In the Spirit of the NASW Code of Ethics: We Don’t Owe Anyone An Explanation

Here is a link to a wonderful account of the personal politics (politics are always personal) of abortion, by Laura Lannes and Candace Russel.  For a very compassionate discussion of the way that women’s reproduction is determined unfairly by racial, economic, and national issues, check out this article, recently posted at Rewire.  And here is an excerpt from that essay:

Eleven years ago I joined the fight for abortion access, after a 14-year-old parent, pregnant again by an adult, told me it was cheaper to pay friends $10 each to beat her up and force miscarriage than it was to afford an abortion. She said she would lose her housing if she was pregnant again, and that it would be easier to explain getting beat up to her family than wanting an abortion.

 

Trump signs gag rule, harming women world-wide.

Are Pregnant Women Persons? The Assault on Women’s Subjectivity

 

Trump signs gag rule, harming women world-wide.
My uncle Lars (not his real name) was troubled for much of his life.   He had three daughters by two mothers.   Well after his daughters were grown, with children of their own, he impregnated a young Mexican woman–let’s call her Elena–and then had her imprisoned on charges that she was harming “his” fetus with substances.    I do not know whether or not Elena used drugs or alcohol while she was pregnant.   Uncle Lars alleged that she did, and managed have her locked up in a State prison for the duration of her pregnancy, directly in violation of her constitutional rights.

Read moreAre Pregnant Women Persons? The Assault on Women’s Subjectivity

Take the Taco or Beer Challenge

Are you a woman?  Do you love someone who is female?  Do you believe you have or she has the right to her own body and mind? Do you like tacos or beer?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, please support this campaign to give women more control over their own destinies: Taco or Beer Challenge.  It’s a heck of a lot more fun that dumping ice on your head. Tacos-Beer-Abortion_014258285620

This morning I donated money to Trust Women Foundation through this campaign.   Check out some videos of other like-minded here.

BTW, I don’t like all the F-bombs in the subsequent blurb, but the cause is good.  Please check it out.  Taco or Beer Challenge.

Or simply donate to this excellent cause: TRUST WOMEN.

The Media Assault on Women and a Lecture on Gender

The Mis-representation of Women in the Media, Or, Insidious Violence Against Human Beings Gendered Feminine is the subject of today’s rant, and it is prompted by Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s  documentary, Miss Representation.

We’ve seen many of these images before, of course, but not while thinking about them as Newsome allows us to.  She skillfully juxaposes the pornographic male gaze with a more honest look at actual women and girls.  Seeing these images out of context, away from the narratives that lull us to sleep, or encourage us to buy products, or vote the way particular corporate interests direct us to think about ourselves as women or men, allows us to understand how they damage us.

Distorted and insulting portraits of women as sex objects for men to use, deride, revile, and torment with abandon express the fantasies of adolescent porn addicts.  Sut Jhally makes a similar point in his compelling Dreamsworlds 3: Sex and Power in Music Video. These phantasms of the misogynist mind do real harm because they seep into the collective unconscious and register there as accurate, acceptable, even laudable.  That is why we see eleven year-olds vamping up in sexy outfits and heavy makeup and housewives taking up pole-dancing, or imagining that such activities are appropriate and authentic means of self-expression, even artistry, and that dressing and behaving like slaves will garner them genuine love, affection, companionship.

These perverted images do not directly rape women, but they do a symbolic violence that is as devastating and long-lasting as rape, and this symbolic violence, this grotesque representation of women as sex-starved sluts desperate for male attention, or as “bitches” or “dykes” when they refuse to defer to men and stand up for themselves, leads to actual, physical violence.  This symbolic violence encourages men to rape and to brutalize women, and then trivializes these horrific crimes.

Media symbols of degraded femininity do real violence not only because they broadcast a particularly narrow and misogynist message, but also because they reinforce the underlying patriarchal structure of our society.  They reiterate the male/female dichotomies that organize our culture and guide the way that we learn to understand ourselves narrowly as masculine or feminine, rational or irrational, subject or object, light or dark, good or bad.

