A Message From The Creator

A Message From The Creator

Women’s News: Cohabitation Is Lasting Longer, Becoming More Common, Report

Women’s News: Cohabitation Is Lasting Longer, Becoming More Common, Report

Women’s News: What I Learned From Being Sort Of Married

Women’s News: What I Learned From Being Sort Of Married

Women’s News: What I Learned From Being Sort Of Married


Jennifer Armstrong

Author, pop culture writer, co-founder, SexyFeminist.com

Last July, my boyfriend Jesse and I moved in together. The next day, we went to New York City Hall and got “gay married” — that is, we became (heterosexual) domestic partners. We’re among the many straight couples who have become legally linked, mostly for health insurance and other practical reasons, since domestic partnership became an option in several states as the closest alternative to marriage for gay couples. Now that the Supreme Court is debating the legalities of full-fledged gay marriage, we’re also pondering whether we’ll “have to” get hitched to maintain our benefits, should national marriage equality become a reality. In fact, we know one couple who already got married after losing their health insurance coverage once New York legalized same-sex marriage.

Of course, we’re unequivocally in favor of marriage equality. But this lower “level” of commitment has been worth something in its own right to us — not just for the health benefits, but for the ways it helped us see exactly what we wanted from our relationship.

As wary 30-something New Yorkers, Jesse and I built our couplehood in careful, meticulously plotted, much-debated steps. Even the regular practice of spending the night at each other’s places was up for debate. (We’re really into having our own space and alone time.) We waited ten months before exchanging “I love you”s. We declared our reticence about marriage early and often. Eventually, sleepovers became a practical necessity as well as a key bonding experience. That “I love you” felt real and earned. We became domestic partners when we realized that said status would allow me to be on his health insurance and give us at least a chance of proving our standing with each other in the event of, say, a hospitalization or death. (Also: We can rent cars together without an extra fee!) Of course we wouldn’t have done it if the commitment level weren’t there, but we also wouldn’t have done it if we didn’t have reason to.

And marriage? We’re still saying only if we have to, though that seems like it’s possibly in our future.

That “only if we have to” attitude about each stage of our relationship has lent it a deliberate quality we both take comfort in. We’re analytical people. Call us cold commitmentphobes if you like, but investigating domestic partnership has given me a better understanding of marriage — and even, in a way, made it more romantic to me. What can I say? Having almost gotten married once before, having a say over each other’s do-not-resuscitate orders and sharing our assets without tax penalties sound far more romantic than picking out bridal bouquets and paying too much for cake. Here, a few things I’ve learned about marriage from being domestic partnered:

Domestic partnership is not marriage. We chose it as the simplest, quickest alternative so we could stop paying more than $600 per month for my COBRA health coverage. But no institutions are required to recognize domestic partners’ legal status; many companies simply choose to. Hospitals don’t have to give you a say in your partner’s care and the status doesn’t hold up in court for much. Marriage, in fact, instantly confers more than a thousand benefits and advantages to those who undertake it. Speaking of which …

People get married for good reason! I scoff at the gauzy, taffeta, compulsory nature of heterosexual life commitment. I resist its patriarchal underpinnings. But damn, married people get a lot of great stuff! There are those thousand-plus rights, possible tax advantages (though you don’t always win by filing jointly, I’ve learned), massive legal simplifications if things go badly and gifts! We have a decent income as successful professionals, but we’d get our new apartment in order faster if we could register.

Divorce is a bitch. Obviously, it would be emotionally draining to split up from the person you thought was the love of your life — I truly have a hard time entertaining the idea of someday living without Jesse. But I also know how life goes, and I’m a staunch realist. Having watched others go through New York’s divorce process, complete with a year-long cooling-off period before making it official, I am not eager to participate. So far, this difficulty has served as the main impediment to any marriage plans for us. That’s why I love the ideas that have been floated, at least in theoretical circles, for more sweeping marriage reform than just allowing for gay couples. “Temporary marriage,” “group marriage” and easier divorces are among them, as this New York Times piece points out. I particularly like the idea of making civil unions the nationally recognized form, and letting people figure out privately what “marriage” is to them.

Weddings are at least part of the problem with marriage. A Marie Claire piece even showed that more couples are simply getting “permanently engaged” as a way to show their commitment without dealing with all the tulle. I understand the allure of that arrangement, though it strikes me as self-defeating. You’re doing this to demonstrate your commitment to the world, to ask society to recognize your status as a couple, but it seems all a permanent engagement would invite is people constantly haranguing you about when the big day is. I dragged my own ill-fated engagement out, so I know. I personally prefer either going through with marriage or taking a stand against it. For Jesse and me, just figuring out that we don’t need a big white ceremony made us consider marriage more seriously. When he came up with the idea that we could have a small ceremony at our Zen Buddhist temple, wearing our black robes, with vows given by our teacher, that had me pondering a wedding seriously for the first time since I swore off marriage. And who knows? Maybe someday it will happen — if we have to, and we want to.

