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Ballet Flunks Gender Diversity Again

Let’s get one thing straight – I’m a big fan of Misty Copeland and Justin Peck - as dancer and choreographer. 
As curators of ballet festivals, not so much. Copeland and Peck were invited by the Kennedy Center to curate Ballet Across America. I don’t have a quarrel with the companies they selected – they are diverse and from across America.
But… the choreographers? ALL MALE.
What were they thinking?
Clearly, they weren’t thinking. Which is a condition endemic in the ballet world where men rule and women follow orders. Even women, like Misty Copeland, seemingly have become so accustomed to the patriarchy that they reflectively choose male choreographers when given the chance to promote female choreography.
Why not pick ballet companies for Ballet Across America that actually promote female choreography? There are a few out there. Cincinnati Ballet springs to mind – their next season has half female choreographers. Ballet West is producing a festival next year with female-led companies and choreographers. Even New York City Ballet, Justin Peck’s home company, has commissioned two female choreographers for their last opening night gala and for their next. And ABT, Misty Copeland’s home company, has an active female choreography commissioning program.
Message to Misty and Justin – women can choreograph. Let them prove it.
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San Francisco Review of Books: Interview: Alexander Sanger says "firm determinati...
San Francisco Review of Books: Interview: Alexander Sanger says "firm determinati...: This is the final article of my discussion with Alexander Sanger. The  first ,  second , and third  pieces are available on-line.   Story ...
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San Francisco Review of Books: Interview: Alexander Sanger explains how his grand...
San Francisco Review of Books: Interview: Alexander Sanger explains how his grand...: This is the third of four articles spanning my discussion with Alexander Sanger. The  first  and  second pieces are available on-line.   ...
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San Francisco Review of Books: Opinion: Margaret Sanger -- Humanitarian, Republic...
San Francisco Review of Books: Opinion: Margaret Sanger -- Humanitarian, Republic...: Margaret Sanger: Humanitarian, Republican, American Hero Commentary by Joseph Ford Cotto Few people seem to attract the level of derisi...
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Interview in San Francisco Review of Books

Interview: Alexander Sanger says "efforts to shut down Planned Parenthood" threaten "women’s health at large", explains why

This is the second of four articles spanning my discussion with Alexander Sanger. The first piece is available on-line. 
Story by Joseph Ford Cotto
Who was Margaret Sanger?
"Margaret Sanger devoted her life to legalizing birth control and making it universally available for women," PBS said of her in its American Experience series. "Born in 1879, Sanger came of age during the heyday of the Comstock Act, a federal statute that criminalized contraceptives. Margaret Sanger believed that the only way to change the law was to break it. 
"Starting in the 1910s, Sanger actively challenged federal and state Comstock laws to bring birth control information and contraceptive devices to women. Her fervent ambition was to find the perfect contraceptive to relieve women from the horrible strain of repeated, unwanted pregnancies."
This is merely the tip of the iceberg, though. Sanger's activism was borne from observation, which led her to believe that the larger a family is, the less resources its members will generally enjoy. By promoting population stability, she reasoned, the world would be made a better place.
As the overwhelming popularity of contraceptives, prophylactics, and, to a lesser extent, abortion as well as sterilization evinces, Sanger was on to something. Planning a family, rather than falling victim to nature, proved an immensely beneficial effort -- perhaps the most integral element of rising above generational poverty.
No wonder that Sanger was the founder of Planned Parenthood.
It is also hardly surprising that she was met by the forces of reaction -- politicians, religions, and others who wanted to maintain the status quo. With an ever-growing group of people kept ignorant by circumstance, traditional authorities were able to profit off misery and prevent the masses from taking life into their own hands. Sanger offered them a powerful tool in building a brighter future, which aggravated the cloud manufacturers to no end.
"My grandmother was arrested when she first opened America’s first birth control clinic in Brownsville, Brooklyn, in 1916," Margaret's grandson, Alexander, explains on his website. "At that time, birth control was illegal and reproductive rights did not exist. Two generations later, we are still fighting for the right to talk frankly with women about their reproductive health care and options regarding pregnancy and to give them the services they need."
Though she has been dead for nearly half a century, controversy over her legacy rages on; manufactured by the philosophical descendants of Comstock supporters.
"My grandmother was arrested when she first opened America’s first birth control clinic in Brownsville, Brooklyn, in 1916," Margaret's grandson, Alexander Sanger, explains on his website. "At that time, birth control was illegal and reproductive rights did not exist. Two generations later, we are still fighting for the right to talk frankly with women about their reproductive health care and options regarding pregnancy and to give them the services they need."
The junior Sanger continues in his family tradition. As the International Planned Parenthood Council's chair, he travels the world -- parts of it tourists hardly ever visit -- to promote family planning. While his job is far from easy, he and his coworkers see the results of their efforts in real time; smaller, stabler, more educated family units. 
Sanger recently spoke with me about many issues relative to population stability and his grandmother's legacy. Some of our conversation is included below.


