Because I’m pretty sure that in its heart, that coat is brown.

wendy davis big damn hero

*

Obligatory link for those who don’t get the reference: Firefly, “Big damn heroes, sir.”

Photo source: Patrick Michels /TexasObserver.org 

UPDATE: Please note this comment by Neocortex just made in the previous thread – all those folks in the gallery last night who yelled and stomped and cheered and brought it home in the last 10-15 minutes are giant Big Damn Heroes, too. Can’t stop the signal!

Silence breaking: Please tell a story about your experience with abortion.

reproductive-choice-button-0580I’ve occasionally posted an op/ed that once ran in several newspapers around the country about my own abortion. I believe, very strongly, that our stories are collectively the single most powerful tool we have in the battle for women’s reproductive rights, and that if we are to push back on the dehumanization inherent to so much of the anti-choice rhetoric, we have to claim those stories.

We are continuously shamed and cowed, frightened and belittled into silencing ourselves and denying our reality. If you have terminated a pregnancy or struggled with the idea of doing so, for any reason, and would like to tell your story, please do so here, at whatever level of anonymity that you would like to maintain. We did this once before, on the issues of sexual harassment and assault, and I think many people found it a useful, helpful thing.

One note: If you’ve never commented here before, or will be choosing to comment under a different name in order to preserve your anonymity, your comment will immediately go into moderation — I promise to fish out all moderated comments as soon as I can.

And finally, let me stress: There will be no shaming here. There will be no shaming, no doubt, no name-calling, no trolling. This is a space in which you can tell your story safely. I promise.

Recreating humanity.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Photograph_of_a_baby_standing_in_front_of_a_mirror.jpgOk, here’s what occurred to me the other day: We’re a generation engaged in building an entirely new kind of human society. Possibly an entirely new kind of human.

Consider just a few 21st century facts, and then try to project them back 50 years: Openly gay and transgender people serving in our government and legislative branch as we fight for marriage equality. America’s last two Secretaries of State? Women, one of them black, one of them a serious contender for the White House. Black man in the current White House. Well-known and well-respected women publicly and often angrily expressing women’s right to bodily autonomy; well-known and well-respected men supporting them, publicly, and often angrily.

I know I frequently say some version of “Hey, look, things are so much better than they used to be,” but I’m not saying that here. I’m not comparing today to the day I was born. I’m comparing today to every single moment of human history. And we’re recreating ourselves.

Because every single one of the items mentioned above was effectively unimaginable once, and not at all long ago either. If we consider the entire expanse of human history, and then look at the changes wrought in Western society in the last four decades alone, it’s actually quite startling.

Each of the examples I’ve provided (and many, many others that are not reducible to a single sentence or sentence fragment) represents in turn the hopes and dreams and literal blood and tears of uncounted, uncountable people. People who died dreaming only of the vote. Or of a life lived without violence. Or of the freedom to make decisions based on internal truths, rather than external pressures. People who died never, ever imagining the world as it looks today.

What we’re doing today has never been done before. Sure, there was that thousand year stretch when dudes who were brown (roughly and metaphorically speaking) ruled the known world (starting with the dudes in the Arabian Peninsula and eventually leading to the dudes in Istanbul), and one would be hard-pressed not to notice that Asian dudes ruled the Asian Empires — but: a) DUDES, and b) in each of those cases, one had to be of the right clan/color/faith system/what-have-you to wield power or even personal autonomy. The kind of radical, universal equality that so many of us have begun to see as the default of human existence has literally never existed in human history.

And so my point is: That’s why it’s hard.

That’s why it all moves in fits and starts and we have fights about words and about who gets to say what about whom and every two steps forward serve as but a precursor to one step right the hell back. Because we have never, ever done this before. We are creating something New, and we don’t even, really, know how to imagine it yet.

I’m not saying that the battles have be won. They haven’t. They’ll never be won. Every time that something Gets Better, we’ll uncover something else we didn’t realize we had to do. There are questions that my grandchildren will face that I cannot even imagine in 2012.

And having said that: Wow. Think about it. Think about the fact that gay men and lesbians got married before God and family in Washington state this weekend, and then think about the entire rest of human history.

Holy cow.

Update: Speaking of which…. Just look at these pictures from Seattle’s City Hall.

The War on Women and Fridays with Billy.

We’re back! After two weeks of no Billy Bragg for holiday-related reasons, the internet can now heave a sigh of relief. Fridays have regained their Billy-ibrium!

