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Monday, May 26, 2008

Accusations from sluts4choice

The LiveJournal group sluts4choice have levelled a number of charges against the manifesto Pro Every Life, Pro Nonviolent Choice, Pro Reproductive Justice for All and its authors/sponsors, Turn the Clock Forward and the Nonviolent Choice Directory. Examples:

  • we hate women, especially women who seek sexual pleasure;
  • we believe women are stupid and incapable of conducting their own lives;
  • we believe in mandatory motherhood;
  • we destructively romanticize childbirth and motherhood;
  • we oppose contraception.

    None of this is stated or even insinuated in the manifesto itself--quite the opposite. And none of this explains why, for example, the Nonviolent Choice Directory:

sluts4choice are reiterating dogmatic, by-definition stereotypes against anyone who opposes abortion. More importantly, they are cutting off all possibility of cooperative action on those large areas of reproductive justice where genuine agreement exists. There is so much work to be done, and these stereotypes really get in the way.

The group complains profusely about prolifers who do not support abortion-reducing measures. Although sluts4choice do not make it in a particularly respectful, constructive fashion--that's a fair challenge. Prolife does have to be during and after as well as before birth, or what good is it?

Yet what is their response to prolifers who *do* support abortion-reducing measures, and avidly, comprehensively so? Why, we can't possibly be for real!

Sigh.

ps I know that some feminists are trying to reclaim the word "slut" as a way to overcome its bigotry-enforcing history, and in fact I heartily endorse the goal of destigmatizing and affirming women's right to seek and enjoy sexual pleasure. But for some reason feminists calling themselves "sluts" sounds to me like the young African Americans in my neighborhood who refer to themselves and one another by the n-word--not particularly self-respecting, and wasn't the NAACP onto something when it gave said term a funeral?

7 comments:

Jen R said...

You're so much nicer about it then I would have been. I probably just would have mocked their unwillingness to read anything more substantial than a bumper sticker. :)

nothingmuch said...

The manifesto sucks. It talks about "preventing conception," but the word CONTRACEPTION appears nowhere. The phrase BIRTH CONTROL also appears nowhere. FAMILY PLANNING appears nowhere. It is euphemistic and vague and that is why it sucks.

Most "pro-life" groups are either vocally opposed to contraception or mum on the subject. If you support contraception, why not mention it specifically in your manifesto?

I mentioned this in my reply at sluts4choice, but I'm going to repeat it here:

The only way to oppose abortion without punishing women for having sex is to be pro-choice.

Even if you believe that an embryo is a full human being from the earliest stages of conception, that still doesn't give it the right to use a woman's body against her will. And it doesn't matter if she had sex, because sex is not a crime for men or women, and should not be punished with a loss of bodily rights.

To say that a fetus has a right to use a woman's body against her will because she had sex is no different than saying that a man has a right to use his wife's vagina against her will because she married him. Any time you grant a third party rights over a woman's body, you chip away at her humanity. That is not feminist.

Who are you to say that women should not have the right to use violence to protect themselves from being used by someone else? Violence in self-defense is a good thing.

Marysia said...

By definition, a manifesto is more like an organizational mission statement than a thousand page policy implementation manual. believe me, if we wrote up such a manual it would be laden with contraceptives of all kinds!

We want to define the right of pregnancy prevention as broadly and inclusively as possible, including but not limited to contraception.

Defining it primarily in terms of contraception is to privilege heterosexuality and the prevailing definition of "sex" as penis-vagina intercourse.

It is also ablist because some people have disabilities incompatible with penis-vagina intercourse.

And if you or I have the right to choose contraceptives or same-sex relations or outercourse, then other people have the right to choose abstinence or fertility awareness methods. This is a point lost on both prolifers and prochoicers.

Honestly, we did not imagine that anyone would read "virulently hostile to contraception" into a statement that calls for freedom of conscience in prevention methods!

Besides opposing coerced prevention, we oppose the denial of access to one's chosen method(s). How can that be interpreted as anti-contraceptive?

And anyway, a cursory examination of both Turn the Clock Forward or the Nonviolent Choice Directory reveals where we stand on voluntary contraception: very pro.

We take issue with the failure of the organized prolife movement as such to advocate for the full range of prevention options. One reason why we are here. I for one left Feminists for Life because it fails to do this and also because it does not advocate a comprehesnive, European-style social welfare system.

If you would seriously like to hear my reasons for disagreeing with your beliefs on the moral standing of fetuses, I would be glad to explain. I don't expect you'll be persuaded, but in a debate where there is so much demonizing back and forth, there is a value in simple understanding of the "enemy."

