Women of color have long had a love-hate relationship with white feminists. While the two groups clearly have the united goal of dismantling the patriarchy, all too often the efforts are co-opted by white women. “Wins” are typically not “wins for women” but in fact, “wins for white women.” The pro-choice movement has been no different.
However, in that dark landscape of frustration is Jan Bianchi. And though she has recently passed away, like every other unsung hero, her legacy will live on. Unlike many white feminists, her work has greatly benefited women of color.
With an increasing number of TRAP laws and the recent battle against Texas’s HB2 legislation, the discussion around reproductive rights is largely focused on stemming the seemingly contagious spread of anti-woman legislation. One can’t help but wonder what it would look like if the opposite were true.
Jan Bianchi was one of the co-authors of the Washington State’s Initiative 120 that was passed in 1991 by popular vote and created the most liberal abortion legislation in the country. Washington is also the only state that legalized abortion through popular vote rather than through legislators.
In an age of internet dating and profile writing, it seems like everyone is a "foodie" these days. I was filling out one of these for work when my colleague looked over my shoulder and said, "I'm surprised you didn't write 'foodie' on yours." I am obsessed with food. But I'm not a foodie because my relationship with food goes so far beyond a hobby. Really, it's a matter of identity.
I won't deny that there's a cultural disposition. My parents are from Taiwan. It only takes a few days of wandering around Taiwan to realize that food is a creative outlet in Taiwan. Food here is an evolving organism. It's constantly reinventing and perfecting classics. It's constantly experimenting with techniques and recipes from other cultures. It's so far outside of the box that the box is a piece of dust that Wu Pao-chun swept off his kitchen counter as he got ready to beat the French at the international Bakery Masters competition.
Even CNN recognizes how much Taiwan loves its food.
Members of my family have been known to bring an empty suitcase with them when they go back to Taiwan, just so they can fill it with food to bring back to the US. But for me, it's not just about getting to eat food that we can't get in the United States. My bond with food goes deeper than a cultural indoctrination. It's also about finally being in a place where things that I love are not seen as weird and I'm not seen as strange.
Like many children of immigrants, food, something that was so important at home, became a source of alienation outside of the home. I have a vivid memory of bringing in some lychee jellies to school one day to share with my friends. They were not only delicious, but also a rare commodity. The local Asian market only carried an inferior kind of lychee jelly that didn't have a piece of firmer fruit in the center. I excitedly passed them around at the lunch table and was crestfallen to hear everyone's responses. "Why does it have this thing in the middle?" "This doesn't taste like anything." "This is weird." "I don't like it."
My friends weren't trying to hurt me, but it's certainly one of the most vivid memories I have of learning the power of microaggressions. How does one explain to another person that their seemingly small and personal comment about a food made me feel weird, alone, isolated, and foreign? Unlike the need that many second generation children feel to fit in, I felt the need to be understood. I wanted my identity to be seen and celebrated in the same way that everyone else's was. I wanted to be recognized as a person regardless of how different I may have been.
Additionally, like many cultures, giving food is a way to show love in Chinese culture.
To this day, it's really hard for me to not interpret the dislike of food that I try to share with others as a rejection of my love. And despite knowing that taste is also a matter of personal preference, it's impossible for me to see the rejection of Chinese food as a manifestation of a self-centered system of evaluating the world. When my friend told me that my lychee jellies had no taste, it was clear to me that it wasn't the lychee jelly that was bland. The issue was that she was judging it based on a Western palate and simply assuming that her way of viewing the world and judging food was the accepted norm.
So while there are incredible non-edible experiences in Taiwan, food and family are my primary concerns when I come to Taiwan.
As you might expect, such a vibrant food culture means that you can't always expect the same restaurants or food carts to be where you last saw them. It's sad to discover that a place that you discovered has closed or moved on. As a vegetarian, this can be particularly heartbreaking. It might have been the only place that made a vegetarian version of a special dish.
