Following Your Dream

“I Will Teach You” by Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim

Photograph by Republic of Korea

Photograph by Republic of Korea

Only a miracle would free her to live her own life

As the following passage opens, the young Tae Yun Kim, a South Korean girl who has been separated from her relatives by the horrors of the Korean war, has returned to her family.
–The Editors

Eventually, I was reunited with my family, and when the war was over I went to live with my grandparents. One blue-gray morning in Kimcheon, South Korea, I was awakened by a shout. Although the war had ended, sudden sounds still had an unsettling effect on me. Cautiously I slid open the rice paper window in the room. My uneasiness disappeared as I saw something that instantly captivated me.There, in the early morning fog, my uncles were practicing an ancient martial art. I was mesmerized. The mists swirled with their fluid kicks. Their bodies glistened in the first light of dawn as they moved with amazing power and grace. What I saw awakened a deep feeling inside me. Their movements seemed mystical and yet so natural. To my seven-year-old mind, this was beautiful and exciting. It was important. Nothing had ever seemed so perfect. I had to learn how to do that myself. Little did I know how profoundly that moment would affect my life—and how much opposition I would face to fulfilling my desire.

As soon as I could, I asked my uncles to teach me how to do what they were doing, but they met my desire with laughter. “What?” they laughed. “You’re supposed to learn how to cook and sew. And if you’re lucky, someone will find you a husband.” You see, being seven years old was not the obstacle. The obstacle was that I was a girl.

Teaching martial arts to little boys was not unusual. In fact, it was a common practice. Girls, however, were forbidden to learn martial arts. Why? Simply because it had been that way for centuries. Everyone told me it was silly for me to even imagine that my uncles or anybody else would teach me martial arts. I should look forward to growing up, getting married, and having twelve sons, they kept saying. But I didn’t want to follow the path everyone expected of me. The women in my village were always working, working, working with their backs hunched over. That didn’t seem like any fun to me. I didn’t want to become like my mother. I didn’t want to become like my grandmother. I didn’t want to produce a lot of sons. I didn’t want any of that. I knew in my heart that I was supposed to dedicate myself to learning martial arts.

No matter how often my uncles told me that it would be impossible for me to learn martial arts, I would not listen. I insisted that they teach me anyway. Finally one of my uncles came up with a strategy that he thought would work. “Well,” he said, “if we go ahead and give her lessons, she will probably give up.” They were sure that I would stop being so persistent when I saw how difficult it was and started getting bruises from working out.

So every morning, I practiced. Yes, the work was hard and the bruises were many. I had to wear pants to hide the bruises so the other children wouldn’t laugh at me. But to my uncles’ surprise, I did not give up. To their further bewilderment, I progressed. I faced enormous difficulties—not in the art itself but in the continued resistance I met from those who believed that a woman couldn’t and shouldn’t be able to do that. I was, after all, breaking a five-thousand-year-old culture and tradition.

My family, my neighbors, and everyone I met applied enormous psychological and emotional pressure to try and stop me. My family even applied physical pressure, beating me and locking me in my room to keep me from practicing. My mother constantly nagged me and complained, “Why are you such a terrible daughter?” My father would come home drunk every night and beat my mother and me, demanding that I start acting like a marriageable young lady so he could have some peace in life.

My mother was once so desperate to keep me from practicing that she took a pair of scissors and cut off my hair, leaving me with a short, funny-looking hairstyle. She wanted to make me feel so embarrassed that I would not want to leave the house to go practice. I cried, crawled into the corner, and touched my hair in disbelief. Then I thought to myself, “Okay, hair grows back. My hair will grow back. I will have to endure looking like this for a little while, but I am not going to let you stop me from doing what I love. You are not going to cut away my dreams. I will not give that power to you.” In reality, the actions of my mother and family only made me more motivated and committed. The more I heard, “No, no, no,” the more I said to myself, “Yes, yes, yes. I can do it. I will do it.”

When I tell this story, people always ask me whether I was upset with my family for trying to hold me down. Of course I shed a lot of tears and would become frustrated and angry. At some point, though, I realized that my mother was simply doing what she thought was right. She had been taught, as had her mother before her, that the best way to raise a little girl was to teach her to fulfill the role expected of her as a good wife and mother, not to encourage her to dream big. The people who raise us usually do what they think is best for us. If you can understand why they are acting the way they are, you can have greater compassion for them. That doesn’t mean you have to accept their opinions or act like a victim. When you really want something that you believe in passionately, you can’t let anyone rob you of your dreams.

Take a moment now and think about yourself. Have you ever had to stand up for yourself in the face of pressure from those who wanted to force you to live in a certain way? What sort of challenges are you facing now? What dreams are you fighting for?

Photograph by the Republic of Korea

Photograph by the Republic of Korea

At this point in my life, I had an even worse reputation if that was possible. I was considered bad luck because I was born on the lunar new year as a girl instead of a boy, and now I was doing something that only boys and men were supposed to do. Everyone in my family was convinced that there was surely something wrong with me. While they would have been proud of my accomplishments had I been a boy, they regarded this as one more way that I was bringing shame upon them. In addition, my family was understandably worried that if I kept behaving in such odd ways, nobody would want to marry me and I would grow up to be a lonely, isolated, outcast old woman.Still, my mind was set. I was determined to break out of the box everyone was trying to keep me trapped in. I knew I had to be true to the burning desire deep within. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, that persistence is what would keep my dream alive through what was coming next.

