Why, the little lady can think!

18 05 2009

Enough with the constant bitching about male pronunciamentos on abortion. Not that they can’t have their say, but, really, enough with their privilege.

So can I bitch about a woman’s pronunciamentos on abortion. . . ?

Let me rephrase that: I take issue with Amy Welborn’s take on abortion, specifically, with her quick dismissal of the question of the status of the [pregnant] woman. In her commentary on President Obama’s speech at Notre Dame, she notes

And a subissue – if this is not even an issue for you, if you do not see the unborn as a group in need of legal protection, and if you resonate with Obama’s call for reduced numbers of abortion…why? If Obama goes too far with this, he will run up against what Hilary Clinton ran up against a couple of years ago when she attempted to allude to a moral dimension to abortion. Boy, she had to backtrack, and fast.  The fundamental issue, you see, is trusting women as moral agents.

Why yes, that is the fundamental issue: trusting women as moral agents. Are we able to make decisions about our lives, or not?

I noted in a previous post that I didn’t think that rights language was sufficient to address the moral difficulties and passions of abortion. I still don’t. As much as rights are necessary to procure legal protections, without a sufficient moral and political argument behind those rights the reason for those protections are obscured, and the protections themselves at risk of a hollowing out.

The moral argument may begin at its basic level: survival. If I am to exist as a full human being in this world, then I cannot allow anyone else literal control over my life—whether that anyone else is a member of Congress, a judge, a boyfriend, or the fetus itself.

This is not as simple as it sounds, not least because we do live interdependently, and, in so doing, cede some measure of control to others. Yet even in society we are allowed to defend ourselves—our lives—even at the cost of another’s life.

There is nothing easy or automatic about that allowance, that decision to, perhaps, kill, and some of us are unable or unwilling to choose our own lives over those who threaten us. It is a fraught circumstance, difficult to determine in advance how one would react. My life or yours? I can guess, but I can’t know what I would choose.

But is abortion self-defense? I think it is, albeit of a different sort than that against a ‘outside’ attacker. First, it is an assertion against authority who might seek to prevent me from defending myself—the assertion of a right. Second, it is a self-recognition of a woman’s own worth as a human being, as being morally capable of determining whether to continue or end a pregnancy. It is an assertion of her own life.

But what of the good question Welborn does ask: If I don’t think fetuses as a class are in need of protection, then why bother with reducing the number of abortions?

The immediate response is that, as in other cases of self-defense, it is a fraught circumstance.

To recognize this is to recognize that the fetus, especially as it develops, is itself developing into a being deserving of its own recognition. To end the pregnancy is to end its development, its potential. And while I tend to accord personhood rather late in the pregnancy, the accordance itself is rather ad hoc; I’m not at all certain about fetal status.

Which means that I support abortion even if it could be killing another person.

This is not a politically happy conclusion. But if I am to assert the primacy of a woman’s moral capacity to choose her life over another’s, then I also have to allow that she is, in fact, choosing her life over another’s. It is entirely possible that terminating a pregnancy means killing a person—and if I defend the right to terminate, then I ought at least recognize this possibility. To make a moral decision is not to shirk consequences.

Pro-life advocates often argue that the status of the fetus as a person trumps all other claims, a position which I, obviously, reject. But what of the subsidiary claim of the innocence of the fetus? The Catholic Church, for example, argues that however grievous sexual assault, aborting a pregnancy resulting from rape is nonetheless forbidden, insofar as the fetus is itself innocent of any crime.

True, the fetus may lack malevolent intent, or any intent, for that matter. Yet however innocent the fetus, it still threatens; it is not about intent, but the effect itself. That said, I can still recognize the fetus is simply doing what fetuses do, capturing resources from a woman’s body so that it may develop. Whether this is innocence or simply the fetal condition, there is nothing personal in the fetus’s slow takeover of its immediate environment.

The problem, of course, that its immediate environment is, in fact, a(nother) person’s body.

This, finally, is where one may locate the core of the response to Welborn: When a woman does not want to continue a pregnancy, she sees herself at odds with the fetus, views it as an intruder, even; she aborts it to save herself. She kills to save.

