Sunday, April 26, 2009

Choosy Moms Choose Selective Abortion

Wow, that was crass. But this is something that I feel pretty strongly about, as it relates to women's reproductive choice. Garland-Thompson's Integrating Disability, Transforming Feminist Theory touched on the subject of selective abortion, citing a source that seen it as "a coercive form of genocide against the disabled." That's a pretty bold statement. As I am not in the strictest sense disabled, I am probably fairly biased in my belief that selective abortion is an okay thing. Of course, like all grey issues, there are some lines that shouldn't be crossed--selective abortion of females in India is actually not okay. The problem with line-drawing, however, is how the lines get decided and who decides them.

When dealing with severe mental disabilities, you have to consider that not only will the child in question be affected, but you, your family and Uncle Sam will as well. Even though it can be argued that you can't prenatally determine quality of life, you CAN determine your own social and economic standing to assess your ability to properly care for a special needs child. In no way am I suggesting that mentally or physically disabled people can't live fulfilling lives; I'm just pointing to important and apparently overlooked facts to consider when bringing another human being into the world.

Arguments against selective abortion describe it as eugenics. Which, honestly, I don't see as that bad of a thing. With all the medical technology available nowadays, natural selection has been placed on the back burner of society. Just to clarify that I'm not that big of an asshole, what I have in mind right now are artificial methods of preserving life. Talkin' Terri Schaivo here. Social Security was not meant to provide for people living into their eighties and nineties, and the burden of providing for their care is going to cripple the system (I'm talking to you, baby boomers). I think there's a definate connection between anti-choicers and anti-let-suffering-old-people-diers in that the life and death cycle become unnatural. The Catholic Church is all "from conception to natural death!!1!" but with modern technology, death isn't natural anymore. Unless you get run over or something. With so much technology to prolong life, there's less of an emphasis on death as an inevitability. I mean, yes there is, but not as an immediate kind of thing, and the likelihood of women dying in childbirth nowadays is much less than way back when.

So I've kind of been all over the place, but what I'm trying to articulate here is that the cultural anxiety of controlling and regulating death is what people are making a fuss about, because it's taking the control out of the hands of society and into individuals' hands. And since individuals inevitably have different ideologies and values, there's a lot more grey as opposed to your cut-and-dry 'abortion is bad because it kills babies and gives you breast cancer' arguments.

Monday, April 13, 2009

beauty in ambiguity

[For the record, I didn't capitalize the title of this blog for a]

I'm just going to put this out there right now--I'm an ignorant asshole. No really. I hardcore judge myself for it, too. When I see a person whose gender is not clearly definable, my mind inevitably wanders where I try to keep it from most...I wonder if they're a boy or girl.

Ass. Hole.

I guess what I'm trying to convey here is that despite all my women's studies training and my own personal values of basic human (excepting right-wing evangelicals) rights, the topic of transgenderism is uncomfortable for me. I want so badly to understand them and to make them feel comfortable, but the very fact that I'm categorizing them as a 'them' separate from myself is so anti-women's studies it makes my head spin. I want them to know that I support them, but I don't want to just support them for the sake of supporting them because I don't really know them. Them them them them them. I'm grouping them as thems rather than as the individuals that they really are. I can't even imagine the struggles they face--although I perform a feminine gender, I have the mouth of a sailor and other various traits culturally constructed as masculine, and I've gotten shit for it. If I get policed for violating my gender, I can't even fathom what they face daily. I don't want to be "that girl" that has to ask them a series of what I would feel are really personal questions about their gender identity if I don't know them. That would be like calling them out on their gender variance, and I'm not cool with doing that. And there I go with grouping them into a collective again--I feel like I'm being narrow-minded despite my desperate attempts not to be.

I just want to know more. And I feel like I'd be imposing if I just walked up to someone and was like "well hello, I'm awkwardly forward in conversations and I'd really love to know which third-person pronouns you prefer." So then, the academic nerd in me is like, "oh! I'll read books on them with personal narratives and the like!" And while I feel that knowledge and research is good, I feel like I'm being clinical (and very much patriarchal) in the way that I feel like they're so different from me that I have to check out a book to understand them. They're not fucking calculus. They're people.

I'm just really, really confused about this and I don't want to be an ignorant asshole anymore.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Society Without Feminism

All throughout my copy of The Handmaid's Tale, there are marginal marks like "What the fuck," "Are you serious?!" and "Asshole right-wing religious rhetoric." Actually, when I say marks, what I mean is I literally scribbled in the margins about how fucked up the Gilead society was. I think what really frightened me (as well as pissed me off) was that it could really happen.

