A few good links

  • A truly wonderful, thoughtful and sad Feministe post considers whether or not the abortion debate is futile. If you read just one post today…

  • Larry Lessig, looking back on his loss on the “Mickey Mouse Copyright Extension Case” before the Supreme Court, writes an extended – and surprisingly interesting – mea culpa.
  • I don’t often agree with pro-lifers, but in this case they’re right. The NEA has no business sponsering a pro-choice march, not if they still expect their pro-life members to pay dues. Via – actually, I can’t remember who this was via. Probably either After Abortion or Eve Tushnet.
  • Decent In These Times article on young feminists of color. The criticisms of institution feminism for being too white aren’t anything new, but they’re still worth reading.
  • Old Oligarch’s Painted Stoa, a conservative intellectual Catholic blog, is the sort of blog that’s interesting to me because it’s like reading an almost totally alien culture. He seems like a nice, intelligent, very thoughtful guy; and yet there’s no point in my even attempting to argue with him, because he and I probably don’t have a single shared premise in our ethical worlds. Anyhow, of particular interest to feminists might be his account of protesting an “abortuary” on Easter (one pro-choice person there noticed the large crowd of protestors and said “heh! Christmas and Easter,” which the Old Oligarch found offensive, but I think is pretty giggleworthy); and also his very long discussion of why women are banned from the priesthood. In his account of the protest, by the way, there’s a brief cameo appearance of Human Life International, a pro-life group founded by noted anti-semite Paul Marx. Via Eve Tushnet.
  • Via Rad Geek, a New Yorker profile of Boodocks cartoonist (or, I should say, co-cartoonist; it turns out that the strip is actually drawn by Jennifer Seng nowadays, without credit on the strip itself. Feh!) Aaron McGruder. McGruder comes across as kinda a jerk, but that doesn’t change the fact that after 9/11, he was by far the gutsiest and best political cartoonist in the papers. He’s quite right to say that he deserved the Pulitzer that year.
  • Sara at Diotima has two interesting posts on feminism, choice and respecting the choices women make, here and here. I especially liked the second post, because it quotes extensively from Heidi Hartmann’s classic essay on feminism and Marxism.

    As for the issue itself, I’ve never seen a contradiction; it seems to me that by recognizing that the choices women (and men) get to make are constrained by the choices society makes reasonably available to them; and by agitating for women and men to be presented with a wider menu of options to choose from, feminists are, in the end, arguing for more choice.

  • Sara at Diotima also points to two good Women’s Enews articles on “cutting,” self-injury among young women (here and here). Some researchers seem to beleive that cutting is increasing; however, I wonder if they’re not mistaking the way that the internet has made cutting more visible for increased frequency. Certainly, there were female classmates who were cutting themselves when I went to high school in the 80s.

    A more interesting question, for me, is: why is cutting apparently an overwhelmingly female act? (Historically, in some Native American cultures, I’m told but don’t know if it’s true, young men used to cut themselves to show off what macho warriers they are – not unlike G. Gordon Liddy holding his hand in the flame – but that’s not the same thing). A researcher talks about increased loneliness, isolation from more computer-activities, and “feeling invisible” (was there ever a time when teens didn’t feel invisible?), but nothing about that happens to girls alone, so why are girls the ones cutting themselves?

    Sara also points out that we have to look at external factors, rather than treating cutting only as an individual problem, and I quite agree.

    One last question: if there is an increase in negative self-mutilation among girls, is it at all connected to the increase in what I’ll call positive self-mutilation among teens – tatoos and piercings?

  • A surprisingly interesting profile of Margaret Marshall, chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court, focusing on the Goodridge decision. (The author of the piece seems a bit biased against the Goodridge decision, alas).
  • I’m not sure how many readers have followed the case of Ono Ekeh, an employee of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops who was fired because – although he self-identifies as pro-life – he didn’t toe the pro-line line on his blog and on the “Catholics for Kerry” web forum. In this op-ed piece, he defends his views, and in the process becomes a pro-lifer I have a lot of respect for:
    Catholics are called on to promote a culture of life. Reducing the number of abortions is not the sole determinant of the pro-life platform, even though it is a vital component. Life does begin at conception but does not end at birth. Our goal is to fight for the dignity of life in all its manifestations, from conception to death. With a goal as complex as this, does it not stand to reason that there could be more than one way of reasonably promoting a culture of life?

    The conservative approach to reducing the number of abortions is a “supply-side” approach. The idea here is to criminalize abortion providers, thus resulting in a reduction in the number of abortions. Unfortunately, eliminating abortion providers is much like trying to solve the drug problem by solely going after drug suppliers, but ignoring demand. It is a fact of market dynamics that as long as demand exists, there will be supply.

    Pro-life moderates and liberals embrace the “demand-side” approach. This approach seeks to reduce the number of abortions by addressing the social issues that compel too many women to contemplate what would normally be unthinkable. If social conditions were changed so that women were empowered, and if we effectively addressed issues such as health care, child care, family leave, wage inequity, domestic violence and other women’s issues, we could reasonably expect a significant reduction in the number of abortions in the United States. For instance, 21 percent of abortions in the United States are a result of inadequate finances. This category of women, though not exhaustive, represents a very fixable opportunity. Consider the following simplified example. If a woman for whom inadequate finances were the primary reason to consider an abortion is confident that there would be assistance to compensate for her lack of finances, the lack of finances then weighs less in her deliberations.

