September 18, 2011

Michelle Bachmann on Our Girls' Healthcare - Take a Stand!

Art Caplan and DSW students at the School of Social Policy and Practice
I am privileged have been in class yesterday with famed bioethicist Arthur Caplan.  His jovial nature by no means masks or underplays his steadfast commitment to medical ethics.  Case in point, Caplan this week took on a candidate for the GOP nomination for president, Michelle Bachmann.  She very irresponsibly and ignorantly misspoke about the side effects of the HPV vaccine Gardasil.  Bachmann stated as reported on the Iowa Caucuses website that "she met a woman whose daughter suffered mental retardation as a result of the vaccine... [t]here are very dangerous consequences."

Beyond the absolute absurdity of her statements which hold no medical or scientific accuracy, she is doing great harm to girls and young women nationally! Bachmann, through fear, is potentially taking away a powerful tool that could be of great benefit to girls. Take a look at this video!

How can we help in this situation?  We need more individuals, groups and community organizations to not let politicians, people of power and women to use reckless political tactics! Here are the facts:

1. There have been no reported major side effects such as "mental retardation" or death from the HPV vaccine.
2. You can not acquire mental retardation as a side effect!
3. 40 years ago cervical cancer used to be the leading cause of cancer related death among women.  
4.  Today protective measures such as the Pap test (or Pap smear) which screens for cervical cancer greatly reduces the risk of death.
5. Get tested annually!
6. HPV - the human papilloma virus - is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) where certain strands of the virus cause cancer.
7. Though abstinence is one way to protect yourself from a STD like HPV, it may (unfortunately) not always be in your control or ways in which you chose to engage in sexual relations change. Protect yourself.
8. Education is key to prevention! Know the facts and share them!
9. Speak out against misinformation and abuse of power such as Bachmann's or any other so called "figure of authority."
10. Share this post and others like it widely on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites!

September 13, 2011

That’s MY Baby

The joy of becoming a new mother is a completely amazing and miraculous feeling.  Your body goes through metamorphosis and your emotions go along for the ride.  You are on an extreme high one day and a miserable low the other.  The upbeat “work professional” image I had constructed went straight out the door; as I was suddenly overcome with urge to say exactly what I was feeling at any given moment.  Conversely, I had an uncontrollable need to let the tears pour out at random commercials and sappy love songs. 

At the end of the nine-month process, you have co-created a new life and it’s a glorious process.  Over the next few months, you bond with your baby and relish at all her milestones.  The thought of leaving your child for even a moment seems unimaginable…. Nevertheless, you know that that time will come, so you enjoy every second with your child.

It was important for my partner and I for one of us to stay home with our daughter for the first year and that person was me, due to my totally crap job and poor employment choices.  Then I became an awesome “full-time” mom, but the cost of living on one income in one of the most over-priced cities in the US was starting to take a toll on us and our finances.

No sweat, I’ll just go back to work… during the worst economy or country has known in over a generation.  Great!

Miraculously I was able to secure a job working for a great organization within walking distance from our home.   Then the daunting task of finding care for my child became a 24/7 research project.  I interviewed nannies, visited countless daycares and in a moment of insanity, considered moving my mom to the state to provide fulltime care.

In the end, I found a wonderful daycare close to home. Given that my daughter has spent nearly 100% of her time with one or both of her parents, I thought she would have some sort of mental fit; and I would be around to come a retrieve her for the care provider.  I decided to enroll my daughter a week early as a mutual trial for all parties.  

I drop her off on a cloudy Monday morning, and thought I would go home and read and do some cleaning.  In my mind, I was waiting for the call to console my baby who missed me senselessly.  I waited – no call.

When we went to pick her up on her first day, she was laughing and playing with the others babies.  I thought to myself, “good – she enjoys being here.”  As the week progressed, my daughter was becoming adjusted quite easily, me on the other hand, I was going through some sort of psychologically breakdown (yet again).  My daughter is moving on and what does that mean for me? 

On the last day of her first week, I dropped her off and she smiled at her care provider and rested her head on her shoulder.  My heart broke, I mean she rarely does that for me and now this woman has reached that level in less than a week. 

Then the realization of motherhood kicked me in the butt.  I realized that she is my daughter and therefore, we will always have a special bond, but she will also make new relationships throughout the course of her life.  The relationship with her care provider is just the first of many new relationships.  I am happy that she is a loving, open child. 

Now that she is happy and secure, I will focus on my new work and the ever-evolving nature of motherhood.

About CC our guest blog contributor. Former community organizer, worked for SEIU, CHANGE (Industrial Areas Foundation), Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.  She is an active blogger, writing about personal stories and reflections on various topics relating to race, class and gender issues at

