March 1, 2012 § 27 Comments
I could tell you I was raped. (I wasn’t.) I could tell you I am a victim of incest. (I’m not.) I could tell you my life would be in danger if I got pregnant. (Partly true, but for this discussion, let’s say not.) I could tell you I’m mentally challenged or ill. (I don’t think so, but let’s please not open THAT up to debate…) These are some of the scenarios even the most ardent advocates in the Pro-Life movement might allow themselves and those they love flexibility where safe and legal abortion is concerned. Might.
Let’s talk about a different scenario – one that is completely true. I am a 42-year-old woman. I have been married to my college sweetheart since I was 21 years old, and I have had sex with ONLY him for well over 21 years. I use birth control. We have three children: a 15-year-old daughter, a 13-year-old son, and an 8-year-old son. They are (thank god and knock wood) magnificent, kind, intelligent, healthy kids. I am fortunate enough to be a stay-at-home mom, comfortable financially, we have health insurance, many friends, a good support system, etc., etc., etc.
What if MY birth control fails? I don’t have any of the extreme situations mentioned in the first paragraph. By all accounts, a woman my age and with my resources should be able to manage just fine with a fourth child. The child would likely be healthy, well-cared for, raised with boundless love, etc., etc., etc.
But what if I didn’t WANT to have another child?
I repeat, what if I did not WANT to?
Even though I could? Even though the pregnancy occurred through an act of love between two married, consenting adults? Even though chances are the child would be fine – we would ALL be fine?
What if I didn’t WANT to? Should I be forbidden access to a safe and legal abortion?
Should the potential of the embryo inside me to grow into a human being and be born and bring light to the world and cure cancer and colonize the moon outweigh my wishes?
My wishes to cherish and spend as much time as possible with the three children I already have before I blink and they are out of the house with families of their own?
My wishes to keep the undefinable, debilitating exhaustion of new parenthood relegated to a distant memory?
My wishes to not have a car seat and stroller at this stage of my life?
My wishes to nourish myself, now that I finally have some time and something creative and productive to do with it?
My wishes to have two free hands and a clear mind as I prepare my daughter for college, my first son for high school and my youngest son for his first season of swim team?
My wishes that my days of volunteering in pre-school be over?
My wishes that one day soon I will be watching what I want on T.V.?
Can you look me in the eyes and tell me my wishes for all these things, and how hard I’ve worked for them, are less important than the potential clump of cells in my uterus?
I understand why you consider a growing blastula, embryo, fetus an absolute miracle, a cherished life form, something to be protected. I feel the same way. I understand your religious and moral reasons for feeling passionately about this life form, such as it is. I respect your zeal, your advocacy, your feelings.
I simply feel that I should have the right to put myself, the life (and lives) I’ve already created for myself and my ALREADY ALIVE family ahead of the potential life of a non-viable fetus. I am entitled to be respected in my ability to weigh and decide matters of such an intense personal nature for myself and my own family, understanding that anything I choose will come with unintended, possibly devastating consequences.
I understand why you might see an abortion clinic and those who utilize it as tragic and unjust. I know the image you have of women who get abortions range from sympathetic (sad and in need of help) to judgemental (irresponsible sluts who use it as a form of birth control.)
I would argue, though, that people who fall into the image in that last category are few and far between. Furthermore, people who use abortion as a cheap and easy fix for their irresponsible behavior (if such people exist) are presenting symptoms of much deeper societal ills than the fact that safe and legal abortions are available to them. Just like people who use guns in an irresponsible, devastating way are reflective of a much deeper ill than the fact that guns are legal.
Finally, I would ask you this. Can YOU understand MY needs? Can YOU respect MY wishes? Can you honestly say you are in a better position than I am to determine what is best for me and my entire family and our futures? Can you assert in good conscience that this most sacred and personal individual choice of mine (and YOURS) should be limited to the following options:
1. having another baby,
2. carrying the pregnancy to term and giving the baby up for adoption, or
3. a back-alley abortion?
Can you understand why, upon hearing about proposed (thankfully defeated) bill for mandatory, unwanted transvaginal ultrasounds, upon hearing about Congress proposing to allow ANY employer to opt out of providing healthcare plans that include access to birth control and abortion, that so many women AND men are looking around us with wild, crazed eyes and asking, “WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THIS COUNTRY?”
February 3, 2012 § 6 Comments
In a stunning reversal on an equally stunning mistake, Susan G. Komen For the Cure has apologized and restored funding to Planned Parenthood for breast exams and screenings. Why am I not thrilled? Maybe because despite the evidence of the absolutely mind-boggling power of social media, this whole episode is symptomatic of a much larger societal ill. And I have many questions, since I by no means think the matter is settled. There is fall-out with which to contend.
