Today Governor Walker will sign a bill into law in the state of Wisconsin requiring transvaginal ultrasounds for women seeking abortions.
This has me reacting like Mrs. White in the movie Clue. “Flames. Flames. On the side of my face. Heaving. Big heaving breaths of flames.”
I want to gather my thoughts here and talk about this.
The claim by Wisconsin Republicans is that this is to help women understand what exactly it is they’re doing or aborting or something along those lines. To make them get it through their dumb soft slut heads that abortion isn’t like clipping your toe nails.
It’s paternalistic language they’re using. Women wouldn’t do this if we could just mansplain to them.
That’s what they’re saying. That’s not what they really mean.
This is about legislating shame, not about informing or making women understand what they’re doing.
Women who seek abortion know what they are seeking. They have to. Why? Because it’s actually pretty fucking hard to get an abortion. It’s not like strolling into Walgreens to buy Neosporin and a Pepsi. There are already various legal, geographic, and economic barriers to getting one.
If you want an abortion in this country, in this state, girl you really gotta want that abortion. And be upper middle class with an employment situation that allows you to get the time off to do it (and pay for it). And be steely enough to walk past screaming judgmental people who don’t know you on your way to a doctor. And have access to information about abortion. And a way to get to an abortion clinic since they aren’t really on every block or in every town or even every county.
Trust me. A woman who seeks an abortion knows she’s seeking an abortion. She knows she’s terminating a fetus. That’s the point of getting one.
I tell you now that this bill will not stop women from seeking abortions. It will make it harder. It may force some women underground into unsafe conditions. It will not. stop. abortions. Women have been finding ways to address unwanted and unintended impregnation for thousands of years. Thousands. Scott Walker, you and a small team of state legislators in the state of Wisconsin in the year 2013 are not going to end that trend with your codification of shame.
But let’s stop talking about what the bill is meant to do or hopes to set into motion in terms of human behavior. Let’s just talk brass tacks. What’s this law actually require people to do?
It requires that the government put something inside your vagina.
Read that again.
It requires that a stranger put a long, hard wand inside your vagina until it pushes firmly against your cervix.
During this procedure, the technician has to position his fist against your vulva in order to get an accurate reading. The probe is not small. Here is a photo of a woman holding one. I don’t even own a sex toy this big.
All so a woman can see this, a fetus at six weeks, which is the point at which nearly 50% of all abortions are performed. To put it crudely, I’d abort that. A dot? Yeah. I’d abort that.
Can you imagine if we said the government got to stick something inside your urethra before you could get viagra? Can you imagine if we said the government got to shove something up your anus before you could get an appendectomy? Not your doctor. The government.
And before you mention medical necessity, that’s bullshit. Doctors don’t like these bills anymore than women do. In fact, one of the largest professional organizations of doctors in the country released a statement saying they are completely superfluous and requiring them makes zero sense from a medical standpoint. That’s here.
In an age of rising healthcare costs where Republicans don’t want to pay for our fellow citizen’s access to basic healthcare, why is this one procedure, deemed superfluous by the medical community, just fine?
This bill is rape culture in its boldest form.
How am I to teach my son about consent, concerning his body and the bodies of others, when he is growing up in a world where women are forcibly penetrated by their government for seeking a legal medical procedure?
And yes, I’ve heard the argument that women become pregnant through vaginal penetration so this shouldn’t be a big deal.
Let’s assume for a moment the sexual act that led to the pregnancy was consensual. There is a world of difference between a welcome penis and a hard plastic probe wielded by a stranger who wants to show you a picture of your insides.
Secondly, let’s follow this logic. If I have been vaginally penetrated with a penis before, does this mean that all subsequent penetrations are not subject to moral and legal scrutiny? In other words, if I have sex, penis in vagina sex I mean, does that mean six men can jump me in the elevator the next morning and penetrate me with all manner of objects? Just because I’m no longer a virgin? Because well, I’ve been penetrated before?
The state of Wisconsin is declaring open season on our vaginae.
Let’s also talk for a moment here about the rape exception. WI Republicans say there will be an exception for victims of rape. But what is rape, to those who make the laws?
Well first of all, to be considered exempt from the ultrasound, a woman must report the rape to police. But according to PR Watch, up to 80% of rapes in this country go unreported. That would include my own at the age of 17, by the way.
