Tag Archives: Catholic Church

Links Return Again

It would be great if this image of Karlesha Thurman had gone viral for better reasons (like because it’s beautiful) …

Karlesha Danae breastfeeding

Thurman posted this photo on the Black Women Do Breastfeed Facebook page. Although she never posted it on Instagram or Twitter, NewsOne reports that Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook went ablaze with men and women, mostly Black, calling her a wide-range of unprintable profanities. (I would need to see some data before I was convinced about “mostly Black.”)

However, Thurman also has some amazing supporters, including Ashley Wright, also quoted in the NewsOne article:

Every time I get a chance, I try to cheer everyone on in that post to get them to see that this is OK, that this is awesome, and we need to support this Mother,” she said. “We just don’t see it often. A lot of people believe that African-American women don’t breastfeed their children because, during slavery, we were wet nurses to the quote unquote White man; therefore, we do not breastfeed. I think that can’t be further from the truth as of right now. I do believe that may have played a part way back then; however, now, I do not see that as a barrier.

I imagine Thurman appreciating this excellent article by Tamara Winfrey Harris:

Strong. Black. Woman.

The words fit together like blue oil, sizzling hot combs, and Sunday afternoon. They embody the idea of African American women as perpetually tough and uniquely indestructible. …

But in a society that finds little to praise in black women, other groups’ appreciation for perceived black female strength can feel like a reductive appreciation. Strength becomes one of few positive adjectives black women can own.


If you ever wondered why the Catholic Church is so opposed to birth control (I know I have), here’s some history which will make you wonder even more.  In 1968, Pope Paul VI convened a commission to examine the Church’s position:

The commission voted overwhelmingly to recommend that the ban against artificial means of birth control be lifted. …

Unhappy with the direction of the commission, the Vatican packed the last commission meetings with fifteen bishops to formulate the final recommendation to the pope. But even the bishops voted nine to three (three abstained from voting) to change the teaching, concluding that the popes’ previous teaching on birth control were not infallible and that the traditional theological basis for the prohibition of contraception was invalid. They declared that responsible parenthood was an essential part of modern marriage .

Despite the commission’s years of work and theologically unassailable conclusion that the church’s teaching on birth control was neither infallible nor irreversible, Pope Paul VI stunned the world on July 29, 1968, when he reaffirmed the church’s ban on modern contraceptives in Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life).

His reason? He based it on a dissenting opinion which said, in part, The Church could not have erred through so many centuries, even though one century, by imposing under serious obligation very grave burdens in the name of Jesus Christ, if Jesus Christ did not actually impose those burdens.”

So, we can’t be wrong because that would mean we had always been wrong. Way to reason!


Surprise! Certain opera reviewers have not outgrown fat-shaming. [NOTE: I should not have said “opera” has not outgrown fat-shaming. That was hyperbole.]

… a pile of weekend reviews arrived from London, courtesy of five older male critics writing about an emerging Irish mezzo-soprano named Tara Erraught. Erraught is singing Octavian in the Strauss opera Der Rosenkavalier at the , which opened Saturday night. What is stunningly apparent is just how much a woman’s body matters onstage — way more, if these five critics are to be believed, than her voice, her technique, her musicality or any other quality. …

I find it astounding that across five widely read publications, not a single editor saw fit to go back to the writer and challenge what he had written. Yes, visuals matter — even more now, in the age of live broadcasts — but these critics have seized this as license to forget why anybody shows up at an opera house to begin with.

Neither have the streets of Seattle, as Courtney Meaker relates in an excellent long essay, much of it about why she doesn’t (most of us don’t) respond to street harassment …

Last night, I was walking across a crosswalk while fat and female. Two guys in a white SUV rolled down their window to say. “Hey, cunt. Cunt. Hey. You’re fat. Fat, fat cunt. Fat. Fat. Cunt. ” I didn’t even realize they were talking to me at first. By the time I’d made it past their car, the guy in the passenger seat had rolled down his window to continue yelling at me. Changing it slightly to make it very clear, yes they were talking to me, and yes, they wanted a reaction. I didn’t have one. I was in my time. My time to walk, to think, to decompress after a long day. I just kept walking.

Juliana at Feministing has at least somewhat of an antidote (with lots of great links) …

In the year since [my dad] and I last talked about health and weight, I’ve begun actively seeking out social media that reminds me that I am not alone. Relatively speaking, my body does conform to many normative standards of beauty, but like many of us, I — and people I love — have been trained to believe that it will always fall short. This reaction makes sense when all we have to work with are the narrow standards for an “attractive” or “fit” or “healthy” body that society provides us. We talk a lot about how we need to call out mainstream media for celebrating only thin, white, cis, traditionally feminine women as beautiful and making us hate ourselves. What we don’t hear enough about is where we can find alternatives. If we are going to do the difficult and never-ending work of unlearning normative beauty standards, we have to be as persistent and consistent as mainstream media is with us. Luckily, there are people out there creating media that showcases different bodies wearing different clothing and doing different things than we get to see in mainstream media.


The World Health Organization and the American Medical Association are moving into the 21st century.

Both groups issued similar statements this month: here’s a quote from WHO:

Requiring surgery as a prerequisite for obtaining legal documents is often a coerced sterilization: “Some groups, such as transgender and intersex persons, [have] a long history of discrimination and abuse related to sterilization, which continues to this day. Such violations are reflected, for example, in the various legal and medical requirements, including for sterilization, to which transgender and intersex persons have been subjected in order to obtain birth certificates and other legal documents that match their preferred gender.”

This has no legal standing, but both groups are prestigious, and it should be at least a step in the right direction.


Fashion isn’t exactly body image, but it’s close.

