Monday, November 19, 2012

A blog about abortion

I've needed to write this blog for a long time.

I've avoided writing this blog because in today's society, there is no room to discuss abortion. The rhetoric is set. There are no words left we can use to discuss the issue.  Our words are soaked with political baggage and are thus rendered meaningless. So many words--life, fetus, rights, feminism--shut off the conversation as soon as they are uttered. Our minds have been made up and we can't discuss abortion.

In composition and rhetoric, there is a theory about a writer's audience called "audience invoked." This term simply means that a writer has to imagine his/her audience and approximate the discourse. This approximation is imaginary to some extent but also truthful to some extent.  I know that my professor will read and grade my paper, but I am really writing for a larger, academic, imaginary audience who I have created in my mind by doing a lot of other reading and writing. Therefore, my audience is always a fiction.

What is most difficult for me about this post is that my audience is not imagined, and it is not a fiction. I know who will read this blog. Some of them will be extremely conservative Catholics, and some of them will be radical feminists. I am acutely, debilitantingly aware of my audience, and it makes it hard for me to be honest--but I am going to try. I am going to try to find my voice and be brave (in the meekest sense of that word), even if that means being crucified across the political spectrum.

First, I want to speak as a feminist. It's time enough that we, as a society, stop ignoring the fact that women are second-class citizens. Women get paid less than men for doing the same job. Women are ignored in many professions. The female body is romanticized, sexualized, and demoralized, rendering the person in that body as second even to her outward appearance. Women are abused, raped, and beaten. Women have predefined social roles that makes any work done outside of the heteronormative mothering role pinned as "radical."

It's time enough that we pretend that we do not need feminism, as if our society is equal and just. It's not. It is time enough that we stop making feminism the scapegoat for the deterioration of morals in our society. Feminism has started no wars, oppressed no people, and disenfranchised no group, yet somehow it is blamed for all the ills in America. Let's widen our perspective and stop being silly. Seeing women as equals hurts no one except those who want their privileged maintained for the sake of their own selfishness.

Feminists: I know how you feel. I know what a struggle it is, especially in the Midwest. I know how frustrating it is to constantly have to redirect conversations and dismiss stereotypes. I know that your intellectualism is seen as a threat (and maybe it damn well should be!). Most of all, I know that politicians want to put demands on your--on my--bodies. And they don't care about you or me and they don't really like women in general. They want to legislate what we can and can't do and they've always wanted to legislate us throughout history.

I am speaking as a feminist who knows these things. I know motherhood is romanticized and expected of women.

I do not put demands on your sexuality.  But I do want to ask a question of your physicality, the act of getting pregnant. I want to discuss the physiological issue of not being pregnant and then becoming pregnant, and I want to discuss the difference between the two. I then want to ask at what cost is it to become not pregnant again. What happens during that space of time?  And are we okay with that cost?

Three things can happen during that time: birth, miscarriage, and abortion. Those are the only ways to go from not being pregnant to being pregnant to not being pregnant again. And of course, I want to specifically talk about the last item of that list.  If we think about what abortion actually is, it is the purposeful removal of an embryo or fetus (or cells or tissue, I honestly don't care what you call it). It is a mechanical (not biological) invasion of  our bodies by a mechanical tool to alter our physiological state.

Now I quickly want to talk as a Catholic, or someone who does not support this procedure in most cases. We are dealing with two issues and two rhetorics when it comes to the abortion issue.  The pro-choice movement discusses the rights of the woman whereas the pro-life movement discusses the rights of the embryo, or fetus, or blob of tissue (again, I really don't care what you call it!).  Neither movement seems to understand that both sets of rights are real and are happening at the same time.  That embryo, or fetus, or blob of tissue has the potential for life, and in most cases will become a human being if left undisturbed.

The process we are talking about is a woman's egg and a little shot of a man's sperm making a new, unique life-form with its own DNA and chromosomal map.  And while I care about the woman's autonomy--my autonomy--I also have this perplexing issue of caring for this egg mixed with a shot of sperm.  As strange as it sounds, I LOVE this unique thing that was created by an egg mixed with a shot of sperm! I think the human body is totally amazing!  And I am not even saying this from a spiritual perspective (although there is much to say from that domain, too); I am saying this from a biological, evolutionary perspective. How cool that our otherwise mundane and basic sexual desires can create something that is unique in the entire 4.5 billion year history of the earth and that will never be recreated in just that way again. I am totally in love with what our bodies can do.

Please let me talk as a feminist again.  Sometimes we do not want this unique little embryo in our body. We may not be ready for it, or maybe we never want it. I can say that even though I am married, relatively financially secure (compared to the world's impoverished state), and not opposed to the idea of children, we (my husband and I) do not want them right now. So we are taking precautions to avoid pregnancy. But the reason I can take those precautions is because I am educated, informed, and have the leisure time to think about issues like contraception and write blog posts about abortion. I am in a privileged state, even as a woman. I haven't been raped and I am not in poverty. I have a partner and a supportive family. I am secure. I don't have to worry to a large degree about coming pregnant.

But what if I were worried? What if I were 17, naive, and suddenly pregnant by my boyfriend? What if I were--God forbid--raped? What if I came from poverty and had no means to support a child? And what about me simply as I am right now--not wanting to become pregnant?

Abortion is a really shitty option for women. And I am sick to death of leftists propagating it around like it is some great progressive move toward equality. I have abortion, but I still have income inequality. I have abortion, but I still have abusive and aggressive men. I have abortion, but people still take me less seriously because I am a woman. I have abortion, but I still have a higher probability of being in poverty than men simply because I am a woman. I have abortion, but I see zero healing of the systemic issues that cause abortion: poverty, sexism, patriarchy. That's still all there, but I have abortion.

ABORTION IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME. I will not accept it, and I will not let so-called leftists tell me it is good enough or that it is a sign that I now have "equal rights." I don't. All I have is an invasive procedure that artificially puts my body in a non-pregnant state by destroying a unique thing of beauty.  But I still have the patriarchy, the sexist society, and now the responsibility or the "choice" to figure out how to retroactively react to this issue.

Is this justice, women? Is this really what we want to fight for? Do we think abortion will really solve our problems?  Or does it simply reinforce the privileged  male-dominated society we live in where men have no responsibility and women have all the blame?

Today I am calling bull shit on abortion and the mock freedom this patriarchal society says it gives me.  I don't want what you are calling "reproductive rights." I want REAL, SYSTEMIC change. I don't want my uterus to be politicized for abstaining or creating. I want a society where that choice happens before abortion. I want a society that gives me education, support, and a means to abstain or create. I don't want a society that ignores our second-class citizenship but then tells me I can choose what to do about an embryo that is often the result of miseducation, a lack of support, and no means to choose whether to abstain or create--the result of our second-class citizenship.

Women, please don't get caught up in the political game of politicians telling us what to do with our bodies versus politicians saying what we do is our "choice." They're both wrong, and they're both ignoring the real issues our society is facing. Abortion is not a cure. "Reproductive rights" is a new label covering up the same tired problems. I want better, and I want future generations to have it better.

Abortion is not good enough for me.

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