My reasons have nothing to do with punishing sex, trust me. As a woman who conceived an unplanned child before I got married, and took a lot of undeserved flak for it, believe me, I have no interest in punishing anyone for having sex.

For now, I will simply say this, an observation from decades of anti-violence work, and living in a neighborhood where there is a lot of violent crime: when people resort to violence, when they feel it is their most feasible or only "choice," it is usually because they are in situations where they are severely disempowered, way beyond past what any human being should ever have to suffer. I feel that the human task before us is not to enshrine the use of violence as a right, but to alleviate its root causes so that no one is ever in a situation where it seems necessary.

Anyway, thank you for visiting,

Marysia

nothingmuch said...

By definition, a manifesto is more like an organizational mission statement than a thousand page policy implementation manual.

It doesn't take a thousand pages to mention the word "contraception." So I'm glad to hear that you "define pregnancy prevention broadly" and consider yourself "very pro-contraception," because in that case you should have no problem putting the word in your manifesto.

Defining it primarily in terms of contraception...

Nobody said contraception had to be the primary anything. Just mention the word.

It is also ablist...

Utter nonsense.

And if you or I have the right to choose contraceptives or same-sex relations or outercourse, then other people have the right to choose abstinence or fertility awareness methods.

Nobody said they didn't, and you have no problem mentioning those issues specifically, so why not contraception?

Honestly, we did not imagine that anyone would read "virulently hostile to contraception" into a statement that calls for freedom of conscience in prevention methods!

What am I supposed to think when you seem to go out of your way to avoid using the word "contraception?"

We take issue with the failure of the organized prolife movement as such to advocate for the full range of prevention options. One reason why we are here. I for one left Feminists for Life because it fails to do this and also because it does not advocate a comprehesnive, European-style social welfare system.

"Feminists" for Life don't advocate contraception, either. If you are "very pro-contraception," unlike FFL, you should say so.

If you would seriously like to hear my reasons for disagreeing with your beliefs on the moral standing of fetuses, I would be glad to explain.

I am not particularly interested in the moral standing of fetuses, as every American has the freedom of conscience to believe as they will. I am only interested in the legal standing of fetuses.

My reasons have nothing to do with punishing sex, trust me.

Whether you say it's intended or not, the effect of banning abortion is to punish women for having sex.

As a woman who conceived an unplanned child before I got married, and took a lot of undeserved flak for it, believe me, I have no interest in punishing anyone for having sex.

I had a child out of wedlock, as a teenager, and I was very lucky to have the resources and support to be able to do that. But obviously not everyone shares my beliefs, my resources or my plans in life, and I don't think they should have to.

I feel that the human task before us is not to enshrine the use of violence as a right, but to alleviate its root causes so that no one is ever in a situation where it seems necessary.

Nope, the human task before us is to do both. The right to self-defense is necessary, and that doesn't stop us from alleviating the root causes.

In fact, legal abortion makes it easier for societies to reduce abortion rates, because it brings abortion out of the shadows and in to the light where it can be counted, studied and regulated. That's not just a theory, it's a fact: the countries with the lowest abortion rates in the world are all pro-choice. Legal abortion is more pro-life than illegal abortion.

Marysia said...

We don't list every possible sexual practice we believe consenting adults have the right to, either. Does that mean we virulently oppose, for example, oral sex between women? Does that mean we are going out of our way to avoid mentioning oral sex between women? No.

By the way, abstinence, etc. are not mentioned specifically in the manifesto either as means of pregnancy prevention.

I'm not sure why you consider my point about ablism to be "utter nonsense." I am a multiply disabled person affiliated with the disability rights movement, and this point comes from the sexual/reproductive concerns shared by many disability rights activists.

Is it just simply not credible to you when people who oppose abortion also state they strongly advocate contraception? If this is so, I do not know what more evidence would be necessary to assure you we mean what we say. But I wish I could prove to you that we mean it, because we do.

I wish I had photos, for example, of me twenty some years ago, passing out birth control leaflets--it's that long that I have been involved with the issue.

I don't think the moral and legal standing of any group of biological human beings is ever simply a matter for individual judgment, especially when it comes to really basic human rights like life.

What if, instead of fetuses, there was an argument that the moral and/or legal standing of women was something to be left to private judgment? Of disabled people? African Americans? LGBT persons?

Why should any individual or society have the right to administer any kind of violence, especially lethal violence, especially when there are other alternatives to which human beings should be ethically and legally entitled and unconditionally socially supported in getting?


