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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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46 Responses

  1. Athenia
    Athenia January 31, 2010 at 9:52 am |

    I’ve always assumed programs like this assume a certain lifestyle—we don’t want you to have kids because we want you to go to college etc. Or even, the mentality “teens shouldn’t be having sex.” In other words, a very middle class Western view of a teen’s life. Can you really apply that to other young adults around the world?

    I mean, do these kids sign an agreement that they’re not going to have kids until they have a job? Until they finish school? Until they are 19?

    Obviously, young adults would like to take advantage of their education services. Perhaps it would be prudent to recognize this need??

  2. Lauren
    Lauren January 31, 2010 at 10:01 am | *

    I bristle at someone calling a 20-year-old pregnant woman a girl, and then smacking her on the hand because she’s African, and think she’s taking handouts while breaking the rules. And why wouldn’t they hold young men responsible for unwanted pregnancies?

  3. Eugenia
    Eugenia January 31, 2010 at 10:29 am |

    Even though it’s still pretty condescending to require program participants to “refrain from pregnancy,” if this IS a requirement, the program should provide birth control for free to its participants. Who knows what access to birth control info/services is like where this young woman lives? Obviously, the program designers don’t seem to care. I guess she is just not supposed to have sex.

  4. Brian
    Brian January 31, 2010 at 10:37 am |

    Lauren, I’m not too certain of this, but my first impression was that they held men to the same standard, and that none of the men in the school violated that rule. But it’s easier for men to “get away” with violating that rule than women.

  5. Lauren
    Lauren January 31, 2010 at 10:50 am | *

    I get it Brian, I’m suspect of their methods. What’s the standard, that the students are going to show up pregnant one day? Because only one side of the het equation is going to suffer said consequences.

  6. A Guy In Denver
    A Guy In Denver January 31, 2010 at 12:13 pm |

    Rather than criticizing this charity for upholding their standards, why not start your own and apply YOUR standards?

  7. femspotter
    femspotter January 31, 2010 at 1:12 pm |

    This is like when the US military flirted with dishonorable discharge for pregnancy. If the pregnancy was wanted, the mother-to-be is not going to give up her “conspiring” partner. They’ll need his income to survive. And if she claims to have been raped by another soldier, that rape – like so many others – will go unpunished because the whole point of this initiative is to keep soldiers in the military where they’re sorely “needed.”

    At my Catholic high school, girls were evicted for pregnancy but there was never a boy punished for the same “offense.” And I agree that it’s appalling to rob young women of something they need, whether pregnant or not but especially when pregnant: an education!

    @ A Guy in Denver
    Your question suggests that you agree with this puritanical pregnancy punishing policy. I ask you right back: Why don’t you start your own charity and apply your own standards? That’s right; you can’t. Because an unforgiving charity that purports to educate youth and then bans educating youth bearing youth is not a real charity. And your kind of “charity,” that would educate all men and only well-behaved young ladies would keep the world in war and greed, not because men are entirely responsible for those things but because people who aren’t kind to pregnant women and their babies ARE!

  8. Azalea
    Azalea January 31, 2010 at 1:58 pm |

    There are many programs like that all over the world where pregnancy= loss of support. Honestly in many HOUSEHOLDS parents will kick their pregnant or soon to be a father teen out of their homes. In some places you can actually get a teen emancipated for having a baby- so that the parent (grandparent) isn’t on the hook for their teen’s baby (their grandchild).

    This rule is pretty much support with stipulations and when you take that support you agree to the stipulations but I do think applying it ONLY to female participants is discriminatory.

  9. A Guy In Denver
    A Guy In Denver January 31, 2010 at 2:05 pm |

    Yes, people who are mean to babies are the cause of war and greed. *Eyeroll*

    People have different values. I think that rather than be unhappy with people for disagreeing with us, it behooves us to lead by example.

  10. Q Grrl
    Q Grrl January 31, 2010 at 2:11 pm |

    Well, A Guy in Denver, usually when you desire to lead you start by discussing your ideas of equity, fairness, appropriateness, and end goals. Who are you to say that someone reading this isn’t taking the steps that you assume we aren’t?

    “Yes, people who are mean to babies are the cause of war and greed. ”

    Who knows, but the apathy of those who sit by and watch is strangely similar.

