Planned Parenthood Solidarity Tomorrow!


Do you support Planned Parenthood? Do you live in or near Minneapolis*? Do you have the day off of work, or can you call in sick tomorrow? Then you can come to the Vandalia Clinic’s Planned Parenthood Solidarity event! From the PP Advocate website:

Why Good Friday? Why the need for solidarity? Every year on this day, hundreds of anti-women’s health protesters gather outside our health center to intimidate our patients and attempt to disrupt our work. It presents an opportunity for supporters of Planned Parenthood to come together and celebrate what makes the organization, its volunteers and its activists so great and so necessary!

There will be like-minded people, fantastic signs, music, and a chance to see a scary number of abortion opponents who would like nothing more than for you and me and everyone else to be denied our right to make the health care and reproductive choices that are right for us. If the idea of confrontation makes you squeamish – don’t worry. Both groups are separate and ignore the other – we’re each doing our own thing. Their side does the somber, downcast thing, and we do the celebratory, jubilant thing. I’ll be live-tweeting from the event, so follow me on Twitter for updates and photos. You know, if you’re into that sort of thing.

I’ll be at the sign-in table from 8:30-10:30am and then I’ll be walking in the line for much of the rest of the day (except between noon and 2pm when I’ll be inside volunteering). If you see me, come and say hi! I’ll be wearing a blue Surlyramic with the red atheist “A” on it. And I’ll do my best to answer any questions about the event via Twitter, Facebook or the comments.

Have a happy Solidarity Day!


Taken by me at the 2011 Solidarity Day at the old Highland Park clinic in St. Paul. Look how much fun we have!

*Want to get involved in other cities? There may be an event near you! I recommend Googling for local Planned Parenthood and abortion clinic sites to see if they have solidarity events planned.

Planned Parenthood Solidarity Tomorrow!

Cross-Country Connections: FPNYO

Cross-Country Connections is a Biodork weekly blog entry dedicated to telling stories in pictures of three family members – me, my sister and Mom – living in very different locations across the country. Every week we choose a different theme and then take or contribute a personal photo that fits the theme. This week’s theme is Favorite Pet (Not Your Own).

From Mom in Carbondale, Illinois:

I call this picture the battle of the Mini-Titans.  While my dog is in the shot, my mother’s dachshund mix, Buddy is the focus.  He’s the best thing to happen to my 80 year-old mother in recent years.  He’s a sweety and loves to play with his best friend, Peabody.

From me in Minneapolis, Minnesota:

Look at that face! This is Mouse, my friends’ Tibetan Mastiff. This photo was taken when she was just a pup. She’s kind of gigantic now.

From Erin in Takoma Park, Maryland:

I don’t normally make a habit of taking pictures of other people’s animals but these two are so ridiculous, it couldn’t be helped. The cat belongs to my in-laws and the dog/sausage to may husband’s aunt.  Taken in Kenosha, WI.

Cross-Country Connections: FPNYO

Happy Spring From Minnesota!

Here are a couple of pictures of budding trees, tulips and daffodils in bloom, and robins singing in…ah, no. That’s not it.

Spring Dog Walk

A hardy Minnesotan and her hardy Minnesotan dog were taking in the sunny Minnesotan springtime this morning.

Spring Escorting

Me outside of the women’s clinic this morning. Does that look like spring clothing to you? My frickin’ toes about froze off.

Spring Please

I saw this on the Minnesota Renaissance Festival’s Facebook page. This. So much. Please.

Happy Spring From Minnesota!

Cross-Country Connections: Ridiculous

Cross-Country Connections is a Biodork weekly blog entry dedicated to telling stories in pictures of three family members – me, my sister and Mom – living in very different locations across the country. Every week we choose a different theme and then take or contribute a personal photo that fits the theme. This week’s theme is Ridiculous.

From Erin in Takoma Park, Maryland: 

CCC Ridiculous Erin (765x1024)

At Irish Channel Pub in DC, not only did someone bring their newborn to a bar; they promptly let it chill out on its own while refilling their beer.

From Mom in Carbondale, Illinois: 

CCC Ridiculous Mom
The myriad of things one could say about this ridiculous picture is mind boggling.

From me in Minneapolis, Minnesota: 

CCC Ridiculous Brianne (724x1024)
Wait, wait. The sexist “women think cars are scary” message isn’t what’s ridiculous. The really ridiculous thing is that this is copyright 2002.


Cross-Country Connections: Ridiculous

Talking About Rape

Trigger warning for discussion of rape, rape culture.

I have never been raped.