One day I saw my grandfather talking to a strange woman in broad daylight, something that you would never normally see in our strict culture. All at once I realized what was happening—the woman was a matchmaker and my grandfather was bribing her to find me a husband. That’s not going to happen, I told myself. I knew that I needed to find a way to make sure the matchmaker didn’t like me, because if she did, I was going to be in big trouble.

When my grandfather asked me to serve tea to the two of them so the matchmaker could get a closer look at me, I knew this was my chance to thwart his plan. As I walked toward them holding the hot tea, I suddenly knocked the cup filled with steaming liquid onto the matchmaker’s lap, making it look like an accident.

She was furious. “I don’t care how much  money you give me,” she shouted. “She’s bad luck and I’m never going to find her a husband. She is clumsy, she is no good, she is like a boy!” Other girls would have been dismayed that such an important person as a matchmaker didn’t like them, but I was ecstatic.

As you can imagine, after I had spilled tea on this woman, no other matchmaker would come anywhere near me. My family was at their wit’s end. In their minds, they had done everything in their power to knock some sense into me. Now, they thought, if no one would marry me, they had only one choice left—to turn me over to the Buddhist monks and ask them to accept me as one of them.

Photograph by Jason Briscoe

Photograph by Jason Briscoe

That’s how the only person who would come to believe in me entered my life. Following the painful episode with the matchmaker, my grandfather invited a monk to come to our house to talk over this plan with him. As they were talking, the monk kept glancing over at me. I had no idea why he was there, but I knew they must be talking about me. Then the monk motioned for me to come over to him. You may not realize how extremely unusual that was. In my culture at the time, girls were not allowed to even make eye contact with their elders. They always had to look down, and if they ever dared laugh or smile in the presence of a grown-up, they were supposed to cover their mouths. Girls were never allowed to speak directly to their grandfathers or even eat in the same room with them, nevertheless talk to a man who was a monk. That was like having a king ask me to talk with him.

I walked over to the monk, looking down at the ground. In a very gentle, amazingly kind voice, he asked, “So, little girl, don’t you want to get married?”

“No, sir,” I answered.

“But it’s a woman’s place to get married and to be happy having sons and taking care of her family,” he said.

“No, sir,” I repeated. “That’s not what I want.”

“So what do you want to do when you grow up?”

“I want to become a teacher and help people.”

What a bold statement that was. In the 1950s in Korea, it was unheard of for girls to have such dreams. I might as well have been saying, “I’m going to the moon.”

“A teacher?” the monk asked. “What can you possibly teach?”

“I want to teach martial arts.”

“Martial arts?”

“Yes, sir. I’m going to be the first woman teaching martial arts.”

Unlike every other person in my life, he did not scoff at me or dismiss my audacious claim. Instead, in the same gentle tone he said, “Look at me.”

Since girls were not allowed to look a monk in the eye, I thought he must be crazy. But he took his hand, put it under my chin, and lifted my head up. “Um hum,” he said, as he studied my face for what seemed like an eternity. I had no idea what he was thinking. Then he looked directly into my eyes and said the words I had been waiting so long to hear: “Yes, you will become a great teacher.”

I could not believe my ears. Someone was finally acknowledging me and my desires. Then he said something even more amazing: “I will teach you.”

At first I didn’t believe him. But when he again said, “I will teach you,” I knew he was serious. For me, having someone of his stature say he was going to teach me martial arts was like winning a billion dollars in the lottery! It was the first time in my life that anyone had looked at me not as a lowly girl who was always disappointing everyone but as a human being who had value. In that split second, my life changed. ♦

Excerpted with permission from Seven Steps to Inner Power: How to Break Through to Awesome by Tae Yun Kim (Mountain Tiger Press, 2018).

From Parabola Volume 43, No. 2, “The Miraculous,” Summer 2018. This issue is available to purchase here. If you have enjoyed this piece, consider subscribing


Ladies – Get Back to Yourselves!

18 Ways Women are Disconnected from Themselves


We live in a society where our relationship to things outside of ourselves seems far more important than our relationship to ourselves.

We pride ourselves on our families, our jobs, our labels and our outward expressions in the world. Not only do these matter, but they can often be sincere expressions of who we really are.

However, for most women our connection with ourselves often comes last, if it even exists at all. As we wake up each morning and catapult ourselves into the busyness of our days, we carry very little regard for the many ways we disconnect from ourselves.

Our connection with ourselves best serves as the foundation of our lives, with all else extending from there. We are the source from which our own life unfurls from.

The following are 18 ways many of us dampen, cut off and even destroy a connection with ourselves. My guess is that we are all on this list somewhere, my hope is that by reflecting on ourselves we will begin to transform the disconnection into a connection.

1) Being everywhere but here.

Presence is that thing we don’t often use even though it’s always available to us. Worry, fear, and our projection of the future tends to disconnect us from the experience we are having right now. Come back as often as you can by simply saying, “this moment.”

2) Our relationship to our body.

The body in which you exist is beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, it is sacred. Many of us have been disassociated with our bodies or associated only in a painful way. Sometimes we can feel as though our bodies are letting us down. But more likely we are letting our bodies down, by undervaluing our body or obsessing over it. Embodiment is the connection. Live within your body.

