when a body loves a body

There were protesters outside the local Planned Parenthood clinic again this week. And, also again, a group of women in bright pink escort vests arrayed quietly along the front of the building, a buffer to the hate and madness.

These protests have ebbed and waned over the 15-some years I have lived in Philly, but they are clearly on the rise again. When I first moved here from Texas, I remember being shocked to see Planned Parenthood locations advertising on local TV, out in the open and unafraid. It expanded my vision of what became possible when we who believe in equal bodily rights and the full social participation of women were not forced to accept shaming and violence as “normal” responses to our stance. As mere “business as usual.”

On Wednesday​, as I do every time, I crossed the street to thank the escorts for being there. We shook hands and chatted​ for a moment, as I told them how glad I was to see them and how much their service means to us in the community. (We ignored​ the row of dusty old men standing behind me, muttering imprecations related to dead babies and our clearly-frozen souls.) Since this was a weekday morning, the women were all older—retired, or of an age to be so.

A phalanx of grandmas, holding the line.

Window across the street from the clinic.

13 Partly-Feminist Ideas for What to Write About When You’ve Decided to Do a Cleanse


I’m supposed to be doing a cleanse this week.

Nothing quacky or dietary-related—I promise I am not going all-juice or detoxifying my elecrolytes or any other form of woo approved only by the Dr. Oz School of Better Health Through Gargling Snake Oil—just a one-week poetry cleanse organized by a writer friend that I leapt to volunteer for. I’ve got too many unwritten words jamming up my brain right now, like rotting leaves clogging a suburban home’s gutters, and an accountability system encouraging me to get at least a few of those words out and on paper each day sounded like just what the doctor^ ordered.

[^Again, not Dr. Oz.]

According to the rules of the cleanse, I agree to write one poem (or bit of a poem, or even one single line of poetry) each day, and send it out to the group by midnight. That’s it.

We’re on day 4 of 7. I’ve managed to write only once.

Sometimes a clog is so acute that low-commitment sluicing is insufficient to break through. Daily venting ain’t enough to get the job done. In these cases, best to take a roto-rooter to the whole situation—and brace yourself for whatever mess results.

And in that spirit, as my offering to the great and terrible gods of Roto-Rootering and Writer’s Clog, allow me to present:

Alice’s Listicle of Things She’d Be Writing About Right Now If Only Her Head Were Feeling A Bit More Cooperative and, Yknow, Language-y 

Continue reading “13 Partly-Feminist Ideas for What to Write About When You’ve Decided to Do a Cleanse”

Respectfully Yours, Alice

ABOVE: Senate Republicans making a reasoned argument about women’s reproductive health

In the wake of Thursday’s (probably toothless but definitely symbolic) Senate vote to defund Planned Parenthood, a point of clarification:

Any statement akin to “legal abortion is an issue on which people can sincerely and respectfully disagree” is horseshit.

While you and I may hold differing opinions about whether or not we personally — as individuals — would ever choose to have an abortion, the question of whether or not pregnant people as a whole deserve the right to make that decision, each for themselves, is not an issue up for respectful disagreement.

If I choose to carry a pregnancy to term, at a bare minimum I am consenting to nine months of physical and emotional transformation, much of it potentially painful, at the end of which I may find my muscles and flesh ripped or cut open. I may have my entire abdomen surgically opened. The whole experience will leave me permanently physically altered, perhaps permanently physically impaired. Perhaps dead. And that’s without even addressing pregnancy’s emotional and financial costs, or the emotional, physical, and financial implications of what follows giving birth.

If politicians think — if ANYONE thinks — that any thoughts other than the pregnant person’s own carry weight on such an issue, they are categorically wrong. Holding a contrary opinion is not only irrelevant, it is obscenely disrespectful to the body and person of another human being.

And no amount of sincerity in the world can change that.



A Brief PSA

I believe no one should face violence or intimidation in order to access — or to provide — safe, affordable, and evidence-based reproductive health care.