September 06, 2011

A Tribute to 9/11/01 - My Social Work Perspective

     I was 23 years old the morning I got on the 1/9 subway line from 235th street station down to Christopher Street and 7th Avenue. I was basking in the calm and quiet that is the West Village in early morning beginning anew and recovering from the rhythms of the previous night. Small Ecuadorian men were washing and sweeping the sidewalks clean, keeping up appearances outside hot spots such as Babbo Ristorante and charming four-story brownstone residences where wealth resides and poverty sleeps overnight on its stoop.  The contrast is striking; it always is in major urban playgrounds. The lines of vulnerability are not often blurred and everyone knows their place. 5th avenue and Washington Square north was no exception; until that morning. That morning, everyone was vulnerable.
     September 11, 2001 was my first day of classes as a transfer student at New York University’s then Ehrenkranz School of Social Work (NYU).  Walking to class that morning I was not consciously thinking how entering the academic and professional world of social work would change my life or how the sense of a plane “flying low” would change thousands of people’s lives.  Moments later on the corner of Washington Square North and University place word instantaneously spread that a plane was indeed flying low and hit a building –the world trade center. 
     In disbelief, a group of us rushed to 5th avenue and Washington Square North and at the crossroads of extreme wealth, sickening poverty, starving artists, underserved domestic workers caring for others’ children, inquiring academics, and international passersby – in that moment, the portrait so often photographed through the outline of the arches with its iconoclastic shapes and romantic visions were awash. Beyond the historical Washington Square Arch I stared in disbelief at an unthinkable an unimaginable sight. A sight so unimaginable my brain could not comprehend the unfolding atrocity that would forever make its mark on our individual and collective histories. Amid the confusion, noise, chaos and unfolding reality that the United States was under attack by terrorists, I clearly heard our school’s faculty members mutter to one another, “this is going to change our profession forever.”  Those words felt profound, daring and prophetic, but at that time I couldn’t imagine how. 
     I have held onto those seemingly prophetic words for nearly a decade, though throughout my academic and clinical career I have only seen glimpses of how I expected those words to manifest.  In obvious and direct ways the NYU social work faculty as well as neighboring schools and community social workers participated in provided crisis counseling, assisting with victim services and relief efforts of various sorts.  There was no shortage of volunteerism, and I was aware of our faculty and the social work community at large working tirelessly on behalf of the victims, survivors, City of New York and our country.  The obvious applications of social work was apparent in providing trauma based therapeutic interventions, concrete social services such as navigating survivor funds in years to come and assistance with benefits, shelter, clothing, food, etc., and shortly in subsequent years research and literature supporting our knowledge base of trauma work.  However, I had a sense that this attack, this literal crash would shift perspectives and consciousness as to the environment and global world that we are now living and working in as social workers.  

The Right Way? Musings from a Summer Internship

For most people, the first word that comes to mind upon hearing the words Planned Parenthood (PP) is abortion.  Because of the sensitivity associated with abortion, people seem to solely focus on that issue and disregard all of the work Planned Parenthood does.  Before this summer, I knew it performed abortions, but I honestly did not know what else it did.  During my summer volunteer position at PP, I learned of the vital medical services it offers to women.  I did not understand why people wanted to get rid of such an organization.  It all seemed to be because of one word: abortion.

On one of my scheduled work days, a day when abortions are performed,  there are anti-choice protesters that gather outside of the building holding signs.  I also stumbled upon this one website which is a collection of stories written by activists and staff of Planned Parenthood from all over the country and focus on the anti-choice protesters and their encounters with them.  Some PP locations have to have escorts walk with women who want an abortion to protect them from heckling and harassment of the anti-choice protesters.  I read about how one group of anti-choice protesters rented the building next to a PP location and advertised “Free Pregnancy Tests.”  In reality, this was to lure women in and pressure them into not getting an abortion.  I just did not realize how far these protesters would go to prevent women from having an abortion.  I understand that people have their morals.  They have every right to do so, but what a woman wants to do with her body is her choice. 

The negative opinions surrounding PP just kept appearing to me and overwhelmed me.  One thing I had to do for PP is phone bank.  Because I assumed that these people were not against PP, I did not expect any negative responses, but I was so wrong.  I gave my usual response of “OK. Thank you. Have a nice day,” but some people’s hostile reactions got to me.  Here I was making a harmless and polite phone call and in response I got to hear how you “abhor” what “my people” do.  As if I am some kind of alien or different kind of human being just because I think a woman has the right to choose what to do with her body.  Just because we had differing opinions concerning what PP does and represents does not give them a reason to be rude.  Even though I had only listened to two nasty responses, I was still really affected by them.  That along with everything else made me think, “If there are so many negative and hostile reactions, there must be something wrong with what I’m doing.”  I know that is immature and childish thinking, but for some reason, that thought just filled my mind.  Then, of course, my line of thinking went to, “Am I doing something wrong then?”  At that point, I just broke. 

With the help of talking to my mom, I realized that I was absolutely not doing anything wrong.  My work with Planned Parenthood reflected a personal opinion of mine, and not everyone agreed with that opinion, which is absolutely fine.  I mean, not everyone is going to agree with me that mixing hot chocolate and coffee is absolutely amazing.  Or that Sia is an amazing songwriter/singer.  It’s a fact that there is always going to be someone who disagrees with you on something.  I realized this and I learned to accept that even though I don’t agree with anti-choice protesters and the methods in which they express that, they have the right to do so.  But the work that I did with PP this summer is helping millions of women everywhere, and I absolutely proud of that. 

Ariana is a guest post contributor to the WCC blog with her ongoing column, The Right Way? Ariana is currently a senior at Bryn Mawr College where she is majoring in Political Science and minoring in Gender and Sexuality Studies.  Her intention for the column is to share her experiences during the last two years in her college bubble before she enters the big and scary real world.  She hopes you enjoy her posts because she certainly enjoys writing them.