3) Being a spinster with sleep.

Sleeping is a daily gift of restoration and our time of dreams. We must make our sleeping hours sacred, giving ourselves just what we need to wake rested each morning.

4) Making food a fool.

Rushing food, under eating, over-stuffing, following the “best” way to eat. etc. Food is very simply our fuel. When we fill our gas tanks we don’t put $1 in there because we’re worried the car will be too heavy, and we don’t keep filling the tank until the gas flows over because we are trying to soothe and distract the car from its feelings.

I’m not trying to sincerely compare our bodies to a car; I’m just making the point that we are far more complex than a vehicle—we have a spirit, emotions and a worth that can’t be destroyed. Food is fuel to help our bodies both survive and thrive. The food our body requests may not look like the diet we think we need to eat. It looks like giving our bodies what they need. It looks like hydrating completely. It looks like eating just what you need to feel satisfied. And it looks like leaving rigid behind.

5) Missing the importance of menstruation.

Our menstrual cycles are incredible revealers of our health, our moods and our burdens. Our relationship with menstruation can reveal our relationship with our bodies. Our cycles are cyclical gifts to help us rest, restore and release each month. Learning to appreciate this mini rhythm of nature that lives inside of us can do wonders for connecting us to ourselves.

6) Hormonal birth control.

Our bodies, when hormonally balanced, are a biological beauty. Taking artificial hormones each day to trick our bodies into pregnancy does such tremendous damage to our body’s wisdom. It creates an artificial atmosphere, hides the symptoms that reveal imbalance and damages the natural rhythm of a woman’s body.

7) Trying to prove our worth.

Worth is inherent. There is no one to prove anything to. We really are enough exactly as we are.

8) Prioritizing things that are not important to us.

Walk through your day in your mind. So much of it is filled with the tidyings and necessaries of life—so much so that we often don’t get to the things that are most important to us. What’s interesting is that if we start our days with what is most important, then we often store up excess energy that can easily and lovingly guide us through our day as we tend to the more mundane tasks of life.

9) Not being smart with our smartphones.

We have addicted ourselves to these mini computers that we never leave at home, never turn off, and sleep with next to our beds. For most people, their smartphone is the very first thing and the very last thing they look at each day. We are so fascinated with other people’s lives that we forget to connect with our own. First place to smarten up? No phones in our bedrooms!

10) Being way too hard on ourselves.

Watch, for one day, and notice how many times we tell ourselves we could have done something better, faster, wiser or sooner, or that we should have done something.

11) Not giving ourselves what we need.

For most women, we come last. We meet the needs of everyone else and if we have anything left over we guiltily share it with ourselves. Not such a great equation.

12) Interrupting intuition.

Let go. Let go. Let go. Controlling cuts off that part of ourselves that communicates with our inner knowing.

13) Not following the rhythms of nature.

As women we are intricately connected to the rhythms of nature. As mentioned above, menstruation is a monthly expression of that rhythm in our body. Spending time outdoors is critical to ground us and connect us with the vastness of our existence. Get outside to connect with the messages nature will give you and the energy she will fill you with.

14) People pleasing.

Look at the calendar and to-do list for the week and notice how many things are on there to please someone else. Make adjustments and fill those spots with a few things to please yourself.

15) Perfectionism.

Sigh. The biggest and most challenging disconnection we battle. It feeds many of the other things listed here. It is soul sucking, anxiety inducing, and the quickest way to live a life half-assed.

16) Staying too safe.

We get so comfortable with the way life is and settle in deep to the safety of being there. This has no choice but to stunt and drown dreams—often the very things we’d hear an urging to do if we were connected with ourselves.

17) Seeking balance.

Balance is a fallacy. You cannot find it because it doesn’t exist. At least not in the sense we are seeking it. We cannot, nor ever will be able to, give an equal amount of time to all the things that are important to us. Life is much more complex and beautiful than that. We must live life so fully that giving equally to it all doesn’t matter because we give so completely to what matters at the moment.

18) Limiting joy.

Too many of us are not making time for the thing that most lights us up. Why does joy get put last?  Because we are so disconnected with ourselves we don’t realize the value, the importance and the sacredness of ourselves and how necessary joy truly is to our well-being.

Source: “18 Ways Women are Disconnected from Themselves,” from, by Falan Storm

Photo credit: Mizrak/Flickr Creative Commons

– See more at:

Indigenous Women in Canada – Activism

Thousands March Across Canada Demanding Justice for Indigenous Women

On National Day of Action for Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women, protests take place across Canada and in U.S.

A sign at the 10th Annual Strawberry Ceremony in Toronto. (Photo: @Connie_Walker/Twitter)

Marches took place across Canada on Saturday, with participants demanding justice for the country’s missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

“Increasing deaths of many vulnerable women…still leaves family, friends, loved ones, and community members with an overwhelming sense of grief and loss,” according to the Women’s Memorial March Committee, organizer of the 25th annual event in Vancouver. “Indigenous women disproportionately continue to go missing or be murdered with minimal to no action to address these tragedies or the systemic nature of gendered violence, poverty, racism, or colonialism.”

Last month, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an autonomous arm of the Organization of American States, pinpointed colonization, long-standing inequality, and discrimination as root causes of disproportionate violence against Indigenous women.

