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And I was there.

Besides the obvious presidential election, which I voted early for already, there are a few other elections and states that I’ve got my eye on this year:

  1. Back in May, a California Supreme Court judge ruled their gay marriage ban unconstitutional.  One month later, hundreds of couples (including Ellen Degeneres) got their marriage on.  This, of course, infuriated conservatives, who then garnered enough signatures to take it to the voters, resulting in Proposition 8.  Proposition 8 states that marriage should be between a man and a woman.  This will make for a confusing ballot- those who believe in marriage equality have to vote no on Prop 8, while those who disagree have to vote yes.  Conservatives are pulling out all stops to make this proposition pass, including cyber attacking the No on Prop 8 website.  Check out some awesome videos encouraging people to vote no here.
  2. Another cause near and dear to my heart- animal rights.  Once again, California is taking the lead in reform and has drafted Proposition 2, an animal rights proposition that would outlaw certain types of animal confinement crates, such as gestation crates and battery crates. 
  3. The magic number right now is 60 for the Democratic Party to have a fillibuster-proof majority over the Senate.  There are 12 GOP seats up for election this year, and a few very close races:
  • Ted Stevens, the Republican senator from Alaska, was convicted of corruption charges and ethics violation, yet he still claims to be staying in the race.  Here’s hoping that Alaskans maybe see that whole ethics violation as a bad trait to have in a senator and instead go for Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich.
  • Former SNL star and political writer Al Franken is running for a US senate seat in Minnesota against incumbent Norm Coleman and seems to be taking the lead.
  • In North Carolina, incumbent Elizabeth Dole seems to be losing her steam while Democratic candidate Kay Hagan is moving forward.  It’s really tight at this point, but Dole may very well lose her seat.

This is a pretty big election year, for so many obvious and not so obvious reasons.  Let’s keep our fingers crossed for an amazing Election Day and a joyous Wednesday, November 5th.  As for me, I’ll be partying down at Obamapalooza in Grant Park on the night of November 4th.

Chicago has become the third city in the US to consider having a specific LGBTA friendly high school, after New York’s Harvey Milk High School and Milwaukee’s Alliance School.  The school would be open to all students, but cater specifically to the needs of LGBT students and allies.  As the Chicago Board of education considers this school to be added to the Chicago Public Schools in 2010, Mayor Daley has expressed his hesitation in such a school, citing concern over segregating students:

“You have to look at whether or not you isolate and segregate children. A holistic approach has always been to have children of all different backgrounds in schools. When you start isolating children and you say, ‘Only 50 percent here, 40 percent here’ — same thing we went through with the disabled — then you want to do that when they’re adults.”

Something that caught my eye in the Sun Times articleon this issue (even though it’s no longer available in the article) is that they initially talked about how baffling it was that a mayor, so well known for his support of LGBT rights (helping fund Center on Halsted, supporting the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame, supporting the Cook County domestic partner registry, appointing a liaison to LGBT issues) could take this kind of stance. 

Really??  I just don’t understand why someone would find Mayor Daley to be unsupportive of LGBT rights just because he is wary of this project because of the segregation it would cause.  Oh yeah, did I mention that Rick Garcia of Equality Illinois completely agrees with him?  From the Sun Times article:

“There’s no doubt there’s violence and bullying of gay kids and something has to be done, but segregating them is not the answer,” said Garcia. “It doesn’t stop bullying at other schools. And if a kid is different and the object of scorn or bullying, instead of addressing it, the teacher might say, ‘Send him to homo high.’

“Instead of a school for gay kids, maybe we need a school for the bullies. Gay kids are not the problem. Bullies and teachers and administrators who don’t stop the bullying are the problem,” he said.

I completely agree with Rick.  Taking LGBT students out of a bullying situation will make them temporarily safer, but it does nothing to help change the stereotypes and the prejudice that the bully has.  So, once the students leave high school, they’ll be faced with the same situation.  Think of the millions of dollars it would cost to build a new school.  Wouldn’t that money be much better spent creating tolerance programs, anti-bully initiatives, harsher punishments for bullies, or after-school programs? 

I know the stats about the higher drop out rates and lower average grades of LGBT students.  I fear for these students and the intolerance they may face.  Something absolutely needs to be done.  But segregating the students?  I just don’t think that’s the answer.

