Archive | February, 2012

Any woman’s right to choose in Virginia

26 Feb








The past couple of weeks in Virginia have been vexing for any woman who likes to make up her own mind, and take care of her body as she sees and believes fit. The Virginia General Assembly attempted to pass two bills, both of which would have enormous impact on the reproductive and individual rights of all women in the state.

The “personhood” bill would grant individual rights to the teeny cells barely beginning slowly after the sperm reaches the egg. The other bill–which has received more national attention–mandated that any woman considering an abortion must first undergo a transvaginal ultrasound: the device is inserted into the vagina. This procedure does not serve any wellness purposes whatsoever. Its irrelevance implies that its purpose is sheerly to intimidate the female patient: physically and psychologically. The “personhood” bill possesses a more symbolic purpose, its intentions being merely to further the anti-choice movement all the way to the complete prohibition of abortion.

Because of an apparently unexpected amount of public outcry, both bills have been (temporarily) shelved. Depending upon the upcoming elections, both bills may be a bit harder to eradicate.


Caitlin Flanagan wants to protect your daughters!

1 Feb






Essayist and op-ed columnist Caitlin Flanagan, recently published author of Girl Land, a memoir-cum manifesto concerning her girlhood and others’, opined in the New York Times on Sunday. Titling her column “Hysteria and the Teenage Girl,” Flanagan began her essay speaking about the apparently common and troubling condition of hysteria and its popular occupant–the teenage girl. Citing cases from now and the sixties, this country and Tanzania (?!), she wonders as to how and why no one is able to decipher and circumvent the rampant problem.

She concludes that to be a teenage girl is to be confronted with burgeoning sexuality and its concomitant childbearing possibilities, and the approaching departure fromĀ  her childhood home. However, she concludes with the assertion that “a teenage girl’s home is more important to her than at any time since she was a small child. She also needs emotional support and protection from the most corrosive cultural forces that seek to exploit her when she is least able to resist…girls need and deserve more protection during this time of their lives.”

Okay, granted Flanagan assuredly has the best of intentions here. But let’s parse this out: what are “corrosive cultural forces”? How is the teenage girl, at this particular point of her life, “least able to resist”? What does “protection” mean in this instance?

These kinds of arguments, be they cloaked in cultural, political, historical, religious, or self-helping terms, must never be taken at face value, or as innocuous or objective assertions or advice. Presumably, “corrosive cultural forces” can be construed to mean just about anything that the user wishes. The inability of the teenage girl to resist can be connected to a long line of (male) prophets, politicians, and “leaders” who warn of the female inability to resist temptation: be she too physically, intellectually, or emotionally weak. From the Biblical tale of Eve onwards, female weakness has long been detailed, storied, condemned, and used as justification for her “protection.”

Further, her “protection” often involves a kind of impedement of her movement, dress, and freedom; all in service of a greater, benign and omniscient protection of her. Most likely Flanagan does not mean to imply that her teenage girl wear a veil, or be kept segregated from the males in her community, or be locked in her room come parties and proms. But it is hard not to come to these hypothetical conclusions….who does Flanagan really want to protect? And what values are automatically in the protection? What does it mean to “protect” someone? And, how does this protection relate to the feminist and cultural history and reality?