Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Feminism for Real

Not abortion related per se, but if you are at all interested in feminism you need to get your hands on this new book edited by my hero Jessica Yee. And if you're in the Toronto area, please come join us for the launch this Friday! Details:

Pre-orders have started for a new CCPA book edited by Jessica Yee-- Feminism FOR REAL: Deconstructing the academic industrial complex of feminism.

Against a backdrop exposing a 500+ year legacy of colonization and oppression, Feminism FOR REAL explores what has led us to the existence of 'feminism', who gets to decide what it is, and why. It provides thoughtful, honest and unapologetic insight into how different communities; including Indigenous and women of colour, sex workers, disABLEd, queer, Two-Spirited and trans youth define and relate to feminism; what it means to them -- and more importantly, what it doesn't mean.

In the words of editor Jessica Yee, this is not a hate-on of feminism or of academia. It is about truth-telling. And, as explained in the introduction, in the process of uncovering truths, facing them head-on and seeing where they lead us, we can redefine feminism beyond a first, second, or third wave policed by academic institutions so that it becomes about truly cross-cultural human movements that are about real justice - and doesn't end up reinforcing the very forms of oppression it claims to confront.

Jessica Yee is a self-described "Two-Spirit multi-racial Indigenous hip hop feminist reproductive justice freedom fighter". She is the founder and Executive Director of the Native Youth Sexual Health Network (the only organization of its kind in North America) that works within the full spectrum of sexual and reproductive health by and for Indigenous youth across the continent.
  • Click here to pre-order your copy of Feminism FOR REAL.
  • Join the discussion and follow along as the book launches across Canada on the Feminism FOR REAL Facebook page.
  • In Toronto on Feb. 25? Then don't miss the Feminism FOR REAL national book launch.

  • Sunday, February 20, 2011

    Weekly Reader

    Hey everyone, are you sick of reading about my cervix? Here's some other stuff you might find interesting!

    If you have a story to share about how Planned Parenthood has helped you, share it here (Canadians can participate too! What hurts our neighbours hurts us).

    Fellow Canadian the Biebmeister weighed in on the abortion issue, and his opinion was actually not that surprising for a 16-year-old boy. What was this interviewer thinking??

    A wonderfully written personal account of abortion.

    A CPC in Ottawa defends its role.

    A Canadian priest is suing the anti-choice site LifeSite for damaging his career and reputation.

    More women are choosing the IUD (this article quotes doctors from BCBC, where I got my IUD put in!).

    Feel free to share what you've been reading in comments.

    Saturday, February 19, 2011

    Ohh...the Personal IS Political!

    Hi again friends. You'll be happy to know I am feeling much better today, and I actually kind of regret the decision to book the day off work, since I really could have been fine; not to mention I need the money. And I already took yesterday off - and called in sick on Tuesday because of a cold. Yeah, it hasn't really been my week.

    Anyway, minimal cramping and bleeding, so that's good. I have received a lot of support and good wishes from the wonderful people in my life, which is very much appreciated. I also seem to have caught the confusingly ambivalent attention of Suzie Allcaps over at Big Blue Wave, so take that how you will. Thanks for the link love, Suzanne, and for pointing out that no, they in fact do not cover IUDs in sex ed. I wish they had. Just another reason we need comprehensive sex education, amirite?

    I'm so glad I wrote about the experience right away, because even now it doesn't seem real. It couldn't have been THAT painful, right? It reminds me of my experience with tattoos: as soon as they start on it, I think, how could I have done this again?? It's HORRIBLE! (I told you I was a wimp). And I leave, and I think - I'm never doing this again. But now I think, there's a tattoo I really want...and it didn't hurt THAT much...I should get another one.

    Yesterday I was ready to get up and walk out without the IUD if they would just stop, just take out the speculum and stop torturing me. But today I think, well, if it falls out, I'll be cool to get another one put in.

    I'm an idiot.

    Anyway, it hasn't fallen out (knock on wood).

    The main thing I took away from this experience is that the personal truly is political. As soon as my partner came into the room, I said: "I'm not having babies." And I mean it. Ever. I knew that I didn't want to ever give birth, but this experience made it physically, viscerally real for me. I can. Not. Handle. The. Pain. I just can't. I am a soft soft lady, inside and out, and I'm ok with that. I have absolutely no interest in pushing a human being out of myself.

    And the fact that there are people who don't want women to have that choice is so much more frightening to me today than it was on Wednesday. I don't know what childbirth is like, but if it's anything close to the pain I experienced yesterday (and I think it's probably worse), the thought of women having to do that without being 100%, totally, enthusiastically on board is sickening. I mean really. What. The. Fuck.

