Hey Jessica! Your book FFF has changed my world view in ways that you can't imagine. Thank you. Noticed that Chris brown reblog. Why do you think so many young girls are so apathetic when something like that happens to another woman and still fawn over the bad guy. I find it incredibly sickening. I was thinking maybe it's age or ignorance or both! This shit drives me bonkers and it keeps happening. Why do we do this to one another?
Thank you - I’m so glad you liked the book!
Re: Chris Brown. You know, I think women blaming other women for the violence that’s perpetrated against them is very much a self-preservation thing. Because if we believe that a woman did something to “deserve” it (talk back, wear a skirt, whatever) than that means we can protect ourselves by not doing those things; it means we’re safe. I think the idea that we can be hurt no matter how we try to protect ourselves by being the “good girl” is too scary for some of us to face.
It’s like Gina McCauley said in this disturbing new NPR piece about Chris Brown and violence against women: ”To not blame Rihanna is to acknowledge that they, as young girls, are vulnerable too.”
Hey Jessica I think you are awesome, I love your work. You spoke really well in the documentary, you would be a really inspiring teacher. Are you still teaching at universities? Do you like it?
Thank you! I’m not teaching right now - though I was for a while at Rutgers in NJ. I would love to teach again in the future…that and speaking are pretty much my favorite things to do. (But I do hate grading papers, gotta admit that.)
How would you suggest a female respond to the accusation that she is a "slut", "skank", or "whore"?
In all seriousness, you probably shouldn’t respond at all because someone who would use those insults is an asshole not worthy of your time or energy. If this is someone you’re close to or invested in and want to change their mind you could always talk to them about the sexual double standard and ask them why they think that having sex makes women something “less than.” It’s a hard conversation to have, especially with someone who really believes in the virgin/whore stuff, but sometimes people will surprise you.
I really think you're a great role model for girls/women in general. I'm getting really sick of hearing that someone is a good role model because they remain pure and untouched. That sends the message to so many girls that they're not admirable simply because they choose to have sex. I'm asking for your book for Christmas! :)
Thanks, that’s really kind of you to say! And I totally agree - what does sexuality have to do with being a good role model?! Let me know if you get the book and like it! :)
I'm looking forward to reading The Purity Myth to get your take on the issue, although from reading your blog I have a feeling I'll disagree. As a 16-year-old young woman, I am proud to call myself a virgin, and intend to remain so until my wedding. I also believe it shouldn't just be a "female thing" - both sexes should wait until marriage to give that precious gift to their spouse. Do you at all represent the women who don't identify themselves as feminist? *shakes head*
Well, first of all - I don’t “represent” anyone, feminist or not. The arguments I make are my own. That said, I think it’s great that you’ve decided to wait to have sex until it’s right for you - in your case, that’s marriage. I’m glad that you live in a world that largely supports that decision. Women who make a different choice, however, are not given that same respect - in fact, they’re called whores, considered less-than, and generally made to feel like shit about themselves.
What I hope for is a country that sees women as whole human beings whose morality is related to their compassion, kindness and ethics - not whether or not they have sex. I think there’s a common misconception about my book/work on this issue that I have some problem with virgins or being abstinent until marriage. I don’t have a problem at all - in fact, I don’t care. It’s none of my business; and it’s certainly not the business of schools, government, medical establishments, etc. I want you to be able to make the choice not to have sex free of shame and fear in the same way I want that for those who do have sex. I don’t think it’s a ton to ask.
On the “precious gift” front. The gift that you give to your spouse should you chose to marry (assuming you’re allowed to) is your love and partnership. The longer young women are taught to think of their sexuality as “gifts” - something that’s separate from them that’s to be given away or lost or opened or whatever the latest terminology is - the longer we’re going to be seen as less than full human beings.
I’m packing and preparing to head out tomorrow for The Nation’s annual cruise. I’m pretty stoked to have been invited, but nervous to be leaving my wee one. The internet rates are pretty outrageous on a boat, so I’ll be offline until I’m back home. Have fun without me!
“Barack Obama says that as the father of two daughters, he wants the government to “apply common sense” to rules about over the counter medications. Well, I too have a daughter, and so many many pro-choice women. Who died and made Barack Obama daddy in charge of teenage girls? Would he really rather that Sasha and Malia get pregnant rather than buy Plan B One-Step at CVS? And excuse me, Mr. President, thanks to your HHS, acquiring Plan B is prescription-only not just for 11 year olds but for the 30 percent of teenage girls between 15 and 17 who are sexually active, and is a cumbersome process for all women, who have to ask a pharmacist for it and, as many news stories have reported, be subjected to fundamentalist harangues and objections. Apparently it’s okay with you if Michelle is treated like a sixth-grader. I’m trying to think if there are any laws or regulations affecting only men in which unfounded fears about middle-school boys deny all men normal adult privileges. Needless to say no one suggests that underage boys get a prescription if they want to use condoms, or that grown men have to ask the pharmacist for them and maybe get a lecture about the evils of birth control and promiscuity.”—Katha Pollitt on the HHS overruling the FDA on Plan B access.