  11. femspotter
    femspotter January 31, 2010 at 2:36 pm |

    @ A Guy in Denver
    Are you saying that people who are mean to babies are “good” people? Yes, “lead by example.” And your example is to roll your eyes at other’s comments rather than, as Q Grrl puts it, “discussing your ideas of equity, fairness and appropriateness.”

    Obviously, the operators of this charity wanted feedback on their issue or else they wouldn’t have written into The Times for advice. We hereby give them our two cents too and hope that those who can afford to start charities with their own values take into consideration our feminist agenda to educate women and their children.

  12. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub January 31, 2010 at 2:47 pm |

    A Guy in Denver: Sorry, but I don’t respect double standards. I see a charity that allows MEN who impregnate women to get a free pass from their rules. I see these men and boys getting an education, and getting opportunities that the women and girls they have had sex with do not have. I see the punishment being meted out to women only–and that is something the LW acknowledged. (As for “setting a precedent” they have already done so by not applying the same standards to the men and boys who get women and girls pregnant.)

    Perhaps we can shrug off double-standards applied to people of a different ethnicity, religion, nationality, etc. and chalk it off to “different values” as well.

    I am unhappy with these people because what they are doing is misogynist–they are holding women and girls accountable for getting pregnant, but the men and boys are NOT held accountable for getting anyone pregnant. And that double-standard does real damage to women; though I suppose it’s just “different values” to you because YOU are not touched personally by this sexual double-standard.

    Yes, people who are mean to babies are the cause of war and greed.

    People who perpetuate double-standards and injustice are the cause of a lot of the problems in the world today, IMO.

  13. Kyra
    Kyra January 31, 2010 at 3:27 pm |

    Oh, for fuck’s sake, if nothing else, think of what it would mean to that baby’s life if hir mother has an education’s help to do well in the world, financially.

    If they’re so much about helping young people improve their lives, they might have some consideration to the next generation’s children, who inherit their parents’ wealth or poverty—that “precedent” might mean the difference between whether this woman’s child is in need of their scholarships when zie grows up.

    (Of course, that shouldn’t be the point; young people deserve opportunities REGARDLESS of how much sex they have or when they reproduce. But when dealing with an organization that thought pregnancy-shaming young women (“significantly,” indeed) with economic coersion by holding scolarship-revokation over their heads is a good idea, well, one works with what one’s got.)

  14. La Lubu
    La Lubu January 31, 2010 at 3:39 pm |

    For the love of Maude. “A Guy in Denver” (you could have left out the “guy” part; it’s obvious from your comment), the point being is that they aren’t holding up their own standards. It’s statistically unlikely that none of the young men receiving a scholarship through this charity have not impregnanted someone. Period. And it’s also clear that this charity is handling the issue through visibility—who is visibly pregnant (or has given birth), and who has visibly gotten someone pregnant.

    And you can’t visibly tell who has gotten someone pregnant, now can you?

    Meanwhile, this charity is a 501c3, tax-exempt charity. A tax-exempt charity that discriminates against women, in a rather brutal way.

    My question is, why should any entity enjoy a tax-exempt status yet still discriminate? Why should I have to pony up a greater share of the tax burden to make up for the lack of tax revenues from entities that would (or do) discriminate against me?

    Yes, I know it’s legal. It shouldn’t be.

  15. mh
    mh January 31, 2010 at 3:55 pm |

    I’m a little taken aback that the ethicist’s response assumed that the pregnancy was not only unplanned but unwanted. We know she got pregnant but not the circs under which it happened or how she felt about it. And yeah calling a 20-year-old woman a “girl” and an “orphan,” what?

  16. Bitter Scribe
    Bitter Scribe January 31, 2010 at 4:03 pm |

    And why wouldn’t they hold young men responsible for unwanted pregnancies?

    Inertia/laziness. It’s lots easier to hold young women responsible because the evidence doesn’t require any digging.

    As for Denver Guy, charities that publicly announce “standards” like this open themselves up to criticism. If they don’t like it, they should follow Jesus’ advice and do their good works in secret.

  17. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable January 31, 2010 at 4:06 pm |

    I had a friend who taught sex ed in Tanzania one summer. One day, one of her students came up to her and said, “K–, I had safe sex last night! I put the condom on the banana and everything!” … not a euphemism, a legit banana.

