November
4th 2009
Time for a National Women’s Party, again.

Posted under: American history, Gender, the body, unhappy endings, women's history

NWPaction

Divisive, bitter troublemakers!

There are a number of good analyses out there on the world-wide non peer-reviewed interwebs regarding the upcoming showdown over abortion rights (or rather, whose bill will go farthest in restricting abortion rights) and health care reform.  Dems are falling all over themselves to prove how icky and gross and inappropriate it is to offer women the full range of legal and necessary medical care.  Go read Melissa at Shakesville, who wrote in response to Natasha Chart at OpenLeft, who wrote in response to Digby, who wrote:

I think [abortion rights] is a lost cause and was probably lost before the debate even began when the president bought into “common ground” nonsense. Even though some lame form of health care reform, likely with an even lamer opt-in public option, is going to hit the floors, everyone will insist that they simply have to further restrict millions of women’s ability to exercise their constitutional rights in order to appease “moderates.” And then the Republicans can run against the whole reform as a liberal nightmare. Awesome.

For years now, it’s been obvious to me that abortion is just a fundraising tool and outrage-o-meter used to gin up enthusiasm for Republicans who wear the “pro-life” mantle.  Why do those anti-abortion people keep falling for the Republican line, when they never actually do anything serious about limiting abortion rights?  National Republicans did nothing, although they controlled the U.S. House, Senate, White House, and Supreme Court from 2003-2007  (Most of the limitations have come from state legislatures and Supreme Court cases, not at the direct behest of Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate.)  How dumb can they really be?

Well, they’re not the only dummies out there.  Pro-choice women have been falling for the ZOMG!!111!!1!  Roe Roe Roe!!! threats to fall in line and vote Democratic, and we have even less to show for it.  At least anti-abortion Republicans can point to some state legislatures who have done their bidding.  We pro-choicers can’t.  And considering that many women are only covered by health insurance because they’re married to men whose jobs provide it–well, let’s just say that it’s even clearer to me now that single-payer health care is the only kind of health care delivery system that would allow these women to make their own health care decisions.  Our current regime is embedded in patriarchal, heteronormative expectations that everyone is embedded in a family, and it distributes the health care goodies on the basis of our connections to wage-earners.  Whose interests does that kind of system serve?

Time for a National Women’s Party again, girls!  Like the Working Families Party in New York or the DFL in Minnesota, it would give feminists and other right-thinking progressives an institution that would direct our support to candidates from any party who support our causes–and to withdraw it from any candidate who wasn’t an advocate for our causes.  Let’s use those votes that Alice Paul and her comrades went to the wall to win for us.

48 Comments »

48 Responses to “Time for a National Women’s Party, again.”

  1. perpetua on 04 Nov 2009 at 10:55 am #

    Well, pro-lifers have actually done a stunningly good job at restricting women’s access to abortion through a variety of ways, even without the help of congress. In fact pro-lifers’ decision to focus state by state rather than on the federal appears to have been genius. Dr. Tiller’s clinic got shut down. And that’s only the most dramatic example of places gone underground or out of business. In some places it’s functionally impossible to get access to an abortion. Not to mention all those pharmacists who think they have a right to refuse to dispense the morning after pill, and are legally permitted to do so. They’ve also managed to change the entire content of the abortion debate, which in the 60s and 70s was about public health and women’s health issues and which in the 80s and 90s turned into a squeamish discussion in which everybody seemed to collectively agree that there was something unsavory about abortion. I remember vividly a conversation about a book on abortion in a grad seminar on women’s history. And all the grad students were being mealy-mouthed and “sensitive” about abortion (because we’ve all been indoctrinated to believe that it’s “emotional” and “devastating” decision for women even if we think it’s ok), until the professors couldn’t stand it anymore and one of them burst out: “I had an abortion and it was the best decision I ever made.” And this assertion was echoed by the other professor who’d had the same experience. We were ashamed and they were proud.

    I know that’s a generalization, but that’s what I’ve seen the pro-life movement achieve. Even people who view themselves on the left seem to think that “forcing” doctors and nurses to perform procedures that they think are immoral (which always and only refers to abortion) is wrong. (Whereas my opinion is that if you don’t like the job description, don’t take the job.) This is what resistance to federally funded abortions is about on the left, to a certain extent.

    I’m definitely on board with the women’s party. Sign me up! Let’s work on a platform.

  2. Meg on 04 Nov 2009 at 11:57 am #

    Why not vote Green? The Green Party isn’t squeamish about naming feminism as one of its top values, and in challenging Democrats to live up to progressive expectations. And they’ve made great strides in recent years, especially at the local level. Where I’m at, in Illinois, the Green gubernatorial candidate won enough votes (almost 11%) in the 2006 election that we’re now officially recognized as the third party in the state.

    Given that the Dems and Republicans alike have made ballot access incredibly difficult to get, it seems that working for women’s rights through a party that believes in them and has already done the work to build party infrastructure and gain access to ballot lines is the way to go.

