Take your hat off boy when you’re talking to me

24 05 2019

Status determines treatment.

I.

I make this point to my bioethics students every semester. US regulations on what can be done to which research subjects illustrates this nicely: it is acceptable to kill mice, for example, in the course of research, while human subjects cannot be killed. And while research on chimpanzees isn’t banned, federal funding for such work has effectively ended.

Human embryos are both protected and not: the Dickey-Wicker amendment prohibited all federal funding on research involving the creation or destruction of embryos, but privately-funded research continues. And, of course, hundreds of thousands of embryos are created every year in fertility clinics across the country.

And then there’s the matter of abortion. Some consider the fertilized egg to be fully human, some the early embryo, some the fetus, and some, a baby. As I’ve noted elsewhere, I take a developmental view of the matter, figuring that the fetus gains personhood status at some point in the third trimester.

It’s clearly human tissue from the beginning—a Homo sapiens zygote won’t develop into a puppy—but when is it one of us, deserving of the same protections we grant ourselves? That’s what the fuss is all about.

II.

Well, partly. The other part of the fuss has to do with the status of the person gestating said embryo/fetus.

I say person because not everyone capable of gestating another being is a woman: some are transmen, and some don’t identify as a woman. It’s important to recognize that.

It’s also important to recognize that an attack on the right to decide whether to continue or terminate a pregnancy is an attack on women.

Whether you are a man or genderqueer or cis-gender, if you are capable of getting pregnant, then to the anti-abortionists that capacity in and of itself overrides all other identities and considerations and marks you as an untrustworthy being, i.e., a woman.

You—we—are hosts, victims of abortion-violence, sinners, irresponsible, would-be murderers, all due to our capacity to gestate. All due to our woman-ness.

It doesn’t matter if we can’t or won’t get pregnant (in which case we are lesser women, unable or unwilling to fulfill or womanly destinies): what defines us, in the ideology of the antiabortionists, is the ability to gestate a zygote through to delivery. It might be conceded that we can do other things besides gestating, but once the egg envelopes the sperm or  the conceptus begins burrowing into uterine lining or a clump of cardiac cells begin beating, then and only then can we become fully woman.

By which is meant: subordinate.

It’s not only the from-the-moment-of-conception antiabortionists who think this; cf this exchange after the somewhat-pro-choice Damon Linker referred to the fetus as a (tiny) human:

This is a perfectly normal kind of exchange among the somewhat-pro-choice: I don’t support outlawing abortion in the first weeks, but later on? Bien sûr!

What’s wrong with this? After all, didn’t I just say I hold to a developmental view of the fetus?

Well, do you think the pregnant person isn’t also able to make such judgements? Do you think she needs laws to tell her that an 8-week embryo is not the same as an 8-month fetus?

Saying you need laws and regulations to enforce this distinction is to say that you don’t trust pregnant people—women—to make this distinction for themselves.

Alabama Senator Clyde Chambliss extends this argument to its nonsensical ends, apparently arguing that a woman could only end a pregnancy as long as she didn’t know she was pregnant. That is, once Eve gains knowledge, she is no longer to be trusted to act on that knowledge.

The somewhat prochoicers might be unhappy that I tie their thoughtful uneasiness to Chambliss’s confident ignorance, but they are different points along the same line drawn to downgrade the paradigmatic woman—the pregnant person—to someone unable to make up her own mind.

III.

Oh, and then there’s this:

The naked embryo lacks status. It can only gain status once located in and at the expense of s/he who would bring it into the world.

There can be only one person, and the one who’s pregnant, isn’t it.





I’ve seen the dead walk among the living (pt. 3)

11 01 2018

Cont.

36. When #MeToo hit I thought, Oh, this is good, that people are talking about this. But I didn’t think #MeToo.

37. I’ve never been raped. I’ve never sexually harassed at work, grabbed on the train, hassled on the sidewalk. Not really.

38. Not really. I mean, yes, I’ve dealt with some shit, but, y’know, not like what other women have gone through. Sure, there some words, some grabbiness, some threats, but that didn’t count, did it? It’s just. . . what happens, sometimes.

39. And I mostly haven’t thought about it: it’s been nothing, not like what other women have gone through.

40. Do I just want to fit in? I’ve never really fit in with women, with women’s experiences. Sure, I feel like a women and other women recognize me as such, but I’ve always felt just off to the side.

41. Maybe I was nudged here or shoved here, maybe I drifted here, but I’ve mostly been fine being off to the side. Mostly. Mostly because I don’t know what it would be to be in the midst.

42. Anyway, I wondered, was I trying to make #MeToo about me when it really wasn’t? Was I trying to horn in on something that, really, wasn’t mine?

