This Week in Politics [part 1]

If ever there’s been a week that’s made me want to move to Sweden… well that’s every week, really. But this week in particular has been vexing in regard to US politics and culture. This week reinforced the many reasons why the United States ranks sixth overall on the Social Progress Index. (We’re seventh in personal freedom and choice, sixth in personal rights, fourth in equity and inclusion, and forty-eighth in ecosystems sustainability. OUCH.) Sweden is ranked first overall.  I want to go to there, Liz Lemon. But running away or choosing not to care doesn’t do any good. Apathy does not an ally make.  Let’s talk about two big things happening around the US this week, and why we should care.

The Supreme Court overturned DOMA. Huzzah, hurrah, it’s about time. I’m annoyed that this is even an ‘issue’ that the government needs to intervene upon. I’m more annoyed by all the idiotic and frustrating responses coming out around the ruling. This morning I heard some lady on NPR say, “Of course I don’t support same-sex marriage because I don’t support same-sex couples.” Hi, lady. I don’t support you or your bigotry! Other people were going on about the man/woman marriage precedent set by the Bible, which is a totally valid argument since this country is and should definitely be governed by that particular religious text. I feel absurd stating that I’m being facetious here, but apparently there’s still a large group of people who don’t understand why the Bible isn’t a credible political document. Hey, y’all. Don’t like same-sex marriage? Okay. Don’t have one. And while you’re at it, stop trying to legalize discrimination. All that hatred doesn’t look cute on you.

Wendy Davis is a rockstar. Oh, man. Oh, men. Oh, white men of the Texas senate. You are the worst. Wendy Davis led a one-woman filibuster against SB 5, a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks and would close most clinics across Texas. For thirteen hours, Wendy Davis stood and spoke against the bill. She did not sit. She did not even get a bathroom break. For thirteen hours. Republican senators tried to trick her into speaking off topic, a violation of rules, which would have ended the filibuster. They tried to claim she broke the rules by receiving assistance putting on a back brace. When the bill was finally voted on, the numbers were in favor of passing SB 5. (After all that!) The vote took place a few minutes after midnight and was therefore invalidated on a technicality.  But because white men in politics can do anything, they tried to change their own rules. They tried to kill the bill, even though the vote was taken after midnight. Wendy Davis was treated terribly all day long by a bunch of people without uteruses (Hey there, white dudes. Don’t like abortion? Okay. Don’t have one.) and then they tried to change their own rules. All that hypocrisy and cruelty doesn’t look cute on you. Oh, and Big Media? The way all of you felt the need to comment on Davis’s pink tennis shoes? That sexism doesn’t look cute on you, either. And I clearly know about what looks cute on people, seeing as I have a uterus which radiates fashion sense. That’s a biological fact, isn’t it?

I love the idea of politics and hate the way they’re carried out in this country. A cursory glance at any comments section will show a lot of sweeping and often off-topic generalizations about “all liberals” and “all conservatives”. We’re so mired in our camps and we all get off on hating each other so much, that we’ve lost the ability to converse like compassionate humans. We can’t even treat each other with basic decency. (Someone helped you put on a back brace because we won’t let you sit down and we don’t care about your physical wellbeing? Rule-breaker!!!) We’re not willing to listen to each other. This includes me- I don’t want to hear anyone’s ideas on why they think homosexuality is wrong. I’m a fallible human and I don’t have time for that nonsense. I just wonder when we’re all going to realize how terrible we are, and decide to do something about it. When are we going to decide life could be a little better if we tried to be a bit more like Sweden? Is that ever going to happen? I worry about the fact that none of us seem to be concerned with the embarrassing and shameful conduct of our country.

Speaking of that shame and embarrassment… tomorrow we’ll be talking about racism. George Zimmerman, Paula Deen, and the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Indian Child Welfare Act…get ready. This Angry Feminist Killjoy is coming for you.

My Cuterus, My Choice

Important Note: I don’t want to frame reproductive justice as a women’s issue because not everyone with a uterus identifies as a woman, not every woman has a uterus, and not every person with a uterus can carry a child. But I firmly believe that decisions about what goes into and out of a uterus, and when, should only ever be made by the person with the uterus in question. I am now picturing my uterus being cross-examined in a court of law.

One of the coolest parts of working in a Writing Center is having the chance to learn from students with all kinds of opinions and perspectives. A few days ago, I had a great consultation with a Chinese student who was writing a paper about her country’s One Child Policy. She taught me a lot about the late term forced abortions routinely carried out as a result of the governmental policy. Then, she wanted to know how abortion works in the United States. That’s a challenging topic to discuss when a language barrier is involved.