This week’s selection, “Trust,” is a short story, really, told by a woman. One of the things I’ve always loved most about Mr. Bragg is his ability to channel the voice of someone entirely unlike himself — a gay veteran of the Second World War, a Japanese-American victim of internment, or, in this case, a woman who’s been very badly done by the man in her life.

He wrote this song at the height of the AIDS crisis, and the lyrics leave us entirely uncertain: Is she pregnant? Infected? Or just afraid? There’s no way to know, but that fear, that uncertainty — that abandonment — is a thing with which many, many women are all too familiar, and which far too few men have made an effort to understand.

Least of all the men making decisions about our bodies.

There’s been a lot of angry back and forth lately about the phrase “war on women,” and on the recent day that 150 Afghan girls were poisoned for the crime of going to school, I wavered a bit, myself — and then I remembered the state-sanctioned rape that is forced transvaginal ultrasounds, such as take place in Texas every day. People are literally attacking our bodies in an effort to create a legislative reality that inimical to our most basic interests — I think “war on women” is pretty reasonable.

The first line of defense in any battle has got to be information, and in that spirit, I want to encourage you to check out and bookmark the frankly mind-boggling Team Uterati Wiki on which Angry Black Lady and the Team Uterati team are doing yoeman’s labor. It’s a one-stop-shop for information on the people, the places, and the roughly 1,100 anti-choice bills currently pending across the country.

You heard me: One thousand and one hundred.

Women are human beings. We have a fundamental, human right to bodily autonomy, one that powerful people (some of whom are women) are attempting to strip from us, for their own purposes. The only way to win this war is to fight back. Let’s arm ourselves with knowledge, inundate them with our demands, and vote the bastards out come November. And then let’s keep fighting.

*******************

He’s already been inside me
And he really didn’t say
And I really didn’t ask him
I just hoped and prayed

He’s already been inside me
And I really don’t feel well
I keep looking in the mirror
But it’s hard to tell

Will he stay by me and take my hand
And hold me till I sleep
Or will he crumble and fall to the floor
And weep
Oh feeble man, Oh evil man

He’s already been inside me
Would he have told me if he cared?
I know I ought to find out
But I’m much too scared

He’s already been inside me
And I know it can’t be good
Nothing feels
The way it should

Will he hold me in his arms again
And wipe away my tears
Or has he already taken
My best years
Oh evil man, Oh feeble man

What is Fridays with Billy?

UPDATE: It’s been suggested to me that this song is “being sung by one man about another man, not by a woman at all.” I can see that, and remember it crossing my mind back in the day, so I mention it here — I can only hope Mr. Bragg himself weighs in someday…! (Knowing his work, it’s entirely possible that he left the song just that vague on purpose).

My President is a feminist II – President Obama addresses Planned Parenthood supporters.

“Let’s be clear here: Women are not an interest group…. They’re half of this country.”

“If you truly values families, you shouldn’t play politics with a woman’s health.”

Word.

(Do you think the President saw my tweet?)

On women’s essential humanity.

 

‘Nuff said.

I’ve had an abortion.

I’m not sure what I’ll be doing next in the blogosphere and I’ve been running some old posts that were particularly meaningful for me. In light of the news that Kansas has essentially managed to eliminate all abortion rights within its borders as of this Friday, I decided to slightly edit and re-up the following.

Over at Ta-Nehisi Coates’ place at the Atlantic, there is a lively discussion surrounding one simple statistic:

35 percent of all women of reproductive age will have had an abortion by the time they’re 45.

Now, one can argue with the efficacy of statistics that are dependent on the use of the future perfect tense (“…at current rates, more than one-third [35%] will have had…”), but it’s not like we’re looking at a possible reversal of the trend. If the folks behind the statistic, the highly regarded Guttmacher Institute, are off, they’re off by a matter of percentage points. So I feel entirely comfortable with the phrase “roughly one-third.”

Entirely comfortable, and entirely unsurprised. Abortion is one of the greatest open secrets in American society. We all know that it happens a lot — we just don’t talk about it. God forbid! We need to feel ashamed, horrified, and deeply guilty! Or, if those of us who have had abortions don’t feel that way, we at least know better than to raise the fact publicly. We know how thoroughly we’re judged before anyone even opens their mouth. (Aside from anything else, we’re admitting that we’ve had sex. Shhhh!)

But if we don’t start talking about it, if the roughly one-third of us who terminate a pregnancy in the course of our reproductive lives don’t get more honest and more bold, the GOP (and some anti-choice Democrats) will continue to do all they can to take away our right to this entirely legal surgical procedure. As Jeffrey Toobin wrote some time ago in the New Yorker:

…as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg observed not long ago, abortion rights “center on a woman’s autonomy to determine her life’s course, and thus to enjoy equal citizenship stature.” Every diminishment of that right diminishes women.