1. How will pro-lifers react? According to the Nancy Brinker, donations to Komen in the last two days increased 100%. It’s reasonable to assume the increase was, in large part, a result of pro-life people pleased with their decision to revoke PP funds. What will happen to these donations, now? Will the donors ask that their money be returned? Will they have to suck it up and accept that a donation made SOLELY BECAUSE they wanted to send the message they opposed legal abortion was made in vain? Will there be even more outrage now on the part of the pro-life movement? And will it be taken out on Komen? This can only hurt Komen and the work they do.
2. How will pro-choice people react? As written in this article in Salon, Planned Parenthood is clearly more adept and practiced at handling controversy and criticism than Komen. Planned Parenthood and its supporters need to be wary, though, of declaring victory. That this whole story even happened is cause for deep concern among those who support women’s health and reproductive choice. According to Senator Barbara Boxer (speaking to Andrea Mitchell this afternoon,) on this very day members of Congress are virtually coming to blows on the issue of birth control. Birth control, people. Let’s not get smug.
3. Can Komen recover? General consensus is yes. But Komen for the Cure has been politicized, as many charities have. Before this, it was possible for people to support Komen whether or not they supported legalized abortion. Everyone wants cancer eradicated. Now, though, supporting Komen might be harder for pro-life AND pro-choice people.
4. What is really going on here? Truth be told, according to PP, about 170,000 of the more than 4 million breast exams they’ve provided over the last five years were funded by Komen’s grant. That’s around 4%. Interestingly, abortion makes up only about 3% of the services Planned Parenthood provides. I am in NO WAY minimizing the importance of even one of those lives being saved through the breast exam, nor am I minimizing the heartbreak involved in even one abortion performed. Yet, the nastiness of this controversy may have been avoided (though probably not…) had everyone paused, assessed, and been forthright.
For example, imagine if the powers that be at Komen came right out and said, “We are free to fund whomever we choose, and we choose not to fund organizations that perform legal abortions.” Say what it is and who they are. And let the chips fall where they may. I might no longer donate to them, but I might because I appreciate straight talk and sincerity. In researching, I might decide the position is too abhorrent to me, or I might decide that the good they do outweighs this issue given the relatively small amount of money in the grant.
Imagine if Planned Parenthood reacted by saying, “We are deeply saddened by this, but truthfully, Komen only funded 4% of the breast exams we performed anyway. With your support, we can make up the difference and emerge stronger than ever.” I’m sure the outpouring of support would have been significant.
5. Is this about breast cancer or abortion? If it is about breast cancer, Komen should never have pulled their funding. If it is about abortion, Komen should not have restored the funding. Here’s what I fear. I fear this entire episode had less to do with breast cancer screening OR abortion. I fear it is, more than anything, reflective of how anti-community we have become.
Here’s what I mean by that. Years ago, I joined a gym. When I joined, childcare was included in the membership. Within a year, the gym changed its policy and began charging extra for childcare. I protested, and was told, “People who didn’t use it complained they shouldn’t have to pay for it. Not everyone uses the childcare, so it’s not fair to charge them for it.” I countered by saying, “I don’t use the men’s bathrooms, or touch any free weight over 15 pounds, but I understand my dues fund parts of the club I don’t use, or even like. I’m okay with that because it contributes to the upkeep of the place as a WHOLE.”
Superimpose that approach onto politics. The mentality exists wherein people cannot abide even one penny of their money being used for something they oppose. In the last few days, I read over and over people arguing that if they give to Komen, they want to be damn sure the money won’t be going to fund that horrible Planned Parenthood organization. They slaughter babies, you know. By the same token, I heard people swear they wouldn’t give a dime to Komen now that they’ve made this anti-choice decision. I was one of them. Of course everyone is entitled to their opinions and are free to donate their money however they want. But how I wish we could step back and take a breath.
Take a breath and accept the fact that some of your money (taxes and donations) will be spent in ways you don’t like. Ways you find abhorrent. I understand why people don’t want their money helping to fund facilities that perform abortions. I respect their feelings and convictions. I hope that respect is reciprocated when I say I don’t want my money helping to fund the death penalty, or organizations that discriminate against homosexuals. Regardless, in the emotional whiplash of the last week, I think we could all do with a larger dose of acceptance. Of making peace with imperfection and moving on.
