight for the 19th amendment, black women were also often excluded from participation in activist efforts.
During the Suffrage Procession, the first major women’s march to take place in Washington D.C., women like Ida B. Wells were asked to march in the back of the parade rather than with their state delegation as their “colored presence” caused too much commotion among white Southern women. When women of color approached Susan B. Anthony for help in forming a branch of the suffrage association, Anthony refused to help them, using the negative response of Southern white women as justification for excluding the participation of minority groups.
The complex nuances of the suffrage movement continue to remain a mystery for many as society has failed to highlight such complexities. Even in contemporary society, as women continue to fight for gender equality, few recognize the unique experiences among specific social identities. Just this past week, as women from Latinx community were highlighted during Latina’s Equal Pay day, resistance to the holiday was exhibited through social media comments on the internet. When an influencer highlighted the holiday and recognized her own struggle as a black woman to receive equal pay, white women resisted the claims by insisting that the focus should remain on how all women struggle, regardless of race. One commenter likened the holiday as an opportunity for minorities to hide behind excuses. She said, “it’s time black American stop playing the victim card and work hard.”
Why is there continued resistance to acknowledge the varying struggles of both past and present among women of color and all minorities? Why do we continue to shape the narrative of political struggles with sweeping generalizations? The answer lies in our failure as a society; we are failing to recognize the role of intersectionality when it comes to how individuals of overlapping social groups navigate the world around us.
Intersectionality, a term coined by Kimberly Crenshaw, seeks to identify how overlapping social identities contribute to different levels of oppression and discrimination that an individual person may experience. The identities that are typically observed include the overlapping of gender, race, and sexuality. The world we live in favors certain groups of people. The groups that are favored are considered normal or acceptable. Within the categories of race, gender, and sexuality, the identities that are favored are white, male, and cisgender/straight. If you do not identify with each of this categories, you are likely to experience varying levels of oppression. The less you identify with the favored categories, the more oppression you will encounter.
Within the suffrage movement, black women faced additional barriers as their race carried with it another layer of oppression. Even after the passage of the 19th Amendment, all women of color still struggled to fully participate politically by voting until the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In the fight for gender equality, divisions arise not only between men and women, but also between women of color and white women. Depending on the situation, certain social identities are emphasized over others. Certain identities become more salient.
Robin DiAngelo introduces the concept of saliency in her book White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Race. She acknowledges that each of us occupies “multiple and intersecting social positionalities.” Depending on the situation or current circumstance, certain aspects of our identity will be more salient than others. In other words, certain parts of our identity will be highlighted or emphasized in certain group dynamics. In the case of the suffrage movement and the discussions on equal pay, race became the more salient social identity. This saliency in turn caused the friction we’ve witnessed within groups working towards equality. As we come to understand intersectional identities, we will begin to grasp the nuances and complexities of social movements. Ultimately, understanding intersectionality reveals the unique and individual experiences  people face as they engage in public life.