    Many parts of Africa have abysmal sex education. This kind of charity awarded this girl for her desire for education, and then rescinded that award because her education (or access to birth control or what have you) thus far may not have been sufficient. Keep in mind that in many parts of Africa, people still think that condoms carry the AIDS virus. It’s a policy that teaches women that sex is wrong and doesn’t address the same for men.

    And I may be wrong, but the question isn’t really about the charity upholding their standards so much as the charity’s standards themselves, right? My concern is that these standards exist at all and that they’re being lauded because they offer cash to some people that need it.

  18. mh
    mh January 31, 2010 at 4:08 pm |

    >And I may be wrong, but the question isn’t really about the charity upholding their standards so much as the charity’s standards themselves, right? My concern is that these standards exist at all and that they’re being lauded because they offer cash to some people that need it.<

    Yeah there is nothing on their website (that I could see) that indicates their aid is distributed according to the no-pregnancy rule. I imagine a lot of their donors have no idea.

  19. james
    james January 31, 2010 at 4:11 pm |

    “Sorry, but I don’t respect double standards. I see a charity that allows MEN who impregnate women to get a free pass from their rules.”

    I don’t get this. No matter how many women men impregnate it’s not going to make a jot of difference to their physical health and capability for studying. Women who get pregnant do have to go through labor which – from what I hear – is fairly physically arduous and is going to be a distraction from their studies.

    So I think revoking the scholarship’s okay. Why should you get an educational scholarship if you’re not going to school? The charitable goals of the foundation are supporting people who are studying. Not providing support for pregnant women, however worthy that is. A Guy in Denver’s right – if you’re interested in that, then set up a different charity with different goals – but this is an educational foundation so surely the money should be spent working towards that goal and supporting people who are studying.

    I totally support readmitting her now she wants to return to school. But the idea that someone should get continue to get access to an educational scholarship, not because they’re studying, but because they’re pregnant – I just don’t get. I don’t see why pregnancy trumps everything else. It’s okay for an educational foundation to have educational priorities.

  20. mh
    mh January 31, 2010 at 4:14 pm |

    I just sent OFDC (ofdc@ofdc.org) an email:

    Hello,

    I was very concerned to read in the New York Times that your group discriminates against young women who get pregnant. Information about birth control and birth control itself is very hard to come by in Africa and I hate the thought that young women are abandoned by your program if they do get pregnant and decide to keep their child. This harsh policy is all the more dismaying if young men who impregnate women are not held to the same standard. I hope you take this feedback in the spirit in which it is offered and consider revising your program. Also, I hope that in the future you disclose such restrictions to those who might donate to your fund, so that they can make an informed decision.

    Sincerely,

  21. joops
    joops January 31, 2010 at 4:14 pm |

    I want to preface this by saying I used to live in West Africa and I work in the gender and development field. Here’s what’s wrong with not continuing this woman’s scholarship:
    1. The letter-writer does not specify whether this woman consented to sex. Nor does she specify whether she was coerced, asked her partner to use a condom and he refused, or the condom broke, etc. Suggesting that women fully abstain from sex ignores the reality that women in Africa (and elsewhere) are frequently told that their bodies do not belong to them.
    2. The letter-writer does not specify whether this woman lives in a country that has full reproductive health care (i.e., access to family planning and abortion). Given that in many African countries women’s rights to full reproductive health care are limited, she should not assume this woman had a choice whether or not to continue with the pregnancy.
    3. Women in Africa need better education.
    4. Women in Africa with children also need better education. Without education their options tend to be: selling goods in a market, agricultural labor, and the oh-so-wonderful field of prostitution. All major money-makers that will provide a secure life, right?
    5. By not awarding this woman her scholarship, she and her child will suffer. Once a woman is educated, she educates her child and ensures they also have opportunities. Therefore, by not facilitating her continued access to education, the organization is punishing both the mother and her child.

    Deb Day Olivier and the Opportunity Fund for Developing Countries are in the wrong for denying this young woman access to education. If they don’t understand the gendered context of the countries in which they operate – including patriarchal structures that make women’s lives exceptionally difficult – then they are doing more harm than good.

    Thanks, Jill, for bringing this to our attention.

    This is a no-brainer for me.

