In January we blogged for choice. Tomorrow we can blog against sexism.
Click on the image for more info!
Update: Of course it is also International Women’s Day.
In January we blogged for choice. Tomorrow we can blog against sexism.
Click on the image for more info!
Update: Of course it is also International Women’s Day.
It was wonderful to read so many “Why I’m pro-choice” posts yesterday! Technorati cataloged more than 150 posts yesterday tagged with “Blog for Choice,” and I’m sure there were many others that used different tags.
Of course speaking up for reproductive and sexual freedom is something we shold do all year round, and many of us do, but it is important to have these days of concentrated focus to help build solidarity and draw renewed attention to the issue.
I’ve collected here just a few of the posts I read, and that I haven’t seen cross-posted in other places.
And if that isn’t enough for you:
And here is a list of blog entries from Technorati, all of which used the “Blog for Choice” tag.
On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, and invalidated laws that banned abortions. This is the 34th anniversary of that decision. NARAL Pro Choice America and Bush v. Choice ask that we who are pro-choice take a moment today to publicly say why we support women’s right to access effective, safe, and legal means to end their pregnancies, should they need to do so.
I have been pro-choice for so long that I thought this would be a simple question to answer. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how many reasons there were.
There are the personal reasons: I was raised by a pro-choice mother in a family that respected women’s rights, valued equality, was open about sexuality. I remember telling my mother when I was 17 that I wanted her to take me to Planned Parenthood so I could go on the Pill because I wanted to start having sex with my boyfriend. She talked about how she wished I would wait a while, but also told me I was the only one who could know when I was ready, and she did take me, and I did get condoms and Pills, and my introduction to sex was much more positive for the openness and safety that surrounded it. Her sister, my aunt, worked at Planned Parenthood as a nurse for several years. The idea that women should have control over their reproductive health was simply taken for granted in my household growing up.
There are the political reasons: I support gender equality and women’s rights and neither of those can be achieved if women are forced to bear children against their will. They cannot be achieved if women do not have ultimate control over when, and if, to bear children. And there cannot be equality or freedom for women if, in order to be certain that they don’t bear children they must never have sexual intercourse with men. (And even for those who choose not to have sex with men, there are cases of rape to be considered.)
There are the moral reasons: To appropriate another person’s body without their consent is to enslave that person, as my friend and colleague Richard has written in his Blog for Choice post. Slavery is about as immoral as it gets. And morally, I do not believe that all life is equal. The life of a woman who is responsible for herself and others is, qualitatively, worth more than the life of a cluster of cells or even a fetus that cannot survive except as a parasitic being within her.
There are visceral emotional reasons: I can imagine what it feels like to be the frightened young woman working hard at getting ahead, suddenly pregnant and unwilling to give up the chance to have the future she dreams of. I can imagine what it feels like to be the mother of three who can’t bare to take away from her children the resources emotional and financial it would take to raise yet another. I can imagine what it feels like to be slowly falling in love with something growing inside me and at the same time be convinced that I cannot raise it, but could not bare to give it away after carrying it to term. I can imagine what it feels like to hate the thing that is growing inside me, put there by an assailant I never want to be reminded of and to feel like nothing is more important than being rid of it. I can imagine the heartbreak of the couple who, after trying to conceive, find that the child they have created will be unable to survive after it is born.
In my ideal world, there would be some button or switch we could activate when we wished to be fertile. Everyone would have such a button. That way men would not accidentally impregnate women. Nor could they impregnate women who didn’t wish to be pregnant. Women could neither accidentally get pregnant, nor could they “trap” a man into fatherhood, and abortions would be much less likely to be needed (though there still would be a need for abortions in the case of health risks).
We do not live in such a world. We live in a world where people, despite their efforts at preventing pregnancy, get pregnant. We live in a world where people are forced, against their will, to have sex. In other words, we live in a world where women must have access to safe and legal procedures for ending pregnancies that they do not wish to have.