    I have a lot of other thoughts, and they're coming soon, but that was the one that really stuck with me once the whole thing was over. And the commenters over at BBW can make all the smug judgments about my choices that they want, but I promise I am 100% more put off by their desire to control what goes on in the bodies of strangers than they are by my "potty mouth". Fuck you, fuck your oppressive, anti-woman bullshit you piece of shit fascist dickwads. How's that for potty mouth?

    Seriously though, thanks for the support you guys.

    Thursday, February 17, 2011

    IUD Insertion: My Garbage Nightmare Afternoon

    Buckle up kids, this is going to be a long and bumpy ride.

    So, without getting into the long and sordid history of my rocky relationship with hormonal birth control, let me just say that I was ready to go in a different direction with my efforts to escape pregnancy. After a lot of research and thought (hard to avoid in my line of work, honestly) I decided to get an IUD.

    I wanted to blog this experience so that other women would have an idea of what to expect - even though people are likely to have a variety of different experiences, it can be reassuring to have some warning about what will happen. However, unfortunately because of my fucked up lady parts my experience was not super normal. So...I'm just blogging because I want to. And maybe also so you know how bad it can be.

    [Trigger warning for medical procedure description, vaginal discomfort]

    I went in a couple weeks ago for a preliminary consultation and a pap test. I tested negative for all the bad stuff, but I did have a case of bacterial vaginosis that went away with a course of antibiotics. No biggie. The pap test was notable because before it started, the doctor asked me if I was uncomfortable having a pap or had ever had any traumatic experiences that would make the pap difficult for me. I thought that was awesome.

    In fact, throughout both appointments, the medical staff were all wonderful - totally professional, and really caring and attentive. If you live in Toronto, I highly recommend the Bay Centre for Birth Control.

    Anyway. Today I went back to get the IUD inserted. There were two options in copper IUDs, and I chose the one that lasts five years (as opposed to two) even though it is the more difficult of the two to insert. I'm really glad I did, too, because the thought of doing this again in two years makes me want to die.

    I had a doctor and a midwifery student, both women. They were both lovely and friendly people. The doc did a quick exam first - lubed finger, speculum, you know how it goes. She was a bit confused because the doctor from the first appointment had determined that my uterus was retroverted, and she felt like it maybe wasn't. After some poking around, the doc and the student came to the conclusion that it was in fact retroverted, but also tilted to a weird angle. So she told me it might be a little difficult to get the IUD in. Ok!

    Difficult. Well.

    First came the speculum, of course. I generally find it a little uncomfortable but honestly, not too bad. After that came some sort of measuring device that turned everything around it into cramping, like some horrible magic wand of...horror. I could FEEL the cramping moving up my body. It was horrific. I can't really describe the pain of it - it's not sharp or dull or anything I really have words for. It doesn't seem like it should be so bad - after all, in the end it is just cramps - but I found the inability to DO anything was the worst. I couldn't curl into a fetal position or barf or whatever I would do if I had cramps like that and wasn't laying on my back in an examining room.

    I wish I could explain how bad it felt, and how low my pain threshold is. It was seriously the worst I have ever physically felt in my admittedly sheltered life.

    So they were having some difficulty getting the IUD in, at which point the doctor decided to use some kind of instrument that would keep my cervix out of the way (?). It felt like something was pinching my cervix. I thought that would be horrible, but I was concentrating so much on the never-ending cramps that I could barely even feel it.

    It was at this point that I first considered telling them to stop. I thought about just continuing to use condoms, that this could not possibly be worth it. But then the doctor told me that they could try a different (bigger?) speculum. So she took everything out and left to get it.

    I could close my legs for a few minutes, and that felt amazing. I was still cramping a lot but the option to move, to sit up, and the absence of the jumble of metal up my vag felt so awesome, I didn't care. I foolishly, optimistically thought that once the bigger speculum went in, it would all be a piece of cake. When the doctor came back, I opened my legs, if cautiously, at least still willingly.

    The bigger speculum was certainly less comfortable! And then the horrible magic wand went in again. Thus followed I don't even know how many minutes of poking, prodding, and the worst cramping that could possibly exist. I mean, I know I'm a big wimp, but how was my uterus not exploding? Both the doc and the student were very attentive, but every time they asked how I was doing all I could come up with was a vaguely optimistic groan. Not awesome. I seriously thought, once again, about calling the whole thing off. My legs were shaking so much I was surprised they could even get anything done. I was in shock, but not enough that it didn't hurt like hell.

    The problem was not just the tilt of my uterus, but also the fact that I apparently have a long vaginal canal, so my cervix is hard to get to. The one time the doc managed to get the IUD even remotely close to where it was supposed to go, it started sliding out again. Finally, she said "if I don't get it in in the next minute, I will get another doctor."

    Oh great!