Marlene George, Memorial March Committee organizer, added: “We are here to honor and remember the women, and we are here because we are failing to protect women from the degradation of poverty and systemic exploitation, abuse and violence. We are here in sorrow and in anger because the violence continues each and every day and the list of missing and murdered women gets longer every year.”

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said last May that 1,017 Aboriginal women had been murdered between 1980 and 2012. Another 108 are missing under suspicious circumstances, with some cases dating back to 1952.

Those who came together in Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Grand Forks, and about a dozen other locations, called for a national inquiry and action plan to address the crisis.

At the Strawberry Ceremony in Toronto, marchers called out Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has previously dismissed the phenomenon as a matter of individual crimes.

Organizers of the event declared: “We stand in defense of our lives and to demonstrate against the complicity of the state in the ongoing genocide of Indigenous women and the impunity of state institutions… [Royal Canadian Mounted Police], coroners’ offices, the courts, and an indifferent federal government that prevents justice for all Indigenous peoples.”

In mid-January, the Globe and Mail reported that the premiers of the provinces and territories who have supported the call for an inquiry would meet with aboriginal organizations at a roundtable in Ottawa on Feb. 27 to discuss the issue.

At least three U.S. cities—Denver, Colorado; Fargo, North Dakota; and Minneapolis, Minnesota—also held solidarity events.

Keep up with the actions on Twitter with the hashtag #MMIW:

Virginia Woolf Rediscovered

Why Virginia Woolf Should Be Your Feminist Role Model

Posted: Updated:

Although Virginia Woolf is now accepted as a major writer and an early feminist, her work wasn’t embraced or widely anthologized until nearly 50 years after her novels were published. Though many of her stories don’t adhere to the informal strictures of modernism — she often voiced her distaste for James Joyce and other contemporaries who wrote unabashedly about sexuality — she’s championed today for subtly calling attention to women’s issues. In her novels and her many letters to her fellow thinkers in the Bloomsbury group, she artfully made clear many double standards of her day. Here’s why, in addition to Roxane Gay, Bey and Lena Dunham, Virginia Woolf should be one of your feminist role models:

She was chiefly interested in the inner lives of women.
Unlike many of her literary predecessors, Woolf aimed to give credence to the unspoken emotions and interpretations we experience daily. She did this not only by placing more traditionally feminine themes at the forefront of her stories, but by penning sentences with a cadence that revealed the inner workings of her characters’ minds. A New Yorker article calls this, “The tragic lack of correspondence between intention and expression; and what these reveal about the nature of love.”

While this dissonance isn’t only of interest to women, it’s true that such “small” themes have traditionally been the subject of books by female authors, and have lamentably been shunned by critics for their “smallness.” Woolf, however, was too impressive to be ignored.

She lived in a time when she was granted few rights — but turned the setback into a strength.
When her contemporaries were authoring stories about the violent events of World War I, Woolf, who hadn’t the opportunity to fight, instead turned her narrative eye towards its impact on domestic life, and wrote Jacob’s Room, which revealed the more personal impact of grief and trauma. She was criticized by female writers of her ilk, such as Katherine Mansfield, for not addressing war and politics more directly, but continued to do the sort of work she believed in.

She was progressive in her feminism, and even made the connection between a patriarchal society and militarism.
Remember last week’s State of the Union address, when Obama called America’s still-lacking equal pay for women exactly what it is: embarrassing? Virginia Woolf wrote about the detriments caused by gender-influenced salaries long before moves were made to change legislation. In A Room of One’s Own, she famously explains that without financial freedom, women cannot possess full creative or intellectual freedom. While Woolf’s essay directly evaluates the role of education — which was withheld from many women of her time — she does on to equate schooling with income and self-sufficiency.

In a later book-length essay, Three Guineas, written on the heels of World War II, she responded to a letter from a man asking how war could be prevented. Woolf used this correspondence not only to call attention to her pacifism, but also to the fact that as a woman her political ideas aren’t valued. She wrote, “behind us lies the patriarchal system; the private house, with it nullity, its immorality, its hypocrisy, its servility. Before us lies the public world, the professional system, with its possessiveness, its jealousy, its pugnacity, its greed.”

She believed deeply in the power of the individual.
Virginia Woolf’s advice on reading may be every high school English teacher’s nightmare, but it’s hugely empowering nonetheless. She writes, “take no advice, to follow your own instincts, to use your own reason, to come to your own conclusions… After all, what laws can be laid down about books? The battle of Waterloo was certainly fought on a certain day; but is Hamlet a better play than Lear? Nobody can say. Each must decide that question for himself.” Asserting that there’s no one correct way of interpreting a text may be controversial, but Woolf herself, who never received a university degree, was often forced to challenge conventions in order to succeed.

She saw sexuality — and gender — as fluid.
In a letter written around the same time as Three Guineas, Woolf not only acknowledges that gender-specific traits are socialized, but implies that gendered desires are often a source of violence. Such themes are explored thoroughly in her fiction, including her first novel, A Voyage Out, which mirrors her personal voyage from a more traditional upbringing to the intellectually stimulating Bloomsbury group she became a regular fixture of.