Every diminishment of that right diminishes women. This matters. It really, really matters — the right to choice matters as much as health care reform, because it is health care.

We have to fight against the Scott Roeders of the world (who, by frightening doctors away from late-term abortion practices, are the very definition of “the terrorists are winning”), and we have to fight against the powerful tendency among politicians to behave as if women’s health is somehow negotiable. As if we are an interest group of some sort — and not half the country, a third of whom will need access to an important reproductive health option in the course of their lives.

Please read up all the GOP-led anti-choice efforts that have been made in recent months, please support Planned Parenthood, and while you’re at it, you might also look into Medical Students for Choice. You can also call or write to your Representative, Senators, and President and tell them how wrong-headed all of this anti-choice activity is, and why. I frankly think that this is the more important of the activism options, because our elected representatives have to understand that freedom of choice matters deeply to the people they serve, and they will hear that better in personal notes and calls than in any petition delivered by anyone.

Write to them. Tell them your story. We do not need to be ashamed. We need to have our rights defended.

***********************

In 2006, I ran the first of several pieces that I wrote for daily newspapers about the secrecy surrounding abortion. Each opened with the line “I’ve had an abortion. Have you?” Here’s the one that ran in the Chicago Tribune:

Maybe You Just Don’t Know

By Emily L. Hauser
Chicago Tribune
March 16, 2006

I’ve had an abortion. Have you?

The recent decision to ban virtually all abortions in South Dakota has generated a great deal of raucous arguing; many abortion opponents hope the new legislation will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and lead to the reversal of Roe vs. Wade. As usual, the argument suggests the existence of clear-cut opinion, the “supporting” or “opposing” of the act itself.

What is not discussed, of course, are people’s hearts.

Women readers, of course, know their own answer to my question; many of their men would be surprised by it.

Many men don’t know that their wives, sisters or mothers have, in fact, terminated a pregnancy. They don’t know because the women they love fear their response. Will he see me differently? Will he — figuratively or literally — kill me?

So, as a nation and as individuals, we largely don’t talk about it. And when we do, we’re often not honest. The shadow of perceived opinion is very long. We speak publicly as if there were two clear positions — but in private, most of us know this isn’t the truth.

My abortion is a thing of which I’m neither ashamed nor proud. I wish that I hadn’t had to do it, but I did.

The average reader will want to know why — because most of us have a sliding scale of morality.

Even some staunch opponents will agree in cases of rape; others where there is genetic defect; a larger number, if the abortion takes place early in the first trimester; many, of course, think it’s always a woman’s choice.

I believe there is a vast middle ground made up of most Americans, those who feel abortion is neither irredeemably evil, nor free of moral implication. Witness polls conducted recently by the Pew Research Center: 65 percent of respondents don’t want to see Roe vs. Wade overturned; 59 percent feel it would be better if fewer abortions were performed in this country.

At least some of our ambivalence may be cultural. Japanese society maintains a standard ritual, mizuko kuyo, to memorialize aborted or miscarried fetuses and stillborn babies. In a paper discussing the rite, Dr. Dennis Klass, a Webster University psychology of religion professor and a grief expert, writes: “The abortion experience is seen as a necessary sorrow tinged with grief, regret and fear which forces parents to apologize to the fetus and, thus, connect the fetus to the family.”

This describes my own experience well — but I’m an American. I carry a different culture, and I fear that in apologizing, I accept some notion of personhood that somehow “makes” the entire thing — murder. So, I hesitate.

I ask myself: When I aborted my first pregnancy, did I kill a baby? I honestly don’t think so. But did I stop the potential for life? Absolutely. Insofar as life itself is simultaneously the most mundane and most divine fact on our planet, this means something.

But I’m willing to say that I don’t know what that something is. I can only function in the cold reality of my own world — and as such, I alone can judge whether my abortion was a moral choice. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t happy, but it was the least-bad of two bad choices. It was moral.

I don’t know anyone for whom abortion is easy; I don’t know anyone (any woman, at least) who sees abortion as birth control. These choices are stunningly complex. When we deny that, when we talk as if we are all 100 percent clear on this issue, we deny our humanity. And we deny our grief.

And why, in the end, did I have my abortion? I’m not going to record that here. You and I don’t know each other, and my reasons are personal. I don’t need to defend them, and neither does your neighbor, the stranger at work — nor, perhaps, your girlfriend.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,941 other followers