And so there is my last reason, a practical one: I am pro choice because I know that, from the beginning of human history, women have found ways to end their pregnancies when those pregnancies have been unwanted. The criminalizing of abortion does not stop women from doing this. It only puts their lives and their families at and unnecessary risk. I am pro-choice because women need safe and legal ways to end their pregnancies sometimes.
I have been fortunate not to need an abortion, yet, myself. I have been sexually active for nearly 19 years and have, because of caution, resourcefulness and luck, not ever had a pregnancy. I know that I don’t want to bear children, though, and I’m certainly not going to stop having sex, so protecting the right to safe, effective and legal abortion procedures is very important to me. And on a much more urgent level, this right has been important to people that I know. I know women who have needed them, I have helped a friend acquire one, and cared for her afterwards. She struggled at first with the decision but ultimately decided that she needed to complete her education before having a child. I know a mom who had an abortion because her marriage was failing and she already had two young children she knew she was going to need to devote all her resources to. I know another woman who had an abortion because she was absolutely certain she was not cut out to be a mom. She’s now in her late 50s and is certain she made the right choice.
Ultimately it comes down to this: women are not safe in a society where they can be forced to bear a child, nor can they achieve equality with men if their only recourse to not bearing unwanted children is to forsake their sexuality.
I am reserving the comments section of this post for readers to offer their own “why I’m pro choice” comments. I will only approve comments on this post that are supportive of abortion rights. On any other post I will not censor debate, but this post not a debate on the issue. It’s simply a place for declarations of support for the right to safe and legal abortions. The debate can continue elsewhere today.
Check back later for a list of links to other Blog for Choice posts.
Like many others, I was saddened to learn that Rachel Kramer Bussel would no longer be writing the sex column, “Lusty Lady,” for the Village Voice. I admire Rachel and I enjoy her writing. When I read on her blog that she’d been told her column was finished, I was disappointed. Then, when I read what the Voice had used to replace her, my disappointment turned to irritation and disgust.
Some of us had speculated that the Voice had hired someone “younger” and “newer,” but as it happens, the “newness” that they’ve turned to is the newness of middle-age and convention. The Voice has hired “two married mothers living in Brooklyn” whose greatest wish is to get their husbands to have sex with them.
Now, I’m glad when I see married women writing about sex. Sex ought not disappear — as an event or a topic for conversation — just because people have hitched their wagon to the state. And married women should share their experiences just like single or otherwise-partnered women should do. Women should talk about sex no matter what their relationship status. Women should talk about sex no matter what their class or their age would lead us to stereotypically expect from them.
But these women are professionals, living upper middle class seemingly conventionally-affluent lives, apparently with little sex to speak of, and nothing much to say. As some readers already pointed out, this type of column might have been suitable for New York magazine or the New York Times, but not for the Village Voice.
I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, the Village is not what it used to be. Sure it still hosts many interesting and alternative folks, but there is no mistaking that gentrification has succeeded in winding its tendrils throughout the neighborhood. Still, the Village Voice used to be an “alternative newsweekly,” and now, especially in its new sex column, it appears to be becoming the Voice of the Affluent, not the Voice of the Alternative. It’s not like I hadn’t noticed this happening. It’s not like I hadn’t noticed the increasing number of ads for cosmetic surgery, expensive day spas, and other luxuries-deemed-essentials of the elite creeping in among the ads for futons and second hand clothing and drag shows. (Anything that markets itself as a cosmetic procedure and comes with a “$500 off” coupon is way out of my league as luxury treatments go.)
But I digress. I am inclined to be happy when married women write about sex. I am a married woman, much to some people’s surprise, and while I don’t live in the most traditional of marriages, I find that — based on a very unscientific sample of my friends and colleagues — lots of married people don’t live in the most conventional of marriages. I’m totally up for reading about how people negotiate sex in their marriages, how they keep themselves sexually engaged, and how they deal with, or work around monogamy. There is lots of interesting material that married folk could put out there for everyone to enjoy.
