Sigh. Is what I feel like.
I want so badly for things to change--for myself, for my friends, for the world. I imagine a world with freedom to and freedom from and it's so beautiful it almost hurts. Does. It does hurt, because I see all that is wrong and I see that there are structures in places, insurances and assurances that it will never change.
And I don't know how to live in that world. This world.
I don't know how to navigate between my privileges and oppressions, I don't know how to end structural violences, and I don't believe that changing myself will change the world.
It was naive of me to think I would change the world--it is naive of me to think I can change the American healthcare system and attitudes towards it.
What hurts the most, I think, isn't the outside opposition--nameless, faceless conservative values voters. It's the people I love and respect, the ones I regard so highly and try to model myself after, that are complicit within a system not conducive to feminist and egalitarian values.
Radical in theory, liberal in practice--this is the mantra I have to live by if I'm to survive.
I wish, I wish, I wish it wasn't this way.
Saturday, October 2, 2010
It was a Sunday that I was forwarded an email detailing this contest, and it wasn’t until today, Wednesday, that I really stopped to consider the question of why I’m pro choice. Question? Not a question so much as a reason. A journey, even—like most things intersectional, my presuppositions have constantly been challenged and I have to allow for fluidity while still holding onto my core values. I suppose it’s taken me this long to formulate my answer because I see choice as a given; it’s been an inherent right for the women of my generation, and I quite honestly take this right for granted most days, even in the face of those rights being slowly chipped away by the anti-abortion movement and its proponents. It is my own experience within academic feminism (granted, at an undergraduate level), there is a tendency to get so caught up in the overly theoretical that the real lived experiences of women, men, and gender queers fall by the wayside. I distinctly remember that upon claiming a feminist identity, a pro choice ideology was attached to it—not as an afterthought, but as a granted that I never gave much thought or consideration to. It actually wasn’t until my junior year that I took a seminar on Transnational Feminisms that challenged both the pro choice label as a granted as well as the limitedness of the choice/life binary.
I look back almost ashamedly on my reaction to having my junior seminar on Transnational Feminisms (there had been a faculty change, and I was under the impression we’d be learning about LGBTQQ studies). I had not the faintest interest in the texts as I poured over them in the college bookstore—nor had I the faintest idea of how much the texts and the class itself would transform, challenge and reinforce my feminist ideals and my views on abortion. We began the class with Andrea Smith’s Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide. Within her text, she deconstructs the life/choice binary; from interviews she conducted with American Indian women, she gleaned that although the sample of women overwhelmingly supported the right for women to have an abortion, they identified as “pro life.” This completely challenged my presuppositions about choice and life, but even then, I still had much difficulty in trying to define and put into words my philosophy about abortion. I began to read up on pro life feminism, and to my astonishment, I found Feminists for Life, a group whose philosophy is that “women deserve better,” and that as feminists, women should “refuse to choose.” Rhetorically, their philosophies are powerful, and to their credit, they do provide women with prenatal resources. However, there is much that is problematic: taking quotes from first-wave feminist thinkers like Mary Wollstonecraft and Susan B. Anthony out of context; ignoring the realities of class, race, ability, sexual orientation and identity; not respecting the rights of women to choose what happens to their bodies. I found that I was not satisfied with this organization’s brand of feminism; it too closely resembled the rhetoric of anti-feminists and the well-oiled anti-abortion machine.
Disillusioned with Feminists for Life, I turned to Jennifer Baumgardner’s Abortion and Life, a book based on her “I Had an Abortion” project. Baumgardner argues that it’s possible to be genuinely and actively pro life and still be a feminist, but not at the expense of denying other women agency over their own bodies and destinies. It is with this particular definition, I feel, that I identify; I am pro choice because I am pro life. I am pro people who are already alive who desire to have autonomy over their bodies; I am pro social programs that support women who do desire to have children, who otherwise would have an abortion out of economic necessity; I am pro healthcare as a human right; I am pro educating young people about the natural processes of their bodies; I am pro masturbation and sexual autonomy; I am pro adoption, gay or otherwise; I am pro birth control pill, condoms, rhythm method; ultimately, I am pro sexual freedom and bodily integrity (antirape). In essence, I am pro choice because I am pro women’s bodies, journeys, and freedoms.