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Monday, 28 January 2013

The Familial Divide and "Choice" vs "Life"

By: Liberate Zealot

As I've mentioned in the past one of my brothers is studying to be a priest and this has caused a certain divide and tensions between us.  However, this last Saturday we met up in DC and spent seven lovely hours together.  We visited the National Gallery and wandered through many exhibits before getting dinner and talking for hours about language, logic and philosophy, various countries, silly things on the internet, and our spring break plans.  It was very enjoyable, but still...

On Friday I was filling out another application to volunteer with Planned Parenthood and writing about Roe v Wade and how it hasn't done enough to guarantee body autonomy to people.

On Friday my brother attended a mass presided over by Cardinal Sean O'Malley and the March for Life a "pro-life"/anti-choice protest that happens yearly at approximately the same time as the passage of Roe v Wade.

The website for the March for Life discussed the apparently 55 million "people" (read fetus) who have died since the passage of Roe v Wade.  My own post on the subject discussed the women who have died from illegal abortions and the effects of not being able to access abortions has on an unwillingly pregnant person's life.

I could write about the meaning of choice, and trusting people to know what's right for their own bodies and lives.  I could write about how fetus are not people, and how even if they were in no other instance does right to life trump right to body autonomy.  I could write about the myriad issues and duplicity of the "pro-life" movement.  I could write about the recent hypocrisy of a Catholic hospital arguing it's way out of a wrongful death suit by stating that fetus aren't living humans.

But when it comes to my family and my brother the future priest most of my logic and argumentation fails me.  I'm only left with the (very logical) hurt of having a brother that values fetus over women (or anyone able to get pregnant).  Who would value the life of my potential unwanted fetus over myself.  A not yet living sack of growing membranes, nerves, and organs, over my physical and mental well being, over my human right to determine what happens to my own body and organs.

I have a brother who thinks women, pregnant people, potentially his own sister cannot be trusted to make the best decisions for their (my) life and body.  Who finds not a yet sentient fetus more valuable than them (me).

This removes the joy from any pleasurable get together or conversation.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Roe v Wade - 40 Years Later

By: Liberate Zealot

It was the 40th Anniversary of Roe v Wade a couple of days ago, and I meant to write something then, but work and masters/internship applications got in the way.

There's a saying that Roe v Wade wasn't the start of abortions, but rather the end of women dying from unsafe and illegal abortions. However, that's not actually the case.  The financial and legal restrictions on abortion mean that illegal abortions continue, and people continue to die from them. At much smaller numbers than the 5,000 annually from before Roe v Wade, but one person who dies from their inability to access a safe and legal abortion is one person too many.

Between 1975 and 1979 a third of all women who died from illegal abortions did so because they couldn't access or afford legal abortions.  Other reasons included religious pressure to not get abortions and a need for secrecy.  The vast majority of these women were African American and Hispanic.

The current increasing restrictions around abortion have forced many people to look for other ways to terminate their pregnancies.  In Texas people are crossing the boarder to get abortion pills from Mexico.  Often the lack of information provided means this doesn't work.

And then there's the fact that many people are doing without the abortions they want and need.  As the TurnAway Study makes plain this can have disastrous consequences for the women and her children. Instead they're having another child, to tax their health, income, emotional well being, make employment harder, and increase their slide into systematic poverty. Women in abusive relationships are more likely to stay in them if they are denied an abortion.

As many of us know, and many more of us are learning, Roe v Wade is not enough to to protect people's right to a safe and affordable abortion.  And often it is people in poverty and people of color who are paying this price.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Binary Bullshit: The "Feminine" and Feminism

By: Liberate Zealot

A continuation of Femmephobia is Everywhere 

A lot of the time, I hear people discuss gender roles and characteristics, and the culture at large, as some sort of immutable absolute. "This is the way it is, and has been, world without end (amen)".  Which is such bullshit.  Culture undergoes plenty of changes, some vast, some minute, some incredibly quickly, some at a glacial pace.  And just as culture changes so does our understanding of men and women, masculine and feminine and gender roles, characteristics and binaries.