I won’t rule out donating to Komen in the future, and as I said before – I may have even if they hadn’t reversed this decision. What I’d love to see (and doubt I ever will) is a pro-life person donating to Planned Parenthood. You know – in support of the 97% of medical services they provide in underserved communities that AREN’T abortion-related.
(I know I may live in a dream world, but it’s nice here.)
January 24, 2012 § Leave a comment
Part Eight (and last for a while) of I-Don’t-Know-How-Many in a series of posts inspired by “Miss Representation.” If you haven’t seen the trailer for this movie, and you have 8 minutes, please watch it here now.
Remember Donkey in “Shrek?” Now, I don’t often look for wisdom out of the mouths of donkeys (insert liberal Democrat joke here…) but when he’s singing a Bette Midler song, I tend to take notice. There’s a theory that’s been bouncing around in my mind for the last year or so, and I can’t seem to separate it from the image of happy Donkey singing “Ya Got to Have Friends” to Shrek. Animated references aside, it seems appropriate to give voice to this theory in the blog series inspired by “Miss Representation.” Yet, it’s a tricky message because I imagine it will be easy to misinterpret – and here it is anyway.
Minorities need friends in the majority. I believe this applies to many facets of life, but generally, I am referring to the advancement basic human rights. Overthrowing tyranny and abuse. Moving civilization forward. You know – the little things.
I realize I’m painting with very broad strokes here, but consider history. It’s hard to find an instance where an oppressed minority group’s advancement towards equality was not helped along by someone (or many) in the majority. Emancipation. Desegregation. Women’s Suffrage. Establishment of Israel. Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Were the minorities and/or oppressed in these cases irrelevant or powerless in bringing the advancements to fruition? Of course not – of COURSE not. Au contraire. But neither were they alone or singular in their efforts. Somehow – somewhere along the way, in each of the cases mentioned above – their arguments, stories, actions, found a receptive heart and sympathetic ear of people in the majority. And those in the majority whose eyes had been opened worked on behalf of those who had been wronged. Then there was progress.
It’s very natural, when you’re a member of a group that’s been wronged to surround yourself with others like you, and assert your strength and independence as a group. Cathartic. Therapeutic. Necessary. And soooo easy to cross over to the “Stick it to the Man” and “Rage against the Machine” mentality. We emphasize the “us vs. them” dynamic. We are able to turn any problem adversarial. (The more twisted ones actually get off on doing that, and shame on them.) I can’t think of a greater impediment to progress.
We may feel we can go it alone – we don’t need those bastards in the majority. But we’d be wrong. If we don’t need them now, we’ll need them down the line, and we’ll be happy to have a friend or two on the other side. This is my argument against isolation, people. For all the flaws in our government, the beauty of its infuriating design is that one side can hardly get anything done without the other. For all the flaws in our society, the brilliance of its survival lies in our ability to see value in other points of view.
Forgive the inelegance of the argument (and my beating a dead horse,) but blacks needed whites to defeat Jim Crow. Jews needed gentiles to establish Israel. Gays and lesbians need straight people to be on their side and advance their cause. The first female Justice to the U.S. Supreme Court was appointed by a man. Everyone needs friends on the other side of the aisle, whether it’s the aisle of Congress or the aisle separating men and women in an orthodox synagogue.
I finally watched “Miss Representation” in its entirety. I’m trying to get it screened in Maryland. Baltimore’s mayor (Stephanie Rawlings-Blake) is female, the longest-serving female U.S. Senator (Barbara Mikulski) is from Maryland, yet our state hasn’t yet had a screening. How great would it be to fill a theater with people to watch this film? Yet, the first question on my mind is, “How many men can we get to see this? How many boys?” I desparately want women and girls to see this, too – to stoke the fires in their bellies and make them roar. To impress upon them how dangerous complacency is and how fragile our hold on equality. But I also want the men there. Progress won’t happen without them.
Because believe me. When a twenty-something-year-old waiter feels comfortable addressing my mother as “dear,” but my father as “sir,” it is more obvious than ever that we have a loooooong way to go and a LOT of work to do.
December 5, 2011 § 7 Comments
Part Five of I-Don’t-Know-How-Many in a series of posts inspired by “Miss Representation.” If you haven’t seen the trailer for this movie, and you have 8 minutes, please watch it here now.
I used to be afraid to have a boy.
Wait. Allow me to re-phrase.
I used to be afraid to give birth to a male child.
That’s better. Yes, the prospect of having a son scared me more than having a daughter. No matter how many people told me boys were easier (they’re not, by the way…) I was still afraid. I had this theory that it was tougher to raise a boy to buck gender stereotypes than to raise a girl to do the same thing.