I'm so sorry to hear you're getting threats – that must be really scary. I think it's really brave for you to be so vocal about feminist issues and I'm hoping to get a screening of "The Purity Myth" on my college campus. Rock on, and thanks for all you do!
Oh thanks. It definitely is scary and sucks, but I’m afraid it’s par for the course if you’re a feminist online these days. Which is ridiculous, of course, but the reality. I hope you can get a screening on your campus - let me know!
How can I find out where the viewings will be about that you mentioned in the new year? Would love to attend one. I will be in NYC for Feminist Boot Camp, with Soap Box inc, in the beginning of January. If there is one happening while I am there, I would be interested in coming!
I’m working out the logistics on those, so you can expect an announcement in the New Year, but I don’t think it will be shown as soon as the beginning of Jan. Prolly more like late Jan early Feb…
Why is the Purity Myth documentary so expensive? Are there going to be copies that aren't just for colleges and high schools, like, available for people who are broke like me? I would love to show the doc to the Body Acceptance Club that I run and my school's GSA but none of us could ever afford it. ;_;
Hi there - this is a question I’ve been getting a lot! The price listed on the page are, as you mentioned, for institutions, not individuals. If you go to this link and scroll down, you can find out how to get a copy for at-home-use for $24.99. Hope that helps!
Hi Jessica, I just wanted to say that you are such a huge inspiration for me. Even though I've always been a feminist, I was too scared to call myself one until I read your book Full Frontal Feminism. I've read all your books now but I always recommend FFF to feminism newcomers. I just think you're absolutely great and wanted to let you know!
Wow, thank you! It means so much to me to hear that. :) Best of luck in all of your future feminist endeavors!!
On Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration will announce whether it will approve making Plan B (the brand name for emergency contraception or the morning after pill) available for purchase on drugstore shelves - that’s right, next to the condoms and pregnancy tests. Reproductive justice advocates I’ve spoken to over the last few days all think the same thing: they’re going to approve it. I sure hope so.
Kirsten Moore, for example, President & CEO of Reproductive Health Technologies Project, says “While FDA has toyed with women’s health before, all signs point to them doing the right thing at last and letting the science dictate their policy decisions.”
I’m pretty damn optimistic too. The FDA has a lot of embarrassing history to make up for surrounding Plan B. This would be a step away from their ideologically driven past toward the drug, a progressive pro-science move that could restore a bit of that tarnished reputation.
Obviously, if the FDA does pull the trigger - conservatives are going to lose their collective shits. A quick refresher course in the sordid FDA/Plan B history (you can also find this info in The Purity Myth) and what we can expect if Plan B becomes available on drugstore shelves:
The FDA approved emergency contraception for prescription use in 1998. Despite the fact that major medical associations pushed for over-the-counter availability in 2000, the FDA didn’t even begin to consider the possibility until 2003. That’s the year the FDA went against an independent joint advisory committee recommendation to make the drug available over the counter; instead they reiterated that it would not be available without a prescription.
As you may remember, the concerns the FDA cited over emergency contraception were not about women’s health or the safety of efficacy of the drug. Instead, they were worried about young women getting all slutty. Dr. W. David Hager, one of the FDA committee members who voted against EC’s over-the-counter approval and a key player in making sure Plan B got held up, told The New York Times: “What we heard today was frequently about individuals who did not want to take responsibility for their actions and wanted a medication to relieve those consequences.” Some things to keep in mind about Hager: in suggested in a book he wrote that women could cure PMS with prayer, and his wife accused him of rape. So yeah, a bit scary that he was in charge of women’s health.
It later came to light that FDA medical official Janet Woodcock wrote in an internal memo that over-the-counter status for Plan B could cause “extreme promiscuous behaviors such as the medication taking on an ‘urban legend’ status that would lead adolescents to form sex-based cults centered around the use of Plan B.” It has Lifetime Original Movie written all over it. Of course this but-it-will-make-girls-slutty argument is hardly new. It’s the same excuse legislators have given when attempting to limit women’s access to birth control, and more recently, to the HPV vaccine.
Unfortunately, the drug was made available only to women eighteen and older, so the very people who need EC most—young women—were deprived. Once again, this restriction was put in place because of the FDA’s fear that young women would become promiscuous. In 2009, after a federal judge ruled that the FDA made their age restrictions “arbitrarily” and for ideological reasons, the FDA was court ordered to make Plan B One Step (which has one pill instead of two) available over-the-counter to those 17 years old and older and to review the age restriction in its entirety. The FDA complied with the former, but failed to do the latter. In 2010, the Center for Reproductive Rights took the FDA to court for ignoring this court order.
Earlier this year the pharmaceutical company that makes Plan B - Teva - gave the FDA new data showing that anyone, even adolescents, can use the drug safely and effectively without a pharmacist or doctor overseeing them; they asked the FDA to approve Plan B without an age restriction. The review deadline for the FDA is Wednesday - and while there’s no guarantee they’ll make this deadline, or that they’ll do the right thing, reproductive justice folks in the know are feeling optimistic.
