Where the Action Is: A Primer on State Legislatures


“Tonto! Someone in Virginia is receiving oral sex! Quick! Round up the braves!”

by Admin Jen

I was chatting recently with a friend who runs a rather large & popular liberal-leaning Facebook page. I asked her who her state representatives were. She named her Congressman and United States Senator. I said, “No no, your state legislators. The people who vote on stuff in your statehouse, that your governor has to sign.” She had no idea. And this was someone who is pretty passionate about politics, and really pays attention.

But she pays attention only at the national level, and it’s a common mistake. Now, it’s not that national politics don’t matter. After all, it’s not going to be your mayor declaring war on Afghanistan or authorizing bailouts of collapsing foreign governments. But that stuff is half important, half dog & pony show, and half Coliseum blood sport. (I realize that’s three halves. That tells you more about our national politics than it does about my brain, OK?)

The real action is in your state legislature. In case you were unsure, your state legislature is the gang of people that make and pass the bills that your governor signs into law. This is an entirely different gang from the one that marches off to Congress and the U.S. Senate, to argue and mostly not pass bills for President to sign into law.

State legislatures are often vastly more entertaining than Congress and the Senate. They are home to a great deal of really loopy legislation, probably because they think nobody’s paying much attention. And they’re right. Our totally unscientific WRUN poll showed that half of you have no idea who your state legislators are. It almost seems like they count on this: note how many legislatures are tucked away in the middle of nowhere, far from the large cities with lots of actual people in them (Harrisburg, PA? Albany, NY, anyone?). This is how you get real “put-your-feet-up-and-have-some-popcorn” type fun, like Kentucky’s law, “One may not dye a duckling blue and offer it for sale unless more than six are for sale at once.” Or Tennessee’s HB1783, which makes it illegal to share your Netflix password. Until recently, in Montana, if seven Native American Girl Scouts approached you trying to sell you thin mints, it would have been legal to shoot them, because more than six was legally considered an Indian raiding party. Kudos, Big Sky State, for catching up to the 19th century!

But don’t get lulled into the false sense of security that your state legislatures are all fun and games and Indian raiding parties. State legislatures are also, as Jon Stewart referred to them, the “meth labs of democracy,” wherein crazy people are able to run amok on issues that actually matter. North Dakota recently went wild with a sort of “Tough Mudder” style obstacle course of anti-abortion legislation; banning abortions at six weeks, banning abortions for sex selection and genetic disorders, banning them again at 20 weeks just in case you somehow made it past the other bans… while also defunding sex education for homeless teens. Because nothing says “it’s important to prevent abortions” like refusing to teach kids how not to get pregnant in the first place.

Members of North Carolina’s legislature recently tried to establish Christianity as the state religion, in total defiance of that pesky First Amendment. Texas, in its zeal to reduce abortions, cut off funding to any clinic that even looked like it might have ever had anything to do with Planned Parenthood, and in the process, cut thousands of low-income rural and urban women off from their contraceptives; they are now scratching their heads in puzzlement a year later as their tab for Medicaid births goes through the roof. Arizona gave us the “show us your papers” law (which was challenged and partially struck down by the Supreme Court), not only making racial profiling mandatory, but making it possible for the citizenry to sue the police if they didn’t feel the police were being racial-profile-y enough. That was a few years before the law that made it totally legal and fine for a doctor to lie to his pregnant patient about her pregnancy if he thinks the truth might cause her to abort. Genetic abnormality? Non-viable fetus? Potentially deadly tubal pregnancy? Too bad.

Michigan’s legislature handed the governor the authority to toss out any duly elected official of a financially troubled municipal body (that could be a mayor, a school board president, etc) and install a person or CORPORATION of his/her choice. Then they gave the world “right to work” (or, “legalized union-busting”) laws, and the baffling decision that you need a tax credit for a fetus but an actual born child… eh, not so much.

Meanwhile, Virginia has legislated against all sex except that between men and women, in the missionary position. I’m not sure you’re even allowed to have the lights on; you’ll have to check with Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

And Wisconsin? I can’t even talk about Wisconsin. Just go google “horrible laws passed under Governor Scott Walker” and try your best not to stab your eyes out.

Now, it’s not all bad news. Some lawmakers in places like Texas and South Carolina are trying to introduce laws saying that sex education classes have to contain actual correct information. I know, please try to contain yourselves. South Carolina’s is still too new to know what will happen (we’re hopeful as it was introduced by two Republicans), and Texas’s attempt at this didn’t pass (#headdesk), but still, you kind of have to applaud the effort. Enough state legislatures have decided to recognize marriage equality that it sort of qualifies as a movement. Washington and Colorado have legalized marijuana for recreational use. I’m still trying to figure out why we haven’t moved there yet.

And with all that, still, at least half of you have no idea who’s representing you in matters of everyday importance in your state. So, for Pete’s sake. Find out! Show up and vote in those races. Find out who your state senators and/or assemblymen are and write them, call them, or stop by their office and tell them what you want from them. They probably have one in your neighborhood, by the very nature of the job, and they have to listen to you. You’re a constituent, and they need to know what you want in order to do their jobs properly. Otherwise they’re just left to their own devices.

And I think we’ve seen enough about what kinds of shenanigans go on when that happens: racial profiling, defunded sex education, and illegal blue ducklings.

Please. Find your legislators here, at this link:

1 Comment

Ladies, Bodily Autonomy is Way Overrated

by Siobhan Carroll, Braevehearts blog

girl fetus cartoon

Q: What do Kim Kardashian, the Steubenville rape and trial, and North Dakota all have in common?