When I was in college I had faith in everything that I had learned about how to not get raped. I knew to walk in groups, to cover my revealing club clothing between my dorm room and the bar or house party, to not get too drunk if I wasn’t going to be in a group or a safe space, to carry pepper spray and a whistle, to not act trashy if I didn’t intend to follow through.

I knew that rapists wait in dark corners in masks, commit the heinous deed and then disappear into the night. I knew that rape is what happens when a man puts his dick into you even though you’ve clearly told him no and fought like hell to try to make him stop.

Over time I have come to understand that the fact that I have never been raped relied greatly on chance and happy circumstance. I have learned that while I was preparing myself to not get raped in college, many of my peers had already been victims of sexual violence. I have learned that men, women and people outside of the gender binary – of all shapes, sizes, ages, attitudes and backgrounds – get raped, and more often than not, raped by someone they know. Sometimes they raped repeatedly, and sometimes they don’t know that what they’re experiencing is rape. I’ve learned that rape doesn’t have to involve a penis or a vagina. I’ve learned that it’s not always possible to fight back or say no to a rapist.

It is terrifying to reflect on how deluded I was back then, how much chance played a part in my making it to this point in my life physically unscathed by rape. That even now there is nothing I can to do to guarantee that I will never be raped.

I’d like to think that if I had been raped, that I would have had the strength, courage and support to try to bring my attacker(s) to justice, but I wouldn’t place any bets on it. Too often getting raped is seen as a weakness, a moral failing because the victim didn’t prevent it from happening. The thought of having to go through the public scrutiny of a rape trial makes my stomach clench. My culture has shown me that when someone accuses a person of rape, society will do everything in its power to cast doubt on their credibility – lay bare their life, their past actions and sexual activity, their behavior, their character. As if anything in a person’s character could ever make them deserving of rape!

All of these thoughts are brought on, of course, by the ruling in Steubenville this morning. Two teenage boys were found guilty of raping a 16 year-old girl who was intoxicated. To paraphrase a witness, the victim  was “not moving, not talking, not participating” when she was carried around and her vagina violated by the rapists’ fingers in at least two locations at two different times that night, while others watched on, laughed, took pictures and video.

The defense tried to cast doubt on whether the victim was really as drunk as she appeared to be, implied that she wanted sex because her friends tried to talk her out of partying with the boys who ended up raping her. The defense tried to argue that there wasn’t incontrovertible proof that what happened that night was rape, while at the same time dismissing the overwhelming evidence as tainting the case. The victims two “past best friends” testified against her, said she “lies about things”. I have seen ignorant asshats in blog commentary wonder what the uproar is about since she “only got fingered”, not really raped.

These are big reasons why victims don’t speak up when they are attacked.

When we say that only a certain type of person gets raped, or that the actions a person takes makes them responsible for their rape, we cast a false sense of security over ourselves that we will never suffer rape because we aren’t, or would never x, y, or z. We’re good, worldly people who have taken the proper steps to protect ourselves, and so we aren’t at risk of rape. We’re not like those other people who were – at best! – ignorant of the dangers they brought upon themselves when they [insert damning circumstance here] or – at worst – lying degenerates who invited rape. And when we do this we tell rapists that rape is sometimes okay – that if they can find someone who didn’t follow the rules, then what they’re doing isn’t really rape because alcohol-makeup-slutty clothing-flirted-not a virgin-wrong part of town.

Even if “all of the proper precautions are taken”, we can still be raped. Even if we don’t take any precautions, getting raped is not our fault. Rape is only ever the rapist’s fault. EVER. I can name too many people who have suffered and who still live with trauma because of our reluctance to teach people not to rape, to teach that non-consensual contact of any kind is never okay, and that consent means an unequivocal and hearty yes, not a “they didn’t say no”.

A combination of victim-blaming and a reluctance to believe that someone we know would “do something like that” makes it seem like stories such as Steubenville are a rarity, when in fact, the only thing that was rare in this case was the amount of insurmountable recorded evidence of rape and a guilty verdict against the rapists.

I hope deeply that this verdict will send a message that rapists can be brought to justice, and that more victims will be encouraged to speak up. And I hope that the 16-year old girl who was raped will find support and love and healing. I hope that among all of this talk of ideals and rape culture and cheering for the guilty verdict that we remember that there are other victims like her who did not make the six o’clock news, whose stories are still untold and who haven’t yet had a chance to heal.


There are resources available for victims of sexual violence. RAINN – the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network – might be a good place to start if you need help or advice.

Note to the potential commentariat: This thread will be moderated. Rape apologetics are not welcome here.