Joseph Ford Cotto: Over the last few years, there has been a massive push against abortion rights. Among other things, this has included the defunding of many Planned Parenthood programs. What is the socioeconomic cost of making abortions less available to those in need of them?

Alexander Sanger: First, I’d like to say that the efforts to shut down Planned Parenthood are not only a threat to abortion rights, but to women’s health at large.  Millions of women, men and young people use Planned Parenthood each year--for many of them, Planned Parenthood is the only health care provider they can afford to see.  And it’s important to note that every poll shows the majority of Americans support Planned Parenthood and strongly oppose these attacks--nearly half of Trump’s own supporters don’t want to see Planned Parenthood defunded.  

Those hurt the most would be those struggling to get by and also individuals who already face tremendous barriers to accessing health care--especially people of color, low-income people and those who live in rural areas.  Without Planned Parenthood, many patients would have nowhere else to go for care-- not just abortion services but preventative care like breast and cervical cancer screenings and reliable contraception which reduces the need for abortion.  

Cotto: Religious belief seems to be a key aspect of many people's opposition to reproductive rights. From your perspective, is this actually the case, or simply a stereotype?

Sanger: I think its a generalization to say that opposition to reproductive rights is only driven by religious beliefs.  For example, I currently sit on the board of International Planned Parenthood/Western Hemisphere Region, a network of local organizations that provide sexuality education and reproductive health care throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, a region that has historically been predominantly Catholic.  There was much resistance when we first began distributing contraception, but today, several of our local members work in partnership with faith-based organizations to provide information, education, and services.  

I think that deep-rooted sexism is at the core of opposition to reproductive rights, and our society’s double standard when it comes to women’s sexuality.  These types of antiquated attitudes come in all shapes and sizes and religions, and we actively try to break these down through our educational programs.  And I believe we will one day.