  22. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable January 31, 2010 at 4:33 pm |

    I’m sorry; where did it say that woman’s priority was not going to be an education? The note says absolutely nothing about her intention to keep the child – just that she’s pregnant. Maybe she wants to give it up for adoption. Maybe not. Maybe she has a partner.

    Let me tell you about Washington University in Saint Louis. See, I’m in the MBA program there. There are approximately (only) 300 full-time MBA students. All first years are discouraged from having a job because they essentially want us to be free at the drop of a hat for speakers, pop-up programs, what have you.

    I have a male classmate who had a baby days after first semester ended and a female classmate who had a baby days before the second semester began. In fact, the female classmate’s baby was still in the hospital on the first day of classes. She didn’t miss any of the first semester and both classmates are generally lauded by our classmates as incredibly bright, well-performing individuals.

    Having a baby – even when it means being a parent – doesn’t mean you’re suddenly incapable of doing anything else. Sorry James. Your logic is flawed and really fucking sexist.

  23. K
    K January 31, 2010 at 4:52 pm |

    Women who get pregnant do have to go through labor which – from what I hear – is fairly physically arduous and is going to be a distraction from their studies.

    Wait, seriously? So women shouldn’t study for exams in the middle of labor? I had no idea! Thanks for that insight, James!

    The lengths some of you dudes will go to in order to defend this clearly discriminatory and bone-headed policy are unbelievable. We need a charity that funds your education in basic humanity.

  24. femspotter
    femspotter January 31, 2010 at 5:06 pm |

    I’m pregnant. James, should I stop writing my blog?

  25. femspotter
    femspotter January 31, 2010 at 5:19 pm |

    I and my baby thank you for that bouncing chuckle, Jill?

  26. james
    james January 31, 2010 at 5:59 pm |

    “I’m sorry; where did it say that woman’s priority was not going to be an education?”

    ‘When a 20-year-old orphan we’ve supported for many years had a baby, we revoked her scholarship… Now she wants to return to school.’

    The implication of the ‘now’ is clearly that there was a prior time when she didn’t wish to return to school.

    Look, I’ve no problem with the few women who can manage both labor/pregnancy and studying without compromising their education continuing to get whatever education benefits they’re entitled to. But whatever anecdotes you you want to throw out, I’m pretty confident these are exceptional cases and this isn’t usually what happens.

    “Having a baby… doesn’t mean you’re suddenly incapable of doing anything else. Sorry James. Your logic is flawed and really fucking sexist.”

    This is a general respose to PrettyAmiable/K/femspotter/Jill.

    Wow. I’m really not sure where to go from here… I know you’re all just maintaining a fiction, and you don’t honestly believe any of it. If you’re so sure I’m wrong about this, perhaps you should give student support offices a call and tell them their absence policies for student pregnancy aren’t needed? I mean, if you really felt that pregnancy/labor has no effect on your ability to maintain an educational workload – then that would be the natural conclusion. Wouldn’t it? Accomodation for it wouldn’t be required. But I somehow suspect if I suggested revoking these policies (and I’m not saying that, I’m merely saying if you’re not in education, you shouldn’t get an educational grant) you wouldn’t react well at all.

    You’ve got be stumped at how to react when I know you’re shamelessly attempting to have it both ways. Actually, yeah, you’re right. Pregnancy has no effect at all on your ability to stay in education at all. I’ll remember that for later on when you’ve found an example of a college not making enough accomodation for a pregnant student, have changed your tune about the effects of pregnancy, and have started moaning about that.

  27. femspotter
    femspotter January 31, 2010 at 6:34 pm |

    After some reflection, I do want to clarify – for James and others – that I’m not for educational scholarships given and maintained “not because (female recipients are) studying, but because they’re pregnant.” I don’t think that was the argument from anybody, James; that pregnancy means a greater right to education than other women and men are entitled to. But since the woman in question did ask to continue her scholarship, I took that to mean she intended to continue her studying as well. We’re disputing the idea that the educational opportunity is revoked due to pregnancy, not that the responsibilities for learning are relieved for the pregnant woman’s comfort. Pregnant women can and do study. (I keep thinking that James may just be an ignorant person, so I’m trying to give him the benefit of the doubt and educate him to the fact that labor is an ordeal that takes several hours and not the entire 10 months of the gestation.)