  3. John S. on 04 Nov 2009 at 12:23 pm #

    Can I sign up for the women’s party if I am a man? B/c I suspect that I am pretty much down with what you’re after. This could reflect limited experiences on my part, but I agree with perpetua that a significant part of the problem with the abortion issue lies with doctors, either in training or outlook. (This might relate to the discussion a few days ago about women’s bodies.) I’ve wondered if the kind of “Olympian” perspective doctors often take (are encouraged to take?) makes them think of the procedure in depersonalized ways that make it easier to rationalize (or at least acquiesce) to pro-life attitudes. The discussion, it seems to me, is different when it’s put on the level of individual experiences–something that necessarily involves recognizing that there’s not a “gender free” realm here. Abortion is ultimately a choice only women can make, so it doesn’t fit with the supposedly unmarked “patient” doctors are supposed to think about.

    But I also think that this is an politically and culturally unfair fight on so many levels. The potential for hypocrisy is always there, and is on the side of pro-life advocates; they have the option of attacking women who have elected to have an abortion (or legalized abortion in general) and then availing them themselves of the procedure when they find it the right choice for them. And that kind of personal hypocrisy is a difficult thing for pro-choicers–doctors, people working at clinics, or just supporters in general–to fight.

    Because at a fundamental level you can’t call people out on this, esp. when talking about (or with) women who have had abortions and are trying to limit other women’s access to abortion. (Or who have taken a “the only moral abortion is my abortion” stance–see this collection of experiences http://mypage.direct.ca/w/writer/anti-tales.html ). It seems to me like it veers into the realm of questioning their choices and how they made their decisions–which is something that’s inherently hard for pro-choicers to do.

    It’s more of an option with male politicians or activists–I still remember John McCain being asked about how he would feel about abortion rights if his daughter got pregnant, and he muttered something like “that’s different!”, got angry, and stopped talking to that reporter. (Somehow it’s always different with the daughters of pro-life men, it seems.) But I don’t know if that’s possible when talking about women who have privately had an abortion and are publicly anti-choice. (And yes, I am speaking as a man here, which is quite limiting. I fundamentally believe that for me and all other men–who won’t ever get pregnant–any position other than “the one who’s pregnant gets to choose” is indefensible. And calling women out for choices they’ve made that I’ll never have to grapple with–that’s lower than low.)

  4. Ann Bartow on 04 Nov 2009 at 12:46 pm #

    Obama sure sold us out quickly:
    http://feministlawprofessors.com/?p=10357

  5. Indyanna on 04 Nov 2009 at 1:22 pm #

    A bit oblique to the larger point of the post, but it will be interesting to see what parses out of that result yesterday up in the Adirondack part of New York. The tea party crazies drove a “pro-choice conservative” woman Republican candidate out of the race, but she got six percent of the vote anyway, and the district sent its first Democrat to Congress since the Civil War. This probably has as much to do with localism and pushback against the organized right, and it doesn’t even approach solving the larger problems addressed herein. But it does suggest some interesting voter dynamics in the eastern outback, at least. How did Marilyn Musgrave, Historiann, co-opt the Susan B. Anthony brand into her wacky work? Talk about captivity narratives! At the least it can be said that even the hapless General Burgoyne got farther down toward Albany than Doug Hoffman did!

  6. Ann Bartow on 04 Nov 2009 at 2:16 pm #

    Of possible related interest:

    http://www.reclusiveleftist.com/2009/11/04/a-year-later-world-suddenly-gets-what-pumas-were-talking-about/

  7. Emma on 04 Nov 2009 at 2:31 pm #

    Look for spending restrictions on government money given to insurance providers through subsidies given to private citizens. There will be restrictions on whether the insurance company can use that money to fund abortions. The answer is: No, they can’t.

  8. Historiann on 04 Nov 2009 at 3:34 pm #

    perpetua: interesting story about your grad class. I’ve seen the same thing happen–I think women our age (40ish and under) are much more apologetic and much less likely to tell anyone, even if they feel like your professors did about it being the best thing. You are right that the pro-life movement has been very successful in shaping the culture.

    Meg–I would vote Green, if a candidate reflected my values. I’m not against Greens, nor does my vision of a NWP mean a(nother) third party. Like the DFL in Minnesota, it’s just a way of highlighting issues and putting them ahead of party interests. (Usually the DFL endorses the Dem in most races, but it doesn’t have to.)

    John S.: My NWP is of course open to men! I think you’re right about the problems with pro-choice politically–we are in fact ill equipped to point out the hypocrisy, precisely *because* we believe in privacy and dignity for all. But yes, a lot of people who get involved with anti-abortion have had abortions themselves. I have a physician friend in Colorado who performed abortions at a clinic once a week, and she would regularly tell stories about all of the so-called “pro-life” women who came to her for help. And then they went right back to their megachurches and went back to calling out all of the slutty, loose women who were getting abortions…

    One problem with medical training now is that there are almost no practicing physicians left who have ever treated a septic victim of a botched auto-abortion or backalley abortion. My father-in-law tells vivid stories about the case he saw as a med student in NYC in the late 1950s, before the law changed. Very few physicians–even OB/GYNs–opt for the training in abortion, because they don’t get the pressing social need for abortion services, and (quite frankly) they don’t want the possible hassle of protesters or stalkers or murderers on their front lawns, harrassment of their families, etc. (Understandable, IMO.)

