Tag Archives: politics

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.

Another awful Republican rape statement

13 Sep

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/13/us/politics/behind-romneys-decision-to-criticize-obama-on-libya.html?ref=politics

As the crisis over the amateur anti-Muslim video spreads across the Middle East, its effects on the presidential campaigns here continue to gain in intensity. Romney’s premature statements criticizing the White House’s response (which had not yet occurred), have been widely mocked and ridiculed.

So in turn, Romney’s backers gathered around him, crowing about the American value of free speech, while happily ignoring the very real convergence of hate speech. As the haters manned the defenses: of Romney, of American values, of America’s never-having-to-say-we’re-sorry, Arizona Republican Jon Kyl had this to say:

“This is like a judge telling the woman that got raped, ‘You asked for it because of the way you dressed,’ ” he said. “O.K.? That’s the same thing: ‘Well, America you should be the ones to apologize. You should have known this would happen.’”

America having to apologize to ANYONE is as ridiculous and horrific as a judge telling a woman she deserved to get raped. America is akin to a woman in hot pants walking down a dark alley and getting attacked….it’s like the First Amendment in an up-to-there mini-skirt getting jumped on an un-lit socialist cobblestone path.  Well, I hope that America as rape victim does not get pregnant, because America as Republicans will sure not pony up for an abortion.

The 2 words that never belong together

20 Aug

In a televised interview this weekend, Missouri Republican Todd Akin defined his opposition to abortion in the strictest of terms, and including in cases of rape. Akin further hedged his bets with the following claim: 

“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”  

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/20/us/politics/todd-akin-provokes-ire-with-legitimate-rape-comment.html

“legitimate” and “rape”: by stringing the words together Akin would seem to imply that rape isn’t always illegitimate; he further undermines the catastrophe of rape with the use of the word “legitimate” itself. Rape is devasting, violent, horrific, tortuous, and any other synonym available. It is not legitimate or illegitimate. “legitimate” is defined as lawful, valid, just. When considered thusly, the word itself should never be strung with “rape,” for a rape is never valid or just; whether or not it is lawful, is a confused term: does this mean if it is persecuted? or if a judge deems it actual? Where does the woman herself figure into this?

Further, by asserting that if it is “legitimate”/actual rape, the victim’s body will engage in a kind of “natural abortion” implies disastrous notions about the act of rape itself, and complete ignorance as to how the female sexed body actually functions. So, if the body of the victim doesn’t naturally abort the pregnancy, that then implies that an actual rape didn’t occur. Such confused magical thinking can be likened to the witchcraft trials that occurred centuries ago: if a woman accused of witchcraft drowns, she’s innocent.

And another further, Akin’s claims that the rapist should be punished, not the child, demonstrates the same muddled conception of biology and reproduction that I critiqued in last week’s post on Paul Ryan’s anti-abortion position. There is no child. There is a woman’s body with fertilized eggs at conception. Akin, like Ryan, does not even mention the woman in the equation here, the potential mother, without whom a fetus could not develop.

The Romney camp initially issued a tepid response, distancing itself from Akin. With the growing outcry however, Romney publicly stated his disagreement with Akin’s views. He should probably look over to Ryan and wonder wherein lies the disagreement…

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/21/us/politics/republicans-decry-todd-akins-rape-remarks.html?_r=1&hp

ONE of the (many) errors in logic of the “Personhood” bills

14 Aug

This weekend, Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan as his running mate. Ryan is known primarily for his extreme fiscal conservativeness, yet there are many other problems to be found in his political agenda. A conservative Catholic, Ryan has spoken consistently against abortion, family planning and Planned Parenthood.

2 years ago, he published on opinion piece for the Heritage Foundation, outlining his support for recent severe anti-choice legislation known as “personhood” bills. http://paulryan.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=207539

At onset, Ryan declares his support of both “free market choice” and the “natural right to life,” opining that the use of the word “choice” has been woefully colonized by those found in the pro-abortion camp. According to Ryan, one chooses to buy or sell a car, wear or return a sweater; human beings cannot be trafficked in a similar way. It is the duty of the federal government to get out of the way when it comes to its citizenry’s choices; conversely, it is the duty of government to intercede when it comes to the protections of human rights.