43. Or maybe I just stopped paying attention to things that other women, many younger women, have rightly said Bullshit! to. Maybe it’s not (just) about the worst thing happening, but that that petty shit even happens at all.

44. And that that worst thing is always there, the omnipresent threat: watch out and take care and don’t walk there and is it dark and did I latch that window and where are the people and where are the exits.

45. It’s background. It’s normal. Keep your eyes open and ears open and those times you drank too much and made it home safe, you were lucky, you were lucky.

46. I’ve been lucky.

47. Anyway, I don’t know if #MeToo, but I’m paying attention, now.

48. And I’m paying attention to how this is working its way through our culture(s), how the conversations are policed.

49. Some, older women, older feminists, are disdainful, dismissive. I think they’re wrong, but given my own uncertainties about my own place in this conversation, I can’t just dismiss them in turn.

50. This is what they’re used to, this is what they’ve managed, this is how they’ve lived.

51. They may be charged with a lack of empathic imagination, they may have forgotten all of the women who were with them when they were young, who fell away because they couldn’t get used to it, couldn’t manage it, couldn’t live with it, but they are not enemies.

52. Are they to be pitied for what they lack? Oh, no, certainly not: I mean, would you pity Catherine Deneuve?

53. But this moment has a history, and this history has currents, and not all of us are wading in the same river.

54. And, anyway, beyond noting that they’ve said this, what else is to be done with them? They took what power they could, but they were not the ones who shaped power, not the ones who could grant it in turn. Their attitudes may be problematic, but these women are not the problem.

55. So what is to be done with the problem—and, again, the problem is one of a system, of many systems, of men mistreating women? I don’t know, and because I don’t know, I’m willing to say Try everything.

56. Really: try everything. Try the mild and the radical, trying smashing against and working within, try lawsuits and black clothes and pins and hashtags and calling out and standing up and sitting down and everything, everything.

57. Everything, I have to remind myself, includes gentleness and patience and empathy for those who are kicking with everything they have, even—especially—when I think their aim is a bit off.

58. After all, I don’t know what will work, and maybe their aim isn’t off at all.

To be continued.





Hit the road, Jack

12 10 2017

Enough with the fucking men.

Oh, I know, I’m supposed to say Most men aren’t predators and #NotAllMen and maybe even Some of my best friends are men, but, honestly, enough.

It’s not just Harvey Weinstein (who deserves every shitty non-violent thing coming to him), or Donald Trump, or Roger Ailes or Bill O’Reilly or R. Kelly or Bill Cosby, not just Hollywood and the media and politics, but the university (see here and here and here and . . . ), finance, tech, and pretty well any damned place where men and women work.

And whose fault is this? I think you know.

Yes, it’s women’s fault that men harass them (us), for not being professional, for being too casual, for being too sexy, for being naive, for being too yielding, not fighting back, for having the goddamned audacity of daring to walk into the world in our female bodies.

(And, oh yes, men are also abused—see Terry Crews and Corey Feldman—which serves to demonstrate that shitty male sexual-power dynamics can ensnare anyone.)

If there are rumors or whisper campaigns? Well, maybe that’s not the real story, or maybe it’s just women misinterpreting things, or, y’know, maybe there’s just not enough evidence, he-said/she-said, whattayagonnado? And, oh, cmon, that favorite actor/comedian/musician couldn’t really have done that, could they? I mean, they’re famous: why would they have to take what so many would willingly offer?

And then when the harassment and abuse can no longer be ignored? Well, then, it’s our fault for not having IMMEDIATELY reported it or IMMEDIATELY denounced the abuser and, really, aren’t we just a part of the problem with our silence?

This is where I snap. I am unshocked by violence against women, by sexual harassment and catcalling and the everyday-ness of treating women as the sexual adjuncts of men. I should note I have never been sexually assaulted, am not usually catcalled, and have dealt with only a handful of harassers/abusers, so my rage is less personal than ontological: this is how it is to be a woman in our fucking world.

So Harvey Weinstein, a major Democratic donor, is exposed as criminally creepy, and. . . it’s somehow Hillary’s fault? Anthony Bourdain has gone after Weinstein and those who covered for him, but he made sure to take the time to express his “disappointment” in Hillary Clinton.

Yes, the Democratic Party and countless Democratic candidates—including male ones!—have taken Weinstein’s money, but, really, it’s a problem that Hillary’s response has been “uninspiring”, that she said she didn’t know?

Such horseshit, such worm-infested horseshit.

Here’s where the “enough with men!” comes in: if “everyone” really did know, then why is it only the women who should have spoken up? Jane Fonda said she feels “ashamed” for not coming forward a year ago, when she first found out; how many Hollywood men feel guilty for having known for years? How many of them are wondering why they didn’t take those rumors more seriously, didn’t take the women seriously?

Anthony Bourdain: if everyone knew, if you knew, then why didn’t you say something?