Don’t know where to go to vote?  Well, in Chicago, if you’re voting early, you have plenty of choices.  If you’re from anywhere else and are waiting till the big day, check out this awesome new Google map.  Those folks at Google, while they may end up taking over the world some day, are doing some great things.

Happy belated Love Your Body Day!  Celebrated this year on October 15th, this day was created by the National Organization for Woman in 1998 in an effort to speak out against negative, offensive and disrespectful ads that cause most of us to feel not so great about our bodies.  This day was created to encourage everyone to love their body for all of its beauty and all of its “flaws” and to truly accept your body for the amazing thing that it is.  Since its initial success ten years ago, this day has grown to be a true national day of recognition for the rockstar bodies that we all have and to embrace more positive marketing that encourages us to love ourselves. 

Locally, the Chicago chapter of NOW celebrates this awesome day by sponsoring an essay contest for high school girls around the city.  This year’s theme is “Why I Love My Body”.  A panel will choose 3 essay winners and honor them at our annual meeting.

Many in the blogosphere are celebrating by publishing their own letters to their bodies for all to see.  So, in the spirit of celebrating an amazing day, here is my own letter:

Dear body,

It’s been a rough week, I know.  But we really kicked some ass this weekend at the marathon.  I know that I’ve been pushing you a lot these past few months, but wasn’t it all worth it when we passed the finish line?  I’m sorry I wasn’t listening to you the whole time and caused us to get so dehydrated.  But, in the end, we came out pretty great, right?  This running thing is a whole lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to doing a lot more with you.

Thank you for being such a rock star body that can support an intense 4-month marathon training.  We really pushed ourselves to the limit, that’s for sure.  Thank you for withstanding that and standing up to the challenge and helping me grow stronger.  And thank you for letting me know when I wasn’t taking care of myself enough during training.  The extra pounds I put on were a little disconcerting, but once I found out that I wasn’t treating you right, I made sure to take better care.

We’ve had a rather rocky relationship, I know.  There are times when I still struggle to be at peace with us.  But I think I’m getting better.  Day by day, I can feel myself moving more towards a healthier place where I stop comparing us to everyone else and am just happy with how original and unique we are.   Sometimes I slip, but I think that I’ve come a long way from that poem that I wrote as a teenager.  And we’ll get there, I know we will.  It just may take some more time.  But I’m working on it.

But, because I’m in a good place right now in this moment, let’s take some time to appreciate us.  I love our blue eyes.  I think we have a rockin’ rack.  I appreciate our strong runner’s legs, our sturdy feet, and our healthy lungs that get us running in the mornings.  I think we sport our ink quite well and plan to adorn us much more with such beautiful art.  Apparently, we’ve got a pretty nice backside, too, and I promise to try harder to believe it when people tell me. 

I love you, body, and I promise to keep working on remembering how awesome we are when I get down as long as you promise to keep holding me up.

Love,
Shayne

Here’s more info on what you can do as well as facts on body image issues and Love Your Body Day.

“Feminism has never been about getting a job for one woman. It’s about making life more fair for women everywhere. It’s not about a piece of the existing pie; there are too many of us for that. It’s about baking a new pie.”

Gloria Steinem, Los Angeles Times 9/4/08

Another article worth reading from Salon.com

Now, I’m a little undecided as to how I feel about Seventh Generation and the popularity they’ve gained in recent years.  On one (very large) hand, I greatly appreciate that they are offering much more natural and environmentally friendly products that are readily available at your local Target, Jewel, Safeway, <insert regional grocery store here>.    They have a great corporate responsibility policy, including donating 10% of their profits to “to non-profit community, environmental, health, and responsible business organizations working for positive change.”  They strongly oppose testing on animals and offer some great educational material on their website.

Of course, the fact that it’s gained so much hype and popularity and is carried so much by so many big box stores keeps me a little leery.  Also, some of their products contain the highly controversial 1,4 dioxane, a probable human carcinogen that’s been all over the news recently. 

However, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have incredbily useful information on their website.  Just today, I came across their Seventh Generation Index.  They lay out a number of interesting and useful facts about the state of the environment, alternative energy, green jobs and pollution, mostly from the US but globally as well.  Some very interesting tidbits to highlight:

  • Number of people expected to be employed in the solar energy sector alone by 2030: 6.3 million
  • Number of minutes of sunlight hitting Earth needed to meet global energy needs for a year: 1
  • Size of the patch of desert needed to meet all U.S. energy using concentrated solar power: 92 x 92 miles
  • Percent of global energy needs that could be met by wind power: 3,500
  • Cost to build wind power generators to meet 20% of U.S. electricity needs: $1.2 trillion
  • Amount of money spent on foreign oil in the U.S. every year: $700 billion
  • Percent of total U.S. energy use dedicated to producing food: 19%
  • Percent of total U.S. energy use that would be dedicated to producing food if everyone was vegetarian: 13%  

    Check out the rest of the list here and make sure to spread the word.  It’s statistics like these that really put things into perspective for the average person and helps encourage them to make better choices for themselves and the planet.

  • Thank you, Alternet, for this amazing perspective on how awful the past 8 years have been. Really, you start to forget about some of these atrocities when the next one comes around. Alternet has done us all a solid and created a list of The 10 Most Awesomely Bad Moments of the Bush Presidency. Check out the article for the full story, but here’s the quick list:

    10. Bush gets re-elected
    9. Alberto Gonzales’ Congressional testimony
    8. North Korea conducts a nuclear test
    7. Colin Powell’s WMD presentation to the UN
    6. Terri Schiavo
    5. The Gaza Strip, circa 2006
    4. Hurricane Katrina
    3. Abu Ghraib
    2. 9/11
    1. “Mission Accomplished”

    Seriously. Why haven’t we tried to impeach this guy a million times over already?!?!?

    Thanks to the updates I get from the ONE Campaign, I found this awesome new movement and video that I think everyone should take 2 1/4 minutes to watch. I don’t know much about this campaign quite yet, but from what I see, I’m really digging it. You gotta love these kinds of videos that don’t use the fancy shmancy effects, don’t use the celebrity endorsements, just facts given in a way we can all understand. I’m Too Young for This, an awesome young adult cancer group, also masters this art in their PSA’s.

    Now, dig a little deeper, and you’ll find that The Girl Effect is financed by the Nike Foundation, and I think we all know how I feel about Nike. One can’t help but notice the irony in Nike supporting a campaign like this when they more than likely subject these same girls to awful sweatshop conditions. Could this all be just one big PR campaign to make people forget about their past sins? I’m not sure. With other powerhouses like the NoVo Foundation behind it, it gives it a sense of legitimacy.

    Regardless, it offers some sobering facts:

    • When a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children.
    • An extra year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent. An extra year of secondary school: 15 to 25 percent.
    • Research in developing countries has shown a consistent relationship between better infant and child health and higher levels of schooling among mothers.
    • When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40 percent for a man.

    Check it out and share your thoughts.

    Ever hear about voting with your dollars? It’s true. The world we live in today is controlled by big business. I think it’s becoming more and more apparent how tight their grasp is on our current government, our media, our television, our lives. (Can anyone even remember when there used to not be any commercials before movies in the theatre?)  The money we spend lets them know if their total and complete invasion is working.

    Alternatively, if we spend our money on crazy alternative, sustainable, fair trade, or all-around good for you products, there’s a good chance that big business will still listen. But, with all the greenwashing that we’re bombarded with every day (really, BP?), it’s hard to tell truth from green stretching of the truth. Here are some triee-and-true options for all of us trying to make our footprint a little lighter in our daily actions:

    Ecoscene: Coming right out of my own ‘hood, Aimee Heilbrunn and Carmen Ramson-Herzing offer up reviews through their weekly e-magazine of different green products out in the market, often comparing them to their more mainstream counterpart. What I love about this website is that they offer up these reviews in a very digestible, easy to understand way, listing out the pros and cons of the product, followed by some final thoughts. All of the products they interview must be accessible to anyone through the Web as well as sustainable. These ladies are still pretty new on the scene, but I encourage everyone to sign up to get their weekly emails and even contribute, if you’re so inclined.

    Co-op America: This organization has been rocking the sustainable lifestyle since 1982. Their mission is “harness economic power—the strength of consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace—to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society.” Not only do the put on one hell of a Green Festival, but they’ve now created a Responsible Shopper website where you can search for a company profile by name or industry and get their corporate responsibility profile. Not only that, but you can sign onto campaigns to demand more responsibility and sustainability in corporate America. Easy as that!

    So, next time you’re looking to make a purchase, big or small, and want to know which way your dollars will vote, make sure to check out these amazing resources. Little by little, we can start to make the results swing in our favor- Mother Earth’s favor.

    What Is This Girl Talking About??