And let’s please not forget the conversations around the election cycle last year about what rape really is. We still believe in this myth that women “cry rape” to get a free pass on having sex. Let me assure you- rape is real, rape hurts, and most of us never tell because we know you won’t believe us.
We aren’t always sure what’s just happened ourselves. It’s so traumatizing and the conversations we grow up with about consent and who owns a woman’s body are so damn confusing that often we don’t realize what happened. We just know we want to forget it and move on.
So unless a white woman is jumped by six black guys from behind the bushes while she’s dressed like Susan B. Anthony (cover those provocative forearms, sluts!) walking down the street in broad daylight, and reports it to police, I’m not sure she’s going to get that rape exception.
The absolute terror of government sanctioned rape with an ultrasound wand aside, there’s another issue here about basic rights.
If the medical establishment says that this procedure is useless (see above for link to that statement), then we must acknowledge it is being required for political reasons only. Reasons rooted in differing opinions about what is moral and immoral behavior.
That is different than legal or ethical behavior. Legally a woman has a right to a an abortion based on Roe v Wade (and Griswold v Connecticut years earlier). Ethically, she can get an abortion because she breaks no laws.
This law comes in at the moral point, where people are making decisions based on religious ideologies. We don’t legislate those kinds of guidelines. At least, we aren’t supposed to.
As stated earlier, the Roe v Wade decision was based on the foundations laid by Griswold v Connecticut in 1965. That decision was about whether the state had a right to ban contraception. The ruling? It didn’t. The court found that such a ban was in violation of the “right to privacy.” While such a right does not appear explicitly in the Constitution, this “right” has been extrapolated over the years from language the framers used.
In Griswold, the Supreme Court concluded that while there was no explicit mention of privacy in the Constitution, the privacy rights implied in the Bill of Rights and subsequent amendments demonstrated that the Founders intended a general right to privacy to be recognized and respected by the state. For example, the Court reasoned that the First Amendment protected the privacy of personal faith, the Fourth Amendment protected the privacy of one’s person and belongings, and so on and so forth.
The Roe v Wade decision was based on Griswold. Justices extended a woman’s right to privacy on contraception to cover abortion.
Basically, the ruling, crudely stated, is that abortion, for the most part, is filed under Beeswax, None of Yours.
In 1982, the court ruled on Planned Parenthood v Casey. This case centered around Pennsylvania laws that put up barriers to abortion care, including requiring doctors to inform women of the health risks of abortion, requiring women to wait 24 hours, requiring wives to tell their husbands, etc.
The court struck this law down. Again from PolicyMic.com:
The final opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey struck down Pennsylvania’s law as unconstitutional by a 5-4 margin. The plurality opinion in Casey, authored jointly by Justices O’Connor, Kennedy, and Souter, stated that the Court was re-affirming “the essential holding” ofRoe that “if the right of privacy means anything, it is the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted government intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child.”
Read that last bit again, won’t you?
Intrustion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the deciision to bear to beget a child.
SB 206 in the state of Wisconsin is a legal and very literal intrusion into this matter. Not only does it intrude on a woman’s decision about childbearing (while utterly pushing aside the opinion of the medical community), it intrudes on her body, her spirit, and her soul.
And finally there is the argument- is this little procedure so bad?
Yes. I’ve had one.
When I was fourteen, like many fourteen year old girls, I did not have regular periods. The difference between me and other girls was that I had a mentally ill mother who had a history of shopping her children around to doctors, inflating insignificant health “issues” into crises because it fed her borderline personality’s need for drama.
That year, I saw a series of perhaps four or five doctors. Who can remember. It stopped when my mother found one, a nurse practitioner in an OBGYN office, who was naive or crazy or money-hungry enough to go along with my mother’s “concerns.”
I was given a papsmear that I didn’t want, while I cried and asked them to stop. Then, when that turned up nothing but the fact that I was a normal pre-teen girl whose body just hadn’t gotten to regular periods just yet, I was scheduled for a transvaginal ultrasound. “Just to leave no stone unturned,” they said.
I didn’t cry for that one because I knew it would do no good. I went numb inside and stared at the ceiling. My mother chit chatted with the technician. I breathed as little as I could and pretended to be dead.
It was one of the most painful, humiliating, long experiences of my life. It as a very, very big deal.
Like the transvaginal ultrasounds Wisconsin Republicans are now passing into law, it was not medically necessary And all it did was remind me that we live in a culture that refuses to hear women.
