The Feldenkrais Method, Sex, and Legislative Artfulness in Oklahoma
Thursday, June 23, 2016
by: Molly Gibb, GCFP

Section: Keeping it Legal

Senate Bill 687 had been coming down the pike for some time. A similar bill to regulate the massage profession had been authored three years prior by House Representative Marian Cooksey. At that time, her male counterparts failed to grasp her intentions thinking she wanted to protect prostitutes; she was hoping to secure a slow down of illegal practices within the massage industry. It failed due to this misinterpretation. I got this story from the good House Representative herself as we visited with each other in her office. Although we discussed a number of issues, I was there primarily to touch base with her regarding SB 687 and the Section 3, Paragraph 6 Amendment listing vocational exemptions to the defined terms of massage. As a senior House Representative on the subcommittee that would hear the bill her support for it would be important.
The real purpose of SB 687 concerned illegal sex and slavery. Unfortunately, Oklahoma is in the top three states for highest rates of sex trafficking in the nation. So the benign sounding Massage Therapy Practices Act (SB 687) intended to regulate the massage industry (where allegedly much of the illegal sex trade occurs) was really known around the Capitol as the “Sex Trafficking Bill." The original version of the bill was vague enough in its wording and definition of massage and the massage profession that a number of non-massage vocations, such as the Feldenkrais Method® could have come under threat of regulation by the State Board of Cosmetology and Barbering. In addition, practitioners could be required to become massage therapists and pay annual fees to the Board. Who would have thought the Feldenkrais Method might get swept up in a sex trafficking bill?!? It could have if we had not acted.
Andrea Wiener had caught wind of the bill through her contacts in the Federation of Therapeutic Massage, Bodywork and Somatic Practice Organizations (Federation MBS). She started working with House Representative David Derby, co-author of the bill, to create the Section 3 Amendment. It listed a number of modalities including the Feldenkrais Method to be given exemption from the bill. Once that was done it was time to track the bill via alerts from the Oklahoma State Legislature website and to start showing up in person to “work the hallways” contacting individual legislators on the Appropriations and Budget Natural Resources and Regulatory Services subcommittee and full committee the bill had been assigned to. The goal being that there would be no tampering with the exemptions amendment at any stage of the legislative process. This is how I ultimately found myself in Cooksey’s office one morning having a delightful and productive visit which included learning the interesting back-story of this bill.
It can seem a daunting task going to your State Capitol to “lobby” for what matters to you. But go you must. In whatever way you can: in person (best!), telephoning (good), faxing (good) or emailing (also good but less so than the other three). Al Wadleigh put it well in his article about the recent bill in Colorado: it is interesting, exhilarating, and exhausting. Over the years I have sat in on many committee hearings, testified, talked with legislators about different bills concerning issues that mattered to me. The process has never ceased to amaze me; fascinating, frustrating, entertaining (better than The Bachelorette!), illuminating, crazy, educational, appalling and sometimes even wonderful.  This is our democratic process and it is our right to be a proactive part of it. We do not vote these people into office to cut them loose and let them run wild without reins or accountability.  Similarly, we cannot complacently trust them to know the subject matter of all the bills they are dealing with even if their intentions are good and honorable.
Feldenkrais practitioners need not feel reluctant to partake in the legislative process. We are educators! More often than not that is exactly what the legislators need most: to better understand the nature and consequences of the bills they are dealing with. This Oklahoma legislative session saw over two thousand bills introduced. Nobody, not even Superman, can be expected to fully understand every bill. That is why it is important we citizens show up to do our best to inform and educate, to protect our chosen vocation and that of our fellow Federation MBS colleagues. Having said this, it is critical to work closely with our Government Relations staff at the Guild. Every one must be on the same page in terms of primary objectives, bullet points etc. Disparate agendas by individuals can cause confusion and do harm. I have seen it happen. However, if we choose to help and work with our fellows at the Guild in a team-like approach we just might find ourselves having an adventure doing so. And have the Feldenkrais Method be further legitimized in the process.
As SB 687 ping-ponged its way between the Senate and House it was “tightened up” (such as a grandfather clause added for licensed massage therapists of five years or longer) and made less vague. Finally approved by both full House and Senate it made its way to Governor Fallin’s desk where she signed it into law May 11, 2016. The Section 3, Paragraph 6 Amendment concerning our exemption remained intact.
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Comments (1)
Jeff Haller
6/24/2016 1:48:01 PM
Hello Molly. Very nice to hear of your efforts. Thank you for helping take care of our profession and insure its legacy.

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