With the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (aka HR3) being introduced to Congress in late January, we’ve recently seen many passionate online pleas to not reduce access to abortions. Sady Doyle of Tiger Beatdown wrote this excellent, highly personal post last week, urging us to fight against the “reproductive violence” that is targeted at women and trans people with uteruses:
I guess what I’m asking is that we continue this fight, and that we not let our own inability to see reproductive violence — because we live in a culture of reproductive violence, just as we live in a culture of rape — produce apathy. The measures proposed now are forcible: They will harm or kill women and trans people. “Fetal personhood” will harm and kill women and trans people. Denying health coverage to people, if that health coverage stands to harm their fetuses, will harm and kill trans people and women. Making it impossible to access funding for abortion will harm and kill trans people, and it will re-victimize survivors, even if full rape exemptions are in place. And these are the cases in which we can easily identify force and violence. They’re the “forcible reproductive violence” cases, if you will. But it’s still happening all over and in far subtler ways. People’s lives and health are regarded as totally fucking expendable, if they happen to have uteruses which could potentially harbor fetuses, and this is absolutely not in any way unconnected to the fact that women and trans people are disproportionately targeted for rape. The attitudes behind rape and reproductive violence are the same attitude.
Another personal story about reproductive rights: this one by Andrea Grimes, of Hay Ladies. Grimes discussed her past as a pro-lifer and how becoming involved in her first romantic relationship made her rethink sex and rethink birth control and abortion:
Today, I see that nothing about my religious anti-choice views did anything to prevent abortion. They did a lot to shame myself and my friends, but nothing to prevent abortion. Today, I hear anti-choicers talk about the babies and the unborn and the American genocide, but what I really hear beneath all that is slut-shaming and fear of female sexuality. […] And I even have a little bemused sympathy for old men who try to pass anti-choice legislation. Because they really will not ever have to worry about abortion. And once, I thought I wouldn’t, either. So I see where they’re coming from. I see how blind to the experiences of others they are. Privilege does that to people.
At Shakesville, Melissa McEwan wrote one of those pieces that’s so great, you have to read it aloud to your friends during your Wednesday night feminist pizza party. In Feminism 101, Helpful Hints for Dudes Part I (“When – WHEN! – is Part II coming?” we ask), McEwan laid out ten tips for men who want to have constructive conversations with women about feminism. Read the whole thing (come on, really), but if number 4 doesn’t make you put down your pizza for a moment for a brief round of applause, then nothing will:
Because of the way cultural dominance/privilege works, marginalized people are, by necessity and unavoidability, more knowledgeable about the lives of privileged people than the other way around. Immersion in a culture where male is treated as the Norm (and female a deviation of that Norm), and where masculinity is treated as aspirational (and femininity as undesirable), and where men’s stories are considered the Stories Worth Telling, and where manhood and mankind are so easily used as synonymous with personhood and humankind, and where everything down to the human forms on street signs reinforce the idea of maleness as default humanness, inevitably makes women de facto more conversant in male privilege than men are in female marginalization. That’s the practical reality of any kind of privilege—the dominant group can exist without knowing anything about marginalized group, but the marginalized group cannot safely or effectively exist without knowing something about the privileged group and its norms and values.
In an ongoing Guardian series, Juliet Jacques has been recording her transition to becoming female-bodied. This week, she considered how “feminine” she wants to appear:
I wrote when discussing ‘passing’ that gender roles are like languages, with men expected to ‘speak’ (or perform) their version of ‘masculinity’, and women ‘femininity’. Those who don’t talk like natives invariably stand out. Transsexual women weren’t raised with femininity as their ‘language’ (or to express themselves in a ‘feminine’ manner) – and in a world that often warns those born male against any display of femininity from a young age, and in which those adjudged to get it wrong can be ruthlessly attacked, this can be a problem.
Unlike languages, which have concrete rules, gender is often defined as much by what it isn’t as what it is, and learned by doing. Beginning transition, I thought more about what it meant to be a woman, and the social inequalities that may come with being female-bodied, than what contemporary society deemed to be ‘feminine’. The two were not inherently linked, and focusing too much on appearance and demeanour seemed to me a red herring.
Musician Lauren Denitzio took to task guys who refuse to acknowledge sexism in the punk scene. Denitzio wrote that she wants men to be accountable for their sexism and to acknowledge their privilege:
I’m tired of being asked why an all female-fronted show might be helpful for women, why creating women-only spaces is productive, why some of us call ourselves feminists. They’re “not being macho assholes.” “Our scene is past that.” They “feel alienated by it.” Well, in the words of Kathleen Hana, “I’m so sorry if I’m alienating some of you. Your whole fucking culture alienates me.” If people stopped nervously laughing that one off long enough to think about what it actually means, we could have a real conversation and then maybe one day I could stop feeling like sexism exists in my scene.
Finally – and thankfully! – The Hairpin brought us excerpts from The Nancy Drew Cookbook (we’re considering opening our next feminist pizza party with a bowl of Sleuth Soup) and this helpful timeline of the Six Greatest Moments of a Girl’s Life (bad news spinsters! – the first moment is “The Proposal.”)