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Gender Progress in Ballet

Dana Genshaft’s, Chromatic Fantasy set to the music of Dave Brubeck’s Chaconne from Chromatic Fantasy premiered Friday night at the NYU Skirball Center. Ms. Genshaft was looking - actually squinting - at the sun one day and saw all the colors of the rainbow wavering before her. The ensuing ballet and her search for the right music sprung from this moment. Six dancers - three men, three women - from the ABT Studio Company dressed in different chromatic colors weaved in and out of the music, at times with it and at others at a contrapuntal rhythm. Pairs swapped with ease and trios emerged only to dissolve quickly. The dance propelled, though there were quieter sections, and the colors flowed. A work of beauty and energy resulted.
This work is Genshaft’s first for ABT. Kevin McKenzie, the artistic director of ABT, to his and its credit, is making a concerted effort to commission new works by female choreographers. Last fall it premiered Jessica Lang’s, Her Notes, set to the music of Fanny Mendelssohn, sister of Felix. It was a total success and has been added to the ABT repertoire. Other commissions by female choreographers are in the works at ABT, which is determined to smash the glass slipper. Genshaft more than proved her chops on a program that also featured such luminary choreographers as Frederick Ashton, Helgi Tomasson, Kenneth MacMillan and Liam Scarlett. That she was the only female choreographer is worthy of note only because usually there are none on the programs of any American ballet company. Genshaft was previously a soloist at San Francisco Ballet and teaches choreography in the school there. She is richly deserving of more commissions, including from her home company, which has yet to recognize her home grown talent. Kudos to Kevin McKenzie and ABT for doing so. And kudos also to ABT for commissioning its star, Marcelo Gomes, who gave the New York City premier of his ballet set to Kabalevsky Violin Concerto. 
The gender disparity starts early in ballet. The Saturday afternoon performance was family friendly and there were, by my guess, over 100 children in attendance. I counted three boys. The rest girls. Change needs to come at all levels of ballet.
Note: the author is a trustee of the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, which funds commissions of choreographic works by emerging female choreographers.
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Why Trump's Global Gag Rule international abortion restrictions are so dangerous
The Global Gag Rule is like a cartoon character, no sooner squashed by a falling boulder than it emerges from under the rock that fell on it and goes on its un-merry way, leaving destruction in its path. It was instituted by Ronald Reagan in 1984, overturned by Bill Clinton, reinstated by George W. Bush, overturned by Barack Obama and now has been reinstated by Donald Trump.
Previous versions of the Global Gag Rule, or Mexico City Policy, prohibited U.S. providers of foreign contraceptive aid from using their own funding to providing abortion counseling, services or referrals — even in countries where abortion is legal. Organizations were also prohibited from advocating to decriminalize abortion. Trump’s new “super gag rule” takes the unprecedented step of extending the rule to “all global health assistance,” jeopardizing as much as $9 billion in federal aid for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, Zika, children’s health and other life-saving programs.
But here’s the most insidious part of the rule: Organizations were already prohibited from using U.S. funding for abortion-related services and advocacy, thanks to the 1973 Helms Amendment. The Gag Rule takes the harmful and unnecessary step of dictating what organizations can or can’t spend the rest of their budgets on.
The Global Gag Rule restricts medical professionals in economically developing countries from giving impartial medical advice to their patients, denying them information about avoiding risks and prohibiting informed decisionmaking by women about childbearing. On Monday, the International Planned Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere Region, which oversees sexual and reproductive health programs in the Americas and Caribbean, affirmed that it will not sign the Gag Rule, stating that “Putting a ‘gag order’ on local providers who know the specific laws and needs of their communities is arrogant and flies in the face of common sense and reason.”
The fact is: The Global Gag Rule has been shown to increase abortions worldwide. When the U.S. cuts off the supply of contraceptives, many people in the developing world are forced to go without them. Abortion rates in Sub-Saharan Africa more than doubled after George W. Bush reinstated the Gag Rule.
The Guttmacher Institute found that in 2016, U.S. funding for contraceptives prevented more than 2 million unsafe abortions and 6 million unintended pregnancies, and helped prevent 11,000 maternal deaths worldwide. The Trump-Pence Administration simply ignores the obvious truth that contraception reduces abortions; bans don’t.
Does the President care? No. His aim is to punish women and organizations that serve them — because we stand up for the right to impartial information and dignified and voluntary medical services, including safe abortion. Over the weekend, I marched side-by-side with millions of women across the world to affirm that women’s rights are human rights. Men must stand in solidarity with women to oppose this rule. We cannot abide by a policy that denies a basic human right and puts women’s lives at risk.
Sanger, the grandson of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, is the current chair of the International Planned Parenthood Council. He was the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood-New York City for 10 years.
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Why I March
When I was in college in 1966, a dear friend who I had not seen in a year told me she was pregnant and needed an abortion. She was desperate-and broke. Abortion was illegal. I asked around and got the name of a physician in Washington, D.C., called him, made the arrangements and raised the money for my friend. The doctor turned out to be professional and everything went as smoothly as it could given the circumstances, but I decided that I would do everything I could to ensure no other woman went through what my friend endured. In a way, the experience awakened my social conscience.
I gave my first reproductive rights speech in 1969. I have devoted the last 30 years of my professional life to reproductive and sexual freedom and rights with Planned Parenthood of New York City and with International Planned Parenthood Federation. I was at Cairo for the International Conference on Population and Development in 1994, where women were put at the center of the development agenda and in Beijing for the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995, where Hillary Clinton proclaimed that Women’s Rights were Human Rights. Women around the world today are in the same position my friend was in this country in 1967. There weren’t a lot of men in Beijing but I was proud to be there and to speak at the NGO Forum on the role of men in women’s rights. We are all in this fight together.
And I am proud to join women and men from throughout the country, throughout the world in our collective roar for women’s rights.

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Alexander Sanger
Alexander C. Sanger, the grandson of Margaret Sanger, who founded the birth control movement over eighty years ago, is currently Chair of the International Planned Parenthood Council.
Mr. Sanger previously served as the President of Planned Parenthood of New York City (PPNYC) and its international arm, The Margaret Sanger Center International (MSCI) for ten years from 1991 - 2000.

Mr. Sanger speaks around the country and the world and has served as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund.

Beyond Choice
Beyond Choice
The new book by Alexander Sanger published by PublicAffairs

Purchase from

Click here for full book information

With reproductive freedom in jeopardy, Alexander Sanger, grandson of renowned family planning advocate Margaret Sanger and a longtime leader in the reproductive rights movement, has taken an urgent, fresh look at the pro-choice position—and even the pro-life position—and finds them necessary, but insufficient. In Beyond Choice he offers the first major re-thinking of these positions in thirty years.

“Well researched and readable, Beyond Choice should be required reading for both pro-choice and pro-life supporters.”
—Governor Christine Todd Whitman


» Much more on Beyond Choice, including an excerpt, discussion guides, reviews
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External Links
» Eugenics, Race, and Margaret sanger Revisited: Reproductive Freedom for All?
Hypatia, Indiana University Press
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Tina Morlock, Oklahoma City Pioneer

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Paul Swiech, The Pantagraph

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Elaine Hopkins, The Journal Star

» Women's Studies seminar covers controversial topic
Jamie Smith, The Daily Vidette

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Dahlia Weinstein, Rocky Mountain News
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External Links
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» When Sex Counts: Making Babies and Making Law, by Sherry Colb