    Jill, that was meant to be an ! – stupid iPod Touch…stupid bloated fingers! :) And no, James, that wasn’t an admission of pregnancy inability.

  28. mh
    mh January 31, 2010 at 6:44 pm |

    FYI, this is the email I got in response to mine.

    Unfortunately the New York Times article inaccurately describes OFDC’s pregnancy policy.

    Our pregnancy policy applies to both girls and boys. If we find a boy who has impregnated a girl, he will no longer be funded by us through school. Granted, it is more difficult to detect, but we have not had the need to take action with our male students to date. We will not drop scholarship for girls who are raped or when birth control fails because we understand that unfortunate things can happen, especially to girls. We are sensitive to tradition and other issues when funding a girl who is or has been pregnant. We are always willing to listen to their stories and we don’t always stop funding them.

    We have supported a few girls who have had babies, especially through secondary education (high school). One girl in particular was married early and had a baby. She has since asked for our help to continue her education and we are more than willing to help her. We encourage birth control and it is very accessible to youth in Kenya, yet we do not try to control population. We are much more likely to fund a girl through school than a boy, which hardly punishes them or perpetuates the myth that they are unequal.

    The reason we have a pregnancy policy is because we have very little money to go around. Because we have so little money, if a college student we are supporting drops out to have a baby our money is wasted. If we cannot trust a student to be responsible sexually, we will have to use what little money we have toward the education of another student who will. If we had more money to go around, perhaps we wouldn’t need such a policy, but because we have so many people waiting in line for scholarships we have to be sure the people we fund will be responsible with the money they are getting. It is unfair to our donors and it is unfair to the students who are willing to take school seriously.

    You are welcome to donate to only those organizations you agree with, but understand our reasons for creating the policies. It may seem unfair, but it is necessary for us to have some controls because so many people want our help. We want to help the most people we can, but we cannot do that if our money is given to everyone who asks for it. If there are some choosing to be irresponsible with the funds given them, they are taking opportunity away from the other students who will be responsible. Sadly, there is just not enough money to go around.

    Thank you for your e-mail. It is always good to hear alternative points of view.

    Warm Regards,

    Sarah Berry
    Executive Director
    Opportunity Fund for Developing Countries (OFDC)
    4624 Brown Street
    Salt Lake City, UT 84107
    801-836-7265
    Celebrating over 10 years!
    http://www.ofdc.org

  29. Sailorman
    Sailorman January 31, 2010 at 7:00 pm |

    I wouldn’t make that choice myself, but I am not surprised someone has set it up that way. There are three types of charities, of which this is the third type:

    1) “Lift up the bottom” charities. Some people believe in giving most of the educational resources to the children who are farthest behind / slowest learners, because they need the most help. Or, they want to give the most medical help to the sickest people. Or, they want to give the most social help to the people most in trouble. And so on. They often award things based purely on need.

    2) “Same for everyone” charities. Some people believe in giving all children the same educational “value,” even though they will stratify as a result. Or, they want to give everyone the same type of social help, even though they will stratify as a result. They often award things based on geographic location or lottery.

    3) “Selective push” charities. Some people believe in giving the smrtest/fastest children the most education, because they’ll “do the most” with it. They believe in medical triage, preferring to spend the money on things like vaccination programs (cheap, usually incredibly high “lives saved per $$” value) instead of things like helping advanced cancer patients. Or socially, they believe in helping the most well-placed people try to step up a class level, because they’re the easiest ones to help and you can help more of them per dollar.I suspect that this is one of the “efficiency” charities. There are a lot of those: they try to maximize efficiency in giving out their dollars. They often award things based on tests, or cutoffs.

    I agree with many posters: young, pregnant, undereducated women are often in a bad spot. To some charities and many of the readers of this blog, their situation makes them more deserving of help. To other charities that focus on efficiency, the fact that their situation is worse or that they need extra help makes them less likely to get the dollars.

    I actually represent all three types of 501(c)(3) charities as part of my practice. And in addition to guessing that this is a “type 3″ charity, I’d also point out that if so, this is probably a zero-sum game. If SHE gets the scholarship, someone ELSE doesn’t get a scholarship. There is usually a fixed pool of money in this sort of situation. There is also usually a fairly specific goal, though not always.