  9. Violet Socks on 04 Nov 2009 at 3:38 pm #

    This seems like a good time to say hello, seeing as Ann has very nicely suggested a link to my post.

    Historiann, I’ve heard such good things about you from Ann that I had to put you on my reading list. So, hello!

    Re a National Women’s Party: it’s an idea that keeps surfacing. I’m all in favor of it myself. I think the lessons of the PUMA movement should be taken as a caution, though (and, if you’re unfamiliar, the PUMA movement started as a genuine feminist uprising among Democrats). Anything that women do on their own behalf that in any way bucks the existing two-party structure is going to be ridiculed, belittled, and slandered.

  10. Historiann on 04 Nov 2009 at 3:40 pm #

    Indyanna: the NWP probably would have endorsed Scozzafava (Sp.?) in the NY-23 special election, or at least would have looked at her seriously. The lesson I take from the elections yesterday is that it’s the unaffiliated middle that wins elections–not the firebreathers on either end of the spectrum. McDonnell and Christie won by talking bread-and-butter issues, plus they benefited from the general spirit of anti-incumbency hangover we’re still suffering/enjoying.

    Marilyn Musgrave is a whiny-a$$ed baby. A lot of so-called pro-life women have tried to appropriate Susan B. Anthony’s anti-abortion stance (and that of other 19th and early 20th C feminists), but they conveniently ignore the fact that the “life of the fetus” was not at all their concern, unlike today. Anti-abortion feminists of that era were focused on the safety issues for women, not life issues for fetuses. That said, I think one can be a pro-life feminist; I just don’t think one can advocate the government making health/reproductive decisions for anyone and call that feminist. (There’s a big difference between being against abortion personally, and being willing to make the decisions for everyone else. When it comes to state interference, I draw the line there.)

    I guess you could call me: a women’s libber-tarian on abortion! Say and do whatever you like, but limiting other people’s rights is one step beyond…

  11. Historiann on 04 Nov 2009 at 3:42 pm #

    Hi, Violet–thanks a lot. I agree with you, but for one thing. You write: “Anything that women do on their own behalf that in any way bucks the existing two-party structure is going to be ridiculed, belittled, and slandered.”

    I would amend that to read: “Anything that women do on their own behalf. . . is going to be ridiculed, belittled, and slandered.”

    No need for further modification!

  12. Kathleen Lowrey on 04 Nov 2009 at 3:52 pm #

    well, the pro-life movement has been so effective at “shaping the culture” because they are willing to do *anything* — including kill people. Who knows what kind of nutty classmate might decide to shoot you after class if you admit to having had an abortion during a discussion? And we know exactly what kind of nuts will decide to shoot you if you choose to learn how to performs abortions in med school and then apply that knowledge in your career as a physician. This issue really fills me with despair — we are constantly being exhorted to “find common ground” when the other side is wielding axes. It’s true that 1970s feminists really started to change the discussion when they “came out” about their abortions; if something approaching 40% of American women have abortions in their lifetimes that kind of vocal openness could be at least as powerful today. But opponents of abortion responded to that changing climate with a concerted campaign of ultraviolence. It really has been an unanswerable upping of the ante. Gays have faced similar killer hatred, but many gays are “out” anyway in the sense that they simply can’t modify their personas enough to avoid violence so they haven’t had as much choice about facing it. Women can hide — witness the pro-lifers who’ve had abortions — and why wouldn’t they take that option, given the homicidal maniacs who populate the pro-life ranks?

  13. Historiann on 04 Nov 2009 at 3:58 pm #

    Kathleen: yes, exactly. You write: “This issue really fills me with despair — we are constantly being exhorted to ‘find common ground’ when the other side is wielding axes.” Whatever happened to “we don’t negotiate with terrorists?”

    And yet, as I review 500 years of American history, I can say unequivocally that violence works: violence is the only serious extrapolitical tactic that has worked through American history. Unfortunately, women are not (yet?) perceived as a constituency that will pick up guns, but that’s what it takes: slave uprisings, Bacon’s Rebellion, 19th C abolitionists, the Civil War–picking up a gun is how we get $hit done in this country. The radical anti-abortionists know it.

  14. Kathleen Lowrey on 04 Nov 2009 at 4:47 pm #

    they sure do. But I don’t want to go around smacking people (or worse): my reaction to that kind of foam-at-the-mouth lunacy is just revulsion and retreat. And I think they know it very well — their propensity to murder, their penchant for grotesque imagery — it’s not intended as “dialogue”, it’s just intended to make people turn away or (better) run away. I like your idea of a women’s party, though — anything to draw attention to the fact that women are 50% of the population (and if you add people who like women rather than hate them, we’re in the absolute majority!). Right now the what-passes-for-serious-politics treatment is that kind of empty-headed “on the one hand, women! and on the other hand, people who hate their guts! Who’s right? It’s a delicate debate, that’s for sure!” approach.