She’s already been a feminist role model for countless artists and thinkers
Including Simone de Beauvoir and Michael Cunningham, to name a few!

virginia woolf

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Thank You, Texas Senator Wendy Davis! #SB5 is Dead

Cecile Richards

President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund

Some Amazing News Out of Texas

Posted: 06/26/2013 10:08 am

You can practically hear the shouts this morning as folks all over the country wake up to – I can’t believe I get to write this – some amazing news out of Texas.

The final hours of the fight against one of the most extreme anti-abortion laws in the country ended the way it all began: with a citizens’ filibuster – albeit somewhat less official.

For eleven hours, State Senator Wendy Davis led a marathon filibuster while the whole nation watched. Opponents of women’s health did everything they could to push her aside, and she held her ground to block a bill that could have shut down 37 of Texas’ 42 providers of safe and legal abortion.

When some politicians finally used legislative maneuvers to stop her, the crowd took over. For more than 15 minutes, supporters who had packed into the capitol screamed, cheered, and chanted to bring the Senate to a halt. I was standing on the Senate floor, and I can tell you that the sound of democracy was nearly deafening.

Even Lt. Governor David Dewhurst was forced to admit that this “unruly mob” was “the most incredible thing” he had ever seen in his life. And as long as I live, I will never forget the moment I was lucky enough to stand in the capitol rotunda and read a text message from Senator Davis:

“I love you guys. The Lt Gov has agreed – #SB5 is dead.”

The fact of the matter is, here in Texas, we’ve started something no one can stop. They lit the fuse in Austin – but the fire is catching all over the country. People don’t want politicians making women’s private medical decisions, cutting off access to lifesaving preventive care or safe and legal abortion – and they absolutely will not stand for it.

A few nights ago, as things were heating up on the ground in Austin, Rachel Maddow asked: “Texas – who knew?”

We knew.

And we did it.


On the Importance of Women Voters

Lisa Belkin

Senior Columnist on Life/Work/Family, The Huffington Post

Women Voters Won Last Night — But Did Anyone Get The Message?

Posted: 11/07/2012 12:31 pm
Women voters were the prize in the 2012 campaign. They turn out in higher numbers than men and it has long been impossible to win an election without

And yet, for far too long, candidates seemed to think women’s votes could be gotten with good looks (most recently the Wisconsin ad urging women to “Vote for the cute one,” before that the selection of Dan Quayle because, as one prominent Republican noted at the time “I can’t believe a guy that handsome wouldn’t have some impact”) or a pandering placement on the ticket (hello, Sarah Palin), or by spending a lot of time calling us Mom.

Perhaps last night they finally gotten the message. Or, messages:

You don’t win if you dismiss us. Mitt Romney’s “binders full of women” struck a chord because it felt like a rare moment of candor. He seemed to see us as a box to be checked. A former governor who appointed competent, talented women to his cabinet because he saw them as integral and intrinsic to governing rather than tokens of their gender would never have used those words.

You don’t win if you think you know more about our bodies than we do. Especially if you are horrifyingly wrong. Todd Akin proved that when Missouri voters rebuked him for saying that pregnancy rarely results from “legitimate rape” because a woman’s body “has ways to shut the whole thing down.”  (It didn’t help that he later explained he was confident he would win because opponent Claire McCaskill did not appear “ladylike” during their September debate, and went on to compare her to a dog.)

You don’t win if you equate rape with anything other than the evil that it is.  Defeated Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock knows that now, after saying that pregnancies resulting from rape are  “something that God intended to happen.”

You probably shouldn’t joke about birth control, either. We take it very, very seriously. We made that clear during the primaries when Foster Friess, the wealthy Rick Santorum supporter, tried to distract us from his candidate’s archaic stance on contraception, saying “back in my days, they’d use Bayer aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.” (It wasn’t just women, of course, who joined the firestorm of response on Facebook and Twitter. Men made it clear that they care about birth control, too.)

It should go without saying, but you don’t win just because you are a woman. Linda McMahon learned that in Connecticut, as did Heather Wilson in New Mexico and Shelley Berkley in Nevada. Tellingly, when women ran against women, it was the candidates who were championed women’s rights who tended to win: pro-choice women, supported by such organizations as Emily’s List, beat Republican women for Senate in California, New York and Hawaii.

We are not single issue voters and don’t respond well to being viewed as such. Policies about our bodies are not the only questions we take to the voting booth. But even if what tipped us was the economy, or the war, or climate change, our world view as women — or, more accurately, how the political world viewed us as women — seeped into how we processed this campaign. There were candidates who respected us and others who insulted us. With few exceptions (Michele Bachmann comes to mind), respect won.

Partly because many candidates failed to hear or heed the messages above, this newly elected 113th Congress will include 19 women senators, the largest number in history. (Yes, it is still absurdly low in a country where half the population is female — equally baffling is why so many states had no women candidates in any race — but it’s a start.)

New Hampshire, in turn, will be represented at the highest levels entirely by women — Democrat Maggie Hassan is governor elect, and two congresswomen will join the two female senators who already represent the state.

And President Obama arguably owes his re-election to women. He won with an 18-point gender gap nationwide, making victory possible in several key swing states  including Ohio (where he led by 12 percent among women) and Pennsylvania (where women preferred him by 16 percent).

Heady stuff, right? The ultimate proof of the power of women? Perhaps. We certainly got their attention over the past year, when women’s issues took center stage more than any campaign in history. But attention from a candidate is not the same as action from an elected representative, and the real test will be what happens next.