However, with a large population of buddhists and a focus on health in the past decade that includes eating vegetarian, you can always count on finding new vegetarian favorites. Here's the highlight for the past week:
SEATTLE, WA -- Ever since moving to Seattle it’s become clear to me that though most of its inhabitants identify as liberals, the dominating white culture enables a culture of armchair liberals. When it comes to LGBT rights, Seattle will stand up, but when it comes to addressing issues that actually threaten the comfortable, largely white and privileged population of the Seattle, it’s another story.
In 2015, the Washington State Supreme Court started fining the state government $100,000 a day for continuing to underfund K-12 public education. In 2011, after a 9 month investigation, the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice sued the Seattle Police Department for a "pattern of excessive force” that violates the US Constitution and federal law.
This year, Washington has a second chance to address police brutality and in compliance with international human rights laws.
As it currently stands, Washington has some of the most feudal police use of force laws in the country. It is essentially impossible to prosecute a police officer for murder. As it is currently written, Washington law states that if a police officer kills someone, as long as they acted “without malice and with a good faith belief that such act is justifiable,” they are immune to prosecution. King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg stated, “This almost perfect defense to a mistaken use of force has kept police officers out of court as defendants."
In fact, according to an analysis done by the SeattleTimes, from 2005 to 2014, 213 and thirteen people were killed by police officers in Washington and only 1 has been prosecuted.
Earlier this year, House Bill 2907 was considered which would have struck the “malice” clause from the state law, but it wasn’t even voted on. Frustrated with the lack of action from politicians, an activist group called Washington for Good Policing have proposed Initiative-873, which if passed, will strike the “without malice and with a good faith belief” from state law. The initiative will need over 250,000 signatures to get placed on the ballot for general voting.
Ironically, the legislation uses the term “peace officers” to denote law enforcement officers.
While the Black Lives Matter movement has drawn attention to the racism that continues to lead the murdering of innocent black citizens in this country and the destructive American system of mass incarceration of Black Americans, it’s worthwhile to note that the Washington police officers have targeted more than Black Americans. In 2015, Antoni Zambrano-Montes, an unarmed, Mexican man was shot at 17 times by police officers while running away with his arms raised in the air. He was dead at the scene.
It's been difficult to know how to cope with the mass murder in Orlando. It's an amalgamation of emotion:
Personal safety as a queer person. Heartbreaking loss of human life. Frustration and anger around the politicking and continued lack of gun control. I go to conferences all over the country all the time. I go to a gay club in every city. I was just in Orlando! It triggers all the emotions that surface when abortion clinics, another issue close to my heart, are targeted with violence.
As I imagined the victims, other queer people of color, I reflect on the compounding difficulties of being a minority within a minority.
Today I've found some comfort by celebrating the amazing QPOC culture. What straight people don't understand is how important gay clubs are. Movies and TV portray it as a social gathering place at best and sex craved debauchery at worst - but it's so much more than that. The community that is formed; the self-actualization and validation that is often found nowhere else; the political organizing. When I think of gay clubs I think of empowering warmth (except when it's dominated by all white people, then sometimes I feel angry). And so naturally I could not help but think about Voguing.
This, of course, triggered a whole new group of cascading emotions. I felt proud of the culture that Voguing created. But I also felt sadness that such a vibrant community come under attack. I felt anger at the way that Voguing has been appropriated.
Straight folks just don't get it. Even wikipedia, my trusted source and salvation during medical school, doesn't capture the emotional and communal importance of Voguing in their article. Nor does it discuss how artists like Madonna and documentary artist, Jennie Livingston, have benefited from Voguing as its not clear what trickle down benefits the original communities experienced.
That being said, overall, as I watch some of my favorite Voguing videos on YouTube, I feel inspired and somehow calmed. It reminds me of the strength of our community and that even in the bleakest of times, we will rise again and celebrate ourselves. And mostly I feel gratitude that the generations, specifically in this case black and latino POCs, that have come before me (who have faced so much more than I have personally as a QPOC) have role-modeled such courage and beauty.
I could talk about the sanctity of queer nightclubs. Queer nightclubs are to queer civil rights as black southern churches are to black civil rights.
I could point out that Donald Trump’s asinine statements about Muslims and a radicalizing second generation are exactly the kind of ignorant bigotry that spurs these sorts of hate crimes to begin with.