Governor Walker, this is terrible legislation.
thoughts on last night’s twitter feed
i happened to be on when the twitterverse exploded with updates on the MIT shooting, dovetailing into the Watertown shootout. it was a flood of people who happened to be on the scene, civilians and journalists tailing the police, people listening to the police scanner (estimated at 80,000 listeners at one point) and people re-tweeting all of the above. wild speculations interwoven with actual facts. amidst the details was an emerging debate along these lines:
and a string of reminders that Twitter + police scanner ≠ journalism.
i felt conflicted, getting sucked in to this breaking story in this fashion. it truly was fascinating, and i did find a curated list of journalists tweeting from the scene in a more measured, respectful, factual and safe-feeling manner. following that WAS breaking news. following the feeds of civilians on the scene who were simply stating (and posting pictures) of what they saw was also news. but the folks who took pictures of a guy being stopped by police and then declared “SUSPECT IN CUSTODY! Everyone leaving the scene, it’s safe now.” only to be refuted 2 minutes later when “the suspect” was merely someone walking home who was unaware of what they were walking into? that’s not news. that’s not helpful. you saw someone being stopped, but you don’t know what’s happening. you’re spreading rumors, and misinformation, and you’re muddying the waters for anyone near Boston who is using their twitter feed to see if they can leave the building they are currently hiding inside because their city has become a war zone over the past five days.
i had to turn it off. even writing this post just after midnight, i was going back and refreshing to see if there was more 1) actual information 2) relevant skepticism. but i knew this (<—referring to the tweets, not the actual situation) would go on all night, and after this week of varied and terrible things having gone on in this country, i am too terror-weary to pull a speculation all-nighter.
i can’t imagine if this week had happened 10 years ago, with the social media we had at the time. today, we are SO connected to the world, and to events as they happen, whether that be worlds away from us as we sit safely staring at the screens of our devices, or if we are typing to the world that a bomb just went off on the corner of our block. if you’re on the scene, these advances & interconnectivity are vital, and could save your life. transparency can be a wonderful thing. the ability to collect mass amounts of photographic and live-witness accounts of things is wonderful. but i can imagine how hard it is for law enforcement to conduct their operations when civilians flood the area, or give away tactical information with a careless tweet. and also, i posit that people far from the scene don’t NEED a up-to-the-second account of events when nothing is fact-checked, nothing is certain, and panic swirls around us. it’s sensationalism, and it makes people scared. not that this shit isn’t scary. it is. the world is scary, and scary shit happens every day, every hour, everywhere. EVERYWHERE. not just here, not just to us. everywhere, and to everyone. is it doing anyone any good to know that reports of a horrible thing are 100% certain to be on any screen you may ever look at? or any screen your kids might look at? (this is what i started seeing on monday from all the parents i know: “How do I tell my kids about the marathon bombing without causing them to never want to go outside again because they’re too scared they’ll blow up? And how can I stop them from seeing ACTUAL CARNAGE on every screen available? There’s no way to turn off the coverage.”) knowledge is power, ignorance is bliss; but there’s got to be some kind of balance between knowing what the world is and being crushed by the weight of it. there’s a line in here somewhere, but i can’t find it.
how was i sucked in in the first place? by this:
grenades. they were throwing grenades at the cops. i just… no.
and finally, i’m sure there’s some truth here, but i also wonder if it was a “STOP TWEETING SO MUCH BULLSHIT” move in the midst of things:
Boston, you’re home to some of my family, and i love you. last week i bought plane tickets to come visit you in july. i hope the insanity of this week is the last harmful thing that happens to you for a long, long time. and i hope for strength, healing, and community to all the people of the Boston area. sigh.
Nicki Minaj (BlackBook Magazine)
- me, to an adult actor: Stop whispering "ball sack."
- actor #1: No! It’s our mantra!
- actor #2: [whispering] ball sack, ball sack. baaalllll saaaaccckkkk.
Elevator Etiquette (or lack thereof)
My workplace spans three floors of our office building. This morning I got on the elevator on 5, to go to 7. Two people were already in the elevator with the button pressed for 6, where our main reception area is located. Between floors 5 and 6, the following “conversation” occurred:
adult man i’ve never seen before in my life: [looks me up and down] Scoliosis?
him: [nods sagely] The last generation.
me: [stares at him] Mmm.
1. Sir, the socially acceptable way to begin a conversation with someone is with a salutation. “Hello” or “Hi” is sufficient.
