Really Colorado, Really?

October 5, 2010 § 1 Comment

by ELENA

Two years ago, the state of Colorado voted down a proposed “personhood amendment”, which would declare that “the term ‘person’ shall apply to every human being from the beginning of the biological development of that human being.” Evidently, anti-choicers can’t seem to take “no” for an answer, and Amendment 62 is yet again on the ballot this November.

Choice USA’s video points does a better job of poking holes in Amendment 62’s logic than I ever could.

Colorado readers–please fight tooth and nail against this anti-choice, anti-woman, and just plain idiotic proposal.

(Via Feministing)

Very Quick Congrats

August 3, 2010 § 4 Comments

by KATIE E.

Before all the gender-policing, right-wing radio tangents, conspiracy theories, OMG WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDRENZ!!11!!, and plain old transphobia start to crop up, I would like to offer my  congratulations to Thomas Beatie and his wife on the birth of their third child, and my sincere condolences for all of the crap they get to hear, again. That is all.

Pregnant Teens Get Clothes, Moral Panic Ensues

August 3, 2010 § 12 Comments

by KATIE E.

Dear Stephanie Hallett,

Just stop. Really.

Stop the moral panic. Stop calling yourself a feminist unless you decide you want to support all women.  And please, stop promoting the epic fallacy that if we don’t provide maternity clothes at a store aimed at women under thirty, pregnant teenagers will suddenly disappear.

“How about information on pregnancy options, counselling and pre- and post-natal care? Not trendy clothes.”

You know, that’s lovely and all, and I really do support it, but I believe pregnant people are still required by law to be clothed during all that counselling and prenatal care.

And somehow, I don’t think that F21 selling (I kid you not, this is the entire “line”) two modest dresses, two plain shirts, two gray cardigans, two pairs of neutral leggings, one of those belly supporters, and a chiffon thing that I don’t quite understand but is floral and quite unexciting in maternity sizes is going to suddenly end all help for pregnant people who want/need it. And, even in my capacity as a non-fashionista, I’d hardly call that “trendy.” Nice looking, affordable, okay for some jobs and parties, but pretty bland for F21. With the way she phrases it, I was expecting bubble mini-dresses with I AM THE COOLEST PREGNANT TEENAGER EVER emblazoned on the front in rhinestones or something. Not that there would be anything wrong with that, but it sounds much more like something of the traditional F21 cannon.

Furthermore, why shouldn’t pregnant teenagers have trendy clothes? If you are pregnant before society says it’s okay, does that mean you should feel too much shame to dress the way you like?

“Linda Chang, Forever 21′s senior marketing manager, can claim they’re simply trying to appeal to a new demographic, and not exploiting the outrageously high number of teen moms with little money in the U.S., but the point is that a 20-something model in maternity clothes isn’t even shocking anymore. It’s an integral part of the “raw-capitalism-as-spectacle-a-go-go” model that F21 has founded its business on. It doesn’t matter who’s shopping, only that they’re buying.”

I get that Forever 21 is infamous for the whole “fast fashion” phenomenon, but the whole “raw-capitalism-as-spectacle-a-go-go” you’re describing here just sounds a lot like…capitalism. I’m no fan, but the idea of discovering you have a market (young women who’ve always loved fast and cheap clothes who coincidentally become pregnant) and making a product that will appeal to that market (fast, cheap maternity clothes) is hundreds of years old

And exploitive? Really? Please go talk to one of the millions of pregnant people who couldn’t afford maternity clothes  and as them if a twelve dollar, slightly less than flawless quality dress makes them feel exploited. Frankly, only someone from a place of privilege could believe pregnant people are exploited by cheap maternity clothes.

Why should a 20-something model in maternity clothes be a shock, anyway? The average age of a first time mom is now 25, and it’s only gone up in the past forty years. Besides, I thought you only wanted to shame pregnant teenagers here. Is it just the phenomenon of pregnancy in general that makes you so mad?

“But as a company whose audience is made up mostly of girls under 24, Forever 21 has the option to behave responsibly and not perpetuate a very destructive norm.”

Is the fact that most (65%) of F21’s customers are under the age of 24 supposed to make me panic or something? This may shock you, but 18-23-year-olds are women. Adult women. And 65%, while a definite majority, is not a radically high figure.

Not that any of that should matter. I would think that a feminist would recognize how extremely problematic referring to anyone who’s pregnant as “a destructive norm” is. Isn’t it Anti-Kyriarchy 101 that there is nothing wrong with anyone who is keeping a pregnancy, and any problems that arise from it are the fault of our racist, sizeist, ageist, sexist, cissexist, classist, heterosexist society?

