orientalcutlery

Juice from the sprawlings of the noodles in my noggin.

Category: Women

Blurred Lines

So, my first listen of this song was on the Graham Norton show. Pharrell had his trousers turned up all cool, Hayden Pannettiere danced around in her lovely leggings and everything was great. I was hooked to the bassline, I could feel the addiction to this song making my brain swim. I felt spoiled, a Summer with “Get Lucky” AND “Blurred Lines”? I didn’t think it was possible.

Ohoho, but then… Then, I heard them discuss the fact that youtube had banned the video. Intrigued, I tracked it down on vimeo, and my opinion of the song and the artists plummeted as far south as it’s possible to go. Pharrell and Robin have made a big, big NONO.

It’s very easy to see girls in bikinis, or short skirts and dresses, or tight tops, and shout “THAT’S SEXIST”, even though that might not necessarily be true. What really makes situations like that sexist is when what’s happening doesn’t apply to males in the same way that it applies to females. In this video, the girls parade and dance around with nothing on except nude thongs, leaving well… nothing to the imagination.

The problem with this is not the naked women. Women can be naked. Naked women are lovely. It’s not true that a woman’s naked body needs always to be treated as a form of pornography, because it’s not. The problem is that the women are only there to be naked. That’s it. They don’t speak; they don’t do anything or than dance, naked. The men are all fully clothed; they don’t have to strip themselves down at all throughout the video.

On a second listen to the lyrics, I noticed that the whole song was pretty rapey, and quite frankly, full of yuck. Some key problems include:

“Tried to domesticate you, but you’re an animal,  baby it’s in your nature”.
Implying ownership of women, or implying that women need to change their “wild” behaviour and become “domesticated” for your needs is not something I enjoy seeing in “modern” music.

“I know you want it”
This is repeated several times, and it’s exactly the kind of bullshit that anti-rape campaigns are trying to address. Guess what? You don’t know that I want it. Dancing with a girl in a club does not mean she “wants” it. If she wants it, she’ll let you know. Until that time, keep it in your pants.

“I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two”
No. Just no. Don’t say things like that to women and think it’s attractive, or endearing. Again, if a woman is interested in having sex with you, or you are interested in having sex with her, there are ways and means about requesting that activity without making references to sexual violence or specific sexual desires that are pretty risqué. Ongoing consent is pretty sexy, if you ask me. (pun intended).

“He don’t smack that ass and pull your hair for you”
Implying that sexual violence is the norm, or is something desired by all, or desired by women as the initial sexual contact from someone is not ok. Rape fantasy sex is sexy to some people because of the safe environment in which it takes place. It’s not sexy to imply that you’re going to be violent towards a woman. I can’t believe I just typed that sentence.

“I’m a nice guy, but don’t get confused, you git’n it”
If you are a nice guy, like you say, you’ll ensure that your partner consents. There should be no confusion.

Thicke has commented on the video in the media and said that he wanted to “break every rule” with it. That’s why animals appear in it, and there are implications of bestiality and obviously, full nudity. He reckons that they weren’t degrading the women, because they’re just “dancing and having fun” with them. If they were naked too, I might try to agree. But the idea that women being naked and men being fully clothed and in control is just the regular way to party is a bit, well, #thicke.

You simply cannot get around it.

Today, the headline on the homepage of one of our national newspaper detailed the story of Cardinal Sean Brady and his threats to excommunicate ministers who are in favour of legislating for the X case. It stated that Brady would find this legislation to be immoral, and that the people cannot give the power to the government over the right to life. Interestingly, the cardinal mentioned that we do not have the right over the beginning or ending of life, which is rather insensitive given the recent trial in the Supreme Court for Marie Fleming. But then, when have the Catholic Church ever shown sensitivity in cases that they find immoral?

I couldn’t even begin to explain just how hypocritical it is for this man, this celibate cleric to think that he has a say in X case legislation. This is a man who stood over and actively covered up the systematic rape and abuse of children by priests. I am sick and tired of the pardoning that goes on in this country with regard to clerical sex abuse. The way in which the hierarchy of the church is structured allowed this kind of abuse to take place, and it is because of the same structure that the abuse was covered up.