    The interplay is where the economic thing comes in for Type 3 charities:

    Say your goal is to “raise the number of female college graduates.” Say your statistics show that young mothers succeed much less often than women who are not parents (2/3 in this entirely hypothetical example.) Then, someone on the board may ask “if $30,000 will get us three graduates on average, but will only get us two on average if they have children, then how does it meet our goals to give scholarships to women with children? Shouldn’t we spend the money on women without children?”

  30. evil_fizz
    evil_fizz January 31, 2010 at 7:09 pm |

    We will not drop scholarship for girls who are raped or when birth control fails because we understand that unfortunate things can happen, especially to girls.

    Which means that the charity believes that having unprotected sex means that you’re unworthy of continued education. I can now say with confidence that I will not be sending any charitable contributions in that direction.

    Also, can we stop with this whole “well, in Africa, it’s like this,”? The assumption/presumption meter ticks up awfully high when sentences like that are employed.

  31. Julie
    Julie January 31, 2010 at 8:08 pm |

    That email response is repulsive. Wow. Having been through labor three times, I can safely say that while it would prevent studying, it typically doesn’t last long enough to seriously interrupt one’s education. My labor for my son lasted less time than it takes to get a full night’s sleep. I was up walking within an hour and ready to go home the next day. Pregnancy, on the other hand, does not prevent studying (assuming all goes well) nor does having a child. It may make it a bit harder, but it’s certainly not impossible. I went back to school when I had a one year old and a three year old because I wanted to switch to a career that was more child friendly (i.e. one that would allow me to work a school schedule) and over the course of the last two years have managed to earn a 3.8 GPA in a very difficult major (speech language pathology), maintain part-time employment and raise two very independent children. Yet according to this charity, the fact that I had the audacity to get pregnant shows that I am less responsible than my classmates.There is no way I would consider sending even a dollar to such a charity.

  32. piny
    piny January 31, 2010 at 8:52 pm |

    And the bit about how “it hasn’t been necessary” to police the boys to date? Yes, well, YOU REALLY WOULDN’T KNOW THAT, would you? It makes no sense to assume that girls occasionally get pregnant but boys somehow haven’t been getting anyone pregnant.

  33. Sailorman
    Sailorman January 31, 2010 at 9:16 pm |

    Last paragraph got cut off:

    It’s good to have all three types of charities. It really is.

    That’s because it’s generally good when people give to charity. And people tend to give less to charity when they disagree with its underlying mission. And people are, well, different.

    Usually, the people donating time to the “teach 10th graders to read!” and the people donating time to the “Keats Club” are different people. Usually, the people donating money to the worse-off folks and the people donating money to help the top-level folks move up a class are different people.

    You get some overlap, sure, but not all that much. So if you were to insist that all charities focus on the worst-off people (or that they focus on efficient, thus ignoring the worse-off people in many cases) you don’t get people changing their charitable donations. They just stop making them.

    So in the end it’s all about goals and specificity. Do you want to spend money on educating young people? Or do you want to spend money on the general task of ‘helping’ young people? Choose carefully before you donate.

  34. P.T. Smith
    P.T. Smith January 31, 2010 at 9:44 pm |

    James,

    Just to be clear, you believe that having a guy having a child in no way affects his education? I’m glad you think he has no responsibility whatsoever.

    And you want to talk about fictions? How about the fiction that you’re doing anything besides being a condescending ass. “The few women” the “anecdotal evidence.” Anecdotal evidence may not be much, but it’s more than anything you’ve thrown out. And while we’re being assholes and talking about anecdotal evidence, let me just throw out that the one girl (that I knew/knew of) who had a child while in college wasn’t that bright, at all, and wasn’t an exceptionally dedicated student before the pregnancy, but she worked it all through fine. So if she was only “one of the few” I don’t think it’s so few.

  35. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub January 31, 2010 at 10:04 pm |

    I don’t get this. No matter how many women men impregnate it’s not going to make a jot of difference to their physical health and capability for studying. Women who get pregnant do have to go through labor which – from what I hear – is fairly physically arduous and is going to be a distraction from their studies.

    Wow, you and A Guy in Denver seem to be in competition for Most Assine Comment of 2010. Yes, pregnancy takes a toll on your body and can be physically risky, which is why women should be able to terminate if they so choose. But it does not make you unable to study or work. If that was the case, my mother would not have been able to work while she was pregnant with me. My cousins would not have been able to finish their degrees as they were pregnant. My two pregnant classmates would not have finished their master’s program a semester earlier than me.

