EC Irin Carmon: Body Politics

Irin Carmon is a feminist journalist who came to Penn to speak as part of the Love Your Body series.  She discussed how women were represented this year in politics and how they have reacted to this.  She sees 3 themes that have contributed to women’s successes this year .

1. Republicans got too honest.  This allowed the public to “see their true colors”.  There were a plethora of verbal “gaffes” (especially regarding rape) this election cycle, and Irin pointed out that these “gaffes” were the politicians accidentally telling the truth.  She also talked about the outcry around Mitt Romney’s 47% remark, saying that women make up the majority of people receiving “free handouts” and “gifts” from government programs.

2.  Democrats stopped apologizing for standing for women.  Previously democrats tried to shy away from the label that they were the “women’s party”, but this year Obama stood for women’s right where democrats had previously made excuses.  Obama embraced women as being part of the voting demographic, and designed policy to directly benefit them.  He did not shy away from supporting equal pay or Planned Parenthood.

3. Women and men stepped up.  Women were very active in the political sphere, protesting bills that negatively affected them.  We also had the first female debate moderator in 20 years.  Women gained a more visible presence, and more women’s voices were heard through editorials, protests, and other outlets.

One controversial topic she talked about was Plan B.  She said that generally, President Obama has been supportive of women’s rights, but that he resorted back to Bush era policies in the regulation of the Plan B pill.  Irin had hoped that Plan B would be taken out of the pharmacy and put on drug store shelves for easier access.  She believed that women are being needlessly restricted by having to present a government ID and only being able to obtain the drug during pharmacy hours.  I think this is a controversial topic because it is difficult to separate what restrictions are unnecessary from that ones that actually protect female health.  Regular birth control pills are essentially a lower dose form of Plan B, and they still require a prescription.  Plan B is only supposed to be used a maximum of twice a month, and studies on over use of this drug have not been conducted.  As  an over the counter drug, the potential for abuse is much higher, and this could be harmful to women’s bodies.  While it is important to increase contraception access,  I personally don’t think making Plan B an over the counter drug is a safe way to do this because of the pharmaceutical risks.

After the talk, someone posed the question “What are the next steps for women?”.  Irin said she thought loosening Plan B rules and gaining equality in the military are important next steps.  What do other people think are the next steps for women in the US?

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