Wednesday, August 5, 2015
Notional babies and real women
Sex makes men crazy.
Sometimes quite literally.
How many times have you read a news story about the jilted boyfriend who tracks down his beloved, kills her and whoever else happens to be around?
What's the thinking behind that? Rejection, injured ego and an overwhelming impulse to lash out at a person you believe should be still under your control.
Sound familiar? Our society is the same. Law and religion have always labored mightily to dominate women, to ensure females remain second-class citizens, shackled by vastly restricted rights. With a cry of "You can't leave me," the Senate just tried to defund Planned Parenthood, the most important provider of contraceptive and reproductive health services to women in the country.
One deceptive tape cobbled together by an anti-abortion group was enough to set off Ted Cruz et al because crushing Planned Parenthood is what they want to do anyway. Narrow defeat does not mean the battle is over; it veers off in another direction. Lose the Senate vote? Let's shut down the government until we get our way.
It's sure easier than facing the actual problems facing this country. As Planned Parenthood's president, Cecile Richard, said: "When those guys can't figure out what to do about jobs, and they can't, their first target is women."
Not that Planned Parenthood's amped up foes put it that way.
"We can no longer allow the atrocities committed by an organization that receives state and federal tax dollars, and that receives special tax treatment from the federal government," former Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Friday. "The Obama Administration targets groups with the word ‘patriot’ in their name but does nothing to an organization that cuts apart and sells the body parts of dead babies."
Listening to candidates fulminate against using fetal parts for medical research — a practice that is legal and has gone on for years — you can almost forget that they're against abortion. Period. Were the fetuses buried intact in mahogany coffins at Graceland religious fanatics would fight it just as fiercely. And when you look at what's upsetting them — using fetal tissue for science versus throwing it away — it seems they've got the morality of the situation completely backward, a common situation among the faith fogged.
Of course the pious third is against using fetuses for science. They're against both abortion and science. Religion was against adults donating their bodies to science after they die. They react with fresh indignant fury, counting on the general public to overlook that it's actually the same old indignant fury in a new box.
Don't take the bait. This is a long-term struggle. Each generation fights it anew. It never stops for the same reason the spurned boyfriend can't just sign up at Match.com and move on with his life. A certain sort of person can't accept the independence and humanity of women. It is an affront to their sense of themselves and, of course, God.
Thus our mothers had to fight for the right to hold their jobs. The idea of a woman being a doctor or a pilot was laughed off. Our great-grandmothers fought for the right to vote, battling the same band of faith-addled men.
Not that we're alone. In Saudi Arabia, women can't drive. And we regard that with smug Western superiority: "Oh, these backward Muslim nations." Meanwhile, U.S. senators are tarring American women as whores who will unthinkingly murder their children and sell their mangled limbs to ghouls unless responsible men step in and stop them.
Just as with the fuming boyfriend, lurking in the parking lot with a handgun, rational discussion has little value here. Powerful men are going to do what they feel compelled to do. Whatever dysfunction or repression formed their cramped outlook has already occurred, manifesting itself as this glittery-eyed religious zeal. These are babies. End of story. Reply, "Oh, you care about babies? Great. Because I have 10,000 babies who are already born and wards of the state who are going to end up in Dickensian foster care; why not help them with some of the money you're pouring into trying to drag American womanhood back to 1915?" Abortion foes will just look at you blankly.
Because the issue isn't really babies. They talk babies, but there are no babies. It's about sex, or more accurately, gender, and about conjuring up notional babies to rule over real women, who are so busy enjoying the rights that their mothers and grandmothers and great-grandmothers won for them, they have a hard time focusing on the gang of right-wing Republican revanchists set on revoking those rights. The assumption is the Republicans can't do it. But they can. They're sure trying with all their might.