    These excuses have been used to keep mothers out of the workforce and out of school, and it’s bullshit.

    And what PT said. One would hope that these men would actually be fathering these children instead of donating sperm. If that is the case, I doubt they’re going to have a full eight hours of sleep or as much time to devote to their studies.

  36. femspotter
    femspotter January 31, 2010 at 10:05 pm |

    James, I can only speak for myself and I believe that women shouldn’t be punished for having babies. It is our burden and our privilege. We are not sick people. We are creating/harboring life. I wish all men would just say things like “Thank you!” and “Let me get the door for you,” and “Would you like my seat on this bumpy subway ride, beautiful pregnant goddess?” But alas, only my husband says those things to me.

    “I’ll remember that for later on when you’ve found an example of a college not making enough (accommodation) for a pregnant student, have changed your tune about the effects of pregnancy, and have started moaning about that.”

    Your idea that I might later complain about a lack of accommodations is perhaps correct. When my belly impedes my ability to sit at a chair/desk combo, I might ask for a different seat. When my professor refuses to let me make up a test because I went into labor at an inconvenient time for him or her, I might call the dean’s office. Labor wasn’t intended to be my “get out of test free” card so I’m happy to take the test when I’m not giving birth.

    We all make concessions for each other. That’s just what good people do. We provide mobility vehicles for the handicapped and the obese and we pull over to the side of the road for ambulances and police cars. I once had a professor breastfeed her newborn in class. It didn’t impede my learning process. It didn’t exactly make me comfortable, but I respect her right to do with her body and baby what she needed to do.

    It’s fine with me if you think pregnant women are a strain on your healthy economy and life progress. But, again speaking for myself and as a pregnant person, I can tell you that my intention is not to damage you with my pregnancy.

  37. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable January 31, 2010 at 10:19 pm |

    I’m sorry James. Silly me and my silly anecdotal evidence. I simply forgot that you have better information regarding pregnant women in education. Tell me again about the statistics you have about recidivity for African women pursuing education while pregnant? I somehow missed that in your diatribe that confused our desire to not revoke the grant that allowed this woman to study simply because she was pregnant with giving this woman money because she’s pregnant.

    “‘When a 20-year-old orphan we’ve supported for many years had a baby, we revoked her scholarship… Now she wants to return to school.’

    The implication of the ‘now’ is clearly that there was a prior time when she didn’t wish to return to school.”

    Now could also mean that she couldn’t continue going because her scholarship was revoked. ;)

    And re: taking away pregnancy leave and my obvious “up in arms” reaction: people take leave for a number of reasons from the classroom. To rely on some more of my anecdotal evidence, I had a classmate who missed the entire last month of classes including finals and an intensive presentation week we do because his father passed. They let him make up finals when he was ready and he’s still set to graduate on time. Adjusting a schedule for a month doesn’t knock you off the path to graduation (or really – education, which ought to be the real goal).

  38. Julie
    Julie January 31, 2010 at 10:25 pm |

    There’s a difference between accommodations that help a little and unreasonable demands. I’m a mother that goes to school- when my daughter was at the ER with a kidney stone all night, my teacher gave me a one day extension on a test so that I didn’t have to take it on no sleep and stressed beyond belief. But you know what? I took a test the day they admitted my dad to the hospital with a life threatening condition, because as a mom I know that I have to save all my excused absences for the kids. And my classmates have gotten extensions for funerals/illnesses/parent hospitalizations, so I am not asking for anything above and beyond them. Pregnant women having healthy pregnancies need very little accommodations to successfully complete school- maybe a bigger desk, maybe being able to use an elevator rather than four flights of stairs, etc… Labor should be viewed as any other medical condition is- yeah, I might go into labor during a test but I may also have to have gallbladder surgery, or fall down playing soccer and break my ankle, or in my case have an asthma attack. Should we revoke any scholarships I have because I might go into an asthma attack and need extra time? Does that make me less responsible about school? Because I’ve missed more classes due to my asthma (it’s bitterly cold and my college is built on a gigantic hill) than I have my kids.

  39. Athenia
    Athenia January 31, 2010 at 11:02 pm |

    “Granted, it’s harder to detect [with boys.]”