  15. Feminist Avatar on 04 Nov 2009 at 4:52 pm #

    But, then values are a changing; violence is no longer an acceptable part of society in the way it was in the past. The state no longer sentences people to public whippings; spanking children is controversial (if not gone). In the UK, being anti-violence is significantly more pronounced than in America, where you seem to cling to violence- look at your need to bear arms- much more. But, at the same time, you are moving towards a trend where any form of violence is becoming increasingly unnacceptable. And, the violence/ anti-violence line becomes (rather simplistically no doubt) drawn along party political lines. The right, Republican, anti-abortion, pro-death penalty, gun nut, bomb your enemy versus the Democrat, pro-choice, anti-death penalty, anti-gun, anti-war, left. And, right now, love them or hate them, the Democrats are in power, so violence and violent tactics are not in fashion- so how successful will they be? In the UK, 9/11 effectively put an end to home-based terrorism, so (if we imagined all terrorists were the same) it can bite you in the ass. You need new tactics for a new era.

  16. Kathleen Lowrey on 04 Nov 2009 at 5:00 pm #

    well, I don’t know — I think the trends you note just make violence *more* effective for the side willing to resort to it. It’s really disheartening.

  17. Feminist Avatar on 04 Nov 2009 at 5:09 pm #

    Perhaps. I tend to think it makes violent people seem irrational and so less compelling- but I am an academic, so no doubt that shapes how I view things. I can see that the resort to violence may make a person seem more committed, more motivated, to their cause, which could be inspiring- especially if passion and rhetoric are more important than policy. Which we have had plenty of evidence of in the last couple of years!

  18. dandelion on 04 Nov 2009 at 5:27 pm #

    Yes, Historiann, you’re right about the violence — even in more recent history: being a child in the South during the Civil Rights movement, I was well aware of the fear in the air that it would turn violent, akin to Nat Turner’s Rebellion — yes there was the non-violence of MLK, but beside that there was the threat of the Panthers, etc. The gay rights movement too has had its outbreaks of violence with the Stonewall riots and the uproar after the death of Milk and the ridiculous sentence given Dan White. I guess my point is that while we praise and point to the nonviolence of civil disobedience and its successes, we always forget that somewhere next to all that was a violent possibility that in some ways served to make the nonviolently expressed demands more legitimate and palatable to the powers that be. The modern women’s movement, though, has never had that small violent splinter group beside it.

  19. Kathleen Lowrey on 04 Nov 2009 at 5:56 pm #

    I don’t think it makes them seem more committed — I think it makes opposing them a lot scarier.

  20. Susan on 04 Nov 2009 at 7:51 pm #

    What strikes me is that the other success of the anti-abortion folks is that there are pro-choice people who are apologetic, and say, “yes I think it should be legal, but I’d never do it.” We have no public discourse that is affirming about abortion — that yes, it’s a hard decision, but sometimes it’s the best thing. As someone who had an abortion when she was 20, I feel strongly that it was the right thing at that time. I might, at other points in my life, make other choices. But I have no regrets.

  21. Oroboros on 04 Nov 2009 at 8:52 pm #

    I remember the debate back in the 90s in the Green Party between two camps: “post-patriarchal values” vs “feminist values”. I honestly felt a little saddened when the latter view won. I felt there were more possibilities to the former.

    I want a party that transcends shallow views of sex and gender. I want a party founded on Rilke’s vision:

    And perhaps the sexes are more akin than people think, and the great renewal of the world will perhaps consist in one phenomenon: that man and woman, freed from all mistaken feelings and aversions, will seek each other not as opposites but as brother and sister, as neighbors, and will unite as human beings, in order to bear in common, simply, earnestly, and patiently, the heavy sex that has been laid upon them.

    My understanding is that we are all basically female for the first six weeks of our existence. The human blank is female and my own maleness can almost be viewed as a hormonal abnormality. We most likely evolved sex as a means to defend against parasites. Clearly sex and gender identity are not binary and the law has a long way to go to catch up with science.

  22. Gavin on 05 Nov 2009 at 3:17 am #

    Oroboros: Isn’t “post-patriarchal values” vs “feminist values” a false dichotomy? We can’t have anything post-patriarchal while patriarchy still exists, and the whole point of feminism is to get rid of patriarchy.

    As I understand it, an undeveloped foetus is has neither male nor female genitals. It has generic proto-genitals which can develop into male, female, or occaisonally somewhere in between.

    Historiann: Make it an international women’s party and I’ll be in it. If we had a feminist party in the UK I’d be much more politically active, instead of unenthusiastically voting Lib Dem because they’re not as bad as the rest. I know the Greens are better at feminism than any other party, but I’m a bit suspicious of them because they seem to have anti-science and anti-intellectual tendencies. Opposing stem cell research buys into the same kind of essentialism that pro-lifers are all about.