On Saturday, Dec 5, please join me and others in standing with Planned Parenthood on the National Day of Solidarity to show support for safe and accessible reproductive health care, including abortion.

# # #

Image of “howler monkees doing their thing” by Steve from washington, dc [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via

Just Because the Book’s Not Pornographic, Don’t Assume There’s Nothing Obscene Going On

As a former high school English teacher — and longtime analyst of the US’s weird dance between puritanical prudery and enthusiastic sexualizing of…well, EVERYTHING — I shall forever find entertaining the books parents want to ban their children (and everyone else’s) from reading. I mean, the most challenged book of 2013 was Captain Underpants, for heaven’s sake. Captain Underpants!

So this recent headline was guaranteed to catch my eye: Tennessee Mom Calls Book On Cervical Cancer Cells ‘Pornographic’

Turns out the book in question is Rebecca Skloot’s New York Times bestseller, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, described by the author as “a story of race and medicine, bioethics, science illiteracy, the importance of education and equality and science and so much more.”

immortal life_skloot

I’ll come back to Henrietta Lacks (and why you should know who she is, if you don’t already) in just a moment. First I need to alert everyone to Tennessee Mom’s disturbing discoveries: Bodies have insides.

Those insides have organs. 

And sometimes those organs develop cancer. 

If this is ‘porn,’ I’ve been doing masturbation all wrong

The mother’s objection to this book being read by her 15yo son [and, lest we forget, by all his classmates at a Knoxville magnet school for STEM education — and all the other students in Knox County, period] centers on two passages: 1) the first describing infidelity on the part of Henrietta’s husband, and 2) the other detailing the moment in which Lacks discovers the lump on her cervix.

Curious to hear the wording that’s too “graphic” for teenagers? Cuz I sure was! Thankfully, The Guardian‘s got us covered:

Continue reading “Just Because the Book’s Not Pornographic, Don’t Assume There’s Nothing Obscene Going On”

I Stand with Planned Parenthood


This is some major bullshit.

This is some major misogynistic, woman-hating, femme-hating, people-with-uteruses-hating, poor-people-hating, body-hating, science-hating, health-hating, sex-hating, pleasure-hating, family-hating, love-hating, life-hating, liberation-hating bullshit. 

And I am out of words to express my outrage and contempt.

So I’ma let Cameron Esposito handle business for me today. You’re welcome.

[Featured image via. ]

Alice Gives Career Advice for the Mental Health Care Professional

[CN: mental illness, self-injury, sexual violence.]

It’s been almost a quarter-century since I first began seeking out professional help to correct the undefined something that was going terribly wrong inside my head. During those 24 years of searching-but-rarely-finding, I have worked with 9 therapists, social workers, and psychologists; consulted with over 12 psychiatrists and psychiatrists-in-training; and been prescribed more pills, poppers, and potions than I have fingers and toes (or maybe brain cells) with which to count.

I submit to you: this qualifies me as having a certain expertise. 

Mostly it’s expertise in how to go slowly mad. But — work with what ya got, right?

Everything that follows draws from my own experiences (some of which has also occurred to friends and acquaintances). Consider it all contraindicated! Though, I suppose, one could follow the advice as written. Maybe you like to live on the edge.

You’ll certainly find greater madness out there.


Initial Diagnosis


Assume every client is depressed, until proven otherwise.

If, at some later point in time, your client starts describing symptoms not consistent with depression, criticize her choice of language and chastise her for disrespecting your profession.


Once you’ve reduced a client to sobs through a lengthy interrogation about her family of origin, conclude with: “You have not said anything that proves to me your father would not love and support you, no matter what you do.” Let her know that your diagnosis will be based in part on the irrational anger she displays towards her father.

Feel confirmed in your assessment when the client now begins displaying an irrational anger towards you.  Continue reading “Alice Gives Career Advice for the Mental Health Care Professional”