Read More:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jennifer-armstrong/what-i-learned-from-being-sort-of-married_b_3037974.html?utm_hp_ref=women&ir=Women



Women’s News: Cohabitation Is Lasting Longer, Becoming More Common, Report

Multi-ethnic couple sitting on floor

The Huffington Post  |  By 

Forget marriage? Not exactly, but according to a new survey, cohabitating with a significant other is practically a prerequisite for walking down the aisle later on.The survey also showed that younger women are more likely to be living with a significant other than they are to be living alone or living with a spouse, reported the Los Angeles Times. If you’re a member of this demographic, this data may seem like common sense, but it represents a marked change over the last 20 years.

The report, which was released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on April 4th, used data collected from phone interviews with 12,279 women between 2006 and 2010 for the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG). All of the women surveyed were between the ages of 15 and 44. Men were interviewed as well, but this report focused primarily on the data collected from women. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Forty-eight percent of the women surveyed reported that they were unmarried and cohabitating with a significant other. In 1995, only 34 percent of women reported the same.
  • Lots of women get pregnant while they’re living with a significant other. Nearly 20 percent of cohabitating ladies got pregnant within one year of said cohabitation.
  • The increase in premarital cohabitation was fairly universal. The CDC found that women of all races were more likely to be living with a significant other now, with the exception Asian women.
  • More educated women were less likely to shack up with a boyfriend or girlfriend before marriage. Only 47 percent of women with at least a bachelor’s degree reported cohabitating, in contrast to 70 percent of women who had not received a high school diploma.
  • Cohabitation is definitely a stepping stone for many on the way to marriage — but not for everyone. Forty percent of first premarital cohabitations became marriages within three years. Thirty-two percent stayed cohabitation situations after three years, and 27 percent of cohabitating couples surveyed had broken up during that time.
  • White women had the shortest premarital cohabitations on average (19 months). Hispanic women who were born outside of the United States had the longest on average (33 months).

The results seem to support a link between socioeconomics and aversion to marriage. A December 2011 study conducted by researchers from Cornell University and the University of Central Oklahoma also found that lower-income women were less likely to get married or express a desire to get married. “For poorer women who tended to feel that marriage was a trap, many reported fearing that a legal union would lead to extra work and responsibilities on their part, without any additional benefits,” reported TIME.

But while some may cohabitate out of a fear of or aversion to marriage, others simply see it as a necessary step in a romantic relationship. Blogger Natasha Burton wrote about her own experience of cohabitation in a blog for The Huffington Post in April 2012:

Read More:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/09/cohabitation-is-lasting-l_n_3043212.html?utm_hp_ref=women&ir=Women


A Message From The Creator


Women’s Health: ‘May I Please Have Some Water?’


Kara Gerson

Executive Director, Voss Foundation

“May I please have some water? Would you be so kind to direct me to the bathroom?” Such are the pressing questions on my mind these days. It’s to be expected: after all, I am nine months pregnant. But, wow, am I lucky to be pregnant in New York City and not in Sub-Saharan Africa. I think about that a lot.

I understand the other women in my pre-natal yoga class might not count their blessings every time they get a drink or flush a toilet, but as the Executive Director of Voss Foundation, it’s always on my mind.

Voss Foundation’s mission is to provide access to clean water to communities in Sub-Saharan Africa and to raise awareness of the ongoing need in the region. We help fulfill communities’ water requirements and, once basic needs are met, we focus on the self-improvement of lives and communities, in particular in the context of women.

As we recently celebrated World Water Day and approach Mother’s Day, we are aware of the struggles women face around the world. Imagine, for a moment, the lifecycle of a rural African woman without access to clean water.

I imagine being pregnant in one of the communities I’ve visited across the continent, walking up to ten miles a day (source), carrying buckets weighing as much as 40 pounds on my head (source), probably with another child wrapped around me. I wouldn’t be able to take a drink of water without risking deadly illnesses to my unborn child and myself. And I certainly couldn’t use a nice, clean flushable toilet or wash my hands afterward. Carrying such a heavy load over long distances has detrimental health effects, including back and chest pains, developmental deformities for growing children, arthritic disease, and miscarriages.