The (Euro-Western Centric) modern gender Binary sets up characteristics as:
Men                                                     Women
Strong                                                   Weak
Active/Aggressive                                   Passive/Submissive
Logical                                                   Emotional
Analytic                                                  Intuitive
Sexual                                                   Chaste
Decisive                                                 Flaky
Genuine                                                 Back-stabbing

And while some of these are very similar to the ideas of previous centuries and various cultures, some of the binary characteristics are the complete opposite of previous centuries.

From the time of the ancient Greeks through the Renaissance women were seen as more "fleshy" and sexual than men.  Women were temptresses  and men needed to stand firm to their lusty ways.  Similarly this was one reason why women needed to be under the control of men, women weren't seen to be able to control themselves or their "baser" impulses. Now of course over the 1700s this began to change, and by the Victorian era there has been a complete reversal, women were the chaste/non-sexual ones who needed to be protected from base men who couldn't control their lust (and thus male relatives needed to protect their women from other men).
In the course of 200 years the European view of sexuality, morality, and self-control of (middle and upper class) white men and women made a complete about face.  Women went from being "fleshy", lusty, of a simpler morality, and in need of outside control to chaste/non-sexual, the moral centers of the family/society, and in charge of not only controlling their own desires and impulsiveness, but those of men as well.  Meanwhile men went from being the more moral and in control of their desires to having almost uncontrollable lusts that women needed to both control and be protected from.

During this same time period the cultural understanding of emotion and logic underwent vast changes. Again from the time of the Greeks through the Renaissance emotion and logic were not seen as binaries, and both were the domain of men. Deep emotion and the purest and deepest of relationships and love were between men.  At times this was considered especially true of warriors (Japan has also had this interpretation of emotion, relationships, and warrior men).  It wasn't until the Enlightenment Period that emotion and logic became fully divorced and binary traits, and the more "undesirable" one, emotion, became a feminine/womanly trait. And when it comes to male friendships and the societal view of their closeness and expression, these underwent a dramatic shift in barely a decade (the trials of Oscar Wilde and increasing awareness of homosexuality and the stigma against same sex relationships had a lot to do with this).

And this doesn't get into the more tangible signifiers of men/women or "masculine" and "feminine". The blue and pink and their gender alignment shift is perhaps one of the better known examples.  Make-up, high heeled shoes, and long hair have by turns been strongly aligned with with different genders (at different times) or been seen as gender neutral.  During times of gender neutrality these things were often related more to class (make-up and high heels for example).  And the Euro/US/Western idea of math as a male discipline and humanities as a female one is decidedly different than the Japanese understanding of gender, math, and literature.

Furthermore the gendering of roles breaks down as soon as the role becomes associated with profit or recognition.  Cooking for the family is considered women's work, but once it comes to a profession chefs are (mostly) men. The becomes even more true when the chef is "high class" and celebrated.  Fashion, especially the buying of it, is seen as a feminine thing, yet the majority of established and recognized designers and photographers are men.

Basically as traits/roles/characteristics gain or lose their societal worth or value they shift between men and women or being "masculine" and "feminine".  The roles, characteristics, and traits are certainly not immutable.  Neither do they (for the most part, exceptions can be made for weak, back-stabbing etc) have any intrinsic value and for the most part were not created FOR or BY the Patriarchy.  Rather the Patriarchy has created the binary and classification of these characteristics, traits, roles.  Patriarchy says women are of less value and so the things the culture values less become "feminine" or the domain of women. And the way to combat this is not through eschewing or dismissing the things that are considered "feminine".  To disdain or look down on things that are "feminine" is simply the continuation of the Patriarchy. This is not to say that women have to take on anything that is considered "feminine" or that women doing "feminine" things is a necessary part of feminism.  Rather, our feminism must include valuing many of the things seen as traditionally "feminine" or for women, even as we seek to dismantle gender roles and the Binary. It's impossible to value women if we do not value any of the things that are seen as belonging to women.