Category Archives: feminism

Thinking about Dr. Tiller

I drop something heavy and then disappear for weeks and then come back with this. I’m all abortion all the time lately!

Three years ago today, I was 6 months pregnant sitting on the couch with the windows open. My husband was in the kitchen doing dishes from the brunch that we’d just finished eating. I had my laptop open on my lap, and said, “Holy shit,” as I reached for the TV remote.

“What?” my husband asked as he peered into the living room. “Fucking anti-choice zealots just fucking assassinated Tiller,” I said.

I spent the rest of the day yelling about violence against providers, and clinics, and methods of intimidation, and obsessively refreshing the news. CNN, Yahoo, AP… all of them. I wanted to know everything about what had happened.  I thought about Barnett Slepian, who was assassinated by a sniper in his home in 1998. I shed tears.

I was angry. I’m STILL angry. Acts of violence against providers and facilities that perform abortion happen ALL.THE.TIME. They are acts of terrorism.

They are committed in an effort to stop a legal practice from a occurring. They are committed to remind doctors and clinic workers that they aren’t safe. They are committed in the hopes that they will do enough damage, or take enough lives that people will get sick of being harassed, hurt, and living in enough fear for their lives that they will pack up and go home.

It’s absolute bullshit.

What Drs. Tiller and Slepian did, what Dr. Carhart does, what Dr. Means is trying to do is heroic, and I’m grateful to them for their persistence.

 

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I had an abortion.

I had an abortion.

I’m not going to tell you how old I was when I had it.

I’m not going to tell you what the circumstances around the pregnancy were.

I’m not going to tell you whether birth control was used or not.

I’m not going to tell you whether it was a wanted or an unwanted pregnancy.

I’m not going to tell you how far along the pregnancy was.

I’m not going to tell you whether there was a genetic abnormality, or whether my life was endangered by the pregnancy.

I’m not going to tell you any of those things because I think answering those questions, creating the situation from which my experience unfolds offers someone, everyone, anyone, the chance to say, “She deserved to access abortion,” or “How dare she get pregnant and have an abortion,” or find some pity in their heart for whatever piece of my situation offers them the opportunity to justify their judgment, or their sense of false safety.

When I was in high school (so many years ago) we had a speaker come to talk with us about HIV and AIDS. He told us about what living with AIDS was like. What it was like to defecate in his bed at 3am and be unable to move by himself and having to call for his parents to come clean him. To live with the stares that people gave him when they saw the sores on his arms. To be asked, over and over and over, “Well, how did you contract the disease?” He said it was a question he never answered. Because the answer would muddy his message with pity or feelings of false safety. How he contracted the disease was irrelevant to the fact that he had it.

This is how I feel about my abortion. None of the, “How did it happen?” matters. It’s irrelevant.

What matters is that I was able to access abortion when I needed to. When I wanted to. When I was pregnant and had the need to no longer be pregnant. When I was desperate to not be pregnant.

I walked past anti-choice protestors with their signs, and listened to their shouting, “Don’t do this! Think of your baby! We’re praying for you!” I pushed past them as they blocked the sidewalk.

The facility that did the abortion had, what I’ve come to understand is, an abortion doula. She held my hand, asked me if I was okay. If I needed anything. She tucked the stray hairs from my ponytail behind my ear and told me that everything was going to be all right.

When it was over, I threw up.

I have never regretted my abortion. For a long time I didn’t talk about it. In fact, I’m only just beginning to talk about it. I’ve always felt that my experience was just that, my experience and didn’t need to be shared. (I will admit, I did fear negative repercussion. I feared facing hostile judgement.) But I’m learning that things we don’t talk about – abortion, miscarriage…are things that we NEED to talk about. *I* need to pipe up when I hear someone struggling and say, “I’ve had this experience, too. This was how it went for me.”

Silence equals shame. And I am not ashamed.

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What women deserve.

Yesterday I talked about what I demand. Today, take a listen to what Sonya Renee has to say about what women deserve. She’s powerful, and in your face about it.

There is a mostly accurate transcription here.

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What are your demands?

A question posed in a Facebook group I’m a member of this weekend:

What demands do you have? What actions or legislation should be off limits? What constitutes being United Against the War on Women? Which women are allowed the freedom to control their own bodies?

A caveat: I’m not in love with the “war on women” rhetoric. I use it on occasion because, depending on my audience, I find it useful. (Which is probably just a function of me being too lazy to find another way to frame it neatly. And I should stop doing that.) But I also find it limiting. This war isn’t just about women. It has great consequence for people who don’t fall neatly into one of the gender binary options that exist, and it’s about families. And it’s easier if you just go read what Spectraspeaks has to say about unity.