I don’t hate Bourdain, enjoyed Kitchen Confidential, and have watched and will likely watch some of his t.v. shows. I’d probably enjoy a barstool-bullshitting session with him, and would be unsurprised to find out he treats people decently. In short, I don’t think he’s a bad guy.

Which is rather the point: He’s not a bad guy, and he manages to slam a woman for not reacting in the right way to a bad man.

He’s not horrible, but, really, that’s all that can be said.

~~~

When I first jumped on Twitter and started following a bunch of people of color, I’d commonly see withering references to white people (or wypipo)—references which would inevitably lead to white folks jumping into that person’s mentions to say “. . . but not me!”

I didn’t do this, but I understood the impulse: You want to be one of the good guys, and just as if not more importantly, you want to be recognized as one of the good guys. #NotAllWhitePeople. . . .

The original Tweeter would usually react with anything from exasperation to impatience to contempt: If this truly doesn’t apply to you, then why do you need to make this about you?

I understood that response as well, or thought I did. I mean, I could see that the Tweeter had a point, but weren’t they, maybe, a bit. . . harsh?

Well. Yes. And?

I have come to see that the harshness was merited, an honest expression of distrust in the goodness of white people, of skepticism that white people really have any interest in confronting white supremacy, in getting outside of their (our) own whiteness.

I think most men are not rapists, are not harassers, and think most men probably treat people (including women people) decently. I also think most men don’t see themselves as in any way responsible for the culture which make it easy for some of them to behave so horribly.

So, enough. No credit for not being horrible, no credit for meeting minimal standards of humanness.

That doesn’t mean we can’t be friendly, can’t be decent colleagues, can’t enjoy ourselves in a session of barstool-bullshitting, but, when it counts, until I see otherwise, I don’t expect men to step up.





Outside gets inside through her skin

13 02 2017

“Host.”

Ultimately, [Humphrey] said, his intent was to let men have a say. “I believe one of the breakdowns in our society is that we have excluded the man out of all of these types of decisions,” he said. “I understand that they feel like that is their body,” he said of women. “I feel like it is a separate — what I call them is, is you’re a ‘host.’ And you know when you enter into a relationship you’re going to be that host and so, you know, if you pre-know that then take all precautions and don’t get pregnant,” he explained. “So that’s where I’m at. I’m like, hey, your body is your body and be responsible with it. But after you’re irresponsible then don’t claim, well, I can just go and do this with another body, when you’re the host and you invited that in.”

All of the words I have would not be enough—which is fine, since he doesn’t deserve words, anyway.

Via





Who look at your face from more than one angle

29 12 2016

Short bit: alllla these pieces about the need to empathize with the whiteworkingclass?

How many by women? How many about women?

I really don’t know—there might be plenty—but I haven’t seen pundit pieces to this effect. Reporting, yes—Arlie Hochschild, Larissa MacFarquhar, Patricia Lockwood—but counsel to ‘Be nice’? Nope.

Instead, what I’ve seen has been white women calling out white women for voting for Trump. Samantha Bee, Jen Graves, the (mostly-but-not-only-white) women at Jezebel.

Yes, there are plenty of white liberals and leftists of all sexes willing to go after whites of all sexes for voting for or not caring they’re voting for whiteness-first, but the genre of sympathy-for-the-WWC seems to be written largely by and about white men.

Nope, don’t know what this means, but I bet it means something.

~~~

h/t Emily Nussbaum, who’s been relentless in pointing out on Twitter how few analyses of Trump’s win/Clinton’s loss takes sex seriously, and Marcus H. Johnson, Oliver Willis, Jamelle Bouie, Jamilah Lemieux, and many, many others who’ve highlighted how simple-minded so many of the ‘be kind’ pieces are.





Emancipate yourself from mental slavery

2 12 2015

So yet another clinic is attacked, yet more people murdered, and yet again cries are heard that the real murderers are Planned Parenthood or whichever organization or whoever clinician is performing the abortions.

Jamelle Bouie had a decent point: if you really do believe that abortion is worse than slavery, that every abortion clinic is the site of mass murder, then wouldn’t you think, even a little, that Robert Dear (or Scott Roeder or Eric Rudolph or. . . ) is a little bit John Brown, a little bit righteous?

It’s a serious question, and as someone who would hopefully act politically against any attempt to reimpose slavery in this country, I don’t know that I would rule against violence to prevent a massive, bleeding, injustice.

Which is to say, I might understand those who are committed to non-violent actions to end abortion who nonetheless think, Yeah, but. . . .

None of which is to say—surprise!—that I think abortion is a massive, bleeding, injustice. And I’ve long been irritated by those who compare Roe v. Wade to Dred Scott and thus, abortion to slavery.