Thus, the fraught circumstance, the one I believe most of us would rather avoid. I would prefer to reduce the number of abortions because even the morally defensible position to abort allows for the possibility of killing a person, and I would prefer less rather than more killing.

This hardly comprises a comprehensive defense of abortion, reproductive rights, and sexual expression; indeed, there are any number of pro-life advocates who consider pregnancy a just punishment for sex. But the position of those who seek to defend the life of the fetus is a morally serious one in a way that misogynistic screeds against women’s sexual personality is not, and, as such, deserves a similarly serious response.

It is not a nice response, and, I imagine, it’s bluntness might offend even some on the pro-choice side. But it is necessary to admit to what one defends, however unpleasant that defense may be.

Nobody ever said moral agency was easy.

You don’t send me flowers

17 02 2009

But how about some underwear, or, as undies are referred to in India, ‘chaddi’? Pink, please.

In response to a recent attack by Sri Ram Sena (Army of Lord Ram) on women at a tavern in Mangalore, India, the Consortium of Pubgoing, Loose and Forward Women organized the ‘Pink Chaddi’ campaign. The idea was send as many pink chaddi to Pramod Mutalik, one of the leaders of (or main inspirations for, it’s not clear to me) of Sri Ram Sena, as a way of celebrating Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day, you see, is against Hindu values. As are malls, which are havens of handholding. And, um, dating.

Yes, yet another Defender of the Faith, seeking to impose its piety on the bodies of women—literally. If you haven’t already seen it, there’s a video of the Sri Ram Sena punching and kicking women who dared to bend their elbows at a Mangalore pub.

Various politicians—with the notable exception of  women and child development minister Renuka Chaudhury—murmured about the pub attack, but otherwise found it advisable to say not much of anything.

So the women themselves stepped up. Nisha Susan, spokeswoman for the Consortium, said “It’s a choice between ignoring a group like Ram Sena or responding to its activities. We have decided to give it attention, but it is attention which it will not like.”

Hence the pink chaddi.

In addition to the delivery of the chaddi to Muktali, the Forward Women urged women to do a Pub Bharo action, i.e., to hit a tavern and raise a toast to Indian women, record the event, and send that photo or vid to SRS as well. Finally, ‘After Valentine’s Day we should get some of our elected leaders to agree that beating up women is ummm… AGAINST INDIAN CULTURE.’

Now that’s a protest. Mockery, underwear, toasts, and mass action.

FFI: Pink Chaddi Campaign on Mutiny.in, and the Consortium on Blogspot.

Note: The BBC noted that members of another group, Shiv Sena, were arrested for numerous assaults on couples:

Six arrests took place in the northern Indian city of Agra, home to the Taj Mahal – the monument built by Emperor Shah Jehan in memory of his beloved wife.

The protesters used scissors to cut the hair of overtly romantic couples in a nearby park, superintendent of police VP Ashok said.

“The six belonging to Shiv Sena group were arrested for causing a breach of the peace,” he told The Associated Press news agency.

Meanwhile, the AFP news agency reported that five members of the same group were arrested in Delhi for threatening couples in a park.

Many couples had their faces blackened in western Aurangabad and northern Bijnaur, Reuters reports.

Such disruption of Valentine’s Day by hardliners is becoming an annual event, and police this year were on high alert.

Another group vandalised a shop selling Valentine’s cards and raided a restaurant in Indian Kashmir looking for romantic couples, the AP reports.

Protestors also burnt flowers and Valentine Day cards to mark their protest.

I prefer the chaddi. Hell, I prefer pub-going, loose and forward women every time. . . .

Targets and stray arrows

3 01 2009

The Dawn Chorus linked to this story in the (Australian) Courier-Mail, ‘Economic decline sees return of 1950s housewife.’ An (apparent) DIY sensibility toward food and clothing = housewifery!

That’s right, girls and boys, any turning away from corporate culture means a return to those mystical 1950s gender roles. After all, MEN certainly couldn’t be interested in gardening, cooking, or sewing, could they?

After all, the poll embedded in the story asks: Where should a woman’s place be?

Possible answers: In the home; in the workplace; both; wherever she wants.

Ha. Now, about man’s place. . . .


C.’s blog is finally up and running. I’d been nagging and trying not to nag her into getting this sucker going, not least because I’m looking forward to our conversations and arguments.


