Tag Archives: sexism

Abortion: Three Inspiring Essays and an Activism Guide

Debbie says:

Laurie and I have written about abortion fairly frequently in the many years of this blog, so our readers know that we stand unequivocally and unconditionally with pregnant people’s right to choose. That just means that we’re among the tens of millions of Americans who are appalled by the leaked draft opinion from two weeks ago.

Just about every smart progressive thinker has written about this, and we don’t have anything important to add, so we thought we’d share a few of the fine pieces we’ve seen. The excerpts after each link are just that; the full articles are better.

Mona Eltahawy, writing at her indispensable newsletter Feminist Giant, offers “The Seven Necessary Sins for Fighting Abortion Bans.”  One of her necessary sins is “Attention.”

The few abortion narratives that are considered “acceptable” are often prefaced with trauma and pain—as if they were the price to be exacted for bodily autonomy.

It is important to share abortion stories that say simply: I did not want to be pregnant. In my case, I was not raped. I was not sick. The pregnancies did not threaten my life. I did not already have children. I just did not want to be pregnant. I did not want to have a child. I am glad I had my abortions. They gave me the freedom to live the life I have chosen.

I had an “illegal” abortion in Egypt and a “legal” abortion in the U.S. I reject the power of the State, and Supreme Court, to declare what is “legal” or “illegal” when it comes to my abortions. The State, and the Supreme Court, can fuck off with their opinions and laws about what I can and can’t do with my uterus. That control belongs to me.

Rebecca Solnit wrote “Here’s how Americans can fight back to protect abortion rights” for The Guardian:

This time around – well, as I wrote when the news broke: “First they came for the reproductive rights (Roe v Wade, 1973) and it doesn’t matter if you don’t have a uterus in its ovulatory years, because then they want to come for the marriage rights of same-sex couples (Obergefell v Hodges, 2015), and then the rights of consenting adults of the same gender to have sex with each other (Lawrence v Texas, 2003), and then for the right to birth control (Griswold v Connecticut, 1965). It doesn’t really matter if they’re coming for you, because they’re coming for us.”

“Us” these days means pretty much everyone who’s not a straight white Christian man with rightwing politics. They’re building a broad constituency of opposition, and it is up to us to make that their fatal mistake.

Rafia Zakaria’s “Bodily Control and the Color Line” at African-American Policy Forum is another must-read:

… this racial dynamic is likely the deeper psychic rationale beyond Alito’s otherwise inexplicable detour, in the leaked draft opinion, into long-ago eugenicist theories of birth control as selectively racist population control; it’s hard to see this as anything other than a desperate bid to inoculate the Dobbs decision from charges of racialized policy-making from the bench as it translates on the ground into scarce, stigmatized, and prohibitively distant and expensive abortion access for a group of women who are disproportionately nonwhite and poor. And just as is the case with other deceptively packaged appeals to universal racial comity—the ritual invocation of Martin Luther King’s “content of our character” line alongside the rolling critical race theory bans across the states comes inevitably to mind—the careful deployment of superficial colorblind rhetoric ensures that the old measures of racial backlash can now proceed with a new impunity. This is clearly the disparate and unequal socio-sexual order that the high court’s new right-wing majority seeks to underwrite; it’s now up to the rest of us to stop the drift back into maniacal, death-defying control of women’s bodies at all cost.

And, finally, the Los Angeles Women’s Collective has produced a comprehensive and meticulous activism guide, from donation all the way to grassroots day-to-day work.

Don’t mourn; organize.


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Facing Fascism Naked

naked woman (from the rear) dancing with cops in the foreground
photo by @DonovanFarley on Twitter

Laurie and Debbie say:

Last Friday (which only seems like a year ago), when federal officers with no IDs or agency markings were facing down crowds of peaceful protesters in Portland, Oregon, sometimes using rubber bullets, sometimes carrying people not charged with anything away in unmarked vans to undisclosed locations, a young White woman stepped out of the crowd of protesters towards the officers, and took off her clothes, except for a black face mask and a stocking cap.

The officers shot pepper spray bullets near her but not at her. She did some ballet poses, and sat down in a cross-legged yoga position. According to Richard Reed, writing for the Los Angeles Times, “At one point, a fellow protester, clothed, carrying a homemade shield, darted in front of the woman, angling to protect her. But the woman sidestepped him. He jumped out of the way, perhaps realizing that he made them both a target.”

Eventually, the attackers broke ranks and left, and the protesters dispersed more peacefully than on most nights before or since.

So what happened?

An OregonLive photographer named David Killen is quoted in the Times article as saying “It would have been incredibly painful to be shot with any of those munitions with no clothes on.” That’s just funny: it’s hardly any less painful to be shot with rubber bullets wearing a t-shirt and summer pants.

She was extremely brave, because she was willing to make herself into a singular, visible, separable target. She was banking on a very particular kind of sexism among the feds: that they would not know how to face a conventionally pretty, young, White body with the weaponry they have no conscience using on a wide variety of other bodies. She turned out to be right; but it was a gamble.

She’s been criticized for doing this at all, because — of course — a Black woman who tried the same thing would be either dead, “legally” arrested, or detained somewhere with no charges and no due process. That’s why we laud this woman for doing it: she was using her privilege, and her courage, to try and stop the violence in the moment — and it worked.

She was also part of a long tradition, not so much either the Portlandia tradition or Lady Godiva, both of whom are cited in the LA Times, but an anti-war, anti-fascist tradition of using the way powerful white men love, covet, fear, and hate naked bodies as a tactic against those men. Here’s a protest picture from July 4, 1970, when then-president Richard Nixon tried to hold a right-wing rally on the National Mall which ended up with Nixon supporters and counter-protesters fleeing in a cloud of tear gas.

We live in a twisted, unhealthy culture where nakedness is secret, taboo, and tempting. Otherwise, no naked body would ever be able to turn away a phalanx of storm troopers.

But we use the tools we have, and we applaud this woman and all her predecessors for using them well.

Stay safe.