So there is no excuse — other than a radical shift in market strategy — for what passed as the Voice’s sex column this week. First of all, it didn’t contain any useful information about sex. Instead it was really not much more than a catalogue of commercial endorsements. It’s amazing how many Nora Shelley works in. By name she mentions “Forever 21,” “Zoloft,” “City Bakery,” “Cosabella” ($60 bras and $20 thongs, mentioned twice), “Aeron” (as in the $750+ desk chair), “the Limited,” and “Starbucks.” Now, Forever 21 and City Bakery are places they actually spend time in during the events narrated in the column. The other mentions are pretty gratuitous. Is there any reason in the world we should care what kind of desk chair Essie Carmichael’s husband sits in to do his online “printer research?” And even worse, in the litany of product endorsements, the only item named that helped either woman achieve sexual satisfaction does not get its brand identified or promoted! What kind of sex column tells you exactly where to buy a dress that you don’t look good in, and a lunch that spoils your diet but then doesn’t name the amazing showerhead that is reportedly the best gift Essie has ever been given and the only thing with which Nora has had sex in years?
As if that weren’t bad enough, Nora Shelley, the one who wrote this week’s column and who isn’t getting any sex with her husband, has a housekeeper and a nanny and still can’t find time not to be exhausted. Not only that, she’s not creative enough to see immediately that sex with her husband should be easier if she’s got a nanny and a housekeeper, rather than more difficult as she believes it to be. And to make it all the worse, the tone is whiny and self-indulgent instead of hip and informative.
I suppose this change reflects what the Voice understands its readers to want. I suppose it means that the alternative crowd they believed they existed to inform has become an affluent-married-mainstream crowd. And perhaps that’s exactly what’s happened. But if you’re a Voice reader and you don’t fit that description, let them know.
I work at a public college in a county — Nassau County, NY — that does not recognize domestic partnerships. We at the college are county employees as well as being college employees. (Yes, two bosses. Lucky us!). We have two options for gaining recognition for (and thus winning corresponding benefits — rights! — for) our faculty members’ domestic partners.
In other words, we have two lines of possible action for making sure that all our families are treated equally.
The first is to negotiate this recognition and the benefits that would go with it into our next contract. This would only affect employment-related recognition, but it would be a start. We tried to negotiate this in the last round of bargaining and failed.
The second is to get the county to pass legislation that would recognize domestic partnerships and treat them equally with other families for employment-related purposes as well as for such purposes as housing, medical decision making, and so on. This could be done through lobbying for legislation, or, possibly, through a lawsuit that would force the county to make such recognition.
I need, badly, to hear from people who have been actively involved in successful organizing campaigns at local or county or public employer levels to win recognition of domestic partnerships. In New York this would mean people who helped win this recognition in Suffolk County, Westchester County, Rockland County, New York City, Albany, and Rochester. Outside of New York it means a lot more places.
If you are such a person — and of all you readers out there, there must be one who is — please get in touch with me at sexinthepublicsquare (at) yahoo (dot) com or by leaving your comments here. If you are not such a person, but you know someone who is, please pass along my request.
Hundreds of people look at this blog every day. And some of you look at it on purpose, and not because a search for images of public sex brought you here.
Some of you are activists, and some of you have won. I need to hear from you.
If you live in the U.S. and you’re a citizen, and you’re at least 18, and you remembered to register to vote, PLEASE make time to vote in tomorrow’s general election.
The people who are elected will be making decisions — or appointing people to make decisions — that affect our lives in powerful and intimate ways. There are many ways we can work on holding them accountable to us, but one of the most important is getting out there and voting in the first place.
If you need information about candidates running in your districts, a good place to start is Project Vote Smart. There you can find out who currently represents you, and how they’ve voted on issues that matter to you. You can find out who is running for election on which party lines (there are more than two parties in most places). They can even tell you what your ballot questions will be. (Don’t forget about the ballot questions! In several states the ballot questions involve constitutional amendments banning same sex marriages or and in South Dakota they’ll be voting on the banning of abortion, but in most states there will be questions that are less earth-shattering but very important in the day-to-day lives of our communities.)
If you belong to any organizations (a union, a church, a community group) or if you support any organizations, find out who they endorse. If they haven’t been calling you and mailing material to your home, you can probably find this information right on their web sites.