This is going to be a long-ish answer. If you haven’t been living under a rock, you know that Ms. Kardashian is currently expecting her first child (disclosure: I am also currently knocked up with bambina #3, due around the same time) and has had the temerity to gain weight. While gestating a whole new human being.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the suspects in the Steubenville rape case were found delinquent (the juvenile court equivalent of guilty) of assaulting their “friend” during an evening of drunken revelry. Tellingly, defendant Trent Mays apologized after verdict, stating that “No pictures should have been sent around, let alone taken.” So he apologized for being caught, not for his violation of another person’s body. Says a lot about Mr. Mays, no?

Meanwhile, North Dakota was busy passing laws banning all abortions after six weeks and termination of pregnancy for genetic problems or gender selection, and a personhood amendment. This has been done as the state has cut back on school lunch programs, because once that baby is born, he’s your problem, lady.

Three very different illustrations of the issues we have with women’s bodies. I am no fan of Ms. Kardashian and frankly resent being put in a position where I feel I should defend her. Because the woman released a sex tape several years ago and is a creation of reality TV, we feel we have the right to criticize the body she is famous for. Specifically, several tabloid covers this week focus on some aspect of her weight gain and pregnancy shape. Her body is not considered her own, but rather a totem for our own amusement, a canvas for our own  insecurities and fears, and perhaps some schadenfreude to see that famous shape even mildly distorted. Where did this sense of entitlement come from? Did she sign some paperwork I am not aware of? None of this is at all our business, even if Kardashian has made her living airing her dirty laundry. She didn’t eat an extra burrito or have her metabolism slowed by illness- she is PREGNANT. Leave her alone.

Steubenville, OH has been the focal point for a now notorious rape trial based primarily on evidence gathered from prominent social media outlets. Two teenage boys carted a female friend who had passed out drunk from one home to another, photographing and videotaping themselves penetrating her vaginally with fingers, and possibly more. There are photos of her slung between the two boys like a hammock, her pants missing. Videos of other teenagers that night laughing and talking about her and what was done to her.”I just saw a dead body get raped” was one line, delivered with a disturbing tone of glee.

Why did this happen? At the base of this crime is a notion that the victim deserved what happened to her because she passed out drunk. That she somehow gave an all-access pass to her body by not longer being able to say no or fight back. After all, silence is consent, right?

Lastly, the North Dakota legislature passed and their governor signed a trifecta of bills aimed at making their state virtually abortion-free. There is little expectation that these laws will be upheld in federal court, but powerful Tea Party-based conservative forces wanted to make a statement and they certainly did. There are no exceptions for the health of the mother. It defines “personhood” at the moment of conception, regardless of the “personhood” of the individual carrying a fetus. There is no mention of whether a woman may or may not be prosecuted for a miscarriage. It’s as though by being pregnant a woman gives all right to her body over to the government.

These are three very disparate examples of how we do not allow women ownership over their own bodies, and they are indicative of a pathology we have about what it means to be a woman and what our bodies are for. Let me clear: my body is my own and is for what I decide to do with it. That could be for entertainment, for partying too hard, or remaining childless. It is for skydiving, grocery shopping, exotic dancing, lazing about and feeding my baby. It drives a car, folds laundry, provides for my family, and is educated. It gets sick, makes mistakes, has sex and occasionally a good hair day.

It is mine. Not yours. And I hereby revoke any right you may have thought you had to judge it, assault it, and make decisions for it. Are we clear now?


Siobhan Carroll likes wine, steak, peanut butter cups and equal rights. She lives in Maryland with her husband and 2.5 daughters, and blogs about life and other things she finds tedious at Braevehearts.com.


The Land of Misfit Memes

by Admin Jen

In organizing my files I ran across a bunch of memes that were never quite finished, got bumped due to other events, or that we didn’t think were quite good enough to use for their intended purpose, but had enough joie de vie about them that it seemed a shame not to share them.  Like the squirt gun that shoots jelly or the Charlie-in-the-box that guards the Island of Misfit Toys, these memes had to have a home somewhere.  And we couldn’t think of a better excuse to create this home for them than April Fool’s Day.  So, we’re not fooling anyone with these misfit memes, but we are fooling around a little, and hopefully you’ll get a chuckle or two.



How could we possibly caption this?  The image itself is so… uh… evocative?





Inspired by a nickname that we coined for Claire McCaskill when she was administering ass-beatings to Todd Akin during the Senate debates last fall …And a lot of Kill Bill on cable tv… And our blinding rage toward the unexplained and inexplicable dismissal of a high-profile military sexual assault conviction…  This bit of fun wound up getting abandoned during a busy news week.  Enjoy!




This one went through a million mutations and just never seemed quite right.  But you know, sometimes it’s satisfying to just tell someone where to stick it.




Once again, this one just happened during a crowded news week, got relegated to back burner, and was never finished.  I was spending too much time lurking on gun forums, and was having a bit of a Saul Bass moment a while back, and did this weird, blown-out artwork of the grinning lady with an AR-15.




We try to be inclusive here at Women: Rise Up Now, but racial issues are not our wheelhouse per se.  So, we decided not to go with this one after the bizarre incident of some racists throwing peanuts at a black CNN camerawoman at the RNC.




We got a few complaints about having Photoshopped Scott Brown’s face onto a “depilated Burt Reynolds’ body”, so we decided to sit on the other memes we made for that series.  But here’s one:


Hope you enjoyed some of our favorite Misfit Memes!  Happy April Fool’s Day!  Tell us which ones you liked best, or feel free to tell us in the comments how you would’ve captioned them!