For Ryan, it is the rights of the most vulnerable–the unborn– that remain the most in peril:

“I cannot believe any official or citizen can still defend the notion that an unborn human being has no rights that an older person is bound to respect. I do know that we cannot go on forever feigning agnosticism about who is human. As Thomas Jefferson wrote, ‘The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time.’ The freedom to choose is pointless for someone who does not have the freedom to live. So the right of ‘choice’ of one human being cannot trump the right to ‘life’ of another. How long can we sustain our commitment to freedom if we continue to deny the very foundation of freedom—life—for the most vulnerable human beings?”

Ryan consistently elides the differences between a not-yet-born nor even partially formed being and an out-of-the-womb fully grown woman. Further, he denies that the latter should be able to make choices (apparently against God and Thomas Jefferson: i.e. against both the church AND the state) that would in any way interfere with the potentiality of the former.  A hierarchical system is thus established, wherein the potentiality of the former must be held at highest regard and protection, and the potentiality and literal present of the latter must be kept in subservience.  

In his use of the term “human beings” Ryan also elides the specificity of sexual difference, rendering the argument about the rights of human beings solely. But any discussion of motherhood and/or abortion cannot ignore the sexual specificity of the equation. Only a female human being will be confronted with the happiness or impossibility that a pregnancy brings to her body and then her life. The being-that-is-not-yet-born is dependent on the female sexed body it is within, therefore it cannot legally, scientifically or even figuratively be considered a “human being” as such. The pregnant woman, however, is considered legally, scientifically and figuratively to be a “human being.”

“The freedom to choose is pointless for someone who does not have the freedom to live. So the right of ‘choice’ of one human being cannot trump the right to ‘life’ of another.” Because a fetus is not being given the chance to live, its freedom to choose is irrelevant; therefore a woman’s choice cannot decide the freedom of a fetus. Ryan’s logic is illogical: by rendering the concept of “choice” as an abstraction of which a fetus is being denied by being aborted, he then revokes the choices of the pregnant woman and her freedom to live–as she sees fit. In this construction he is attempting to equate the two parties, but because they are inherently unequal he inverts the paradigm:  rendering the fetus to be more deserving of equal protection under the law, which in turn has the effect of rendering the pregnant woman less deserving. The choices and freedoms a female human being has (or does not have) are not abstractions or flights of political fancy: they are not hypothetical. To speak of the fetus as possessor of the same choices and freedoms is to deal in conjecture and the imaginary.

Voting and living in Libya

20 Jul

http://womensenews.org/story/the-world/120719/libyan-elections-give-women-17-starting-point

There is a saying that a Libyan woman faces 5 problems: her father, her brother, her husband, her son, and the working man.

This is to say that the problem is being a woman while living in Libya. However, are there signs that this problem might be dissipating?

45% of the voters in the July 7th elections were female, and because of an invoked requirement mandating that all parties maintain a “zipper system” of alternation between female and male candidates, women numbered around 45% of the candidates.

After tally, 16.5% of the 200-member transitional government are women. This number is extraordinarily positive, considering the fact that the number was previously zero, and that women historically have had little presence in politics or social activist organizations.

In the United States Congress, women hold 16.8% of the seats. Given that the United States has not just emerged from a decades-long dictatorship, given that the United States does not supposedly suffer from entrenched male-dominated home, work and cultural life, given that American women have been able to vote–and thereby run for office–for almost 100 years, what’s our excuse?

France’s female housing minister

20 Jul

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/9414590/French-female-minister-wolf-whistled-in-parliament.html

This is the dress that Cecil Duflot, housing minister of the governing Socialist party, was wearing this week when she addressed the French parliament. This is where she stood, speaking on an architectural project, as hooting and catcalls echoed through the chamber.

The incident was later  released on video, creating a mini scandale, French ministers clamoring all over themselves to justify their hoots:

*She “probably put on that dress so we wouldn’t listen to what she was saying.”

*She “put on that dress so we would listen to her.”

*(The extraordinarily demeaning and diminishing) shouts were “in homage to this woman’s beauty.”