There wouldn’t be much clean water available for my labor and delivery — for washing, sterile instruments and certainly not for water births that are so popular in the U.S. and Europe lately. Should I require emergency obstetric medical attention, even if I were lucky enough to live within walking distance of a rural health facility, it’s unlikely they would have fresh water onsite or, therefore, be hygienic. Most women bring their own water to the clinic. No wonder 36 of the 40 countries with the highest maternal death rates are in sub-Saharan Africa (source).

If I have a daughter, what would her life be like? She would start with negligible survival odds. The World Bank estimates that 6,000 children die every day from a lack of access to clean water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene (source). That’s more than from HIV/AIDS, malaria, and measles combined. If she did get sick, she couldn’t be treated in sanitary facilities or even take medicine with fresh water.

Hopefully she’d survive, thrive and be able to go to school. But soon, she’d have to help me get water in the mornings before class starts. I’d have to make sure she filled a jug to take to school, as there probably wouldn’t be any water onsite, but at least she’d be learning. I’m sure I’d be a progressive parent who felt strongly about my daughter getting an education… but, what would we do when our family had grown so large that I couldn’t carry enough water alone every day to meet our needs?

If some of us got sick with cholera, who would help me take care of everyone and go fetch more of that cholera-tainted water? My daughter would have to miss class to help me keep our family alive — and might ultimately drop out all together. And, while walking the many kilometers back and forth the creek or water hold, we’d be subject to rape and violence.

If my daughter were able to stay in school for a while, odds are she’d have to drop out when she reached puberty. Without sanitation and hygiene facilities at home and school, it might be too embarrassing for her to attend once she got her period. The International Museum of Women cites the statistic that one in ten girls will miss school or drop out altogether because of menstruation. (source)

Now my adolescent daughter would be out of school and the cycle would start all over again: she would marry young because, without an education, she no longer represents much value to our family; she would be pregnant early (without clean water); give birth (without clean water); start carrying buckets to care for her own family; and on and on.

Does it have to be this way? No.

Voss Foundation can break the cycle giving priority to the role and needs of women when planning our clean water projects in Sub-Saharan Africa. We call it The Ripple Effect of Clean Water,

More girls involved in all of our projects have the opportunity to go to school and receive uninterrupted education. Our well in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the first in the region, is the only source of clean water for the Georges Malaika Foundation‘s School for Girls, serving the school, toilets, sinks, health center, and agricultural garden.

According to the World Bank, each year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent. Robert Gallucci, president of the MacArthur Foundation, has found that girls with higher levels of education marry later, have smaller families, survive childbirth at higher rates, experience reduced incidences of HIV/AIDS, have children more likely to survive to age five and earn more money. (source) Moreover, in each one of our water projects, we ask that the water management committees are composed of at least 50% women, helping them gain political power.

By monitoring our projects for years after implementation, we see just how life-changing our clean water, sanitation, and hygiene interventions are.

In Swari, Kenya, Voss Foundation reduced the distance to the nearest water source from over three miles to approximately half a mile. Collecting water is no longer as laborious and dangerous a task. Women benefit from greater access to health services. The local government decided to build a clinic in Swari and a new maternity wing in Latakwen, the site of our first Kenyan water project, thanks to our project.

Our 2012 Women Helping Women clean water project in Swaziland was actually proposed by groups of female artisans who came together to ask for clean water, sanitation, and hygiene. They knew clean water would make them and their families healthier, ultimately more economically successful and empowered. Numerous studies demonstrate that women reinvest in their families and communities at much higher rates than men, thereby raising regional output and eventually GDP by major factors. (source)

Through our Women Helping Women campaigns around the world, we have created a direct connection between female donors and beneficiaries. We have brought women donors to meet the women whose lives they have affected, a life-altering experience for all. (You can see for yourself in the photos from our Women Helping Women trips to Swari and Ndonyo Nasipa!)

Learn more about our Women Helping Women efforts and consider joining us this year at one of Voss Foundation’s signature Women Helping Women events in Boston, Oslo, San Francisco and New York.

Or start your own!

This Mother’s Day please take a moment to remember what we can do to give women and girls in Africa access to their most basic needs. The water that Voss Foundation wells provide is the engine for growth that empowers those women and girls with the chance and momentum they need to thrive.

Sometime amidst all of these events, I will give birth to a baby. In a clean, hygienic environment. I hope the baby is healthy, but of course I don’t know for sure. What I do know is that my baby won’t die, get sick or be disadvantaged because of a lack of fresh water and sanitation. I know this is a luxury I can expect him or her to enjoy throughout life in a developed country. I also know that the women I have not yet met through my project site visits to Africa won’t enjoy such luxury. At least, not without your help…

Read More:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kara-gerson/womens-health-clean-water_b_3044467.html?utm_hp_ref=womens-health

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