  23. perpetua on 05 Nov 2009 at 8:32 am #

    What I find particularly disturbing and dangerous about anti-abortion violence and threatened violence is the way we – society – have ceded them the moral high ground. As much as people in theory are horrified by individual acts of violence, the paucity of real outrage followed by demands for action (simple acts of protecting doctors and their privacy) is telling. To me, this is the most pernicious part of the trend several of us having been talking about – increased squeamishness in talking about abortion, the complete lack of an actual pro-abortion discourse. We actually *have accepted* the idea that fetuses have rights, in some cases equal to the rights of their mothers. My belief is that there is a subtle and maybe even unconscious thread in society today that admires pro-life radicals because of their “passion” for their cause (wow, they must really believe intensely, and for that they should be respected), rather than understanding their patterns of behavior – even when technically “non violent” – as forms of borderline or actual terrorism. We think of religious extremism as a kind of moral authority, rather than as something that is scary and dangerous. We have ceded a truly frightening amount of ground in the political discourse (on all levels) to a minority of the population, which naturally reinforces their sense of entitlement and righteousness.

    Of course wrapped up in all of this is the general indifference that our society displays towards women’s health issues generally. Oh, it’s just *women’s* bodies (total indifference).

  24. Historiann on 05 Nov 2009 at 8:36 am #

    The British Greens are against stem-cell research? Bummer. I can’t get on board with parties that foster the anti-vax, anti-science woo. I agree with Gavin that “post-patriarchal” is a chimera, much like the vaunted so-called “post-racial” moment we find ourselves in since electing a black president. What’s so bad about using the word feminism?

    Dandelion gets at what I’m talking about exactly, but with more specifics: violence, or the threat thereof, gets you mileage even today in the U.S. Look at the white, racist militia movements here: when it turned out that one of their adherents, Timothy McVeigh, bombed the Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, the Republican congress held hearing after hearing after hearing about how unfair and totally uncool it would be to look more closely at their activities. Hands off our guns and ammo at all costs!

    One thing that I find interesting is that there have been and are some truly “militant” men’s liberation movements–like the white militias and the Black Panthers. Yet, “militant” is an adjective that’s only ever used to denigrate “feminism”–but I am unaware of any feminist or group of feminists who armed up and lived on a compound somewhere. (Valerie Solanis–is that her name?–excepted, I guess. The “I shot Andy Warhol”/SCUM woman.) “Militant feminist” was thrown in my face by a graduate student here just 5 years ago–it was like, did you just pop out of a time capsule from 1973 or something? (I don’t think she was even born then!)

  25. Historiann on 05 Nov 2009 at 8:41 am #

    And perpetua: word. How did terrorists get the high ground in this one? I think technology has a lot to do with it (in allowing us to envision fetuses as proto-babies or even babies), as does our broader cultural nonchalance when it comes to women’s autonomy/privacy rights.

  26. Oroboros on 05 Nov 2009 at 9:25 am #

    There’s nothing bad about using the word feminism per-se and I consider myself a feminist.

    My objection was that the phrase “post-patriarchal values” had more possibilities for a political platform. We don’t live in a post-patriarchal world, that is true, but neither do we live in a feminist world. The Green Party values don’t reflect the reality of the world, but the party’s own inner core values of what it wants to see manifested in the world.

    Here’s my basic issue in this case. While I do hold feminist values, the phrase tends to marginalize the possible contributions that men have to make. It subtly implies to some (not me, but some) that there are no good masculine values. The phrase “post-patriarchal” says more about what the values aren’t than what they are, and gives us an opportunity to come together as brothers and sisters like Rilke envisioned, to create new values that represent the best of what men and women have to offer together.

    If the Greens were 100% female, I wouldn’t even raise the matter. But I felt that “post-patriarchal values” would have improved the party by being less exclusionary. It’s not really about my own needs, but about the other men I want to see encouraged to think about and develop better masculine values. Feminism calls me to do that, but some men are put off by the word itself. They may also hold many feminist ideals, but they feel shut out by it.

    Also I agree 100% about the anti-science issues. The Greens lost me a while ago, and not because of this debate over language. I did go back to their ten key values last night after I posted to see how that language finally came out. The value now stands as “Feminism and Gender Equity” which may not be a bad compromise either. I think the “Gender Equity” part may have been added after I dropped out. There’s not a lot on that list I can really argue with. I want those values in a party that is also pro-science.

  27. Paul on 05 Nov 2009 at 9:31 am #

    OK, this is probably my latent conservatism showing itself, but I find it disturbing that people conflate the pro-life movement as a whole with the tiny group of people who have actually carried out acts of violence. As someone who grew up believing in the pro-life position and knowing lots of people (men and women) who also believed that, I am pretty confident that most pro-life people aren’t terrorists or terrorist sympathizers.

    I think Historiann’s last comment is quite accurate in the sense that modern technology spurred the movement toward regarding embryos and fetuses as human, with the potential for human rights, because it revealed how many human characteristics are present from a very early point in an embryo’s development.

    To be honest, I am kind of glad that there aren’t many people who are actively “pro-abortion” in the sense of thinking that it is an unmitigated good.

  28. The Rebel Lettriste on 05 Nov 2009 at 9:41 am #

    I concur with Historiann on this last bit, that technology has very much allowed us to envision–and grow attached to–fetuses in a way that even 35 years ago wasn’t the case.

    My parents didn’t know my sex until I was born, because ultrasound wasn’t readily available in the mid-70′s.