I spent the night thinking about this question. It’s a GOOD question. It’s a question that seems like it should have an obvious answer, but when you drill down, and start to think about how to answer it…there’s a lot that rises up.

From where I sit, in my cisgender, hetero-partnered, middle class white woman chair, this is what I demand*:

  • I demand that the stupid fucking M/F checkbox be erased from every form that gets filled out – ESPECIALLY in health care (what if you don’t fit neatly into one of those boxes? Already you’re someplace that DOES NOT WELCOME YOU).
  • I demand to stop being asked if I’m married (another favorite form question) because that NECESSARILY ignores anyone who is PREVENTED FROM BEING MARRIED, or chooses to participate in any other permutation of non-legally recognized, consensual relationship.
  • I demand that everyone to be able to access reproductive services at no cost to themselves. Yes, I believe the government should PAY FOR BIRTH CONTROL, and yes, ABORTION. My child has been an amazing addition to my life, but that’s not the case for everyone. People should NEVER be forced to birth a child because they didn’t have any other option. CHILDREN ARE NOT A PUNISHMENT.
  • I demand that the 85% of counties in Virginia that don’t have abortion providers get them. Do they have primary care doctors in those counties? Okay, they NEED to provide abortions too. (I know that rural parts of the country struggle to have consistent primary care providers – let’s work on that, too.)
  • I demand, safe, legal, accessible, affordable, subsidized abortion on demand for whoever needs or wants it for whatever reason. (I took this directly from my amazing friend scATX. She breaks it down on her blog.)
  • I demand that all people be free to exercise domain and consent over their own bodies without government intrusion.
  • I demand that people be free from forcible bodily intrusion under the guise of necessary medical care. (I’m looking at YOU Governor Perry.) (Doonesbury gives it to you in comic form.)
  • I demand accessible prenatal care (doctors that work nights and weekends would go a LONG way to making health care accessible. Ever tried to schedule a doctors appointment with an obstetrician who runs late on your 30 minute lunch break?)
  • I demand paid parental leave. Yes, PAID PARENTAL LEAVE. It’s valuable for everyone.
  • I demand that companies recognize that people can be dedicated to their jobs AND their parenting.
  • I demand no-cost, safe, and convenient daycare. If there are 2 subsidized daycares in a town of 50k people that spans miles, that’s not enough. And I don’t want subsidized anyway. I want it paid for by the state.
  • I demand 24 hr daycare. The common 7:30am – 6pm daycare schedule is useless if you work nights, or work noon- 8pm, or start work at 6am, or don’t get off until 7pm. Employment is a 24 game these days – daycare needs to catch up.
  • I demand that non-wage earning parents be paid. They are penalized once for taking care of children and having no earnings, and they are penalized again for not contributing to their credit rating, and their social security credits.
  • I  demand it be recognized that some people don’t want children AND THAT’S OKAY.

Start legislating HELP instead of looking for ways to hurt. Ask, “How can we help?” before jumping in. LISTEN. Give people the opportunity to tell you what they want. Stop talking about what YOU THINK they want.

What do YOU demand?

*When I wrote this everywhere you read the word ‘demand’ I originally used ‘want.’ And then as I was proofing it, I realized that I was asking. And I wasn’t answering the question. The question asked why my demands were, not what my wants were. Language is everything.

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Modern Motherhood: A Twitter turned blog chat

I missed the @womeninworld Twitter chat (#wiwchat) that presented these questions, but lucky for us The Mamafesto did not! She posted the questions from Thursday, January 26th’s chat and answered them herself on her blog. I think the questions are good questions, and as I was attempting to respond to her post, I just decided it would be easier to answer them here. I’d love it if you did the same, or tumble all your thoughts into my comments – that’s what comment boxes are for, right?

Q1 How has pop culture, media, politics (or policies?) shaped our idealized notions of motherhood? 

Well, the Cold War brought an aggressive “Motherhood is great! Take care of your family!” campaign from the U.S. government. If we could out procreate the Communists, we could save the world from their ways. June Cleaver was born of this push. And I don’t think we’ve really gotten out from under her. She’s been reincarnated in any number of sitcoms and movies over the last 50 years.