Talking About Rape

Out In Droves – Arguing Same-Sex Marriage

House Bill H.R.1054 was up for a vote in the Civil Law Committee on Tuesday. On that day the committee took testimony from any and all citizens who wanted to share their views on the bill. Many presented their own views and some introduced themselves as representatives for a group.

I don’t often watch political committee discussions (but when I do…), but this is a topic of great interest. H.R.1054 is a bill that, if passed by the MN Congress, would give same-sex couples the right to get married in Minnesota! I also wanted to watch because August Berkshire was scheduled to speak on behalf of Minnesota Atheists. August live-Facebooked the event. Fellow MN Atheist members Greg Laden and Stephanie Zvan also blogged about the committee meeting.

Continue reading “Out In Droves – Arguing Same-Sex Marriage”

Out In Droves – Arguing Same-Sex Marriage

Cross-Country Connections: Underneath

Cross-Country Connections is a Biodork weekly blog entry dedicated to telling stories in pictures of three family members – me, my sister and Mom – living in very different locations across the country. Every week we choose a different theme and then take or contribute a personal photo that fits the theme. This week’s theme is Underneath.

From me in Minneapolis, Minnesota:

CCC Underneath Brianne

Underneath the El in Chicago, Illinois this weekend.

From Erin in Takoma Park, Maryland: 

CCC Underneath Erin
Underneath the roof of the oldest continuously run market in Washington DC, Eastern Market, located in Capitol Hill.

From Mom in Carbondale, Illinois: 

CCC Underneath Mom
Underneath the Roman baths in….Bath, England. 2010

Cross-Country Connections: Underneath

Do you know what they DO here?

I’m working a new escorting shift at a new clinic location. Part of this new location is new hours; I’m going to be volunteering most mornings Monday-Friday – a one hour shift before heading across the metro to my big kid job.

What are not new are the protesters. Apparently we inherited those from the old location. Lucky us. But- and I don’t know if it’s the new location, earlier hours, or that I’m unfamiliar with the weekday shift – in the eight weekdays that I’ve been out at 7am there haven’t yet been more than two protesters at a time (Saturdays are a different story). On the second day that I came out there weren’t ANY protesters!!! That was a great day.

The new location is right next to Hennepin County Medical Center. The tower that we’re in houses many specialty clinics and there is a lot more traffic coming and going than I saw at our old location. This means a larger audience for the protesters. Yay. Since I have no idea who is coming to visit the women’s clinic and who’s not, I smile and hold the door for everyone. No assumptions, unlike the protesters who turn absolutely rabid when a young woman – any young woman approaches the clinic. The protesters seem to have very specific ideas about the “type” of person who visits an abortion clinic. They usually ignore men who aren’t with women, as well as women who look over 35 and who are dressed respectably, but Zeus help you if you’re a young-looking woman, or a man walking with a young-looking woman. If you’re coming to the Meadowbrook Clinic for any reason whatsoever you have some concerned looks, unsolicited advice and pamphlets coming your way, darlin’.

I really wish we had bubble zone laws in this state.

Things were extra-bad last Thursday because a tunnel connecting the tower to the main building was shut down and hundreds of employees were redirected outdoors. They had to walk up the sidewalk and through the main entrance that I was standing by, and past this: 


Young woman protester holding a posterboard-sized picture of a gooey red mess (where the hell do they find these pictures?). Caption: “SUCTION ABORTION”

This is one of our regulars. She’s normally pretty passive and quiet, and actually this was the first time I’ve seen her carry a sign. Usually she carries a bag of pamphlets and tries to intercept clients on their way into the clinic, tells them quietly, urgently to watch their ultrasounds. But Thursday’s larger audience brought out an entirely new attitude – a self-righteous, loud, judgmental, angry protester.

This woman is escorting women to the abortion clinic. She’s here to help them kill their babies. That’s the only reason she’s standing here. Do you really want to let her hold the door for you, knowing what she does?

Seriously? Goat damn it.

Breaking it down:

  • I’m not escorting women to the abortion clinic. I’m holding a door for everyone coming in or out of the clinic. I reserve an extra bright greeting people for people who you approach, especially if you’ve upset them with your bullshit misinformation, and then I hold the door for them so they can get around you and get to their doctor appointment, whatever it may be. If they’re upset I might ask them if they’re okay or let them rant for a moment about you before pointing them in the direction of the bathrooms, the help desk, or the elevators.
  • No, I’m not here to help them kill their babies because no babies are being killed here, despite your warped beliefs.


 Same protester, new sign: “THEY’RE KILLING BABIES HERE”. 