    Compare this with my own experience of 21st c. pregnancy, where I had an ultrasound at 13 weeks that revealed two heartbeats. And where I have now had so many ultrasounds I can’t even count them. My twins were sexed at 15 weeks. And every time I go for these procedures, the technicians and the doctors and nurses all coo and proclaim “cuteness!” (All I’ve been able to see are some extremities and a lot of black and white movement, myself…)

    I think that ultrasound–not to mention the whole 4-D weird ultrasound movies that you can buy (for upwards of $250!)–has helped create a notion that the fetus is a baby, a real live human. (Never mind the fact that when you see a fetus at 13 weeks it looks more like a shrimp than anything else.)

    This is a quite different emotional phenomenon than “quickening,” much less birth itself. It’s all incredibly preparatory, and it oddly emphasizes the fetus’ “humanness” at the moments when it is the least human of all. I mean, really, they start out with gills.

  29. Historiann on 05 Nov 2009 at 9:49 am #

    Paul, I don’t think anyone means to conflate the terrorists with all who oppose abortion rights. But, we’re talking about who drives the agenda and who has disproportionate control of the conversation–and the terrorists have been extremely good at doing that, both to pro-choice people and to non-extremist pro-lifers.

    Rebel Lettriste: Ha! You’re right. They look like shrimps. And yet, there are recognizably human features that take shape pretty quickly. By 20 weeks, it’s a fully defined human baby, so the second half of the pregnancy is just about growing the baby bigger. You write as though you’re still pregnant–so good luck with your pregnancy and your twins.

  30. Oroboros on 05 Nov 2009 at 10:36 am #

    Re: investigations into the right-wing by Congress: I imagine there are hundreds more Wacos and Ruby Ridges out there waiting to happen. The recent run on guns and ammunition here has me extremely concerned. I see that hunters in Canada are just now figuring this out too.

    The militants here are clearly locked and loaded. I think the only way to deal with them is via covert infiltration and surprise SWAT assault, one by one, as quietly as possible. Any frontal assault resulting in another Waco-style standoff is going to spark a horrific backlash. I agree it was and is a very serious problem and not dealing with it properly back then will cost us.

    On the other hand, in so many cases there is little basis to do anything. Is it illegal to stockpile guns and ammo and have racist beliefs in your home? Some of the people who are dangerous don’t necessarily pose an imminent threat and there may not be any legal basis to do anything. It is a daunting task and I certainly don’t envy the position of law enforcement today. I think ongoing covert surveillance is the right thing. Nail ‘em on rape, child abuse, weapons charges, tax evasion or whatever, as the opportunity arises. Oh, speaking of rape and conservative cult leaders I saw Warren Jeffs back in the news this week.

  31. perpetua on 05 Nov 2009 at 10:54 am #

    Well, the emotional “politics” of pregnancy is complicated. I, like many pregnant women, ascribe a certain level of “personhood” to my fetus – in my previous pregnancy we found out the sex and gave him a name so that we could stop referring to him as an “it”. For me, it was part of process of readying myself emotionally for the radical life change I was about to undergo. But when I had a first trimester miscarriage (years ago) I did not think of it as “baby” that “died”, as heartbroken as I was at the loss. At the same time, I don’t conflate my personal experiences of pregnancy with the larger legal, ethical, and moral issues surrounding abortion and fetal “rights”.

    Another aspect of the technology issue, however, is that they have made the same technological advances in Western Europe without the same political ramifications in terms of the scariness of the anti-abortion movement. IMO what’s happening in the States has a lot to do with our privileging of religious experience as somehow more legitimate than secular ethics and morality.

    And I have to say, while I certainly don’t view all pro-life people as terrorists or potential terrorists, I do view the act of protesting in front of clinics (even peaceful protesting) as an act of psychological violence, because it is an attempt at coercion. If one wants to pray for the unborn peacefully, pray at home. God doesn’t hear you better in front of a clinic.

    I further have to admit myself to be someone who believes that access to legal, safe abortion is an unmitigated good. I think sex ed, birth control and especially emergency birth control are “better” from a women’s health standpoint, but safe and legal abortions are a necessary complement.

    The saddest thing about the discourse about abortion in the 21st century is how it actually drowns out or silences altogether the voices of women who have had abortions, or are thinking about them, and the incredible complexity of their perspectives and experiences.

  32. Oroboros on 05 Nov 2009 at 11:05 am #

    And, sorry for the double post but I wanted to give a little more background. Feel free to tell me to shut up and go away. I do contribute this because I’d like to see a viable third party and I might support one that was primarily oriented toward feminist values, especially if it could engage men in a broader dialogue about those values. I’d like to start thinking of them as more common human values. That may be my only real objection to the term “feminist values”.

    I have a conservative background of sorts even as I’m quite liberal on almost all social issues. I certainly know people who consider themselves patriots and defenders of the Constitution. Most of those associations are by birth and I obviously have biases. But it does give me a pretty good insight into their basic mindset. A lot of them are good people. They really do believe in the law and Constitution and fear tyranny (always!). They see that 2nd Amendment as their safety clause. Some value the whole thing equally and for all the right reasons (IMHO), and don’t appear to be racists or misogynists. They support equal protection under law and understand the importance of due process. They probably aren’t the majority in the larger Patriot/Militia movement, but they exist and honestly, I think I’m glad they do. If there is a revolution and the Constitution is replaced with something else that doesn’t provide the same basic protections, I’d probably go to bat for it myself.