And I think the news teaches us how mothers are supposed to act by creating scandal from the behaviors of mothers. In fact, by reporting that they are mothers at all creates the image of a ‘bad mother’ thereby offering the ‘good mother’ a sigh of relief.

Q2 Can working mothers really ‘have it all,’ and how do you balance work and family life? 

This question bugs the crap out of me for two several reasons. 1.) What is ‘having it all’? And 2.) Why don’t I ever see people asking if working fathers (in fact, how many times have you even seen that phrase?) can have it all? It feels to me like it’s assumed that men either already ‘have it all’ or don’t want it all. 3.) PLUS, since I see this question everywhere, and I see it framed in this manner, we’re set up to believe that working mothers CAN’T have it all. Because if we (society/culture) believed that they could (and DO), we wouldn’t even be asking the damn question. It’s like the question, “Is it okay for women to breastfeed in public?” Well, yes. In fact, in many places (not all) it is legally protected. But that’s not fun. And if we keep hearing the question, we’ll start to internalize the idea that while it’s legal, maybe it’s not okay. This ‘having it all’ question works the same way. It isn’t really a question, it’s a brainwashing mechanism busy instilling doubt in the minds of all women pretending to be a question. And still, I don’t know what ‘it all’ is. I just know that I probably can’t have it.

Q3 Caitlin Flanagan has argued that something is lost when a woman works outside the home? Do you agree? 

I’ve written and deleted my answer to this 3 times. I can’t seem to write what I want to say without sounding like an asshole. My other answers were sort of ragey, about the implication in the statement that ‘something’ was previously ‘had.’ (Having something is a prerequisite for losing it.) And about the seemingly heteronormative male wage-earner family context this question is born from. So, my short, non-asshole answer is, no, I don’t think something is lost when a woman works outside the home.

Q4 What’s the one ‘reality’ of motherhood you’d share with a new mom–and would most mothers be surprised by it or not? 

Motherhood changes everything. It changes how your body works. It changes how you view the world. It changes how you think about your time, and the intention for your actions. It changes how you define yourself. And how others define you. Everything. I wasn’t prepared for that.

Q5 Should child care be a private decision (U.S. style) or should we treat it like a public good (Norway style)? 

I think it absolutely needs to be treated as a public good. The current system in the U.S. which demands that child care be procured through private means, necessarily disadvantages the populations which have the greatest need for publicly funded care. Whew, that sounded academic. Basically, when two wage earning people have a kid, and the cost of daycare eats up the entire wage (or most of it) of one parent, then that parent (usually the female in a hetero partnered relationship) quits a wage-earning job to take care of the child. Which has the continued impact of damaging later paid workforce re-entry prospects. Plus, during the time that one parent is not earning a paid wage, that parent is also not earning Social Security credits, which will have a further negative financial consequence during retirement.

If there is only one parent, then that parent MUST work. And if that parent has a job that just covers housing and food, and there is little or no money left to pay for child care, how will the child be cared for? This is not an unusual circumstance.

Q6 Has motherhood changed your view of feminism? 

Yes. More than becoming a mother though, birthing a son changed my view of feminism. My pre-son feminism was much centered around the core principle that patriarchy is damaging to women. While this is true, I’ve become much more aware of the ways that patriarchy (really kyriarchyintersectionality and all…) is damaging to everyone. It is limiting, judgmental, and downright dangerous to people who don’t play by the rules. Having a boy was a big BAM moment for me. All of a sudden I realized (and was kind of embarrassed to do so) that my feminism had focused on women. And even more so, on cis-gender women. It wasn’t intentional, it was just…what I had been exposed to. Having a son forced me to seek new resources on feminism, and to see that WOAH, there’s a LOT of bad shit happening to a lot of people in the name of ‘the way it should be.’ (See also: current assholery coming out of the lot of GOP mouths.)

What do you all think?

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This girl kicks ass.

I freakin’ LOVE this girl. I dare you not to cheer.

(She reminds me a bit of myself when I was that age. Awww…the amazingness of youth.)

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THIS is what a feminist looks like.

I got giddy with excitement back over the summer when The Mamafesto unveiled the This is What a Feminist Looks Like series on her blog. I love reading about how other people have come to feminism, and hearing how they talk about it. It helps me to feel like part of something, and it also helps me to refine my feminism.

So I spent MONTHS working on my replies to her questions (I’m a perfectionist, which should explain why I am not the most reliable blogger), but finally got it together and got them to her.

Today, I am honored to be featured, and am so excited to be in the company of the women who have participated thus far. Go read, and then participate, too!

 

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