Brady’s reasoning in opposing the legislation currently being debated in government is that it is tantamount to evil, and we must “oppose evil” as well as encouraging that which is good. He assumes so arrogantly that the entire country subscribes to the morality of the Catholic Church, and that no other morality, objective or otherwise will suffice. And he is simply wrong on that point.Not once, but twice, the Irish people have spoken on this issue. Twice, they have voted in favour of legislation that allows a pregnant woman to be given an abortion in cases where there is a substantial risk to her life, including suicide. As Sinéad Kennedy put it to Peter Mathews on Vincent Brown recently “You simply cannot get around that”. Cardinal Brady seems to think that the only morality is his morality. He would do well to excommunicate more than half the electorate if he believes them to be so evil, for it is they who have demanded this legislation.

Interestingly enough, Brady seems to be completely ignoring the fact that the legislation already exists, and all that is happening is codification and clarification. We are simply outlining the specifics that are required for the existing legislation to be acted upon, in an effort to save women’s lives. The fact that it has taken 21 years for this to happen is an absolute disgrace, and the fact that a Catholic Cardinal who covered up the rape of children in the same time period believes that he is qualified to instruct the government on morality is, at first, laughable, but after that, abhorrent. He has demonstrated a total lack of moral judgement and yet he feels that he can re-align the moral compass of not only the government, but the Irish people. At this point, I’m finding it very hard not to break into sentences consisting only of expletives.

The Catholic Church are not concerned with morality, they are concerned with control. Not a single member of the Third Reich were excommunicated. Hitler was not excommunicated. They are an organisation riddled with paedophiles and abusers, and are obsessed with overseeing the sexual behaviours of others.  Up until the 1980s, they believed they had the authority to instruct people not to use contraception, and in doing so were expressing control over the reproductive systems of the nation. Families who had a gap of more than a year between children could expect a visit from the parish priest questioning their activity. Women were but vessels to deliver more souls, and their attitude has not changed. They are as morally misguided now as they were then.

The Catholic morality, whatever that may be, is simply not the morality that the people of Ireland want to subscribe to in this case. Twice they have spoken on the issue, and twice they have asked for abortion on the grounds of suicide as a bare minimum. The absolute nonsense and pseudoscience that is being touted by politicians is, in my opinion, just a hurdle, and it will be overcome. All we are doing is codifying and clarifying an already existing constitutional right. To let the Catholic Church have an influence on this issue would be to do a disservice to the Irish people. We have overcome the Church assuming that they can dictate their morality to the nation, and we must continue to overcome it. We don’t allow them to dictate to legislators about contraception, Monty Python films, literature, clothing, music, or anything else anymore, and I would be thoroughly disgusted if we took their word on their supposed moral superiority on this issue.

Society vs women?

There is this inherent attitude in the pro-life argument, regardless of its precise content, that if we don’t legislate for abortion on demand, the problem will go away. I haven’t come across anyone naive enough to think it could ever go away by itself, but I have come across people who believe that there are other mechanisms with which we can deal with unwanted pregnancies. Even if a pro-life organization is willing to admit that part of the problem, regarding the way in which society treats women, is to blame for them considering or feeling pressurised to consider abortion, they still think that the answer is never ever for a woman to abort. I have quite a few issues with this.

Firstly, I commend the attitude that there is a problem with society and its view of pregnant women and women with crisis pregnancies. There is an attitude that makes an expectant mother feel guilty for even considering to have an abortion, an idea that women should never have an unwanted pregnancy, because they are a woman, and this is what women are built to do. A woman who does not want to have a child but finds herself pregnant is having unnatural thoughts, thoughts that some pro-lifers say come from societal pressures, and that it is society that needs to change in order for the problem to be dealt with. “We need to offer our women a better solution” they say. While I understand and commend this argument in so far as it admits that women are not to blame, I disagree with the core idea that if we change society’s attitude to pregnancy and women, abortions will not be sought. Unwanted pregnancies will always exist. There are a myriad of circumstances that can lead to a pregnancy being unwanted, none of which any woman should be expected to justify to anyone else.

Secondly, if the pro-lifers who believe society is to blame are really so very passionate about this grounding for being pro-life, why is it that they don’t set themselves up as organisations committed to sexual education for youth and providers of free contraceptives? I am perfectly willing to admit that in my own country, sexual education is wholly inadequate and that access to contraceptives is something that only became apparent and available to me in my very late teens. I would also like to point out that from a socio-economic point of view, I am, some might say, in a position of privilege and I see a direct correlation between this and my own sexual education and the aforementioned access to contraceptives. These things, though provided, are most certainly not provided equally. To my mind, if you believe that society needs to change its attitudes in order to avoid a problem, the way to go about being active about that is to make active changes, so, in this case, provide sexual education and free contraceptives. Instead, I’ve seen an “all talk” approach, and no difference in re-educating society to help women.