I did used to struggle with this (oh, hey, maybe those prolifers are making a point about the fetus) until I decided just to dismiss the entire analogy: abortion slavery.

But now I’ll come up on that analogy from the other side: abortion isn’t slavery, the fetus isn’t a slave, but the legalization of abortion was, in fact, an emancipation for women, and any attempt to make abortion illegal takes away the freedom of the woman.

Now, I may have, in that second novel that I still haven’t managed to inquire about with an agent, had one of my characters argue with another that she wanted to “enslave women”, but speaking for myself, I don’t really like that language: as a great a loss to the dignity and liberty to women it would be to lose the right to end a pregnancy, it’s not the same as—not as horrifying as—chattel slavery.

It’s bad enough, though, as the loss of dignity and liberty is no small thing.

And thus to my final point: those who decry Planned Parenthood (et. al.) as mass murderers neglect (surprise!) the women who themselves get the abortion. Abortion clinics aren’t pulling women off the street and strapping them down so that the ‘abortionist’ can kill her third-trimester baby and sell its parts; no, women are choosing, one by one by one by one, to go to a clinic to end her own pregnancy.

Some women have one abortion, some have two abortions, some have more than two abortions; each time, it the woman herself who enters the clinic, who climbs on to the table herself, who asks that her pregnancy be ended. The abortion provider isn’t doing anything to her that she hasn’t asked to be done.

I understand that many intelligent and decent people do think that abortion is horrifying and  that 50,000,000+ babies have been killed in the U.S. since Roe, and are sincerely grieved by what they seen as the ‘abortion industry’ killing those babies en masse. They see abortion as a system that must be overturned as surely as the abolitionists saw slavery as a system to be overturned.

But what I see are the women, one by one by one by one, deciding, each for herself, what she can take, and what she can give, and what will be the course of her own life.

And that’s a liberty ardently to be defended.





Voices carry

9 08 2015

Katha Pollitt ain’t wrong:

We need to say that women have sex, have abortions, are at peace with the decision and move on with their lives. We need to say that is their right, and, moreover, it’s good for everyone that they have this right: The whole society benefits when motherhood is voluntary.

The problem, however, is that a large chunk of the American population, male and female, is not comfortable with the notion that women have sex, and that sometimes as a result of having sex, have abortions that they do not regret.

Even some of those who don’t want abortion outlawed do want women to feel bad—both for having sex “irresponsibly” and for ducking their responsibility by having an abortion.

When we gloss over these truths [about voluntary motherhood] we unintentionally promote the very stigma we’re trying to combat. What, you didn’t agonize? You forgot your pill? You just didn’t want to have a baby now? You should be ashamed of yourself.

Pollitt wants women who’ve had abortions—and the men who’ve supported them—to speak up, and yes, sister, I’m right there with you.

It is understandable that women who have ended pregnancies just wanted to move on. Why should they define themselves publicly by one private decision, perhaps made long ago? I’ll tell you why: because the pro-choice movement cannot flourish if the mass of women it serves — that one in three — look on as if the struggle has nothing to do with them. Without the voices and support of millions of ordinary women behind them, providers and advocates can be too easily dismissed as ideologues out of touch with the American people.

I’d love for such a speak-out movement to work to blunt bill after proposed bill after proposed bill designed to deter women from accessing the clinic those bills’ sponsors are trying to harass out of existence, I really would, but I am dubious.

After all, this is a country in which most adults use contraceptives and yet the notion of contraceptive coverage is “controversial”.

Okay, it’s not, really, not as a general matter, but as a policy issue, even programs which provably help lower the incidence of unwanted pregnancy are in jeopardy.

(There are any number of reasons for the success of what could perhaps be called anti-sex bills, including the everlasting desire to control women’s sex lives, but apart from any ideological reasons is the plain fact that there are no obvious consequences for passing such bills—not to the legislators, at least.

Unwanted pregnancies carry all sorts of social costs, of course, but these tend to be spread (however thinly) across the general population; the acute burdens are, of course, carried by those who legislators deem should be so burdened.

And any woman who complains? Well, that’s what she gets for having sex.)

In any case, I propose that, in addition to Pollitt’s speak-out movement, those of us who favor abortion rights start talking, loudly, about just what kinds of consequences antiabortion legislators have in store for women who seek illegal abortions.

So you want to outlaw abortion?

This makes me sound like a maniac, I know: this could never happen! But it could, and it does.

So let’s ask all of those who want outlaw abortion exactly how they mean to enforce these laws, and what will the consequences be for women who run afoul of them.

Such an approach may not make any difference, but thus far it’s been too easy for antiabortion legislators to duck out of the consequences of their actions.

Let’s make it hard for them.

You want to outlaw abortion? Over a million women a year get abortions. How do you stop the abortions without stopping the women?