The session was really great, and not only because we spent some time teaching each other how to pronounce “uterus” in English and in Chinese.  The student wrote about abortion factually and calmly. It was so refreshing to discuss reproductive rights without being blinded by a fit of religious and political rage. During our discussion, the student observed that, “In China, some mothers die because they are forced abortion. In the US, some mothers die because they are not allowed abortion. Yet each government says it cares about the health of its people.” Bingo, baby.

I’ve thought about that student a lot lately, because the anti-choice group Justice For All has returned to our campus for their annual shame fest. I’ve been thinking about everyone whose only real exposure to the conversation around abortion in the US is coming through Justice For All’s garish, enormous billboards of bloodied fetuses. I’m not going to link to their webpage, because I really don’t want to support this organization’s efforts to garner more attention, but the motto/slogan/mission statement listed on their homepage reads, “Justice For All trains thousands to make abortion unthinkable for millions, one person at a time.”  Clearly, this group is utterly off base in their approach.

There are a billion reasons a person with a uterus might choose to have an abortion. Those reasons aren’t anyone’s business but the uterus owner’s. Conversations about what’s right for each individual uterus should only include that individual, a licensed health care provider, and maybe but not always the individual’s partner. Organizations like Justice For All should not exist. A group of people shouldn’t be able to make forceful attempts to deny access to health care, to compromise legal rights, or to shame others based on their legitimate and completely shame-free decisions. Here’s a message that needs to be heard much louder than JFA’s: Abortion is not shameful.

An undesired pregnancy is the only health issue I can think of in which treatment is mediated by origin. If you accidentally stab yourself in the stomach while overenthusiastically opening a present and need emergency gut surgery (this actually happened to someone I know) nobody says, “You fool. I don’t care if things didn’t go as planned, it was your CHOICE to open that package, so you can just deal with the consequences!”  But when the health issue is a pregnancy, people feel justified making absurd arguments like, “You had sex so you can deal with the consequences and the consequence is MOTHERHOOD!”

Justice For All is attempting to create a cultural climate in which terminating a pregnancy will result in social ostracization.  By “making abortion unthinkable to millions” this organization is attempting to eliminate choice. A choice that turns you into a social pariah isn’t a choice likely to be made- JFA’s entire goal. This is the difference between being personally pro-life and being publicly anti-choice. Choosing to terminate a pregnancy doesn’t mean the entire nation is going to adopt a One Child Policy and start forcing abortions. Choosing to carry a pregnancy to term doesn’t mean that no one is ever allowed to have an abortion. I have lots of feminist friends who identify as personally pro-life while loudly and proudly supporting reproductive justice. That’s the whole point of choice!

We, and only we uterus-bearing individuals, are allowed to make choices concerning our bodies. JFA’s approach is to present abortion as a morally repugnant act, thereby shaming everyone who has had an abortion, everyone who has considered abortion, and everyone who supports abortion rights and reproductive justice. Public shaming is not an effective rhetorical approach, especially when… there is no shame in abortion!

There's no shame in abortion.

Ty’s tank top speaks the truth!

I’m lucky to be part of a campus that has a vibrant array of social justice student groups who are peacefully and positively protesting JFA’s presence on campus. We’ll be wearing t-shirts with positive messages to show our support of reproductive justice. There will also be a human tunnel to help folks get across the plaza without being harassed, triggered, or shamed by members of JFA.  I’m so glad there are proactive groups filled with such smart, brave, and compassionate students on my campus!

SURJ shirt making

Madelaine and Justin make pro-uterus shirts.

This year, and every year, I find myself wishing anti-abortionists cared as much about the children who are already alive as they do about fetuses.  If all that energy and misguided compassion were directed at living-in-the-world humans, can you imagine how incredible our world would be? There is so much poverty and inequity in our country already. There are kids who don’t have access to basic resources. I wish we could stop fighting about whether or not we’re capable of making informed decisions about our bodies (we are!!!) and start making informed decisions about improving conditions for the people who are already here.

SURJ Shirts

Madelaine, Abigail, Lydia, and cuterus shirts!

We formed a ‘cuterus’ girl gang- why not add some body positivity into the mix? My cuterus ended up looking like a bunny. I’m going with it. Your morals, opinions, and legislations can hop right on out of my uterus!