Check it out. I’m expecting brilliance. (But no pressure, C.)


Reconnected with an old friend/colleague from my FelineCity days. Ct. works at a university in Ontario, and writes on nationalism (among other matters).

It is directly a result of her arguments in favor of some versions of nationalism that has caused me to rethink my absolutist stance against it. I’m still a skeptic, but Ct.’s observations that nationalism isn’t always exclusionary or aggressive (and that, sometimes, even when it is, it has its purposes) has intruded in and unsettled my thoughts over the years.

So I’m glad she’s back. A friend who can calmly unsettle you is a good thing!


I never read blogs before I started writing my own. I have my regulars now (some of which—the political ones, natch—send me into a ditch screaming), but I still poke around, looking for something to catch me.

Admittedly, this is partly out of self-interest: I’d like it if others would be willing to be caught by me.

But it’s not all calculation, given that I find sites I truly enjoy. Mo at The DailySnark cracks me up, and I’ve just started reading bandnerdtx.

Should I overreach and say that this approach justifies my avidity for messiness? That a mix of motives can itself increase hybridity, leading one ever further into. . . .

Okay, okay, I’ll save me huffin’ an’ puffin’ fer another day.


Struck by silence. Still in the midst of Tremlett’s Ghosts of Spain, and he makes much of both silence and forgetting. (They are not, of course, the same thing, and the holding of one’s tongue can, in some circumstances, lead to the preservation of memory. But I’ll save that for another time.)

I tend to think well of silence, seeing it (among other things) as a refuge from authority. I’m a terrible liar, but even I, of the endless words, knows how—and when—to keep my mouth shut. Sometimes silence is the only defense one has.

Of course, silence can also be self-defeating. Silence while in a therapist’s office, for example, tends to work against the purpose of therapy. Still, my determination to hold my tongue did lead me quickly to end one budding therapeutic relationship:

I was in college, self-destructive, and, uh, encouraged by the dean’s office at BigTenU to seek therapy. So I saw one person, N., who I quite liked but couldn’t afford. She recommended J., a resident. It was not a good match. J. had a very clear sense of how therapy should work, and that included the iron-clad rule that the client start every session. Not a word from her until I spoke. And when she did speak, she tended to repeat what I just said. So I became less and less willing to speak. I would sit silently five, ten, minutes, watching her shift in her seat, in full-concentration mode, waiting. By the last session (four or five, I think), I said nothing for almost thirty minutes. I looked at the plant.

Did I mention that she was recording the session to discuss later with her supervisor?

I returned to N. and worked with her. I was a terrible client, alternately trying to help and sabotaging my self, but I did talk.

Anyway. Silence can work as self-preservation, as I think it did with J., but I would also use it as, if not precisely a weapon, then a shield, in therapy with both N. and K. These were good therapists, and I did myself no favors in withholding information from them. Even so, N. and K. were smart enough not to get into a battle of wills with me about it: they knew the silence was for me to overcome.

Of course, authority figures often consider silence as a threat. Why not profess one’s allegiances—unless you have something to hide? Some dictators are more than happy with silence—keep the populace scared and alone—but others hear treason in the quiet. I’m about to start reading Orlando Figes’s The Whisperers, about life in the Stalinist USSR. I have a hunch Stalin feared everything.

Some of my best friends are. . .

21 12 2008

Rick Warren loves gay people.  Most people know I have many gay friends. I’ve eaten dinner in gay homes. No church has probably done more for people with AIDS than Saddleback Church. Kay and I have given millions of dollars out of Purpose Driven Life helping people who got AIDS through gay relationships. So they can’t accuse me of homophobia.

(A gay home? What the hell is that? Is everything all, you know, queer inside?)

And Rod Dreher of CrunchyCon lets it be known, just before he starts screeching about Nazi/Stalinist/intolerant/militant gay activists, that a former roommate of his is gay, that by golly he has friends who are gay.

No, Pastor Warren and Mr. Dreher are absolutely tolerant of the gays. No, it’s those nasty militant gays who are the intolerant ones, the ones who throw around terms like ‘bigot’ and ‘homophobe’ and yell at those who seek to keep the sodomites in their rightful place.