Call it a sign of the times that I wasn’t afraid of raising a tough girl – the Feminist movement of the Sixties and Seventies, and of generations further back, had cleared the way for my girl to hear that she had options besides housewifery. Expectations for girls had been so incredibly broadened regarding education, attitudes and careers. I couldn’t say the same for the boys, though options for boys were wide to begin with.
Put more simply, it had become more acceptable in society for girls to do “boy” things than for boys to do “girl” things. This bothered me for many years before I became a parent, so I guess it made sense that I’d approach the parenting years with this anxiety.
Fortunately, I took comfort in the notion that I was not solely responsible for my potential son’s upbringing and attitudes. I realized that the guy I married would have something to do with it. If the huz was any indication, any boys I birthed would have a great example to follow. Their dad had mastered the art of being manly without the BS macho posturing that often goes along with it. He had no need, patience, or use for it. So I relaxed a little, and, it turns out, I was right to entrust any future male offspring to the guy I married.
Our eldest is a girl, and the other two are boys. When she was a baby, I dressed her in blue and green, but not necessarily to make a statement. She’s a redhead – those colors looked best on her, and pink washed her out.
When our first son came along two years later, E’s first words to me were, “Mommy, put that baby back!” But she grew to like N, and eventually was more than happy to share her stuff with him, including her nail polish. He wore it. When she outgrew her pink, satiny, Cinderella nightgown, she gave it to N. He wore it. When she outgrew her flower socks, she gave them to N. He wore them.
The huz and I had no problem with any of this. I did field quite a few comments from some other pre-school moms, along the lines of, “Oh, my god, my husband would FUH-REEEEEAK OUT if my son wore that!!!” This was to be expected. I mostly said things like, “Why?” or “Oh, how sad for your son…” and moved on.
Quite a few years later, I was helping out at the elementary school’s Grandparents’ Breakfast. It’s always on a Friday in November, and as we live in Baltimore, I wore a Ravens jersey. A pink one.
One of the grandmothers passed through the line and expressed dismay, bordering on disgust, that I was wearing a pink Ravens jersey. “Why does it have to be PINK??? Just because a GIRL is wearing it???” She (I’m guessing) had come of age when the Feminist movement did, and I sensed her frustration stemmed from the “Pink = girl” and “Blue = boy” mentality. I share this frustration, but from a different angle.
So, I said, “I feel like rather than banning pink from a girl’s color spectrum, it would be more productive to ADD pink to a boy’s.” Make it okay for boys to wear and like things that are – you know – PINK.
Not just during Breast Cancer Awareness month. Not just the professional linebackers. Ray Lewis can wear pink and no one will mess with him, I assure you.
The little shy boy? He should be allowed to wear pink if he likes. The little athlete? He should be allowed to wear pink if he likes. The girl? She should also be allowed to wear pink if she likes.
I had dinner with two great girlfriends of mine, and we had a spirited discussion about it. One was dismayed by the concept of pink legos and pink toolbox toys marketed to little girls. She couldn’t quite put her finger on why, but it troubled her to have things set up this way. I agree with her.
The other defended the use of pink this way, positing that making the toys pink doesn’t make them less valuable – especially if it gets girls playing with “traditionally” boy things. There is nothing wrong with a girl liking pink. I agree with her, too.
Then there was the conversation I had with my adult niece and her girlfriend. I relayed to them the story of this grandmother at the school breakfast. My niece’s girlfriend said, from a purely practical point of view, “Well, I just think it’s stupid that any team jersey would be made in a color other than that team’s colors.” We got to talking about it, and came to the conclusion that there is something demeaning about assuming that the only way a girl will like something is if it’s pink.
This is what (I am guessing) bothered that grandmother. This is what (I’m guessing) bothered my friend at dinner.
For me, the problem is when pink is considered “less than.” When girls are considered “less than.” When boys (and girls, by the way) who like pink are considered “less than” because that means they’re acting like GIRLS. Tomboys are fine, but boys who do and wear and like GIRL things? That’s what draws scrutiny (and legally sanctioned discrimination) on all levels – social, educational, professional. And that, above all, tells me that in this world, women are valued less than men. THAT, to me, is the problem.
About a month ago I was in the orthodontist’s office with N, who is now 13. He was there because he had eaten some forbidden food and broken off one of his brackets. The orthodontist was an older gentleman who was gently chiding him for not following the rules. He joked with N, saying, “It’s okay this one time, but if you break another bracket, I’m gonna make them all PINK.”
My son, not missing a beat, looked him straight in the eye, smiled, shrugged, and said, “I like pink.”