Politicians talked to women, about women and at women when they wanted our vote. Now they have to talk with women if they want to keep our support


Women w/ an Agenda Against Abortion —REALLY!!!!

Wham, Bam, Sonogram! Meet the Ladies Setting the New Pro-Life Agenda

From transvaginal ultrasounds to attacks on Planned Parenthood, Americans United for Life is targeting reproductive rights one state at a time.


Edwin Fotheringham

“We’re having a party,” Charmaine Yoest tells me when I arrive for a lunch meeting at her office on a sweltering summer day in Washington, DC. I’d expected a one-on-one interview with the charismatic president and CEO of Americans United for Life, the legal arm of the pro-life movement, but she’s brought along four other women: AUL’s vice president of external affairs, two staff attorneys, and her 19-year-old daughter, Hannah.

Everyone is charming and chatty; they ask me about my wedding a few days earlier. There’s salad all around, which seems to be AUL’s lunch of choice when female reporters are invited over. It’s all part of the girls club environment that Yoest and her colleagues cultivate, distancing AUL from other, largely male-dominated pro-life organizations.

Outside Yoest’s fourth-floor corner office hangs a large print that could pass for a Mondrian in black and white. She informs me that it depicts a human DNA sequence. “We wanted to do something that was nonbaby,” she says. Keeping things nonbaby is one of Americans United for Life’s main strategies for promoting anti-abortion legislation, and it’s made AUL one of the most effective anti-abortion organizations in the country, even though its $4 million budget is less than half that of the National Right to Life Committee. No pictures of infants decorate its headquarters, and the bloody fetus posters common at anti-abortion rallies are conspicuously absent. The only obvious nod to the unborn is a Dr. Seuss quote on the wall above Yoest’s desk: “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

Understated rhetoric aside, AUL’s mission is to end all abortions in the United States. Founded in 1971 by a Unitarian minister from Harvard Divinity School, AUL first focused on reversing Roe v. Wade flat out, but in the 1990s it turned its attention to rolling back reproductive rights incrementally at the state level. Lately, it’s been chipping away at abortion access at an ever-faster pace. Its team of lawyers has written dozens of model bills, which are collected in a playbook, Defending Life, and delivered to every state and federal legislator.

All told, 92 anti-abortion restrictions were passed throughout the country last year, an all-time record; AUL can claim credit for 24 new laws. So far in 2012, 17* laws promoted by AUL or based on its model legislation have been passed. Invasive vaginal ultrasounds in Virginia? That was AUL’s bill. Trying to shut down all the abortion clinics in Kansas? That was AUL, too.

“Our model legislation enables legislators to easily introduce bills without needing to research and write the bills themselves,” AUL’s website boasts. The organization’s foes see it as the pro-life equivalent of the American Legislative Exchange Council, the corporate legislation mill. “It’s troubling when you see the same bill language introduced in 27 states that you know came out of an anti-abortion think tank in Washington instead of coming from the concerns of the sponsor or that particular state,” says Jordan Goldberg, a lawyer at the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is trying to block AUL-backed laws in Arizona, Kansas, and Texas.

Source: Americans United for LIfe. Current as of June 28, 2012Source: Americans United for Life. Current as of June 28, 2012.

Yoest says her focus is on a “post-Roe nation” in which states will again be the sole arbiters of when, where, and whether women can get abortions. “The real question is what do the states do,” she says. “And so in a sense, we’re leapfrogging over [Roe].” She believes AUL’s growing body of state laws will set precedents with the potential to eventually change federal abortion law. As she explained to National Catholic Register, “We don’t make frontal attacks. Never attack where the enemy is strongest.”

The Supreme Court opened a critical avenue in its 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision, which upheld Roe while giving states greater leeway to regulate abortions. Echoing AUL’s women-centered approach, the group’s bills often cite the court’s finding that the government “has legitimate interests from the outset of pregnancy in protecting the health of the woman.” Its Women’s Ultrasound Right to Know Act clearly aims to prevent women from terminating pregnancies. But its framing—that a woman deserves to know what’s inside her body and must give her “informed consent”—centers on the mother rather than the fetus. A controversial version of this prefab legislation was introduced in Virginia this spring. Only after abortion rights supporters pointed out that it could effectively require doctors to stick a wand in pregnant women’s vaginas did its Republican sponsors amend it to require abdominal ultrasounds.

See Virginia Del. David Albo explain how his wife spurned his romantic advances after seeing a report about the AUL-based ultrasound bill that he and other Republican lawmakers backed.

Then there’s AUL’s bill for banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy—often performed when tests that can only be done at this stage reveal severe birth defects. Though bans on late-term abortions are often pitched on the medically dubious premise that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks, AUL’s model bill, the Women’s Health Defense Act, emphasizes the potential harm to women, citing the health risks as well as potential “emotional complications” such as depression and anxiety. Arizona passed a version of the bill earlier this year; AUL consulted on a similar law passed in Georgia.

Another AUL bill, the Women’s Health Protection Act, places tight restrictions on the physical offices in which abortions are performed, asserting that abortions are “distinct from other routine medical services” due to their potential health and psychological effects. The version of the law that passed in Kansas in April 2011 was so onerous (it even mandated specific room temperatures at clinics) that it threatened to shut down every abortion provider in the state. (A court has blocked it.)