    Once they had determined that it wasn't going in, both of them went to get another doctor. They left the speculum in, on the understanding that if they were going to be gone more than a couple minutes, they would come back and take it out. Honestly it probably wasn't even that long, but lying there alone with the speculum still in, I started to panic. What if they forgot about me? And of course, this entire time I was cramping like crazy. I wished I had asked for my partner to be there with me. I thought it would be unnecessarily difficult to have him there seeing me in pain, but at that moment I wish he had been (in the end, I'm glad he wasn't. It was easier to disassociate myself from the pain without him present).

    They didn't forget me. They came back with another doctor, who was chipper and hilarious and a little bit cynical. I liked her a lot. She assessed the situation quickly and determined that I did, in fact, have an anteverted uterus. Aha! I thought. Problem solved! Let's get that thing in there!

    So we went to it again. I was struggling to stick with my deep breathing, and at this point my lady parts had taken such a beating it didn't seem to matter that the new doctor was quick but gentle. They just hurt. It hurt more because it was so...inescapable. I had come too far to stop. It would waste everyone's time if I decided, at this point, to bail.

    The uterus issue might have been cleared up, but unfortunately the inaccessibility of my cervix was still causing a problem. Once again, the cervix-pinching instrument, then the magic wand of doom. My legs and butt were positively vibrating with shock. I thought I would probably pass out, and I was actually wondering if they would continue if I did. Maybe the student could hold my legs open. Maybe it would be better that way. Every second I didn't think I could endure more pain, but then I did, and then the second after that I did again. It was awful. Seriously, the worst thing I've ever been through. I don't want to scare people, so just bear in mind - my experience was not typical.

    At one point the doctor told me to put my bum down, and there would be less pressure. And I did, and she was right - as soon as I relaxed my butt and it touched the paper (I wasn't even aware it was raised), I felt a tiny bit better. But then I would forget and all my muscles would clench and it would start all over again.

    Finally, after a million years, it was in. They cut the strings, and removed all their devices, including the big speculum which felt AWFUL coming out. I breathed. I even sat up a little, although I was totally dizzy. The three women were cautiously optimistic, and they told me they needed to do an ultrasound to check and make sure the IUD was sitting properly and wouldn't slide out.

    The first doctor went to look into the ultrasound situation, the student went to get me some pain meds and water (I would have pulled out the IUD and stabbed a kitten with it for a glass of water at that point), and the second doctor let me touch the cut-off IUD string (it felt like fishing wire) and explained to me how to check for it in my vagina. I asked her if she could get my partner. She went to get him. I sat up, and I cried and cried.


    When my partner came in, and the student brought back the water (OMG it was amazing) and the ibuprofen, I felt better. My legs were shaking and I was pale, and the cramping was still worse than I have ever had during a period, but the ability to close my legs was just about the greatest.

    Once I was steady, I went with my partner and the student to the ultrasound room. The ultrasound tech explained the probe to me (it was a transvaginal ultrasound) and asked if I had questions or concerns. I didn't. The ultrasound was not too bad for me - they just put the tip of the probe in, and after everything that already happened, it was the least uncomfortable thing that had happened. Sometimes the tech moved the probe down or to the side and it triggered the cramps, but at least I had a hand to squeeze. My partner and I both commented later on the oddness of the tableau: him holding my hand while I was ultrasounded, as if we were expecting a baby instead of having the anti-baby stuffed INTO my womb. Kind of awesome.

    After what seemed like the longest ultrasound ever performed, it was determined that the IUD was in place. Thank goodness, because I don't think I would have wanted them to try again if it wasn't.

    After putting my pants back on, and a brief consultation regarding aftercare with the student, we were free to go. We went to get sushi at Aji Sai, and we walked there - the fresh air was really good. All you can eat sushi (and cheese wontons!) was also very good. And I might marry that Diet Coke I drank.

    Right now I'm feeling ok - still cramping but ok. I will update again, probably tomorrow, with my thoughts and impressions. All told, my partner estimates that I spent an hour and a half in the exam room before he came in. AN HOUR AND A HALF with a speculum in me - not great, friends. I was kind of expecting about ten minutes. Sad face.

    For now, I am doing well and I want to thank my friends for their good wishes and encouragement, and the staff at BCBC for how fucking awesome they are. And especially my loving, supportive partner who took a half day off work, split the cost of the IUD, and most importantly, was totally 100% there for me when I needed him.

    More to come.

    Tuesday, February 8, 2011

    Weekly Reader

    I know I usually do these on Sundays, but you know how it is.

    Lots of stuff to read this week:

    The maternal health initiative is in the news again, and Harper was in Geneva to drum up support. Questions are still being raised about the efficacy of a maternal health plan that doesn't include access to safe abortion.

    Summaries of abortion law and abortion access in Canada.

    Antis are still moaning about not being allowed to harass women have anti-abortion clubs on campus.

    Surprise! We have abortion "controversy" up here in Canada too.

    What have you all been reading this week?