The claim that legal abortion leads to low abortion rates is, I think, a bit of an oversimplification. In the Western European countries with notably low abortion rates, the situation is very different from what it is in the US. Abortion is permissible in a far more limited range of circumstances. Fetal rights and the importance of male responsibility are fully recognized in the law, as is the necessity of providing nonviolent alternatives to abortion like contraception, sex education, and generous family leave policies. They *mean it* when they say they want to reduce abortion.

In the US, on the other hand, we have people bashing one another over the narrow question "Roe or no?" When the most decisive question is "Why do so many women feel abortion is their only or most feasible choice, and what can we do, and do, and do to ensure that women and both born and unborn children have better alternatives?"

Does that still sound like punishing women for sex to you? Why do you feel so strongly that in effect, this is what opposing abortion is about? Because there are goofballs running around inveighing about "bitches who won't keep their legs closed"? Don't Believe the Hype.

What makes you think I am not as frustrated, outraged, appalled, and frightened by that sort of thing as you probably are?

At any rate, I am glad that things worked out for you and your child.

And I do agree that the moral impulse not to project one's own experiences and preferences onto others can in many situations be a good thing.

But I am not simply projecting my own situation onto every woman who experiences an unplanned pregnancy. For example, I chose not to place my child for adoption, when for someone else adoption might be the right choice. And even though getting married is a disaster recipe for many unmarried parents, for my child's father and I, it was after a little time right for us (we're still together after two decades).

But abortion is different because of that whole pesky violence thing..just about every other sexual or reproductive decision does belong in the realm of individual choice and collective responsibility to respect and support individual choice.

When we speak of nonviolent choice, this is where we are coming from.

graylor said...

If you wanted a discussion/argument/whatever, with pro-choicers you might have done better to find a larger group to poke. While we sluts are a lively bunch, there aren't that many of us. That said,

What if, instead of fetuses, there was an argument that the moral and/or legal standing of women was something to be left to private judgment? Of disabled people? African Americans? LGBT persons?

Are you seriously comparing actual thinking people with buncles of cells which lack a nervous system and a brain? Just because it has human DNA and the *potential* to be a person does not mean it is a person. Through the magic of science my dandruff could be human beings, too. They aren't now and I refuse to treat them as such. Surely we've both heard this so often we could recite it in our sleep.

Does that still sound like punishing women for sex to you? Why do you feel so strongly that in effect, this is what opposing abortion is about? Because there are goofballs running around inveighing about "bitches who won't keep their legs closed"? Don't Believe the Hype.

Speaking for myself, I'm tocophobic. If I had the misfortune to get pregnant, the only way I would stay pregnant would be if I was chained to a bed for nine months. That is what "pro-life" means to me.

Doubtless that isn't what you and most pro-lifers intend, but we all know what road is paved with good intentions, don't we? How precisely would you force me to remain pregnant? Brain-washing, drugs, or restraints?

It may come as a shock, but some women do not want to be pregnant right now or *ever*: a pregnancy for such women is possibly one of the most horrific things they could imagine. You, with your "unexpected pregnancy=unexpected joy" and "women deserve better than abortion" (what, serfdom? being walking uteruses? second class citizens ftw!) ffl gabble are paving the path to hell for them... and you are expecting to be applauded as a feminist for your efforts. Why, you'd even "allow" women to use contraception--how very forward thinkng of you! If, of course, this was 1920.

You apparently wanted a dialogue: the best I can offer is my contempt. I do hope that is sufficient.

Marysia said...

graylor,

I have personally sought dialogue with many different prochoicers over the years. The reason I tried to talk with sluts4choice is that your group misrepresented an initiative I am involved with.

If your group is going to misrepresent people, they have every right to point out the misrepesentation and present their side of things. Your group has as much ethical accountability for your representations and misrepresentations of people as anyone else does.

It's only fair--and I feel that way about prochoicers who get misrepresented, too. In fact I have for decades challenged, for example, the pernicious myth that women have abortions for reasons of "convenience."

And I do not bar prochoicers who wish to comment or otherwise participate here, for example, by responding to the action alerts on the lefthand sidebar. Most are of mutual concern to prolifers and prochoicers. And as editor of the Nonviolent Choice Directory, I do list abortion-reducing efforts of some prochoice organizations, just as I list such efforts of prolife groups. Trying to gather together everyone's wisdom.

If one looks at all human beings a certain way--even those you identify as "actual thinking people"--we are all clumps of cells who are potentially human!

Development of the nervous system and even the brain occurs surprisingly early in prenatal development (resources on fetal development appear on our Sexual/Reproductive Health Education page, for anyone who might be interested).