  • NO. The “only reason” I’m standing here is because you are standing here.
  • Lastly – WTF?

I somehow managed to not respond to the protester, but I really, really wanted to (can you tell?). Several employees gave me the WTF raised eyebrow as they walked in, and in those cases I’d say with my usual smile – with no acknowledgement that there was a protester speaking loudly a few feet away – “Welcome to Meadowbrook.”

At first the protester’s personal attacks just made me roll my eyes, but after a few minutes I realized something: The protester had adapted to her new audience! She had switched from trying to dissuade people from going into the clinic to proselytizing to clinic employees!

With a few simple sentences the protester is saying this:

Did you know they do ABORTIONS here? Aren’t you shocked and outraged? – She’s hoping to reach people who don’t know that abortions are performed at this clinic, perhaps in the hope that employees will take offense and get upset and maybe try do something about having to work in the same building as a baby-killin’ clinic.

This escort is so morally repugnant that even walking through a door that she’s holding might taint you! Verbal attacks on escorts are nothing new. This kind of statement is meant to demoralize us and it calls into question the calm, professional attitude we try to project. It turns our smiles and welcomes into a poisonous conspiracy – the witch luring Hansel and Gretel into the cottage. The protester becomes the heroic whistle blower! 

And we don’t defend ourselves because getting into a debate or argument on a crowded sidewalk does ZERO good. Plus, a grimace and eye-roll to confused passerbys goes a long way toward making protesters look like the ranty zealots that they are, while we maintain an air of rationality and tolerance. 

So how did this all go over with the passerbys? As I said, some employees looked momentarily confused. Some looked disgusted at the gooey red mess sign. But most had their practiced urban “ignore everyone on the street who I don’t know” game face on. All in all, not a huge “win” for the protester, I don’t think.

And me?

It was a tough morning. When protesters verbally assault me in front of abortions clinic visitors, there’s often an air of solidarity – it’s me and the clients against the whirlwind of stupid. This made me more emotional than usual. I had a gut reaction of wanting to defend myself to the doctors and nurses and support staff and patients who weren’t going to the women’s clinic – all of these people who wanted nothing to do with this annoying protester, nor with me – the focus of her attention. It was hard morning of biting my tongue and keeping a genuine smile on my face.

Some mornings are more taxing than others. In the end you smile, you breathe, you vent with the clinic staff. And then you treat yourself to a grande white chocolate mocha from Starbucks because you earned it, dammit.


Now that I’ve made it sound like so much fun (ha!) – If you’re in the area and would like to get involved in clinic escorting, we can always use more volunteers to work the 7-8:15am weekday shift in downtown Minneapolis. If you want more information you can contact me (I can answer questions, pass your name on to the volunteer coordinator) or you can go directly to WWH contact form.

Do you know what they DO here?

Cross-Country Connections: Too Much

Cross-Country Connections is a Biodork weekly blog entry dedicated to telling stories in pictures of three family members – me, my sister and Mom – living in very different locations across the country. Every week we choose a different theme and then take or contribute a personal photo that fits the theme. This week’s theme is Too Much.

From Mom in Carbondale, Illinois: 

CCC Too Much Mom (768x1024)
Yes, you can have too much chocolate. But it’s Vegas, baby! – at the Bellagio last summer.

From Erin in Takoma Park, Maryland: 

CCC Too Much Erin (1024x762)
Why yes, that is a cigarette statue and the Marlboro man and some other weird ass lawn art at this home in Silver Spring, Maryland.

From me in Minneapolis, Minnesota:

CCC Too Much Brianne (627x1024)
This is way too much line to wait in to purchase one $0.33 postcard stamp! Well…okay…I guess I’ll wait.

Cross-Country Connections: Too Much

Saturday in SoCal

Moar travel/photo blogging!

Saturday was another travel-packed day. We drove back into LA to hit the La Brea Tar Pits and Page Museum. The drive out from Brea – north on 57 to Hwy 60 – was really quite pretty in the daytime with the mountains visible in the distance.

When we arrived at the tar pits we accidentally walked over to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) – we thought we were heading toward the building that housed the Page Museum. LACMA had a number of outdoor interactive exhibitions, so we played for a while.

Jesús Rafael Soto’s Penetrable in Neon Lime

Funny story: Carrie and I “stepped inside” this installation, and while we were there we heard a little boy who appeared to be around 5-6 years old exclaim, “Daddy’s in the Spaghetti Monster!” Wheee! We had fun with that.

DSC_0275 (1024x683)

Carrie safe within His Noodly Appendages

Continue reading “Saturday in SoCal”

Saturday in SoCal