And, more importantly, I could let this happen.

I'm not suggesting that if given the opportunity, I would don a long red dress and a hat with unflattering white wings and prostitute myself for an impotent son of a bitch patriarch. I'm saying that when it comes down to it, my self-preservationist instinct would (more likely than not) lead me to be a complicit participant in this society. And that bothers the hell out of me.

A particular passage relevant to my interests is in the aply named Salvaging (chapter 41): "By telling you anything at all I'm at least believing in you, I believe you're there, I believe you into being. Because I'm telling you this story I will your existence. I tell, therefore you are."

There's a lot going on in this relatively small passage. Not only does Atwood rhetorically draw you into the story and make you an active participant, but she makes it your duty to prevent this kind of world--she makes you accountable. The "I tell, therefore you are" is more likely than not an allusion to Descartes' "I think, therefore I am," but again Atwood shapes and creates her own meaning with it. Rather than think, which has been associated throughout history as masculine, she choses tell--the reclamation of women's stories and validation of their experiences is integral to feminism. The final you are in opposition to I am once again draws you into the story; our existance is affected by Offred's experience in that it forces us to look at how we are oppressed in our own lives, and makes us accountable to both ourselves and human kind in general so as to not let something like Gilead happen again.

But the thing is, Gilead has happened in one form or another. And women as well as men have let things like this happen. Decent people who were too afraid of the consequences of rebellion. Fear is a powerful tool, and under the regime of our highly-esteemed former president Bush, reproductive rights have slowly been chipped away, phones of people who don't fit the description of WASP have been (illegally) tapped, and thousands of American soliders have died (or been emotioally scarred) for the almighty fucking dollar.

And we let it happen.

I'm not saying that it's any individual's fault, or that there hasn't been feminist (and non-feminist) resistance to these injustices, but the fact that a son of a bitch like George Junior could get away with things like this is inexcusable.

I guess what really made me blog about this is that sometimes I feel like I'm not a good enough feminist because I'm not out on the front lines marching in equality parades (or what have you). Instead, I sit and blog about how pissed I am. Sure, going to school is a pretty legit way to forward and enhance my feminist consciousness...but am I being too academic at the expense of political activism that's going to actually invoke change?

Oh, and here's a really irrelevant picture of me being Rosie the Riveter:

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

An Unhappy Vagina Happy Fact

Two days ago, I participated in The Vagina Monologues. As in, I was a vagina happy fact. Although I had like, three lines, this was pretty much a big deal for me as I am bug shit terrified of all things related to being the center of attention. But I was okay. I mean, sure, I was nervous and all, but all in all I think I did fairly well. I was a happy Vagina Happy Fact.

The next day rolled around, and I was still a happy Vagina Happy Fact. I got complimented by a couple fans, which made me feel fantastic as I half-expected to have a panic attack on stage and die. I was all 'tra-la'la' in my little Vagina Happy Fact world, pleased to know that Young Feminists' first big event had been a success. All was well in the world. Then, per usual, my happy feminist world was confronted with patriarchy. See, I was going to wear my VM t-shirt today. I was thrilled to wear it. But then I remembered that I had work. (I should preface the following by saying that I love my job and the people I work for--it's the socialized gender norms and [un]conscious sexism that they've internalized.)

The first thought that popped into my head when I thought of work was that vaginas are inappropriate in the work place. And then I was like, why the fuck is that? Why is me supporting a play that supports victims of domestic violence inappropriate? Really, it's not. What's inappropriate are vaginas. Did you know Family Video carries a movie featuring Jenna Jameson as a zombie stripper, but it refuses to carry a piece of legitimate art like the Monologues? Apparently, vaginas are not family-friendly. How's that for irony.

Vaginas have been perjorated. Vaaaaaaagggggiiiiiiinaaaaaa. It's not an attractive word by any means, but why is it such a taboo to say it? I'll admit that I feel awkward saying it. Vagina. I don't like saying it in class. Vagina. Mostly it gets called 'female genitals.' I've personally never heard of the penis being called a 'male genital.' 'Cause it's okay to say penis. Penis penis penis penis. But not vagina.

A few of my family members came up to see the show to support me, which was really fantastic of them. My mother almost called my grandmother to invite her, but she said (and I quote): I just couldn't say 'vagina' in front of your grandmother. And honestly, my grandmother would have probably had a heart attack and would come back to haunt me for having the audacity to say 'clitoris' on stage. As this was my first and probably last public performance, I want to tell people about it and I want to be proud that I was a part of it. And I am. Only...I can't say vagina. It offends people.


It is not okay to have a vagina and to be proud.