2. Fact: I have a non standard issue body shape. This is not a free pass for you to comment on my body, or to make a medical assessment of it. You know who gets to ask if I have scoliosis the very first time they talk to me? Doctors, and only when I am actively seeking their medical opinion, and only after they have said “hello” or “hi” and we know each other’s names. Non-doctor people who have ventured to ask me about my body have asked me for permission to ask a personal question, and if it is our first conversation and/or is taking place in an elevator, have unfailingly accepted my unwillingness to discuss it.
3. You happen to be correct that I have been treated for scoliosis, but that is not the full picture, so don’t get all smug thinking you’ve figured my body out.
4. “The last generation.” I think you are suggesting that this is an old-timey ailment, that the kids don’t have these days. Are you calling me old? I THINK YOU ARE CALLING ME OLD.
5. Imagine you’re riding one floor on an elevator with someone who looks different than you in a different way than I look different than you, and pretend you are having the same conversation with them. Would you say “Foreigner?” “Huge ass?” “Club foot?” “Boob job?” Oh, you wouldn’t?
6. Did you also happen to notice that I am a woman? Because you should not make unsolicited comments on any person’s body, but I consider it *extra* inappropriate to comment on women’s bodies. We just this Tuesday got a four-year extension on control over our lady parts, and we are particularly sensitive to men who are strangers talking about our bodies as though it’s any of their business.
7. My gut reaction was to tell you to fuck off. I answered you because I correctly assessed you were visiting my place of employment. Telling clients to fuck off is generally frowned upon, even when they are rude.
8. I told my coworker there was a man in our conference room who had been rude to me in the elevator, and she got super pissed and offered/threatened to come beat you with her cane. Protip: It would be inappropriate for you to ask her why she uses a cane or start a conversation with “Gimpy?”, because you do not know her, either.
In summary, sir, you need to work on your manners, because the 15 second elevator ride did not require any conversation to fill the time, and it certainly is not the place for you to ask strangers questions about their bodies.
Women invented all the core technologies that made civilization possible. This isn’t some feminist myth; it’s what modern anthropologists believe. Women are thought to have invented pottery, basketmaking, weaving, textiles, horticulture, and agriculture. That’s right: without women’s inventions, we wouldn’t be able to carry things or store things or tie things up or go fishing or hunt with nets or haft a blade or wear clothes or grow our food or live in permanent settlements. Suck on that.
Women have continued to be involved in the creation and advancement of civilization throughout history, whether you know it or not. Pick anything—a technology, a science, an art form, a school of thought—and start digging into the background. You’ll find women there, I guarantee, making critical contributions and often inventing the damn shit in the first place.
Women have made those contributions in spite of astonishing hurdles. Hurdles like not being allowed to go to school. Hurdles like not being allowed to work in an office with men, or join a professional society, or walk on the street, or own property. Example: look up Lise Meitner some time. When she was born in 1878 it was illegal in Austria for girls to attend school past the age of 13. Once the laws finally eased up and she could go to university, she wasn’t allowed to study with the men. Then she got a research post but wasn’t allowed to use the lab on account of girl cooties. Her whole life was like this, but she still managed to discover nuclear fucking fission. Then the Nobel committee gave the prize to her junior male colleague and ignored her existence completely.
Men in all patriarchal civilizations, including ours, have worked to downplay or deny women’s creative contributions. That’s because patriarchy is founded on the belief that women are breeding stock and men are the only people who can think. The easiest way for men to erase women’s contributions is to simply ignore that they happened. Because when you ignore something, it gets forgotten. People in the next generation don’t hear about it, and so they grow up thinking that no women have ever done anything. And then when women in their generation do stuff, they think “it’s a fluke, never happened before in the history of the world, ignore it.” And so they ignore it, and it gets forgotten. And on and on and on. The New York Times article is a perfect illustration of this principle in action.