    I do fear for the Union. The polarization feels like it is always getting worse. Sometimes a dissolution seems like the wisest course, but I can’t even begin to see how it might work and know in my heart that isn’t the answer.

    Even as I say I’d defend the Constitution, I do have some reservations that I believe merit amendment. Specifically these two:

    1) There is too much emphasis on personal rights to the detriment of the corresponding responsibilities that we have to each other and to the Constitution. This has in part been responsible for creating a culture that is out of balance and in danger of throwing those rights away (as Maine voters proved Tuesday).

    2) It needs to explicitly protect the most important human right of self-determination: to choose one’s own sexual identity. In the related question of “birth or choice” where the side question of orientation arises, I’d say that also needs to be treated somewhat like religion is – something that is protected whether it is born or chosen.

    There’s a finer point to #2 and I believe that the law should look at us as neuter to the highest degree possible. I see the ERA was re-introduced this year and I wholeheartedly support it, having just re-read the exact text. It is tempting to add to it to include the right to sexual self-identification, but I realize passing it as-is would be more important and perhaps, the right size step for the country to take right now.

  33. twandx on 05 Nov 2009 at 11:12 am #

    If you seriously believe in a Woman’s Party then why do you call us “girls”? That word still means “pre-pubic female – a child.

    And sure as hell the Party would be called feminine something to make sure everyone complied to the male’s construct of the lacy, ignorant, clothing mad proper female type in foot high heels and skirts an inch down from the waistline.

    If we women refuse to change our image how can anyone take us seriously?

  34. Historiann on 05 Nov 2009 at 11:43 am #

    Oh, good lord, Twandx: do you have any sense of humor or irony at all? Do you read this blog regularly? I’m really bored with people who get immediately offended by the use of *one* word, regardless of tone or context. I use the word “girls” ironically here all of the time.

    Everyone else seems to have got it over the past 24 hours or so since I posted.

  35. Kathleen Lowrey on 05 Nov 2009 at 12:09 pm #

    Perpetua — I so agree with you! Of course access to safe, legal abortion is an unmitigated good. As to why violence has gotten the high ground, it is super-puzzling. So many features of American society just seem really angry, because the other factors involved are as applicable in other countries and yet are unaccompanied by homicidal rage. It’s a really frightening political dynamic; there was this moment around Obama’s election when everybody seemed super blissed out and I felt like, okay, the truly crazy days are over — the whole Nixon-onwards dynamic of nursing grievances, reactionary nastiness, it’s done! But now I totally feel like it’s the ending of Nightmare on Elm Street: you think it’s over, but oh no.

  36. Historiann on 05 Nov 2009 at 12:24 pm #

    Kathleen & perpetua: actually, it’s when liberals/progressives appear to have a toehold on power that the domestic terrorism begins. People remember the Oklahoma City bombing and the dramatic murders and shootings of abortion providers in the 1990s, but we need to remember that Clinton himself (and his White House) were targeted by random crazies all of the time–people twice in 1994 were apprehended for shooting at the white house and for flying a plane at the White House in attempts to kill Pres. Clinton.

    I don’t think that either Clinton or Obama were/are all that politically progressive, but they’re Democrats & not right-wing Republicans, which apparently makes some factions of the body politic think they have to go all John Brown again.

  37. cgeye on 05 Nov 2009 at 12:36 pm #

    Um, Dandelion, the Civil Rights Movement was extremely violent — it’s just that one side was so influenced by religion that they were willing to be martyrs, until the other side choked on it. Bombed little kids knew that; the leaders lived with valid threats on their lives, every single day.

    The Panthers and Malcolm X were necessary reminders that blacks were human, not angels, not abstractions — and they had the right to kill those who threatened them and their families with violence, just like any other American with the right to bear arms. Sorta like SALT or START talks backed by nuclear throwweight, innit?

  38. Oroboros on 05 Nov 2009 at 1:22 pm #

    I know a little about the history of violence in the civil rights struggles here in Colorado. In 1975 a car bomb killed three Hispanic union organizers in Boulder. I don’t think the killer was ever caught.

    That incident caused a number of the other Hispanic students at CU to return to their homes down south in the San Luis valley. There they ran into John Taylor who had his ankle shattered by a stray bullet in a confrontation reminiscent of the Milagro Beanfield War.

    I’m probably asking for it with this statement, but I wonder if the reason there are no militant armed violent feminists is because core feminist values tend to prefer consensus and compromise over violence for resolving conflict? I know I’m stereotyping a bit here, preferring to focus on the more nurturing aspects of the feminine over the destructive Kali manifestations. Obviously individual women can and do commit violent acts every day. But when you get together as a group, that isn’t usually where it goes.

  39. Paul on 05 Nov 2009 at 3:16 pm #

    Paul, I don’t think anyone means to conflate the terrorists with all who oppose abortion rights. But, we’re talking about who drives the agenda and who has disproportionate control of the conversation–and the terrorists have been extremely good at doing that, both to pro-choice people and to non-extremist pro-lifers.

