Friday, November 24, 2006

Children, No Children, Abused Children

Dan Savage (who is and isn't my idol) writes of his opinion of gay ballroom dancing, "I full expext to get my ass roasted by my friends in the gay media, but what the hey; I think it looks silly when two men ballroom dance."

I bring this up because I'm sure to make enemies, but I hope people will bear with me: I think feminist energy at this moment is being greatly misplaced.

There are three articles that have come to my attention in the past few days: Ms. Magazine has put out a roster inviting women who have had abortions to weigh in, Bust has put out an article about the pride in being a childless women, and Bob Herbert has written an editiorial for the Times about forced child prosititution in Atlanta, GA. My thesis:

What's wrong with this picture?

The abortion piece in particular has trickled down to numerous websites/articles on both sides. The Ms. article points out that

"In its 1972 debut issue, Ms. Magazine ran a bold petition in which 53 well-known U.S. women declared that they had undergone abortions—despite state laws rendering the procedure illegal. " Ms. is currently encouraging women to sign a new petition to keep abortion unstigmatized, safe, and legal. Looking at the actual signers, they seem pretty level-headed and have some good points. Fair enough. But, on her blog Domestic Disturbances (NYT) Judith Warner (who IS my idol) makes an interesting case against the Ms. movement. Warner, who I would say is pretty egalitartian, if not liberal, argues,

"I think the editors of Ms. – among others on the far left of the pro-choice movement – are striking the wrong tone and doing the cause of reproductive freedom a real disservice."


"This isn’t 1972. Abortion isn’t illegal. The blanket desire to overturn Roe v. Wade that motivated the proponents of the South Dakota ban is not shared by a majority of Americans; polls have shown this time and time again."

Ms. Magazine uses the South Dakota as a partial reason for speaking up. But, they are ignoring a crucial point. The ban was TURNED DOWN...which should, as Warner points out, prove something. Warner goes on to say,

"Most Americans’ support for abortion rights is partial and conditional – a “yes, but” kind of feeling that is typical, says David Callahan, author of the recent book, “The Moral Center,” of the way most Americans view social freedoms generally: they’re a good thing, in principle, but they’ve perhaps gone too far."

Warner writes,

"I don’t think that writing in to a Web site like I’, which invites women to share “their positive experiences with abortion,” and includes testimonials like “The fetus I aborted was nothing more than a clump of cells,” is the best way to cement widespread support for a beleaguered movement."

Ironically, (am I the only one to notice?), the women on the website don't use their real names - which is the opposite of the entire Ms. movement.

I am in the yes, but camp. Should abortion be legal, nonstimgmatised, and safe? Hell, yes. Should it be a completely guilt-free, free-for-all, that women should be PROUD of? I'm not so sure.

But, even if you don't agree with me, I think women have bigger fish to fry. I think this topic is getting a little old. I have my own moments of paranoia that abortion will be criminalized, but many people just think it will never happen. I think - to some effect it is distracting everyone (the Republicans, feminists, and the Church) from more pressing issues like war and child abuse. The Rebublicans rutinely use abortion and gay marriage to detract from larger issues - and people fall for it!

Bust this month features
Infant Free
For women who remain childfree by choice, our kiddie-obsessed culture can stink worse than dirty diapers.

To me, this is even more offensive than the abortion thing. First of all, only single people think the country is "kiddie-obsessed." As a mother, I think the world is adult obsessed. There are no restrictions put on single people - and plenty on parents. On top of it, people are always bitching about kids. I want a kid, you don't. Who cares?

I find it ironic that what should be the headline feminist issue (awe, men having sex with 10 year olds!) was written in the Times by a man! What's up with that? I think that the problem largely is that the other two issues - in the case of Bust, a non-issue - largely are about personal choice and lead back to the self.

I think this society as a whole needs to start looking outside ourselves.


Unknown said...

Yeap. Yeap and Yeap.

With the abortion argument I think it's an acknowledgement of the very real emotional pain that at least most of the women (and men) I know have experienced around it that's missing. Should it be legal? Duh is the only word I know answer that. But why can't we talk about it honestly? The other side is only strengthen by polarity.

When it comes to child abuse, it think it's the sense of powerlessness that keeps it from taking up more room in our papers and minds. At least that's a slightly more sympathetic reading yr assessment.

Jennifer Bartlett said...


Thank you. I understand your comment about child abuse. Child abuse, I know is often subversive and done within the family. It is difficult to pin down.

I view the thing in Atlanta as very different. It is slave labor done quite publically by children, and it is (obviously) big business. I am not even convinced that the men who do it are pedohiles. The actions of these men are so calculated that it's hard to believe it's any kind of mental illness. I think it's a real divorce of morality from reality. It reminds me of this article I read in the Science Times about executioners who do not believe in the death penalty.

About abortion...I think people should talk honestly. But, I think when someone writes that they did it and it was nothing - this doesn't win over anyone.

I don't mean to make enemies. But, I just think abortion has defined the feminist movement for too long. There are plenty of other things that make women "feminist" than the legality of abortion, and plenty of other fights to fight. i.e. imagine if we were in the Sudan and had to fight off rapists and killers on a daily basis. From this point of view the abortion battle (which in my mind has already been won.) would be a luxery.