Finally, and this is important: even those women who weren’t inventors and intellectuals, even those women who really did spend all their lives doing stereotypical “women’s work”—they also built this world. The mundane labor of life is what makes everything else possible. Before you can have scientists and engineers and artists, you have to have a whole bunch of people (and it’s usually women) to hold down the basics: to grow and harvest and cook the food, to provide clothes and shelter, to fetch the firewood and the water, to nurture and nurse, to tend and teach. Every single scrap of civilized inventing and dreaming and thinking rides on top of that foundation. Never forget that.—
from a post by Reclusive Leftist on women’s erasure in history.
her comments relate specifically to an article by the NYT thanking “the men” who invented modern technology, but pick absolutely any academic field of study, and women’s contributions are minimized, if not outright ignored.
literature has been a huge part of my life for a long time, and i grew up reading the classics—which, of course, are typically books written by white men, depicting their experiences. i was taught that the first “modern novel” was Don Quixote, written in the early 1600s by a guy (Cervantes). i don’t think i know of a word to accurately describe my mixture of outrage, shock, and pride, when i discovered later that actually, the first modern novel was written 600 years earlier—by a woman! (it’s The Tale of Genji, written by a Japanese lady-in-waiting who was known as Murasaki Shikibu.)
this might not seem important, but if you’re a woman you know just how vital this knowledge is. even now, when women are being told that we can do anything we set our minds to, the historical, literary, and scientific figures we learn about are all men. it’s a much more insidious way to discourage women from aiming high—because what’s the point in putting in so much hard work if it’s not even going to be remembered after you’re dead?
All of this. For a long time, women couldn’t apply for patents in the US, so even if they invented something, they had to let their husband or male colleague take credit for it. Us ladies had made significant contributions to every field of study out there, and I am sick and tired of seeing that shit get ignored.
i grew up with jack chu. we were in school together from kindergarten through high school, and while we were never particularly close and didn’t travel in the same circles, we’d known each other most of our lives. after i reluctantly joined facebook at the insistence of a friend who’d moved to the east coast, jack contacted me to say hello. i wrote back, our messages started getting longer and longer, and turned into almost daily chats on our lunch breaks, while playing facebook-poker together. we both acknowledged the irony that after “knowing” each other for over twenty years, we were finally becoming friends; and we also laughed that we were now considering ourselves to be “friends” though we weren’t in touch via any other means than facebook.
we mostly talked about mutual folks we knew growing up, asked after each other’s families, and caught up on what we were doing now. we talked about music and poker, nothing too serious, and made each other laugh. he was still living in the bay area and wanted to know all about portland, declaring that since i’d decided to stay here for so long, it must be pretty awesome. i agreed, and told him if he was ever up my way to let me know and i’d meet him for a drink so we could catch up in person. he extended the same offer for the next time i would be down in the bay.
i started touting jack as a shining example of how facebook turned out better than i’d expected; my attitude prior to joining had been “i’m already in touch with all the people who i care to be in touch with.” jack proved me wrong, as it was delightful to start to get to know each other in our adulthood, and it would not have happened otherwise.
then, in july 2008, jack was murdered.
he went out with a friend. they went to a couple bars. then his friend shot him in the head eleven times, shoved him into the passenger seat of jack’s car, and parked it on a residential street, where his body was not discovered for two days.
it was absolutely shocking. jack was the first friend of mine to die as the result of such violence. i didn’t know how to process it; we’d chatted the day before he’d died and i’d wondered the rest of the week if his schedule had changed, since i wasn’t catching him online at lunch anymore. other friends we’d grown up with expressed the same shock as me. he was gone, there seemed not to have been an altercation prompting his death, and initially, the main suspect was nowhere to be found.
once jack’s murderer was apprehended, there were no easy answers. there were pleas of insanity, there were four separate competency hearings, there were further delays when this guy attacked and choked his cell mate. my heart broke for jack’s family, wishing them closure and to find out why this happened, if that would bring them some peace.
it took years until small steps towards resolution took place. the guy was put on medication, and eventually deemed fit to stand trial. a trial date was set. the trial happened, the guy was found guilty. and just last thursday, he was sentenced. it will be 57 years before he is eligible for parole.
i still think about jack often. he’s the reason i won’t deactivate my facebook account, since our reconnection was such an unexpected treat. now that the sentence has been passed, jack’s name won’t periodically appear in my email, alerting me to developments in the case. i won’t share those updates with the kids we grew up with. jack’s been gone for almost four years, but now there’ll be additional silence when i think of him. i still remember him pulling on my hair during class in kindergarten, and am grateful for the time we got to spend getting to know each other as adults.
i hope his family finds some comfort in the conviction. i hope they are doing well, and that they know how jack touched a lot of people with his warmth, sincerity, and desire to reconnect with old friends. i hope they know that he’s still remembered even by those of us who were orbiting the outer circles of his social life. and mostly, i hope that everyone who knew jack never has to experience this kind of senseless act ever again.