I won’t though, because we all know that this has already been done and will continue to be done until this devastating event’s emotional significance is reduced to meaningless babble on repeat.
However, what has yet to come is the inevitable discussion about the mental state of Omar Mateen and the role that might have played in the shooting. Already, there is foreshadowing of this discussion as journalists report those around him describing him as “bipolar” or “erratic.”
I’m nipping it in the bud. We cannot go down that path. It’s distracting and unproductive because mass shootings are not just about mental health. Of course, mental health plays a role, but guess what plays an even larger role? GUNS.
Liberal and conservative politicians alike focus on mental health as a strategy to avoid discussing the true heart of the gun control debate.
Democrats use it to avoid risk. These so-called liberals like to focus on the mental health of the shooters in these high-profile tragedies. By advocating for improved mental health services and preventing the mentally ill from getting guns, they get to seem like they care about gun control without having to actually advocate for any meaningful change.
I’m the main doctor at a primary care clinic based out of an organization that provides psychiatric care and case management for patients with severe mental illness. It’s a population that is very close to my heart. I’ve had patients tell me that they would shoot me given the right circumstances. I understand both the critical shortage of resources for mental health as well as the increased risk that patients that suffer from mental illness have to behave violently.
At the same time, as a family physician I have treated an uncountable number of victims of gun violence. The vast, vast, vast majority of these patients were shot by people who either do not carry a psychiatric diagnosis or whose most serious psychiatric diagnosis is depression.
Addressing gun violence solely through the lens of mental health will never solve the problem. While I’ll be the first to tell you that the woefully underfunded state of mental healthcare is devastating to society on every level, I also believe that it is only a small part of the gun violence issue.
Hey y'all. As we all know, access to the healthcare system only impacts the health of our patients by, like, 20%, if that. What really impacts health outcomes are education, housing, food security, and, well, not getting shot. If you care about health, you need to care about politics.
One of my favorite parts of being a family med doc is talking with kids. During the routine preventative visits I ask them what they want to be when they grow up, not just as a way to get to know them better, but also to be another small voice telling them that they are worth believing in.
Yesterday, the most astonishing thing happened. I asked QiLing, a 7-year-old with bright eyes, that very question and she responded, “I want to teach ignorant people about race so the world will be better for my children.”
I told her that she should consider the field of medicine instead because it would be more relaxing and pay more.
Right. No one believes that happened.
It didn’t happen. Why? Because nobody grows up wanting to be a race educator. Sometimes a child might say they want to fight “bad guys” when they grow up, but not once have I heard any child dream about addressing race inequities.
So it’s shocking to me that some white folks see people of color who do race work as self-promotional. It’s not self-promotion; it’s self-preservation. We’re forced into this work because we see no other course of action when racism is thrown up in our face constantly. Back thousands of years ago children did not say to themselves, “I want to be a gatherer!” They just needed food so that’s what they did.
But that self-preservation, attempting to address injustice can simultaneously be self-destructive.
Zika has been described as extraordinary in so many ways. But the only thing that’s really extraordinary about the whole thing is how incredibly dispassionate I am about it.
At this point, even extraterrestrials have probably heard that the World Health Organization declared the recent spread of the Zika virus an international public health emergency. That sounds pretty scary. It’s only the fourth time that the WHO has ever declared a PHEIC (Public Health Emergency of International Concern) so it seems like it ought to be a big deal.
However, it’s important to keep things in perspective. As of May 4, there were 1,278 confirmed cases of microcephaly, the birth defect linked to Zika virus infection that causes an abnormally small head and brain. There are approximately 250 suspected neonatal and fetal deaths. In comparison, the last PHEIC was the Ebola virus outbreak of 2014. The current total number of reported cases of Ebola is 28,616 causing 11,310 deaths. Finally, the WHO estimates that the annual run-of-the-mill flu season –not famous epidemics like the Swine Flu – causes 250,000 to 500,000 deaths every year around the world.
