Archive | October, 2012

If men could get pregnant….

24 Oct

When I was in high school, I remember this bumper sticker:

I didn’t really grasp the strength of the rhetoric, nor did I know that it was a quote from an amazing African American feminist–Florynce Kennedy:

The point is, I was thinking about the statement today, as I heard about the most recent remark in favor of complete abortion bans, this one by Indiana republican Richard Mourdock. He expressed the following gem at a recent debate: “The only exception I have to have an abortion is in the case of the life of the mother. I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/23/richard-mourdock-abortion_n_2007482.html

This extremely profound expression of compassion and empathy sounds even better when put to the trauma test. Tsunamis, genocide, child abuse, earthquakes, rape–all are events that God wanted to happen, and must therefore be considered gifts. But we’re not talking about the Biblical parable of Job here; specifically, something that will most likely never happen to Mourdock, is something that he insists a rape victim must consider to be a gift.

Think on this: Rape has been used as a weapon of war, as an instrument of torture and soul-killing, in the Serbian rape camps, by Congolese paramilitary soldiers, and in thousands of other examples across the centuries. Specifically, in the case of the former Yugoslavia, Serbian soldiers corralled Bosnian women into camps wherein they were raped for months on end. The goal was not just to torture the women, but to impregnate them, sowing their seeds for a future Serbian generation (and ensuring a life of shame for the raped Bosnian woman). Whether one believes in a God or not is an obfuscation here: these acts do not take place in a sphere where gifts–as such–occur.

Mourdock’s remarks, prefaced as they are with his admission of having “struggled over it for a long time,” clearly reveal his complete inability to look, feel, see, envision, guess, at what another person might be feeling after such trauma.

But I misspoke. It isn’t “another person,” it’s a woman. Mourdock’s description of “struggling,” very clearly and sadly emphasizes his complete, presumptious disconnect. The ongoing tragic irony of these incessant and ridiculous declarations concerning rape and abortion have all been made by men, about women’s experiences. The fire, fury, and righteousness of their mandate occurs in the vacuum of their sex and gender. In 1998  the artist Barbara Kruger produced this poster for the New York subway system:

 14 years later, what’s changed? (Perhaps the former percentage is now higher?)

Back to the notion of “sacrament.” Arguably, the two most famous mothers are the Virgin Mary and Mother Theresa. Hmmm, both were virgins! So, two of the most historically revered mothers in the Western world were not literally mothers at all. Maternal, submissive, self-sacrificing. But nothing went into their vaginas and nothing came out, they remained pure of defilement, empty vessels. This is relevant because, in all this talk about abortion and rape, there’s been little talk about the woman and the mother herself. And, as usual in the anti-abortion argument, near zero talk about the child once s/he’s born. Further, in all the ranting about rape and its “gifts” I haven’t heard a single politician mention rape counseling and support groups, or the funding for such. In this blog I have often ranted about the anti-abortion movement’s obsession with the fetus as a kind of figment, an abstraction encapsulating the movement’s fervor; but I think that the woman herself remains a figment in a similar fashion, what’s done to her body seen solely hypothetically. Also, the movement’s recent emphatic shift to the eradication of the “rape or incest clause” previously allowed by the right, drags the abstraction of pregnant woman even further into the absolutist mire of Christian fundamentalism. It’s not about the woman, it’s about the embryo/zygote/fetus. It’s not about the woman, it’s about (my) God.

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Malala Yousafzai: Brave enough to go to school

19 Oct

Malala Yousafzai, now being treated in hospital in the north of England, has woken up and communicated with her doctors. The passionate and vocal advocate for the education of all girls everywhere, no matter the opposition, excuses, and violence of her foes, was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban.

Despite the international outcry–complete with people everywhere declaring their support through the slogan “I am Malala”, the Taliban have publicly stated that a bounty remains on Malala’s head. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/oct/16/malala-yousafzai-deserved-say-taliban

The group refuses the right of Malala to express herself or even to exist based on their claim that because of her positions in support of President Barack Obama and against the Taliban army, she must–in accordance with the Qur’an–be killed.

Human rights crusader Angelina Jolie penned an opinion piece titled “We are all Malala,” claiming that this tragedy has led to the beginnings of  a revolutionary movement in Pakistan for the rights of girls to be educated. She insisted that the Taliban is losing, that in its declaration “Let this be a lesson,” it is the Taliban that is being schooled.  http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/10/16/angelina-jolie-we-all-are-malala.html

If only this were the case. As long as Pakistan remains desperately poor, corrupt, and at the various mercies of the United States and Islamic fundamentalism, positive change will remain virtually impossible. Thousands of Pakistani and Afghan teenage girls might shout that they are all Malala, but that is because metaphorically they are: lacking in access to education, health care, and civil rights, at the mercy of the adult men in charge of their lives.

Angelina Jolie and girls around the world might shout “we are all Malala,” but they fundamentally are not. The average American, French, Japanese, Chilean girl cannot possibly understand the difficulties, obstacles and potential daily tragedies that a young female in the Swat Valley faces. It’s a nice turn of phrase, but it’s false.

Of course, Malala and all the other girls in the region yearning for the basic human right of access to education must be supported. But the fact remains that as long as American and NATO forces continue their military scourge, complete with daily drone strikes and omnipresent occupation, the Taliban and its allied jihadists will continue to wage their war against Western forces, and whoever and wherever else amongst their fellow countrymen and countrywomen they see it reflected.

When the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, America had not yet begun its war against the nation. Prior to its occupation, President Bush claimed that one of the reasons for its strikes against the enemy state was its severe and brutal oppression of women. This was a telegenic excuse. Further, it must be acknowledged that the American and coalition forces’ occupation has done little to change the average Pakistani or Afghan girl’s life for the better.