If the FDA’s approval goes through as expected, you can expect to see conservative opponents make the following (bullshit) arguments:
Plan B kills babies. This argument is being made by anti-choicers who believe that life starts at conception and that Plan B works by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg. Actually, the most recent studies indicate that EC works by preventing ovulation or fertilization, not implantation. But even if it did - so what? A zygote does not a person make. These are the same folks who want to make birth control of all sorts illegal. No logic/concern for women to be found there.
Making Plan B more accessible will make girls slutty. Been there, done that. A ridiculous argument with no basis in fact. This is a transparent scare tactic that conservatives use when it comes to anything having to do with women’s health. Condoms don’t make kids more likely to have sex, they make them more likely to have protected sex. The same is true for EC. Not to mention, what’s wrong with having sex?
Making Plan B more accessible will make girls vulnerable to predators. I think if conservatives are worried about young women being sexually assaulted, they should be supporting VAWA and cutting out all of their vicim-blaming bullshit. Having a safe contraceptive available to young women doesn’t make them more likely to be assaulted. This is the same argument used to try to defund Planned Parenthood - these people don’t care about children or young women, they care about their traditional gender and purity norms.
Parents have a right to know what their kids are up to. I understand the fear that parents have about their children - but the truth is a lot of kids do speak to their parents about their sexual activity. One third of teens say parents influence their decisions around sex and teens are more likely to get their information about contraception, pregnancy and sexuality from family members than from friends. Research also indicates that requiring minors to inform parent before they can access contraception delays or prevents them from seeking reproductive health services, and it does not reduce their sexual activity.
Why Plan B on-the-shelf is such an important milestone in reproductive health access:
It does away with the discriminatory/silly age restriction. The age limit on Plan B never made sense. Not only did it keep emergency contraception out of the hands of those who need it most, but in many states, teen girls can obtain abortions without parental permission, but can’t access a drug that can stop them from getting pregnant. Makes. No. Sense.
It cuts out the middleman pharmacist - who may be an extreme anti-choicer. Too many people who have gone to the pharmacy for Plan B (or even just for birth control pills) have been denied by extremist pharmacists who insert themselves in others’ personal medical decisions. (Remember this pharmacist who wrote to a newspaper about how he just lies about EC availability so women won’t be able to access the drug?) Plan B on-the-shelf does away with all that nonsense.
It’s safe, effective, and cuts down on the number of unwanted pregnancies. Moore says, “We know from studies that Plan B One-Step is safe enough for anyone at risk of an unintended pregnancy to use without a doctor or health care professional looking over her shoulder. And we know from real world experience that telling someone in a white coat that you (or your partner) failed to use contraception - or your method failed you - is not the highlight of anyone’s day. Having [emergency contraception] on the shelf will enable more women to take timely action to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.” And really - despite all the moral panic hoopla - isn’t that what this is all about?
So keep your fingers crossed for tomorrow. And if this does happen - and Plan B is available on drugstore shelves - we should be throwing a big ole thank you party to all of the amazing reproductive health and justice organizations that have been holding the FDA’s feet to the fire for years. Because this breakthrough in women’s health will be thanks to them.
I’ll be doing a couple of screenings, and the colleges I speak at in the Spring may choose to show the film as well… Unfortunately because of personal safety concerns and some threats I’ve received I no longer post where I’m going to be speaking on my website. (But I will post about the screenings)
Have you considered putting The Purity Myth documentary on Youtube (or vimeo, etc.) in full?
That’s really it’s not my decision - the film is owned by the Media Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization, and since they shelled out the $ to make it, I think it’s understandable that they don’t want to make it available for free. There is an extended trailer you can watch on the DVD page…
Just thought I'd let you know that I can relate to you on so many different levels. Full Frontal Feminism really changed my whole outlook on feminism/life, and seeing you speak at the University of Maine last Spring was so exciting. You have inspired me so much, specifically in adding a minor in Women's Studies. But my question is, Have you ever thought about writing a book for young teens (maybe the age range 12-15)?
Thanks so much! That means a lot to hear. :)
In terms of a book for younger teens, I think FFF is probably the youngest demographic I plan to write for (for now). BUT, there’s a great book coming out by Julie from the F Bomb blog specifically for teenagers…
Hey Jessica, just wanted to say 2 things. First, I love your work and everything you stand for. Second, I was watching the preview verison of The Purity Myth, and saw that when you were talking about the Clare Booth Luce Policy Institute, the screenshot you used featured Emily Buck, JMU's resident anti-feminist and right-wing conservative. My friend and I just about died of laughter. Thanks for showing the world that her "good fight" isn't so good!
Ha! Small feminist/anti-feminist world, I guess. :) And thanks for the kind words!
“Doctors in emergency rooms have no right to refuse to provide medical care to someone who overdosed on heroin, even though heroin is illegal and many people are morally opposed to its recreational use. They have to care for drunk drivers, even though driving drunk is both illegal and a pretty universally assy thing to do. Why, then, should a hospital be forced to bend over backwards to accommodate people’s religious beliefs surrounding abortion, a legal medical procedure protected by the Constitution?”—
Erin Gloria Ryan, “Nurses Fight For Their Right To Refuse Women Care”, Jezebel.