Aimee Thorne-Thomsen speaks up about the many flaws in the Newsweek “graying of pro-choice movement” piece. Also, fear-mongering on motherhood and some common sense on marriage.
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On this episode of Reality Cast, Aimee Thorne-Thomsen will be on to talk about Newsweek raising the panic over the graying of the abortion rights movement, and how Newsweek got it all wrong. Also, I take a look at past and present panics over certain classes of women reproducing, and the Today show talks about how sometimes marriage can be really bad for your health.
I addressed much of the coverage of the Oklahoma law requiring a vaginal probe ultrasound last week, but I didn’t have time to play snippets from Rachel Maddow. I’ll fix that oversight right now.
- Oklahoma *
The fact that it has to be an hour before is a telling detail. This is about making sure that a woman who has an abortion undergoes not just the maximum amount of poking and prodding and invasion of her body as possible, but also getting dressed and undressed and sitting around in a hospital gown feeling naked.
Last week, I noted that issues of reproductive justice were creeping into this debate over Arizona’s new law requiring the police to harass people they think look like illegal immigrants, and charge them with a crime if they fail to prove on the spot that they aren’t. Regardless of what the governor of Arizona claims, this is obviously racial profiling and a harassment campaign against Hispanic people living in Arizona, regardless of their immigration status. In a highly racist climate like this, the very act of having children becomes fraught and politically loaded for the oppressed group of people. This is absolutely true in the immigration debate, where the children of immigrants are often labeled “anchor babies” by racists. The term implies that people immigrate here illegally and have children to “anchor” them in the U.S. and make them harder to deport. It’s a misleading term. Often undocumented parents of natural born citizens get deported and separated from their children.
In addition, the natural born citizens who are children of immigrants, either legal or illegal, are often targeted specifically for discrimination. There’s been attempts to ban them from attending public school, which fail on constitutional grounds. There’s non-stop attempts to keep them from attending bilingual classrooms, which is basically about forcing them to fall behind in their classes until they learn English, which can often hurt their chances of getting into college. And even though they’re natural born citizens, they’re used as a political football.
Take, for instance, recent comments by Representative Duncan Hunter from California. He was at a tea party rally answering questions when this exchange went down.
- babies 1 *
I love how he acts like the main obstacle between him and his plan to deport natural born citizens is that other people will call him mean. How about un-constitutional? How about asking where you deport your own citizens? How about asking him how many generations back he wants to take this? Many of us have ancestors who didn’t come here through the painstaking immigration process we have nowadays.
What’s interesting about this racist panic over reproduction is that something similar happened over 20 years ago, and only now are people beginning to reckon with it. NPR’s Tell Me More had a segment on it.
- babies 2 *
Yeah, that’s hard science right there, and should have been the sort of thing that made people realize that the so-called crack babies epidemic was a bit of social hysteria. And social hysteria with racialized overtones to it, since there are many different kinds of cocaine use, but crack was especially associated with low income black people in the 80s. What’s being discovered decades after the fact is that the fears that children exposed to crack in the womb would be severely mentally handicapped was just not right.
The host interviewed a recovering crack addict who smoked while pregnant, and her daughter, a senior in high school who is heading to college. As you can tell from this interview, the horror stories were completely overblown.
- babies 3 *
These are jokes. She’s obviously fine. Which isn’t to say that using drugs while pregnant is a good idea, but the fears about what drugs cause what harm sadly say more about cultural prejudice than reality. Heavy alcohol use while pregnant is far more linked to serious problems with babies than cocaine use of any sort, but while people are concerned about that, you simply didn’t see the social panic like you did around crack babies. But the real kicker is this. The way you can tell the panic over crack babies was more about raising fears and trying to suggest some classes of women aren’t fit to be mothers? The fact that there wasn’t—isn’t—any real help for pregnant women who have addictions they’d like to kick.
- babies 4 *
On the surface, the anchor babies and the crack babies panics may not have a lot in common. But both are about using alarmist, racist imagery to dehumanize classes of women and their children, and to imply that there should be some government and social control over who gets to be a mother based on class and race.
Sometimes I just have to laugh at the inane obviousness of the things people say on TV.
- marriage 1 *
No kidding! That’s the sort of thing that only seems like a revelation in an environment where people are all marshaled towards identical sexual and relationship choices, where a one size fits all solution is offered for everyone. When everyone is supposed to want to be married just to be married, suggesting that it’s only right if your individual circumstances call for it can genuinely be a radical thing to say.
In all seriousness, the interviewee on the Today Show was Tara Parker-Pope, who did an article in the New York Times about whether or not marriage is good for your health. What she learned isn’t surprising. It’s good for you if the marriage is good, and not so great if the marriage isn’t good.
- marriage 2 *
All this really tells us is that non-stop stress is really bad for your health, and especially for your immune system. This may seem like a small, obvious thing, but I celebrated watching this segment. The reason is that our culture usually tells people, especially women, that we’re not allowed to look out for our own well-being and happiness before our duties to society, family, and whatever else a male-dominated culture tells us to do. Our happiness comes behind our duty to please men and support men, for sure, and divorce is still considered a measure of last resort in many ways. But there is one out. Americans are allowed to look after our own health, probably in part because having bad health means you become a burden to others. If this gives unhappy people, especially women, permission to end bad relationships, well, I’ll take it.
Not that divorce is so great for you! Divorce is extremely stressful, and can really impact your health. And that’s when Parker-Pope says something that you rarely hear on TV at all.
- marriage 3 *
Yes, it’s better not to marry than to divorce! She slices right to the heart of the confused state of American attitudes towards marriage. It’s still being trotted out as a goal for all, and the right wing is still trying to use sexual shame and panic over cohabitation in order to pressure people to rush into marriage. Which is one reason the divorce rates are higher in the red states, because people marry younger. This debate over whether or not it’s better to conform to social expectations and marry quickly, or to drag it out and really take your time won’t get resolved in a snap. But this is important evidence to trot out against people who try to shame women into marrying young by telling them that no one will want them after they hit age 26 or so, or that their eggs dry up if they wait until after 30. You can point out that Tara Parker-Pope said it’s better not to marry than divorce on your health, and that therefore it’s super duper important to really know what you’re getting in to.
And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, women would never choose to be pregnant, would they edition. Or that seems to be Sean Hannity’s view. He seems incapable of distinguishing between forced childbirth and pregnancy that’s chosen and welcome with open arms. He conflates the two when talking about former Justice Department nominee Dawn Johnsen’s views.
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Johnsen compared forced childbirth to involuntary servitude. To my mind, that’s simply definitional and tautological. Bringing a child to term is work. If you do it against your will, that’s involuntary. Put the two together, and you have involuntary servitude. If anti-choicers don’t like hearing that they wish to force women to work against their will, then they need to stop demanding that women labor against their will. But I have to wonder if Sean Hannity realizes some women have children by choice. Does he think that without force by family, church, and state, women would never have children? Or does he just think that gestating a baby for 9 months isn’t real work, like the kind that men do?