“How about we offer proper sex ed to American youth?”

Excellent idea, but I fail to see how this will completely erase pregnant people and the need for them to have proper clothes.

“How about we talk about what it’s really like to be a mom–the money it takes, the time it takes, the effects on a young woman’s body–instead of making teen pregnancy a mere fact of life in the US with shows like 16 and Pregnant?”

Here we go with the “pregnant teenagers are silly and don’t know that babies cost money and can change your body!” meme. I happen to know that Women’s Glib, being Women’s Glib, has a high readership of people who are currently teenagers, so I’ll invite all of them to answer this question:

You know being pregnant costs money and time and changes your body, right?

It wouldn’t be a classic teen pregnancy shame fest without a reference to 16 and Pregnant. Really, how many people do you know who watch 16 and Pregnant who have not done all of the following:

1. Called any of the girls “slutty” or something similar.

2.  Doubted the girl’s intelligence.

3. Referred to the couple that gave the baby up for adoption as being the only one’s who were smart, responsible, and/or mature.

4. Insisted that it is a great way to prevent teenaged girls from having sex and keeping pregnancies.

16 and Pregnant is hardly “acceptance” or “normalization” of teenaged pregnancy.

As much as it clearly pains you, Ms. Hallett, teen pregnancy is a mere fact of life, and it always has been and always will be. Some teens use contraception and it fails. Some teens can’t afford contraception. Some don’t know how to use it. Some are raped. Some are victimized be reproductive coercion. Some plan pregnancies. Many will choose or be forced into carrying the pregnancy to full-term. All deserve our respect and support. And that includes affordable, nice clothes that they can wear.

Ms. Hallett, what you’ve written here is one of the major reasons why mainstream feminism frequently disappoints me. A feminist should support all women and girls, but I see less and less realizing how much our society fails pregnant people and mothers who don’t fit the kyriarchal norm. Pregnant teens and teenaged parents are not a tragedy or destructive, but society (including you) is set on continuing to perpetuate conditions and ideas that make it seem that way.

NYAAF Words of Choice Event

April 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

Do you know about NYAAF, the New York Abortion Access Fund? It’s pretty damn cool: people donate to a central fund that pays for all or part of an abortion procedure for low-income women. They work across New York State, and beyond — they have brought women “from as far away as Texas, Utah, and Bermuda to access safe legal abortion in New York.” The best part? It has an all-volunteer staff, so any contribution you make goes directly and entirely to women in need.

You can donate directly to NYAAF at any time, but you can also get involved with their fun fundraising events. On Sunday May 2, NYAAF will host Words of Choice, a night of dynamic pro-choice theater.

Words of Choice is performed by an ensemble of actors and weaves together the words of many writers…These are stories from the heart: humorous and serious; poignant and riveting, from theater, spoken word, comedy, poetry, oral history and journalism.

Cost: $20
Chow Bar, 5-7:30pm

Happy hour prices are from 5-7pm and entail wine for $5, beer for $3, and Chow Bar cocktails are half price at $6.

Remember that your $20 entrance fee goes directly and entirely to low-income women in need of abortion funding.

For more information, RSVP to the Facebook event.

Pregnant High School Athlete Faces Blatant Discrimination

November 30, 2009 § Leave a comment

ESPN’s Outside The Lines has an interesting and angering profile of Mackenzie McCollum, a Texas high school student and volleyball player who faced discrimination from her coach and school administration. (I’m not allowed to embed the video, but I highly recommend clicking through to watch it. And I apologize, I have not been able to locate a transcript of the video.)

Mackenzie found out she was pregnant, and still wanted to participate on the volleyball team. The administration of Arlington Heights High School in Fort Worth, Texas told her family it was their strict policy to obtain a written doctor’s note to clear pregnant students to play. (They never provided physical evidence of that policy to Mackenzie’s family, though.) Her physician sent in a note, which they rejected, and a second one, which they deemed acceptable.

When Mackenzie returned for her first game, she found out that her coach had “outed” her to the rest of the team, making her fodder for school-wide stares, gossip, and judgment.

Despite the horrible treatment she’s faced, Mackenzie seems like a badass girl who’s not taking discrimination laying down. Her mother, Barbara Horton, has filed formal complaints with the United States Department of Education in reference to Title IX, which prohibits discrimination in school sports communities on the basis of sex or gender.

Keep up the good work, Mackenzie!

Kids, Sex, & Gender

August 3, 2009 § 11 Comments

The other day I was on the playground with my campers, who are going into third grade, and the topic of pregnancy came up. Several of the kids were adopted, as was one of my co-counselors, so conversations about different kinds of families and how they are made had come up before, but never in this much detail.