Clothing of the past has a rep for being toxic and/or deadly, but clothing of the present is less examined.

The green of the shimmering silk, now slightly faded, was one of the Victorian era’s most fashionable hues; people, mostly women, wore it even after it was widely known that the arsenic-based dye responsible for the colour could lead to horrible physical suffering and early death.

The article is especially rich because the exhibit curator Elizabeth Semmelhack is both very smart and very informed:

Semmelhack refuses to see fashion extremes and the risks people took to remain in vogue as ridiculous. Not following fashion was equally perilous, she says: “If idealized femininity is about women’s participation in fashion, and if femininity or beauty is the major thing you are judged and valued by, then, if you reject it, trust me, all hell breaks loose.”

It’s impossible to look at the exhibit and not draw contemporary analogies—narrow footwear replaced by vertiginous heels, corsets by sausage-casing Spanx, Dickensian factories by offshore sweatshops. Our forebears were willing to burn for fashion. We’re too evolved for that: We let others burn for us.

The future of clothing is here, and one of the forms it’s taking is this NYU student project where how much of your life you reveal online is reflected in how your dress changes.

​​​​This 3D-Printed Dress Reveals More Skin As You Reveal More Data

Co-creator Xuedi Chen says:

In the physical realm we can deliberately control which portions our bodies are exposed to the world by covering it with clothing. In the digital realm, we have much less control of what personal aspects we share with the services that connect us. In the digital realm we are naked and vulnerable.

By participating in this hyper-connected society while having little to no control of my digital data production, how much of myself do I unknowingly reveal? To what degree does the aggregated metadata collected from me paint an accurate portrait of who I am as a person? What aspects of my individuality are reflected in this portrait?

I love the project and I would like to see a less gendered version, which perhaps Chen and co-creator Pedro Oliviera are working on now.

Most usual sources: Feministe, Feministing, io9, and Shakesville, plus assorted other blogs I read. Thanks to Deena for the opera link, Lizzy for the walking in Seattle link, and Lisa for the historical clothing article.

Abortion, Excommunication, and Distortion

Debbie says:

You’ve probably read the sad tale of Sister Margaret McBride. Nicholas Krystof wrote about her for the New York Times.

Sister Margaret was a senior administrator of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix. A 27-year-old mother of four arrived late last year, in her third month of pregnancy. According to local news reports and accounts from the hospital and some of its staff members, the mother suffered from a serious complication called pulmonary hypertension. That created a high probability that the strain of continuing pregnancy would kill her.

Sister Margaret was a member of [the hospital’s ethics] committee. … The bishop of Phoenix, Thomas Olmsted, ruled that Sister Margaret was “automatically excommunicated” because she assented to an abortion.

Since the excommunication, Sister Margaret has left her post as vice president and is no longer listed as one of the hospital executives on its Web site. The hospital told me that she had resigned “at the bishop’s request” but is still working elsewhere at the hospital.

I have several close friends who are devout Catholics and, whatever I may think of the Church’s politics and policies, I certainly respect the faith of believers. Writing this post made me think about excommunication, and do a little research. There are many actions for which excommunication is reserved to the Pope, several others reserved to bishops, including “those who efficaciously procure abortion” (unsuccessful attempt to procure an abortion is not an excommunicatable act), and a number which are automatic by performance of the act (or, in Latin, latae sententiae).

Interestingly enough, one of the automatically excommunicating acts is failing to report a priest or confessor who solicits you to “immodest acts,” but soliciting those immodest acts is not on the list. Which, aside from being disturbing in its own right–keeping silent about something that happened to you is worthy of excommunication, but causing that something is slap-on-the-wrist territory–brings us back to Sister Margaret.

Many commentators, including Krystof, have drawn the connection between her excommunication and the large number of known child abusers who have remained in the priesthood. From the research summarized above, it would appear that she did commit an act on the excommunicating list, assuming that “procuring” an abortion doesn’t just mean for oneself. But it still raises a lot of questions. In the Catholic hospital where this took place, were there other Catholics on the ethics committee? If so, what gender were they? What gender, and what religion, was the doctor who performed the abortion and all the operating room and administrative staff who co-operated? Has a man ever been excommunicated for performing or procuring an abortion, or is this interpreted in a climate of complete misogyny?

To the extent that as a nonbeliever I have any opinions at all about Catholic policies, I don’t even think abusing priests should be excommunicated. I think they should be kept away from children, and that otherwise more attention should be paid to the people who have been wronged than to the wrongdoers. Where I get completely lost is in understanding how what Sister Margaret did was so many orders of magnitude worse than what these priests did.

The Catholic Church’s obsession with abortion, coupled with its willingness to cover up grand-scale child abuse, may be one of the most egregious examples of the way so many institutions and individuals fetishize the idea of children for specific ideological purposes. No decision that was made about the real health of real, breathing individual children could ever be made this way, where aborting a single 11-week-old fetus is an unforgivable crime, even in a case where four living children stand to benefit from continuing to have a living mother, while violating the safety, privacy, and dignity of tens of thousands of children in the United States alone is forgiven effortlessly.

But when the idea or concept of “child” replaces the real children, all bets are off. You can be pro- or anti-abortion, pro- or anti-gender essentialism, pro- or anti-public school, pro- or anti-vaccination… The list is endless. Any time you hear someone say “It’s about the children,” start looking for someone who’s grinding an axe rather than treating children as people.

Malvina Reynolds may not have said it best, but she said it well

When that baby is a child,
It will suffer from neglect,
Be picked upon and pecked,
And run over and wrecked,
And its head will be crowned with the thorn.
But while it’s inside her
It must remain intact,
And it cannot be murdered till it’s born.