I mentioned in my last blog that I have yet to see an actual direct response from someone from a pro-life organisation explain exactly what they say to a rape victim who finds herself in the position of being expected to carry a child to term or raise anywhere between €500 and €2500 to travel abroad for an abortion. Carrying the child to term and raising it, or carrying the child to term and parting with it to give up for adoption. Raising money so that she can travel abroad, because in her own country to make this choice is a criminal act. To choose to terminate a pregnancy after such a horrific and unthinkable event in this country is to announce yourself as a law-breaker. Just what is it that the pro-life campaigners believe should be done here? What societal change could ever make a woman in this situation feel as though her pregnancy could somehow be wanted as opposed to unwanted? What authority is it that they grant themselves to feel that they can tell women in situations like this what they ought to think or ought to do? Has society really failed in a case like this because the woman considers abortion, or has society failed because it believes that she should want this child and is wrong to think otherwise?

Another case that is mentioned but not often directly addressed is the case of risk of the expectant mother committing suicide. Just recently I heard two gentlemen opposing legislation for abortions on demand argue against the case of threat of suicide. I have heard their argument from officials of pro-life organisations also. Both made exactly the same point and it is an argument that I have been hearing on replay for the last two months; “Abortion is not a treatment for suicidal depression”. Now, I will accept that as a statement. Abortion does not treat suicidal depression, there is no doubt about that. Treating suicidal depression is a very difficult and intricate process, which is different for each individual and can involve many steps including anti-psychotic medication, cognitive behavioural therapy, and just about anything in between. Suicidal depression can affect all people from all walks of life. Any amount of circumstances can cause it. If a case is presented of a homeless drug addict who is suffering from suicidal depression, it would be incorrect to say that if they stopped taking drugs, the depression would go away.

However, it would be correct to say that if they stopped taking drugs, they would find themselves in a frame of mind in which they were better able to cope with the depression. I am not for an instant comparing the life of an unborn child or any pregnancy to drugs or drug addiction, but what I am saying is that in cases of suicidal depression, changing a circumstance or set of circumstances in someone’s life can help a person get into a frame of mind in which they are able to deal with the depression. In the case of a woman carrying an unwanted pregnancy, I don’t think it is ever as simple as to say that if the pregnancy is terminated, the suicidal depression is or can be dealt with, but I do think that the correlation between the unwanted pregnancy and the depression should be investigated thoroughly and deeply before a judgement is made on it, and it should be recognised that each individual case is different.

Having reached this point, I’ve noticed something about my last two points. I’ve noticed this before of course, that whenever I find myself standing for the pro-choice side, I find myself addressing the issues of suicide and rape. I wonder why it is that we feel we have to wait for a woman to be in situations as dire as this before we will even consider allowing legislation that could help her. I wonder why it is that until a woman’s life is in danger, until her mental health has been pushed to its absolute limits and until she has suffered traumatic acts like rape or incestual rape that have resulted in her pregnancy, we think abortion is bad. Until a woman is in a situation where her circumstances are so dire that she feels wholly unable to nurture another human for at least nine months, we think that abortion is unacceptable. What is it that makes people think that this is ok? Is this what we want for our women, for them to be silenced until they are in danger of death or in such deep suffering that they cannot cope? I sincerely hope that it is not.

In conclusion, I’d like to point out that there are several points on the pro-life side that I find incredibly interesting and accurate. I think there is a societal problem, I think society needs to change the way it views women. Where I disagree is that that societal change entails us idealising pregnancy and behaving as though the response to pregnancies can be changed. I think as a society, we need to learn to trust a woman, within reason, when she says that her pregnancy is unwanted. We need to trust our women to make decisions about their bodies, their lives and their lifestyle choices. It’s unacceptable to me that we try to change a woman’s mind about her pregnancy as though her mind is ours to change. It’s simply not the case, and the mass delusion that that’s possible is what is keeping women shamed. In my country, abortion on demand is not legislated for, and yet thousands of nationals have abortions abroad every year. These women do not need to be silenced, these women need our support. These women need to know that whatever their circumstances, they have adequate care and support. These women are the women you and I know and love, and they deserve more than what the government is offering them now.