And the whole marriage thing? Let’s let the good pastor explain his opposition to gay marriage: I’m opposed to redefinition of a 5,000 year definition of marriage. I’m opposed to having a brother and sister being together and calling that marriage. I’m opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that marriage. I’m opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage.

Now that’s tolerance! Comparing same-sex marriage to incest, pedophilia, and polygamy! But hey, he at least said he wasn’t so much opposed to California’s domestic partnership laws which grant hospital visitation rights or allow anyone to name anyone else an insurance beneficiary. Although I don’t know that he’s said anything about advancing a domestic partnership agenda in other states. . . .

The problem, Mr. Warren believes, is that gays don’t seek, um, equality (can’t quite say that word, can ya, Pastor?), but ‘approval’: Much of this debate is not really about civil rights, but a desire for approval. The fact that 70% of blacks supported Prop 8 shows they don’t believe it is a civil rights issue. Gays in California already have their rights. What they desire is approval and validation from those who disagree with them, and they are willing to force it by law if necessary. Any disapproval is quickly labeled “hate speech. Imagine if we held that standard in every other disagreement Americans have? There would be no free speech. That’s why, on the traditional marriage side, many saw Prop 8 as a free speech issue: Don’t force me to validate a lifestyle I disagree with. It is not the same as marriage.” And many saw the Teacher’s Union contribution of $3 million against Prop 8, as a effort to insure that children would be taught to approve what most parents disapprove of.

Ooookaaaaay. ‘Force by law’? Damned, um, straight. Disapprove of me all you like, just as you can disapprove of divorce; just leave me my laws on equal marriage and divorce.

And if you can’t handle having someone label your speech hateful, tough shit. You want to be able to rip on your preferred opponents without anyone calling you out on that ripping—who doesn’t? But someone calling your speech hateful hardly impedes your rights to such speech. Yeah, I know, too many people think ‘hate speech’ should be outlawed (a terrible, terrible idea), but has it been? Have you been arrested crossing the state lines into Massachusetts or Connecticut, Mr. Warren?

Somehow I’ve managed to put up with terms like femi-nazi and traitor, and I’m nobody. I’d rather not be compared to the Gestapo, but I hardly think my rights have been lessened by the moron who’d called me that.You, you big, powerful man, you, you shouldn’t have a problem dealing with a few sissies, should you? (I mean, without hiding behind those African-American voters who supported Prop 8. Because majorities are never wrong about rights for minorities, especially if some of those majority members are minorities in other contexts—right?) If not, well, don’t worry: hurt feelings do not equal fewer rights.

So can the talk about the scary, child-indoctrinating queers. Oh, wait, did I as a citizen just shred your rights as a citizen to blather about incestuous, pedophiliac, polygamous gays?

And how intolerant is it of me to call you intolerant? Am I threatening your rights by stating that if tolerance is to mean anything beyond ‘I won’t kill you,’ then those who profess to tolerate Others deserve to be smacked verbally for unloading such nonsense as ‘I care about gay people’ or ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ while in the next breath explaining why queers shouldn’t marry or adopt kids, or why the demand for equal treatment under the law is somehow out of line or, gasp, militant.

Militant gay activists. Jeez, that sounds familiar. Militant unionists. Militant black activists. Militant feminists. The gall of us, refusing to accept our inferior status!

I don’t have a gun. I don’t want to shoot you or blow you up. I’m just not willing to go to the back of the line because of the discomfort I cause to your delicate moral sensibilities.

[All quotes courtesy of a transcript of a recent interview, as well as updates, posted on BeliefNet; emphases in the original.]

A coda: I’m not crazy about the term bisexual. It’s not that it’s inaccurate, any more than homosexual or heterosexual is, but that it sticks too close—hell, it is—the technical definition of a form of sexual orientation. Hets get ‘straight’, and homos get ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ (along with a bunch of other happy and not-so-happy designations), but bis? We get. . . bi. Blech.

I prefer ‘ambi-sexual’, as in ‘both, around’ (thanks Webster’s!). Ya still got the ‘bi’, but it’s rounded out, more lyrical. Plus, fretful person that I am, I like the proximity to other ambis, as in ‘ambiguous’ or ‘ambivalent’.

Bi? No, ‘ambi’. Works for me.