I understand how Zika tugs on our heartstrings. Babies are precious, innocent, and full of potential. But I would like to point out that children are also precious and worth protecting and I have yet to see a media blitz or public outcry as passionate for the over 300,000 children who suffer from physical abuse every year in the United States alone
Change to the "Abortion Pill" Overrated: FDA approval of the new mifepristone label is only a band-aid
Women’s health advocates were uniformly jubilant on March 30, 2016 when the FDA updated its labeling for the medication, mifepristone. Mifepristone, sold under the brand name Mifeprex by Danco Laboratories, is commonly referred to as “the abortion pill.” It is used in combination in the United States with misoprostol to provide medical abortions. Medical abortions account for nearly a quarter of all abortions and over a third of all abortions before nine weeks of gestation.
Raegan McDonald-Mosley the chief medical office of Planned Parenthood described the change as “a significant step forward for science, for women, and for health care providers.” Vick Saporta, the president of the National Abortion Federation said that she was “delighted” by the change. Amy Hagstrom Miller, the president of Whole Women’s Health, the plaintiff in the case against Texas HB2, stated “[the] label change…is a significant advancement for women in the United States.”
Their elation is understandable. In an era of illegal and misleading smear campaigns and aggressive TRAP laws (“Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers"), the FDA announcement is a welcome victory. Since 2010, states have adopted 345 abortion restrictions, an unprecedented number of assaults on women’s health.
While celebrating small victories is an important practice for emotional well being, it’s also imperative that we keep a broader perspective. This is just a small Band-Aid. Taylor Swift has never been so wise as when she reminded us that Band-Aids don’t fix bullet holes.
Sexist Southern Sophistry: Understanding the Texas Abortion Laws and Their Dangerous Implications for All of Medicine
Much like expensive red wines, many Facebook relationships, and Kanye West’s psychological state, the case of Texas House Bill No. 2 is complicated.
Last week the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt, one of the most pivotal cases in abortion law in decades. The plaintiff seeks to strike down Texas House Bill No 2, commonly referred to as HB2, legislation that was passed in 2013. It’s legislation that, under the guise of protecting the health of Texan women, has actually endangered their well being by restricting access to abortion services in Texas.
It will set a dangerous legal precedent if found constitutional. Not only will it impact abortion access, it could change the way we practice all of medicine.
HB2 is the most medically intrusive legislation that has ever been written. It placed several restrictions:
HB2 is like Mylie Cyrus talking about race in America. At first blush her statements don’t seem completely unreasonable, but then you realize that she’s simply hiding her own sanctioning of a racist musical industry underneath a thin veneer of false caring, rainbows, and appropriated yoga mantras.
Similar nonsense is generated when legislators regulate abortion. The areas of expertise that legislators have are writing rambling documents, shaking hands, and distributing little signs with their names on them. Nowhere in that list is medical care. HB2 is an attack on the rights of women under a thin veneer of false caring and flawed medical reasoning.
Supporters of HB2 say it’s meant to protect the well being of women, but the language of the bill demonstrates its true intent. The number of times the bill uses the word fetus, zygote, or embryo? Zero. The number of times it uses the phrase “unborn child” or “unborn children?” Twenty-seven. The number of times I heard a lecturer in medical school say the phrase “unborn child/ren?” Zero. The number of times I heard a lecturer in medical school say fetus, zygote, or embryo? Countless.
Furthermore, it is an attack on every American’s right to high quality healthcare.
Nowhere else in medicine are doctors told by the law how exactly how to practice in such detail, for good reason. Certainly there are quality measures that must be met such as standards around sterility, safety, and first aid, but there are no laws that get into the minutiae of when and how to prescribe a medication. Even when it comes to potentially lethal controlled substances such as methadone, the details of dose and timing is left up to a provider’s judgement.
What I've been reading:
Peacekeeping by Mischa Berlinski
about this blog
A place where I can write my thoughts on race, on privilege, on class, on being a doctor. Part of the endless struggle to become a little bit more enlightened and feel a little less alienated.
Agree with me. Call me out. Pass it on.
I post once or twice a month with smaller comments on mini-blog.
My name is Jess. In the interest of full disclosure: I'm a 30-something-year-old Chinese American and believer that the quest for social justice and equity must be an intentional and active. I'm a Family Medicine physician. I'm queer. I'm a radical. I grew up in a mostly white suburb and my parents are white-collar workers. And I don't eat meat, but I miss it sometimes.
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