The big debate

I’ve been reading arguments from both sides of the abortion debate in newspapers, on Facebook, online and it even cropped up in a few books I read over Christmas. I’m seeing so much dribble, and I just can’t be silent about it anymore.

I keep hearing pro-lifers using the phrase “innocent life”. We must protect the “innocent life” of the unborn. It is as though this is the only focus. They are ignoring the quality of life, they are not giving due concern to the life of the mother, and they are not really thinking about how important life actually is, as far as I can see. If they really did care so much about life, they’d all be vegetarians who didn’t swat flies.  When I first started college, the bus I took had an ad plastered all over it about abortion tearing a woman’s life apart. I see posters in the bathrooms in university with the same message. I respect their point of view, but bullying women into thinking that they are evil for daring to even consider making a decision that they think is best for them is, in my mind, obnoxious.

I recently saw a pro-life page ask “Why are you pro-life?” and people commented in their hundreds. The two most common responses I saw were some form of religious reasoning and women simply saying “I have three kids, that’s all I need to think about or “I look at my beautiful daughters”. There is an obvious gaping hole in using that as an argument. It’s great that you love your children and adore them, that is what most women will feel about their children. But in using that as an argument against women who have abortions, you are in essence saying:
“I was pro-life about my pregnancy, so you should be pro-life about yours”
I can’t think of a more ridiculous argument, really. It is a total denial of the fact there there are countless women who are carrying unwanted pregnancies and that giving birth to them is either not the best option, or not an option at all. There is myriad of circumstances in which a woman could find herself unable to carry a pregnancy to term, and she shouldn’t have to justify a single one of them to someone who believes in denying her a termination just because they have children. This narrow-minded, judgmental view causes enough problems on a social level as it is, the last thing we need is for it to continue to allow much-needed legislation coming to pass. There’s surprisingly little research done on this topic, but this article deals with a massive study carried out in the US.

http://io9.com/5958187/what-happens-to-women-denied-abortions-this-is-the-first-scientific-study-to-find-out

The study outlines that even later abortion is safer than childbirth and women who carried an unwanted pregnancy to term are three times more likely than women who receive an abortion to be below the poverty level two years later.  I cannot wrap my head around any organisation that says it is ok for that to happen.  The emphasis from the pro-life side is entirely devoted to the unborn. They focus on making women feel guilty and emploring legislation that makes women feel like criminals in their own country for considering to have an abortion. I find that deplorable.

The fact of the matter is, too many people have died in this country, or have lived out their lives in misery because they do not have access to abortion clinics. Where were the pro-lifers when Anne Lovett died alone at the grotto? Do they think it’s better that she died alone and afraid? Would they have condemned her for having an abortion? What do they have to say about women who are physically unable to carry a pregnancy to full term? Where do they stand on rape victims? To me, they are so obsessed with the idea of life beginning at conception that they ignore the fact that women who are denied abortions are carrying an unwanted pregnancy and having an unwanted child. They fight for legislation to be kept to allow countless unwanted children  to be carried, and they don’t understand that women should not be obliged to carry a child simply because they have a womb. I find that unacceptable.

There is nothing said about the women who  have abortions and feel it was a good decision. I read Caitlin Moran’s “How To Be A Woman” over the holidays and she has an incredible, eye-opening chapter about her own experience with abortion. She had a miscarriage shortly before she was married and it was devastating. It was devastating because, as she puts herself, the baby was “so wanted”. She went on to have two daughters but had incredibly difficult births, the details of which are in the book. When she became pregnant again, she knew that she was simply unable to carry the pregnancy to full term. She was not in a position in life to have another child. Realistically, women shouldn’t need to give any more justification than that. She had an abortion, and she is still a perfectly good mother to her two daughters.

The idea that it is now 2013 and we still have to convince people that a woman being viewed as baby-making machine is wrong is just beyond me. The more dribble the pro-life side come out with, the angrier I get. I’ve seen videos that outright state “An abortion is never needed to save a woman’s life”. I know people who have received bigoted phone calls from pro-life organisations giving them the “facts” of abortions. This is absolute and utter nonsense. I don’t want to live in a country where I, or any other woman is made feel like a criminal or a bad person for making a decision about what happens in my body. Pro-choice is pro woman. Pro-choice makes a statement that we trust our women to be able to make decisions for themselves. Pro-choice is, as far as I am concerned, the only choice.