When I ask Yoest about her favorite model bills, she promptly mentions telemed abortions. In 2010, AUL first proposed banning such abortions, wherein a physician prescribes the drug RU-486 via a video connection. Since then, eight states have passed laws prohibiting doctors from remotely administering RU-486; never mind that there were no clinics actually doing this in those states at the time (PDF). “This is Planned Parenthood’s new business model, because they’re having such a hard time finding doctors to do abortion, for all kinds of good reasons,” Yoest says.

All told, 92 anti-abortion restrictions were passed throughout the country last year, an all-time record. AUL can claim credit for 24 new laws.

Indeed, AUL’s greatest success may be its push to take down America’s largest abortion provider. In July 2011, AUL released “The Case for Investigating Planned Parenthood,” a 174-page report detailing dozens of alleged abuses, ranging from poor patient care to the misuse of federal funds. Two months later, the House Energy and Commerce Committee started looking into Planned Parenthood’s “compliance with federal restrictions on the funding of abortion.” A spokesman for Rep. Cliff Stearns, the Florida Republican heading the investigation, confirmed that the AUL report was a contributing factor in the decision to launch the probe. (AUL’s legislative arm gives Stearns a 100 percent pro-life vote rating.) Stearns’ investigation, in turn, inspired Susan G. Komen for the Cure to cut funding for breast cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood clinics.

Komen reversed its decision amid public outcry, but the cumulative impact of AUL’s efforts has abortion rights advocates worried. In 2000, the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive-health research nonprofit, rated 13 states as “hostile” to reproductive rights; in 2011, it gave 26 states that designation. “We’re seeing states that go in and make their laws worse, and we’re seeing states that are adopting more extreme, more onerous, and more creative laws,” says Elizabeth Nash, Guttmacher’s state issues manager. By putting up more hurdles for women who want abortions and the doctors who provide them, “at some point, someone will cry uncle.”

But making abortions all but impossible is only half the battle. Ultimately, AUL would like to see the Supreme Court legally enshrine its restrictions—all in the name of protecting women. “It’s really, really critical that we start establishing this in the legislative record,” Yoest tells me. “Repeatedly, the Supreme Court has turned away from the threat that abortion poses for the baby, because the Supreme Court has said repeatedly they’re concerned about the woman. So we basically want to say to the court, ‘We share your concern for women. You need to look at the fact that abortion itself harms women.'”

*This number has been updated since the article originally appeared in our September/October 2012 print issue.



pro-life or pro-lie.

On “Sluts” and Limbaugh

Why ‘Slut’ Stings: Etymology of a Limbaugh Controversy

Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer
Date: 06 March 2012 Time: 01:59 PM ET
SlutWalk London march with a banner.
Reclaiming ‘slut’? Women march in London in 2011, protesting the idea that women invite assault and harassment by dressing ‘slutty.’
CREDIT: Padmayogini /


(NOTE:   I do believe that Al Franken’s description of Rush Limbaugh as “A Big Fat Idiot” is correct, and Limbaugh’s most recent gaffe seems finally to have brought that realization to others, including radio stations and sponsors.  Hopefully it can shake up some of those right wing, self-satisfied, do-(not so)gooders who left their brains where they could be scooped up and collected and controlled.)

The media stir and public outrage over conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh’s “slut statement” may have the conservative radio host eating his words — ancient words, that is. According to linguists, the word “slut” has quite a history.

Last week, Limbaugh triggered widespread outrage by calling a Georgetown law student who spoke out for contraceptive coverage in insurance a “slut” and a “prostitute.”

Limbaugh has since apologized for his “choice of words,” but his critics, including Fluke, do not see that apology as sincere. Meanwhile, at least a dozen advertisers have yanked their ads from Limbaugh’s show, and a Hawaii-based radio station has announced it will no longer air his show.

Limbaugh’s brand of intentionally inflammatory radio rhetoric has won him decades on air and millions of listeners. He’s said that Michael J. Fox, who has Parkinson’s disease, exaggerated his symptoms in a 2006 commercial, and he once joked that then-13-year-old Chelsea Clinton was the “White House dog.” But with his “slut” comments, Limbaugh seems to have stepped into a controversy with a long linguistic history.

The origins of the word slut are lost to time, but English poet Geoffrey Chaucer gets credit for being one of the first to put it in print, calling a sloppy male character “sluttish” in the late 1300s.

But if slut ever widely referred to men, it didn’t last long. By the 1400s, the word was being used to described kitchen maids and sloppy, dirty women. The sexual connotations followed not long behind.

The Oxford English dictionary serves up a variety of cringe-inducing examples, from the 1621 work “The Anatomy of Melancholy,” which refers to “a peevish drunken flurt, a waspish cholerick slut,” to a character in Charles Dickens’ “The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby” calling another a “slut, a hussy, an impudent artful hussy!”

The word’s associations with dirt and filth continue in phrases like “slut’s wool,” more genially known as “dust bunnies,” and “slut’s-hole,” a word once used to refer to garbage receptacles.

Beyond the sting of slut, Limbaugh’s comments have also drawn controversy because of the message behind the words. Limbaugh’s target, Fluke, was speaking on the hot-button topic of businesses run by religious institutions providing contraception coverage.