    Well, having disproportionate control of the conversation isn’t necessarily a good thing – not if all the attention repels more people than it attracts.

  40. Historiann on 05 Nov 2009 at 3:47 pm #

    Oroboros–I think you’re right that feminist values have largely been opposed to militarism & violence. I think it also has to do with the gendering of gun ownership and gun violence throughout American history, and the fact that women have never been subject to a military draft in the U.S., and the fact that most feminists are in relationships with men (family relations, if not sexual/love relationships) and boys. It’s harder to envision sex separatism than ethnic or racial separatism.

    Paul–agreed. But, if what you’re looking for is results, the pro-life extremists have got them.

  41. dandelion on 05 Nov 2009 at 8:10 pm #

    cgeye — um, I’m well aware of the violence that occurred during the Civil Rights Movement — if you’d considered my post you might have realized I was talking about violence (or the lack thereof) perpetrated by those DEMANDING social justice, not by the oppressors.
    Um.

  42. Feminist Avatar on 05 Nov 2009 at 9:25 pm #

    I think that for a lot of feminists, violence in any form has been seen to unduly come back to bite women in the ass. How can you campaign against domestic violence if you think violence is a legitimate social behaviour? There has also been quite strong links historically between the feminist movement and the peace movement-and probably at least part of this comes from 19th C ideas about women as peaceful, homemakers; men as public, warring types- women as passive, men as active discourse.

    Quickly changing topic, in the UK, there are feminists against stem cell research due to the fact that most stem cell research comes from the harvesting of women’s eggs, which involves pumping women full of hormones and then putting them through quite invasive medical procedures to collect eggs. This is especially in light of recent discussions to pay women to provide eggs, which some people think will discriminate against poor women, encouraging them to partake in potentially harmful procedures for money. So, I guess there is an ethical debate about women’s bodies here, as well as one about the feotus.

    And finally changing topic again, in Scotland (not sure about the rest of the UK), if using the NHS most doctors will not tell you the sex of your child during ultrasounds. Clinics often have signs telling you they won’t and not to ask. If you pay for private ultrasounds, you can get this info- and presumably if you are good at reading the ultrasound image, you might figure it out.

  43. cgeye on 06 Nov 2009 at 12:08 am #

    I considered a post that does not mention violence against civil rights followers to be at best incomplete, and at worst uninformed. I never forget the 400-plus years of blood black people shed before they could even be considered human enough to petition the government for legislation to secure their rights. I’m picky that way.

    And as I grow older, I consider non-violence to be a mistake, in the face of genocide and PR regimes that will excuse any murder, anytime. The 50s and 60s movement was just at the cusp where such action would be rendered ineffective — that’s why any efforts toward peace generally are discredited as special pleading from the weak.

  44. Oroboros on 06 Nov 2009 at 9:28 am #

    I had a feeling that dandelion and cgeye were talking about opposite aspects of civil rights struggles and was careful to choose an anecdote that showed violence on both sides.

    As I heard the story related, the CU students who fled back to San Luis after the bombing were becoming militant themselves. There were a series of confrontations with the guards at the Taylor Ranch.

    Finally the town elders (who were mostly women as the story was related) told the students: Wait, give the courts a chance. Let’s have our case heard before we pick up arms.

    So they did. They waited and waited and waited. It took them 21 years of waiting for the courts to try the case and give them a favorable ruling, but they finally prevailed.

    Of course, a lot of damage had been done to the mountain for which they were fighting. One might argue this wasn’t a civil rights struggle at all, but I see it that way. The people of San Luis had the rights to hunt, fish, graze and otherwise enjoy that mountain for generations. Then a wealthy white man came and bought it and used his friendship with a judge to have the courts strip those rights. Since they were originally guaranteed by a treaty that Congress signed with Mexico at the end of that war, I believe that original court action itself was unconstitutional.

  45. Oroboros on 06 Nov 2009 at 9:33 am #

    Sorry obviously the President signed that treatu after Congress approved it. Major blunder.

  46. cassandra on 09 Nov 2009 at 9:32 am #

    I thought I was the only person who felt it was far past time to resurrect the National Women’s Party, or create something new along those lines. In doing a quick search this morning for the NWP, came across this blog, and am I ever happy to find you.

    After so many of the “Democrats” threw us under the bus this past weekend with the Stupak amendment, I am more disheartened than ever about the status of women in this country, and have been feeling very much like my namesake. Thank you all for a great boost this morning.

    So, the question is, how do we start? What is the platform? I am here, and ready to help.

    Pace
    Cassandra

  47. Sharon on 05 Apr 2010 at 2:05 pm #

    So tell me how I join a National Women’s Party? I’m ready and willing.

  48. Dems to women: it’ll be different this time, baby, we promise! : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 07 Oct 2010 at 9:05 am #

    [...] I’ve written here before, abortion rights is a convenient accelerant for inflaming the political bases of both of the legac…  I’m through with setting myself on fire for Democrats who conveniently forget about their [...]

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