And anyway, to use intellectual prowess as the defining characteristic of humanity is extremely, extremely dangerous. So many other groups of human beings--women, people with disabilities, African Americans and other colonized or genocided people--have been defined out of the human race because they are defined as less-than-human, mindless, insensate bits of matter.

In part because I belong to several of the abovementioned groups, I think the best, most inclusive definition of humanity is one that extends to everyone who is a genetically distinct, individual *organism* of the human sort.

Your dandruff cells are not individual organisms with an identity distinct from yours. A fetus, on the other hand, though dependent for his/her life on a woman (just as we are all dependent on Mother Earth for Life) is at the same time an organism distinct from the woman.

(Another reason to avoid intellectual prowess definitions of who has intrinsic value, and who is not to be violated through such means as killing, is this. It is used to justify unjust destruction of animals, plants, and ecosystems. A highly related concern, but I won't go into it here. Suffice it to say that I am a devout vegetarian and environmentalist who believes that reverence for life needs to go beyond human beings.)

Sorry to hear you have tokophobia. Any phobia is a source of much suffering that one probably would rather do without.

And believe it or not, I can relate to a dread of pregnancy and childbirth. My one and only pregnancy (unplanned) was very highrisk and it ended in a very difficult, complex labor. That has something to do with why I never deliberately sought out pregnancy in my life. I wouldn't have gone through all that if not for the sake of my unborn daughter's life--I really do value unborn lives, it is not just a matter of abstract philosophy to me. If I had considered her just a clump of cells, she never would have made it here.

Tokophobia is widespread, and I wonder if it has a political element to it. In the rich countries, there is the scientific knowledge to ease pregnancy and childbirth. But it is not applied as widely as it could be, because women and children simply aren't valued enough. And even though in the rich countries women seldom literally die in childbirth any more, many women harbor a profound fear that somehow carrying and bearing children brings about a death of the self. I wonder if this fear is related to the utter lack of support inflicted upon mothers during and ever after pregnancy.

None of the above is meant to say that women do not have the right to forego pregnancy through nonviolent means. A woman is not somehow "unnatural" or "unfulfilled" if she does not wish to seek biological reproduction. It is her choice, for her reasons.

Nor do I believe that motherhood, biological or any other kind, is 100% complete, unambivalent joy. I have a quite realistic view of what motherhood entails, thank you very much, and that's one big reasons why I fight for women's right to choose in the area of prevention, and for better mothering conditions for those who do have children, whether they personally raise the children they conceive themselves, or arrange through open adoption, foster care or guardianship for someone else to raise their children.

I just don't think lifetaking, whether of the unborn or the already-born, is a genuine and humane solution to very real human problems.

By the way, I am not a current member of Feminists for Life, because they do not advocate for all pregnancy prevention options including contraception, and because they do not seek a comprehensive social welfare system. They do some good work organizing colleges to do right by for pregnant and parenting students. A necessary but not sufficent task.

No, I do not--and anyone I can think of who identifies as prolife would likely agree--believe in tying pregnsnt women to beds or involuntary adminstration of brainwashing drugs. That won't solve anything.

What will, I think, solve the problem is this.

==Abortion is recognized as a matter for collective responsibilty-taking, not just a quarrel over "the individual woman has a legal right to it" vs. "no, there should be no such legal right."

==the collectivity steps up and takes the responsibility to increase and improve women's prevention options and give genuine, substantive, lasting social support to families of all kinds. Any legal recognition of fetal rights has to be tied into this--it cannot be about criminalizing individual women in difficult situations.

I am *serious* about not criminalizing women. I live in a majority black neighborhood, in an interracial family, and witness all the time how young black men get criminalized. Wouldn't wish it on anybody!

Even if law might possibly be involved in other ways, criminalization of women is not the answer to stopping/reducing abortion.

I think you deeply misunderstand my position on contraception if you believe it is about "allowing those pretty little things to use it" or something to that effect.

No, it is not about deigning to "allow" anyone anything. Regardless of what anyone does or doesn't think about it-- access to fully informed,voluntary contraception is a matter of human rights.

As for my feminism--there is nothing alleged or faked up about it. The word feminism is not something I just tack onto a despicably misogynist abortion position to make it sound good, while being antagonistic to what the word really means. Feminism is something I lived even before I first heard the word. And still live.

Ask me about any issue other than abortion, and I will likely give a response that is recognizably feminist.

And even if you would not accept this, I can say quite confidently that my stance on abortion has a lot to do with my feminism, too.

Even if you feel that contempt is the best you can offer me and people like me...and even if I believe that contempt is undeserved...we are talking, Which is a far sight better than not talking at all.