As my favorite Spinster Aunt at I Blame the Patriarchy notes, femininity is not inherent or natural, but rather a way of being that is acquired, developed, within a patriarchal and heterosexist culture:

That’s right. Femininity is not a natural expression of femaleness. It is not an hereditary, hormone-based fascination for fashion, submissiveness, mani-peddies, baby-soft skin, or catfighting. It is not a fun-loving lifestyle choice. Femininity is a rigid system of behaviors imposed on us by the Global Accords Governing the Fair Use of Women as a means to control, subjugate, and marginalize us, entirely at our expense, for the benefit of the male-controlled megatheocorporatocracy.

Some people believe that

the practice of femininity is but one facet of an exciting smorgasbord…of lifestyle choices available to today’s busy autonomous gal-on-the-go. They feel that “choosing” feminine conduct is an act of feminist rebellion, on the grounds that the choicing is entirely the chooser’s own personal idea. They aver that femininity can be an expression of a woman’s personal personality, and that it is “fun.” It is irrelevant, apparently, that femininity just happens to align precisely with the pornified desires, yucky fetishes, and vulgar business interests of the entire dudely culture of domination.

…It’s so much easier to go with the flow and comfy up with the familiar old gender stereotypes than it is to come to grips with the fact that our woman-hating world order enforces femininity with a rigorous system of hollow, joyless rewards and uncompromising, murderous punishments, and that the enforcement of feminine behavior is a global humanitarian crisis.

Twisty has it right. The enforcement of feminine behavior–feminine as defined by the media who pander to adolescent porn-addled male fantasies, which the media reinforces and sustains in order to perpetuate itself–is a global humanitarian crisis because women constitute more than 50 per cent of the global population and women across the world have been under siege for thousands of years, since patriarchy was invented.

Feel like watching another video?  Check out this great ad by the Dove Self-Esteem fund:

Feel better now?  No?  The director is sending an message, but also shows us how the media assaults us in order to manipulate us! It blasts away at us every day all the time.  Actual men assault actual women every day, all the time, too.   Officially estimated, men rape women and girls every 15 seconds in this country, and 1 in 4 women has been or will be sexually violated in her lifetime.   But when you consider the whole picture of Intimate Partner Violence, it is no overstatement to say that every single second of every single day multiple men demean, insult, harass, beat, rape, and assault women or girls they know.

I volunteer at the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh, which is one of the oldest and best-respected institutions of its kind.  Please consider supporting them. They need your help very much.

Because of the economic crisis in this country,  battering has increased at the very same time that funding for crisis shelters has dried up.  The GOP’s war on women and disingenuous and foolish campaign to slash federal money for all agencies that offer support, medical assistance, and psychological care for women (Planned Parenthood, WIC and Head Start are all under attack) will make the situation worse.  This is not to say that poor people commit domestic violence at higher rates than the rich.   Men of every station, race, income level, and education batter and abuse women with impunity in this country.   The media, which makes billions of dollars portraying women in disturbingly demeaned and perverted roles, encourages this criminal abuse.

Speak out.  Represent yourself, in all your complex gender-bending beauty.

I had two abortions and I am not ashamed

Though you have done nothing shameful,
they will want you to be ashamed.
They will want you to kneel and weep
and say you should have been like them.
And once you say you are ashamed,
reading the page they hold out to you,
then such light as you have made
in your history will leave you.
They will no longer need to pursue you.
You will pursue them, begging forgiveness.
They will not forgive you.
There is no power against them.
It is only candor that is aloof from them,
only an inward clarity, unashamed,
that they cannot reach. Be ready.
When their light has picked you out
and their questions are asked, say to them:
"I am not ashamed." A sure horizon
will come around you. The heron will begin
his evening flight from the hilltop.