I suddenly remembered that it is difficult to answer kids’ questions: they are blunt and persistent, having yet to be hushed by what society deems acceptable to discuss in polite company. How do we talk to children about immensely complicated issues, in language that’s simple enough to understand but doesn’t shed necessary intricacies and ambiguities?

When they asked, “Why would someone give up their baby to be adopted?” I replied, “Sometimes people don’t have enough money to take care of a baby, or they are too young, or they are too busy, or they don’t want a family. So adoption is great because it means that kids can have a family that loves them and takes care of them, even if their birth parents couldn’t.”

When they asked, “So, where do babies even come from?” I replied, “They grow inside a woman’s body until they’re big enough to be born.”

When they asked, “But how do you make a baby?” I replied, “That’s a question you should ask your parents when you get home. They probably have a specific answer for you.” (This one was hard: I know the technical answer, of course, but not the social one. Who knows what these kids will go home and tell their parents I said? Who knows what their parents want to say themselves?)

Then they asked, “But what about the pregnant man?” Instantly I remembered I’d just said that babies grow inside women’s bodies — a little ignorance check. I chose my words carefully: “The pregnant man’s name is Thomas, and he used to be a woman. That means that he was born as a girl, with what we call ‘girl parts,’ but when he got older he felt like he wanted to be a man so he asked people to call him a boy and changed the way he looked a little bit. So he is a man, but he still has the parts that make him able to grow a baby.”

“What do you mean he felt like he wanted to be a man?”

“Well, I don’t know exactly. I don’t really know what that feels like. But I think it must be a bad feeling, right? Can you imagine feeling a certain way about yourself, but the whole world felt a different way about you? It would be confusing and frustrating. So it’s great that he got to become what he wanted to be.”

Conveniently, my head counselor popped into the conversation at just that moment to say, in an amused tone, “Well, from what I’ve read, the pregnant man is really a woman.”

Thanks for the playground transphobia and identity denial.

An email

July 13, 2009 § Leave a comment

Upon reading your article “Palin’s anti-choice legacy,” I wanted to bring a particular point to your attention.

Your use of the term “anti-choice” is very misleading, and shows a significant misunderstanding of the term.

The term anti-choice by definition means “one who opposes ALL choices”, no matter what the topic of choice be. The opposition to abortion does not stem from the opposition of choices in general (as the term anti-choice would lead one to believe). Those who oppose abortion are against feticide and embryocide, thus making them anti-feticide, anti-embryocide, or anti-abortion. Just as someone who opposes the choice of a man to hit his wife is not anti-choice, but anti-domestic-violence, the correct label for a person who opposes abortion would be anti-abortion (or anti-feticide, anti-embryocide, etc.)

I would invite you to visit the website www.notantichoice.com to review and read more information on this subject and on the use of the term anti-choice.

Thank you,

[name withheld]

Um, no.

I could probably just deal with this in a short response email, or even concede no response at all, but I prefer to direct public attention to a post I’ve written previously on this subject. My own words:

I am pro-life. I am completely in support of each person’s right to life – their right to go to school and grow up and decide what their favorite food is and ask questions and read magazines and get a job and dream about changing the world. That’s why I’m a pacifist. I want all of those things for every person on this earth, and I’m tired of being made to seem like I’m against life because I am pro-choice.

For me, being pro-life is being pro-women’s lives. It is one the most demeaning things in the world to feel that the government values the life of the fetus potentially living inside me more than my life. It will be a person. I am a person. It will have a life — a life that I’ll fight to protect — but I’ve already got one. It’s a goddamn group of cells. I’m a woman. I laugh at the idea of someone who believes in lives, who believes in autonomy and the right of every thing to exist, telling me how to live mine.

That’s why I much prefer the term anti-choice to pro-life, because that’s what this whole fuss is about: telling women what to do with their bodies, their futures, their lives, instead of letting us choose for ourselves. If anti-choicers were truly pro-life, they would give a shit once the fetus was born — which, you know, they don’t: anti-choicers are the ones who are cutting funds for child care and children’s hospitals. And if they really cared about reducing the number of abortions, they’d stop pouring millions of dollars into bullshit sex ed programs and limiting access to birth control. What they are actually interested in is limiting women’s choices — limiting women’s lives.

That sounds like just the opposite of pro-life to me.

Anything to add, commenters? Does someone with more time than I’ve got at the moment want to take on the troubling parallel this emailer draws between abortion and domestic violence? Do you prefer the label pro-life, instead of anti-choice? Have at it in the comments.

Cross-posted at Feministe.

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