Duflot states that she has worked in the businesses of housing and politics for years, and has never encountered such treatment. She is one of the 17 female members of government appointed by Hollande, who appointed his cabinet according to a policy of gender parity: 17 women and 17 men.

In May, Duflot received a similar share of attention when she appeared at a cabinet meeting in jeans:

This undue and insane amount of attention paid to the attire of a politician cannot be linked to anything other than extremely reactive, ridiculous and outmoded sexism. It’s not the bright-colored dress, it’s not the wearing of jeans to a government building, it’s the female politician. Drawing attention to her clothes draws attention away from her political personhood–her ideas, her policies, her actions, her intelligence, her position. Insisting that she remain linked to how she looks disallows her from being otherwise; if she responds to the absurdity she only becomes more embedded within it.

Duflot is trapped in the middle of a patriarchal French cul-de-sac.

The trial of Pussy Riot: “Mother Mary, drive Putin away”

20 Jul

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/breaking-news/moscow-court-extends-pussy-riot-detention-to-january/story-e6frf7k6-1226431300417

The three young Russian women above–members of Pussy Riot all–have been sentenced for another 6 months of  pre-trial imprisonment in a Moscow court. The women have been imprisoned since February, and were arrested after storming the stage of the Christ the Savior Cathedral and staging an anti-Putin prayer. In January of 2013, they will stand trial on charges of hooliganism and face another 7 years of prison if convicted.

The band members are accused of  “a malicious, carefully planned act to denigrate the feelings and beliefs of the many Orthodox Christian worshippers and to belittle the state’s spiritual foundation.” Although Russia seemingly considers itself a secular nation, charging artists with blasphemy is definitely not in line with a non-religious state structure.

However, perhaps the true blasphemy at issue here is against Russia’s self-appointed god, Vladimir Putin. It cannot be argued that Putin is devoted to stamping out national blasphemy and non-religious attitudes; but it is undeniable that Putin is devoted to eradicating non-believers of his religion.

Pussy Riot is a sprawling collective of young female artists. Generally dressed in short skirts and tights, their faces always sheathed in balaclavas, the women have performed in the Red Square, on the tops of buildings, at anti-Putin protests, and in Moscow streets. While only three of its members are on trial, their arrest must serve as a warning to their bandmates and other vocal critics of the Putin regime.

The prayer to the Virgin Mother to protect her Russian children from an atheist dictator has not been answered.

P.S. July 30: The accused members of Pussy Riot were again in front of  a judge where they still pleaded “Not Guilty,” with the following caveat: “We are admitting that we made an ethical mistake, but an ethical mistake should not be punishable as a crime.”

This change in response might be attributable to the intense scrutiny and severe imprisonment the women have faced, or a relative admission of contrition. It is difficult to speculate. The women are most definitely uncomfortable and upset regarding their situation, so their words of contrition must be taken at least partly as the result of such conditions. Whether singing  in protest on the dais of an Orthodox church is “unethical” is another issue entirely. How might a passionate prayer of protest against an evidently authoritarian leader be deemed unethical? Could it not be argued that to live in compliance is itself a breach of community ethics?

P.S. August 1: Pussy Riot’s imprisonment has been followed by the recent imprisonment of opposition blogger Alexei Navalny on charges of government theft in 2009:

http://www.euronews.com/newswires/1605800-putin-critic-navalny-says-crackdown-just-starting/

Navalny is unsurprised by the arrest, considering it a correlative of a repressive regime intent on authoritarian rule.

It is interesting to consider the arrests of punk rockers Pussy Riot and blogger Navalny as acts on a continuum stretching outside of the political confines of Moscow and into far more nebulous regions of art, speech and the internet. With the advent of the anti-Putin protests last December, it must have been increasingly clear to Putin that he had to respond. However, responding pre-election would have appeared too reactive, his actions too clearly reflecting the charges levelled against him by the protesters. By biding his time, he provided an illusion of tolerance. By now focusing his intimidation on 2 of the more vocal and popular factions, he is able to create a more pressing climate of fear of dissent amongst the common protester;  the latter will be tempted to think: ‘if a group now made famous by their acts and the state’s aggressive response is forced to remain in prison, what might happen to a lesser known, “unimportant” member of the White Ribbon campaign?’