From "Do Not Be Ashamed" by Wendell Barry

When I was 17 years old I decided to have sex with my first serious boyfriend, who was very nice Catholic boy at my public high school.  He was sweet and we were in love.  My parents, a doctor and the daughter of a doctor and a nurse,  were really cool and had been quite open with me about reproduction and sex since I was about 3, but I still didn’t want them to know.  It wasn’t really their business.  I was going to have sex and I knew the consequences.  I didn’t want to get pregnant and I didn’t want to contract a disease, so we were going to use contraception.  We did what lots of my peers did.  We went down to Planned Parenthood for free contraception, which we got after going through some mandatory sex education classes.   We had to wait about a week, I guess, in order to get started.  We waited.  We protected ourselves most of the time.  But we were in love and heat and so we slipped once or twice.

My mother was the one who figured it out.  I had been throwing up in the mornings for a couple of days, and she announced, in a matter-of-fact and slightly disgusted voice: “you’re pregnant.”  Of course I was going to have an abortion.  My parents were certainly not going to let me have a baby, and I knew I wasn’t ready.  I had taken care of my sister since she was born and had a very good grasp of how much work, money, and commitment was involved, and I knew I wasn’t old enough to take it on by myself.  Being pregnant felt a lot like being infected with a horrible disease.  I was sick and wanted the source of the nausea out, fast.  I didn’t think I had a “baby” inside of me.  I knew very well that, at about six weeks, what was growing was a mass of cells about 1/6 of an inch long and presently much more like an insect or a worm than a human being.

My parents were Seventh-Day Adventists from a medical family who themselves had come from pragmatic farm folk.  An abortion of a human fetus in the first trimester was not a lot different from the abortion of an unwanted litter of kittens: regrettable and sad, but necessary.  Unfortunate, not tragic.  My parents made me and my boyfriend pay for the procedure to teach us to be more careful in the future.

I was, for the most part.  But I was also extremely fertile, I guess, because I got pregnant again, at college, with my second serious boyfriend.  That time, I recognized the symptoms all by myself and escaped the serious disapproval and lectures that would have come from my mother and father.  They would not have berated me for having sex, or for having to get another abortion, but rather for being careless and stupid.  They didn’t need to scold me about this, because I had already internalized them well enough to lambast myself.  I felt that I had been reckless, irresponsible, and foolish, not just with my own life but also with life itself, with the potential life growing within me.  I did not choose lightly or cavalierly, but also did not think that I had been immoral or that it terminating it was anything like murder.  I had been thinking a lot about infanticide, ironically, since I was currently reading all of Euripides and had become especially enthralled with Medea.  I toyed romantically and self-destructively with the idea of myself as a Medea but never really believed my own hype.

My problem was that I was broke.  I had the luxury of attending school full-time without having to take a job for expenses, but my parents sent me only the bare minimum that I needed for books, pens, paper, and food.  So I had to figure out a way to pay for the abortion without having to tell my parents.  I was really, really lucky.  My scientifically minded, pro-choice Republicans parents would have excoriated me for my idiocy and made me feel a lot worse than I already did, but they weren’t going to disown me or treat me as a pariah, as many much more conservative parents would have done.  Also,  in California during the early 1980s it was still possible to get a state-funded abortion if you could prove that you had financial need.  I did.  The State paid and I went on with my life.  I found the procedure somewhat grisly, and emotionally exhausting and very, very sad, but I really didn’t think I had done anything particularly evil.  It would have been far worse to give birth to a child and release him or her into the uncertain fate of adoption, or try to take care of a kid that I resented and wasn’t mature or economically steady enough to support in a positive and wholesome environment.

I’m really lucky.  No one shamed me.  No monsters stood outside the clinic and screamed names at me.  No judge forced me to develop a fertilized egg that I didn’t want in my body.  No one wrote nasty letters or emails to me.  No one denounced me.  No one made me feel bad about myself for taking what I knew was the most responsible and ethical decision for me at the time.  No one threatened to kill me or the doctor who performed the operation.