This issue came bundled with other big news about reproductive health, including a bill in Virginia mandating ultrasounds for women seeking abortions and  the failed Blunt Amendment, an attempt in the U.S. Senate to ensure that employers can opt out of covering health care, especially birth control, that goes against their religious or moral beliefs. With these efforts at the forefront, Limbaugh’s remarks provided a spark for outrage.

But the word slut has also had its day in the sun. Last year, Canadian women started a protest called “SlutWalk,” in response to a policeman saying that women should “avoid dressing like sluts” in order to avoid sexual assault.

“Historically, the term ‘slut’ has carried a predominantly negative connotation. Aimed at those who are sexually promiscuous, be it for work or pleasure, it has primarily been women who have suffered under the burden of this label,” protest organizers wrote on their website, SlutWalk Toronto. “And whether dished out as a serious indictment of one’s character or merely as a flippant insult, the intent behind the word is always to wound, so we’re taking it back. ‘Slut’ is being re-appropriated.”

The protests, which quickly went international, sparked a conversation about whether the word is beyond redemption. But if Limbaugh’s continued hemorrhage of advertisers, even after an apology, is any indication, the word slut is far from redeemed.

Women’s Rights and the Blunt Amendment

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

U.S. Senator from New York

 Standing Strong Against the Extreme Blunt Amendment
Posted: 03/ 1/2012 10:12 am

In recent weeks, I’ve said repeatedly that I was dumb-founded that in 2012 we are actually debating whether women should have access to contraception. I had no idea I’d be even more dumb-founded today, when, instead of coming together to fix our economy and strengthen the middle class, the Senate is considering a measure so extreme that it would allow any employer — religious or secular — to deny their employees coverage of any preventive service, including contraception, mammograms –anything the employer deems unfit to be covered.

Let me say this once and for all: the power to decide whether to use contraception or any other preventive care service should be up to each individual woman, not her boss.

Of course, the Blunt Amendment is just the latest attack on women’s health from the far right wing in Congress. Whether it’s their attempt to defund Planned Parenthood or to roll back a common sense preventive care provisions in the Affordable Care Act, make no mistake about it, this concerted effort to reduce women’s access to essential preventive care demonstrates a callous disregard for the health and safety of women.

Attacks like these are why Senator Boxer and I started One Million Strong For Women, to build a grassroots movement of Americans fed up with the far right’s attempts to undermine women’s health. We’ve been joined by several champions in the Senate including Senator Schumer, Senator Reid, Senator Franken, Senator Blumenthal, Senator Murray, the DSCC as well as over 260,000 of you. I hope you’ll add your voice today as well.

Let’s be clear. Neither the recent controversy over the HHS contraception rule or this week’s Blunt Amendment has anything to do with religious freedom. You don’t have to take it from me, just ask Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. In the majority decision of the 1990 case Employment Division v. Smith, Justice Scalia wrote, “We have never held that an individual’s religious beliefs excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting that the State is free to regulate.”

The extreme amendment Republicans are bringing up for a vote makes it clear as day — this is a political and ideological overreach — not a religious issue. The fact they want to exempt all businesses from providing any preventive care for women is outrageous.

Please know that we will not stand for these attempts to undermine the ability of women to make their own decisions. If our Republican colleagues want to continue to take this issue head on, we will stand up as often as necessary to draw a line in the Senate and oppose these attacks against women’s rights and women’s health.

I hope you’ll join us at

It is time to agree that women deserve access to preventive health services, regardless of where they work. And it is time to agree to get back to work on legislation that can create jobs and grow the economy.

Abortion Rights Threatened in Virginia

Virginia Abortion Clinics Threatened By New Regulations


First Posted: 8/29/11 05:41 PM ET Updated: 8/29/11 06:03 PM ET

 There are 22 facilities that provide first-trimester abortions in Virginia, and all of them may have to close their doors over the next two years if they can’t meet the state government’s rigorous new health clinic regulations.

Virginia lawmakers passed legislation in the spring that required the Department of Health to release a set of “emergency” draft regulations for abortion clinics that were to go into effect by December 31.

The rules, released late on Friday, borrow a number of very specific physical plant requirements from a rulebook intended for the construction of new hospitals. For instance, a clinic must have 5-foot-wide hallways, 8-foot-wide areas outside of procedure rooms, specific numbers of toilets and types of sinks and all the latest requirements for air circulation flow and electrical wiring.

“On the first read, it seems hard to imagine that many facilities will be able to comply,” Jordan Goldberg, state advocacy counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights, told HuffPost. “We can fairly say that the regulations as drafted are the most severe, onerous and restrictive that have been proposed anywhere. They’re intended to apply to facilities that don’t yet exist.”

If the Board of Health passes the new standards on September 15, abortion clinics have until January to show the state a plan for the extensive and expensive renovations they’ll have to undergo in order to meet the new requirements.

The Virginia League of Planned Parenthood said none of its five clinics are currently in compliance with the draft regulations. The renovations required to meet the new rules would cost millions of dollars, and abortion clinics would have to foot the cost themselves and try to recoup the money in patient fees down the road.

“We recently spent $4.6 million on renovations for the building I’m in, and we still don’t meet these requirements,” said Paulette McElwain, president and CEO of VLPP. “I think it’s highly likely that most facilities in Virginia that provide abortions wont be able to meet them either.”

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