    Lemme guess, you just whip out a DNA test and the problem is solved???? Yes???

  40. Rebecca
    Rebecca January 31, 2010 at 11:24 pm |

    The implication of the ‘now’ is clearly that there was a prior time when she didn’t wish to return to school.

    No, the implication is pretty clearly that the program kicked her out because she was pregnant.

    If you’re so sure I’m wrong about this, perhaps you should give student support offices a call and tell them their absence policies for student pregnancy aren’t needed? I mean, if you really felt that pregnancy/labor has no effect on your ability to maintain an educational workload – then that would be the natural conclusion.

    Of course. This is why scholarship programs also drop students who catch the flu.

  41. AK
    AK February 1, 2010 at 1:13 am |

    This article makes me sad. I am 6 months pregnant myself and currently on a very restricted lifestyle (by my standards anyway…I’m a very active person who now spends most of her day sitting on the couch!) due to complications. I am, however, in a very good situation–I am not legally married for complicated reasons, but the man I consider my husband and I have been together for more than 10 years. He makes a good living and we are able to live comfortably on one income, so I am able to stay at home during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and one of us will continue to stay at home for most of our child’s early life (I made a very good living before my pregnancy prevented me from working, too, so it is a bit up in the air which of us will stay at home–he actually would like it more than me I think, but it may be easier for me to stay at home rather than restart my business since I was self-employed and he is not).

    I was also pregnant once when I was 18, in an unhealthy an unstable relationship, and attending university. I would have most likely lost my scholarship if I had carried the child to term. I was on birth control, but it failed. Fortunately, I had the ability to get an abortion and had no moral qualms about it, so I was able to continue my scholarship.

    This is the hypocrisy I see in groups like this. I doubt they would be pro-abortion. Yet, their policies encourage women who accidentally become pregnant to get an abortion if they are able (I am not familiar with Kenyan law in this regard). To me, that’s not something a charity has a right to influence regardless of the legality. As a woman who has both had an abortion and is pregnant with a wanted child (although admittedly it came a bit earlier than we expected), I find it very offensive that they think they can determine what woman with child is capable of study, and which isn’t. I also resent the implication that unless it isn’t her “fault” (ie. forced into early marriage, birth control failure, rape), she does not deserve to both have a child and study.

    I don’t have a problem with them dropping a woman, or refusing to readmit, a woman who has had poor grades and shown a lack of interest in academics, regardless of whether she is pregnant or has a child or not. I do have a problem with the implication that baby=lazy student.

  42. lauredhel
    lauredhel February 1, 2010 at 10:24 am |

    The whole thing boils down to “We pay African women not to reproduce”. This sort of unethical, coercive faux-charity has long-standing roots in similarly racist, sexist, and eugenic efforts. The additional response about how they might not revoke if birth control fails or sex was forced makes it clear that there’s an strong element of slut-shaming thrown in for good measure. Ick ick ick.

  43. Anonymouse
    Anonymouse February 1, 2010 at 2:58 pm |

    While I’m not a fan of the policy in question, I do think that this charity does more good than harm. I took a quick look at the website and the kind of work they do– making micro-loans to women, offering scholarships and distributing necessities like wells and latrines– is work I support.

    I think Sailorman’s explanations of charity types and the response mh received to her (excellent) letter are illuminating. Charities have to do the best they can within some pretty harsh restraints, and while I personally would want to support student parents, I can still respect this group for doing important work under tough conditions. When there’s not enough resources to go around, decisions about who will and who will not receive aid are always going to be painful and difficult and distasteful. I might not make the same decisions as this group did, but I don’t think they are bad or oppressive because they made a tough call and tried to make the most of limited resources.

  44. ShelbyWoo
    ShelbyWoo February 1, 2010 at 4:34 pm |

    If you’re so sure I’m wrong about this, perhaps you should give student support offices a call and tell them their absence policies for student pregnancy aren’t needed?

    As someone who works in higher education, I can safely say there is no such thing as “absence policies for student pregnancy,” there are just plain ‘ole absence policies with no qualification on the cause of the absence (so, you know, covers everyone equally).

  45. ShelbyWoo
    ShelbyWoo February 1, 2010 at 4:35 pm |

    That should read:
    (so, you know, the policy covers everyone equally)

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