Tag Archives: misogyny

Here we go again.

Medhi Hasan published a piece this morning for The Huffington Post UK entitled Being Pro-Life Doesn’t Make Me Any Less of a Lefty. In it he decries the left’s outrage over changing the time limit it’s legal for a woman to have an abortion from 24 weeks to 12 weeks. He makes what I imagine he believes are three ‘good’ points to support his claim that he is pro-life because he believes in protecting innocent lives. Before discussing his three points, let me post a few blurbs from throughout the piece to give you a little insight into the types of ideas that lead him to hold his opinion.

Abortion is one of those rare political issues on which left and right seem to have swapped ideologies: right-wingers talk of equality, human rights and “defending the innocent”, while left-wingers fetishise “choice”, selfishness and unbridled individualism.

Yes, right-wingers cherish equality and human rights when it comes to an embryo that requires a woman’s body in order to survive. But the woman whose body is needed full-time for 9 months? The woman who doesn’t want to be pregnant? Nah, don’t be concerned about her. After all, SHE HAD SEX! This is one of the oldest and most cherished anti-choice beliefs: because a woman had sex, she’s getting what she deserves if she suddenly finds a fetus growing inside of her that she doesn’t want. Never mind the fact that consenting to sex is not consenting to pregnancy and never mind the fact that allowing a fetus to exist against the will of the woman who’s carrying it is giving it more rights than any person is afforded.

As for fetishizing choice, selfishness and unbridled individualism  it’s almost comical to watch him try and demonize these characteristics, as if sexually active women have somehow forfeited their right to be individuals and decide whether or not they want to be pregnant. Anti-choicers constantly play the selfish card with women who have abortions; just another attempt at emotional blackmail and shaming, no different than standing outside of a clinic harassing women seeking services. Being pregnant is a medical condition – since when is making medical decisions about your own body considered selfish? When you’re a woman who has had sex, that’s when.

His statement also has an underlying implication: women who don’t want children are selfish. How dare we not fulfill our duty as women to pump out the babies? If a woman is adamantly childfree, like I am, and she happens to have an unplanned pregnancy, she better go through with that pregnancy regardless of her personal wants, lest she be considered selfish.

“My body, my life, my choice.” Such rhetoric has always left me perplexed. Isn’t socialism about protecting the weak and vulnerable, giving a voice to the voiceless? Who is weaker or more vulnerable than the unborn child? Which member of our society needs a voice more than the mute baby in the womb?

We can’t have an honest discussion about abortion rights if people are using emotionally-charged, incorrect terminology. There is no such thing as an unborn baby.  If it isn’t born, it isn’t a baby. There are embryos, fetuses and zygotes – none of these are a baby. The ‘pro-life’ movement has been very successful at integrating emotionally-charged phrases such as ‘unborn baby’ into the mainstream abortion debate, leading the public to believe that women regularly decide to abort 7 and 8-month old fetuses because their cute clothes don’t fit anymore. As usual, ‘pro-life’ deceives and the reality is quite different: study after study reveals that an overwhelming majority of abortions occur during the first trimester of pregnancy.

I guess Hasan doesn’t consider women who are forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term to be voiceless. Not being able to terminate an unwanted pregnancy would make me feel pretty damn voiceless, like a victim of my anatomy whose duty it is to give birth against my will. When he mentions weak and vulnerable it’s tempting to counter his statement with facts about the vast array of medical complications that can arise when a woman is pregnant, leaving her weak and vulnerable, but I don’t think it’s right to continually emphasize medical reasons as abortion exceptions. A woman doesn’t need to be near death in order to seek an abortion; in fact she doesn’t need to have any medical complications at all. All that’s required is for her to not want to be pregnant.

Yes, a woman has a right to choose what to do with her body – but a baby isn’t part of her body.

………… Not even really sure what to say about this one. Moving on.

First, you do realise that the UK is the exception, not the rule? Jeremy Hunt’s position is the norm across western Europe: 12 weeks is the limit in France, Germany, Italy and Belgium.

The norm? Are we supposed to draft our laws and legislation based on social norms? And why does it matter what other European countries’ laws state? Aside from being a terrible first point in support of his ‘pro-life’ stance, this sentiment is flat out childish.

Second, you can’t keep smearing those of us who happen to be pro-life as “anti-women” or “sexist”. For a start, 49 per cent of women, compared to 24 per cent of men, support a reduction in the abortion limit

Yes I can and I will. People don’t just “happen to be” pro-life. It’s a position they develop after considering the question: Do women deserve to be completely autonomous? He also attempts to appeal to women by throwing in the statistic about 49% of women supporting a reduction, as if this is supposed to make us forget that plenty of women around the world are sexists, too. Just because some women support abortion restrictions doesn’t mean that abortion restrictions don’t hurt women.

Third, please don’t throw faith in my face.

I’ve made it through this post without making a single religious-based argument and I know most pro-choicers could do the same. Perhaps I alluded to religiously-rooted beliefs when I said that people still believe women who have sex deserve to suffer the consequences, but that attitude is common in a lot of people even if they aren’t religious. Allowing a woman to make a medical decision without interference from the government doesn’t involve religion at all. No one is asking religious people to relinquish their beliefs; we’re simply asking them to not legally apply their personal beliefs to an entire population of people. He also attempts to appeal to atheists by mentioning Christopher Hitchens’ somewhat infamous pro-life views, but that’s as disingenuous as playing the faith card. Because one famous male atheist had pro-life beliefs, all non-believers should follow suit? Me thinks not.