And if you can, take a friend with you to the polls. Make it a social event. Take your kids. Make it a special event. Celebrate afterwards. Even before the returns start coming in!
I just read a post at Pandagon that was in reaction to an article in USA Today. The article spotlights the Bush Administration’s “abstinence only” programs and the ways that they are now targeting not just kids but unmarried adults. You can read the post at Pandagon here and the USA Today article here. The outrageousness of directing “abstinence only” money and energy at unmarried adults is not what I want to focus on here.
What I want to focus on here is the work of an organization I learned about because of reading the USA Today article. That organization is called the Alternatives to Marriage Project, and its mission statement reads:
The Alternatives to Marriage Project (AtMP) advocates for equality and fairness for unmarried people, including people who are single, choose not to marry, cannot marry, or live together before marriage. We provide support and information for this fast-growing constituency, fight discrimination on the basis of marital status, and educate the public and policymakers about relevant social and economic issues. We believe that marriage is only one of many acceptable family forms, and that society should recognize and support healthy relationships in all their diversity. AtMP is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
I support this project because I believe it is unjust that our society reserve respects and rights for only one family arrangement: the heterosexual married couple. It is unjust that the social contract between individuals and the state is strongest for those who accept opposite-sex marriage as the framework around which to organize their lives.
Click here to sign on to the Alternatives to Marriage Project’s “Affirmation of Family Diversity,” which reads:
We believe that all families should be valued, that the well-being of children is critical to our nation’s future, and that people who care for one another should be supported in their efforts to build healthy, happy relationships. One of America’s strengths is its diversity, which includes not only a wide range of races, ethnicities, creeds, abilities, genders, and sexual orientations, but also a range of family forms. One family form is marriage, and we agree with the newly-formed “Marriage Movement” that marriages should be supported. What worries us is the mistaken notion that marriage is the only acceptable relationship or family structure.
More than one in three American adults is currently unmarried. Policies that benefit only married relationships routinely exclude this considerable percentage of ordinary people, whose lives and families do not fit the married ideal upheld by the marriage movement.
The family diversity that exists in America today includes people who have chosen not to marry and those who are prevented from marrying, such as same-sex couples. It includes people who have chosen to live together before marriage (the majority of marriages today are preceded by cohabitation) and those who are single. It includes older people and disabled people, who may risk losing needed benefits if they get married. And it includes children, half of whom live in a family structure other than their two married parents.
We believe it is essential to recognize, embrace, and support the family diversity that exists today. Stigmatizing people who are divorced, punishing single parents, casting stepfamilies as less-than-perfect, shaming unmarried couples, and ignoring the needs of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people are not positive approaches for supporting families. Many opponents of diverse families misrepresent and oversimplify both the history and research on which they base their claims. The picture that is painted by these opponents is bleak. In reality, however, there are millions of happy, healthy unmarried families. The challenge is to find effective approaches to supporting these successful families, as well as the ones who are having difficult times.
- that discrimination on the basis of marital status should be prohibited
- that policies designed to help children should focus on supporting all the types of families in which children live
- that laws and policies should be changed to allow for the full range of families to be recognized (this includes domestic partner benefits, family and medical leave, hospital visitation, and survivors’ benefits)
- that more research is needed on unmarried relationships and families, so that we can address their needs directly
- that same-sex couples should be able to choose marriage as an option
- that there is much we can learn from the countries around the world that have already taken steps to recognize diverse families
- that the challenge that lies before us as a nation is how to support ALL relationships and families, not just married ones.
Let us not forget how many people were oppressed, humiliated, and stigmatized during historical eras in which it was considered unacceptable to be single, divorced, or gay. We celebrate the strides we have taken in recent decades towards making the world more supportive of the vibrant diversity of families that exist. We support principles that work toward creating happy, healthy, loving relationships and families for all people, married and unmarried.
And while you’re there, check out their resources on polyamory, cohabitation, living single, domestic partnership, and other topics of interest to those who don’t, or can’t, marry.