The next time I got pregnant I meant to.  I got really sick again–but it was, as a dear friend and ob-gyn told me, “a good sick.”  I did not enjoy being pregnant.  I felt invaded by an alien life form.  I had been invaded by an alien life form, albeit one who shared some of my genes.  But I choose to bring it to term, and I was very lucky that he turned out to be healthy and beautiful and himself.  I was ready for him–although it still seemed too soon.

If you have had an abortion, please do not feel ashamed.  You have done nothing wrong.  Do not listen to those who would take your light away.

Patty’s Story, Or, Why Women Stay with their Abusers

When she got pregnant and wanted to keep the baby, the father of the child said he would have her beaten until she miscarried.   Terrified, she hid from him.  She eventually went back and stayed with him after the baby, a girl, was born.  She stayed for years, even after he began to hit her.  She was smart, educated, and never thought that she’d become one of “those women.” How did she join the substantial numbers of women in our country–one in every four–who have suffered domestic violence?

He was wealthy and powerful.  She was 20 and just out of school and landed a job working as his secretary.  He quickly became the center of her world.  He isolated her from her friends and family.  He owned the car she drove and the house she lived in.  He was her boss.  During the beginning of their relationship, she thought that his demands on her time were an expression of his love for her.  She did not recognize the patterns of emotional and financial abuse closing around her.

When their daughter was born, Patty wanted to file with the court to ensure that he would support the child. He talked her out of it.  He needed to control the situation completely.  She believed him when he said he would take care of her and her child, but her fear grew.

Four years later, the little girl discovered her father strangling her mother.  “Daddy!” she screamed.  He threw her mother onto a cement floor, knocking her out.

When their daughter began telling people in the neighborhood that her daddy hit her mommy, Patty tried to hush her.  She was afraid of what he would do to her if he found out.  But then she realized that she didn’t want her daughter to grow up thinking that it was normal and acceptable for men to treat women this way.  She enrolled in counseling sessions at the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh.  With the help of their legal services team, she began the long fight for her freedom.

He fired her.  He took the car.  He took the house.   She faced homeless and poverty, but she refused to live in fear any longer.  Patty found a job at a church, and later took another position in a law firm.  Thanks to her determination and the support she received from the Women’s Center and Shelter, she extricated herself from her abuser, and eventually bought her own house and her own car.

Why didn’t Patty leave earlier?  It’s simple.  He had terrified her.  Thank goodness she found help for herself.  Thank goodness for the fantastic people at the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh.

Domestic abusers like Patty’s boss and partner terrorize and erode their victims’ self-confidence in many ways without bruising their bodies.

  • They isolate them from friends and family by pretending to care for them more than anyone else ever could.
  • They threaten to withdraw their affection from the woman who has no other support system.
  • They dominate their lives by controlling their finances, by setting themselves up as the sole source of income, the sole source of food, shelter, and clothing.
  • They treat their victims like children, encouraging them to think that they are helpless or too stupid to take care of themselves.
  • They react jealously whenever their victim shows the slightest interest in other human beings, particularly other men.
  • They demand that their victims demonstrate their devotion continuously, with greater and greater displays of affection.
  • They belittle their victims through allegedly harmless “jokes,” negative innuendos, and put-downs.
  • They deliberately manipulate their victims with guilt trips in order to keep them under their thumbs.

The most telling sign of an abusive relationship is fear of your partner. If you find yourself walking on eggshells, worrying that the slightest mishap will set your partner off into a rage,  the chances are that your relationship is abusive.

If you believe that you are in an abusive relationship, please do not hesitate to reach out for help.  Immediately call the WC&S 24-hour hotline:  412-687-8005. Someone will help you.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-7233

Note: Patty recounted her story at the 2010 Spring Clothes Out Fundraiser for the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh.  You can read more about her in the Summer 2010 issue of Rosewood.