Another problem is that the debate forces people to choose sides: right against left, religious against secular. Some of us, however, refuse to be sliced and diced in such a simplistic and divisive manner.

Not really. The side you do have to choose is for or against women being able to make autonomous medical decisions. That is a decision that doesn’t involve right, left, secular or religious.

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On the Pill? You Dirty, Filthy Whore.

I was on the bus early this morning seated next to a young woman who looked about my age, mid-twenties. When she got up to get off at her stop, she accidentally kicked her bag over, spilling some of the contents onto the floor. The contents included a pack of birth control pills and she scooped them up quickly, looked at me and stammered, “It’s…. it’s to make my periods regular.”

I’m fairly certain I was the only person in close enough proximity to see the pills — not that this matters. When confronted with the mere suggestion that they might be having sex, some women immediately go on the defensive by insisting that their birth control pills were prescribed to them for any reason other than that they want to have sex and not get pregnant. A woman’s decision to take birth control pills should be lauded as a responsible one; instead, thanks to constant shaming and an intensely misogynistic world view towards women’s sexuality, I’ve heard women blurt out things like, “I’m on the pill ….. FOR MY CRAMPS!”

I am not blaming this woman. It isn’t her fault. Women who are open about having sex are routinely subjected to slut shaming, judgment, nasty rumors, and may open themselves up to men who think they “want it.” And it hurts me that this woman, who is a complete stranger to me, felt the need to rationalize the fact that she takes birth control pills, lest I judge her for being a filthy, slutty slut. Like I said, I can’t blame her for her rapid-fire statement. Ask any woman how misogynistic some of our fellow women can be towards one another, and I’m sure you’ll get an earful of unsavory stories.

In my imagination, every woman and girl who meets me automatically knows that I am on their side, that I don’t require any justification for any choices they want to make. I want them all to know that I don’t believe in the concept of a slut. I want them to know that the decision to take birth control pills is a decision that should be praised, no matter the reason for taking them. I want this woman to know that in a world where so many young women get pregnant because they are too embarrassed or too ashamed to talk to someone about birth control, I commend her for being responsible. Even if the pills are for her cramps.

But I didn’t have nearly enough time to say all that as she rushed to get off of the bus.

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Why Pro-Life is a Misnomer

It’s time to be honest about the vocabulary used to describe the “pro-life” movement. I put the term “pro-life” in quotes because I prefer to use the term that describes what it actually is: anti-choice. Many anti-choicers fervently cling to the notion that their views advocate for life, but to whose life are they referring? Certainly not the life of the living woman whose body is needed as a host by the fetus in order to survive. Anti-choicers claim to defend life, but human life and human beings are two very different things. A skin cell, as well as a tumor, both qualify as human life. Are these things equal to human beings? Do they deserve equal, or even more rights than a human being? Rationale tells us no. Anti-choicers can do all the mental gymnastics they want, but the fact remains that a fertilized egg is not a human being, nor should its rights trump that of a living woman.

Thanks to years of religious-inspired misogynist zealotry, anti-choicers have been successful in persuading lawmakers and the general public that God thinks abortion is murder. This belief is largely rooted in the idea that women who have sex and become pregnant deserve what they get, even if it means dying due to pregnancy-related complications — so pro-life, right?

Many anti-choicers go even further and are adamant in preventing women and girls who have been raped or victims of incest from having an abortion. Any compassionate person would agree that women and girls who have been through the trauma of rape and/or incest deserve comprehensive medical treatment and any other services in order to help them heal. But should they find themselves pregnant, too bad. A story involving a 10-year old mentally ill Kansas girl who became pregnant after being raped by her uncle recently garnered international attention, because anti-choicers who want the doctor who performed her abortion, Dr. Ann Neuhaus, to lose her license. That’s right, they’re upset because a 10-year old incest AND rape victim was not forced to give birth. The zygote inside of her is more important to them.

Anti-choice zealots have even gone so far as to prosecute women who have miscarried. Personhood activist Ed Hanks, who is based in Colorado, wrote on the Mississippi Personhood Facebook page that, “society will understand why women need to be punished just as surely as they understand why there can be no exceptions for rape/incest.” In a moment of rare honesty, an anti-choicer let the veil slip and said exactly what the “pro-life” movement is really all about: punishing women. You can read his quote and more from anti-choice activists in this article by Irin Carmon of Salon.

More honest options for the re-branding of the “pro-life” movement include:

1. Anti-choice

2. Pro-forced birth

3. Pro-fetus

4. Pro-zygote

5. Pro-embryo

6. Pro-fertilized egg

7. Anti-woman

8. Anti-sex

9. Pro-punish women

What happens if the entire United States goes the way of Mississippi, where a tractor salesman drafted anti-abortion legislation that got onto the ballot? Oh, I should also mention that he embarked on a state-wide anti-choice tour to promote his extreme anti-choice legislation entitled “Conceived in Rape Tour.” Yeah. Instead of campaigning to, oh I don’t know, help women who were raped, this “pro-life” man instead chose to campaign for eggs fertilized via rape.

Don’t let anti-choicers get away with calling themselves “pro-life.” Refer to them as what they really are: anything but.


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