    This demand-side approach will take time and does not immediately make abortions rare, but our goal is to change a culture, not just a law. This approach is a steady tide that lifts all boats of human dignity. It seems that this is a reasonable means of attaining the goal of a culture of life even if different from the process laid out by traditional pro-lifers.

    So maybe there are some pro-lifers out there we can work with.

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12 Responses to A few good links

  1. 1
    PinkDreamPoppies says:

    McGruder doesn’t even draw his own strips anymore and doesn’t give credit to his artist?

    I never really liked the guy or his strip all that much, but I like him even less now. What a dick.

  2. 2
    Echidne says:

    The self-cutting thing may be related to some other conditions where an essential mammalian self-grooming or nest-building instinct has gone haywire. The other examples of is hair-plucking (including eyelashes) and the rather common condition among the elderly of never throwing anything away, including paper bags and envelopes (nest-building instinct gone wrong). I suspect that much of obsessive-compulsive behavior falls into this same group (hand-washing etc.).

    This doesn’t mean that the cause would be all biological, or at all biological. I can think of cases where some sort of a trauma or shock can wreak havoc with the brain and make certain response patterns more frequent than they should be. I suffer from flying fobia, and I can clearly see how I stressed myself to a point where a bad flight cracked something in me. That may be a trivial example, but something similar might be going on for the self-mutilators as well.

    And Lauren’s article is excellent, but it sent me straight to the doldrums. How to speak to someone who is so fundamentally different? I agree that it probably can’t be done, but I also suspect that there are people whose opinions on abortion are not well or carefully thought out, and (unless they’re pro-life just be misogynistic,) it’s possible sometimes to build some bridges here.

  3. 3
    Ampersand says:

    PinkDreamPoppies, he does credit her, in forums like the New Yorker profile I linked to; he just doesn’t credit her on the strip itself.

    That may sound like a fine distinction. But too many comic strips that are drawn (or co-drawn) by assistants don’t even give the assistants that much credit.

  4. 4
    PinkDreamPoppies says:

    But let’s be honest about this, which is a person more likely to read: the comic strip, or a New Yorker profile? It’s good that he gives her credit in interviews, and it sucks that other assistants don’t get any credit at all, but that doesn’t change the fact that the person who is doing at least 1/3 of the work behind that strip is being ignored quite publicly. Perhaps I’m over-sensitive as an artist, or perhaps I’m less sympathetic toward Mr. McGruder than I might be toward another cartoonist on account of my disliking him, or at the least his public image, but the distinction seems to be so fine as to almost be meaningless. Then again, I’m not much of a cartoonist myself, so maybe I just don’t get it.

  5. 5
    lucia says:

    Thanks for the link to the Stoa. It made me laugh!

    I should warn you: Never link to Catholic stuff when one of the readers went to Catholic schools. You risk the danger of serious boredom!

    Reading Stoa, I thought to myself: Why can’t I write phrases like:
    ” early Eastern monastics’ development of eschatology in their desire for mystical unity with the kingdom of heaven while here on earth”

    (Uhmmm… is he referring to the gnostic heresy? Manichean or Messalian heresy? Surely not the Arian heresy? So many heresies, so little time!)

    And this obscure referene, in an introduction to his discussion of women in the priesthood. Before getting to the subject, let’s not skip an opportunity to discuss abortions.


    Once he finally gets to the discussion of why women aren’t priests, he does seem to be familiar with a lot of early church writings and doings. Wading through all he writes, his “reason” to bar women priests seems to be this:

    In the context of public worship, Paul writes to Timothy: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man” (1 Tim 3:12), and “As in all the churches of the holy ones, women should keep silent in the churches, for they are not allowed to speak, but should be subordinate” (1 Cor. 14:33-34)

    This topic was discussed pretty often when I was a kid. During the late ’70s, my dad’s said as far as he could tell, the above meant:

    Women can’t be priests because priests are in charge To stay in charge, the position must be high status. If women were priests, the status of the position would fall. Then men would no longer want to be priests. If we allow priests, we will end up with a shortage. So, no women priests.

    My father is, was and always shall be a devout Roman Catholic, but not a theologian. Although he could be seriously misguided, this was the impression he developed attenting Catholic Schools his whole life. (Christian Brothers then Jesuits.) I’ll admit, I never paid much attention myself, and it’s possible Dad’s understanding of the theology is wrong.

    In anycase, the RC now has a severe shortage of priests. So, forbidding women priests does not seem sufficient to guarantee a super abundance of priests.

  6. 6
    Joe M. says:

    I’ve seen this said somewhere else, but I can’t remember where. Anyway, the last guy you quoted, who was fired for his work for Kerry, said, “This demand-side approach will take time and does not immediately make abortions rare, but our goal is to change a culture, not just a law.”

    Well, where is the evidence that Kerry wants to change the culture so as to make abortions rarer? Hasn’t he done absolutely everything in his power to go in the opposite direction? I mean, he even voted against the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (which explicitly didn’t apply to abortion), on the theory that if you actually punish someone for murdering an unborn baby who is wanted by its mother, that might be inconsistent with Roe. Goodness knows, we wouldn’t want to punish murderers if that meant taking the slightest action that might theoretically be seen by some people as conflicting (in a purely academic sense) with Roe.

  7. 7
    Simon says:

    Thanks for the link to Ono Ekeh. At last, an explanation for a question that’s baffled me for years: why so many anti-abortion activists seem to be more interested in making abortion illegal than in actually cutting down on the number of abortions. I always presumed they just figured that once it was illegal, they could wash their hands of it. Instead, they’re supply-siders. Ah. I realize that’s pretty much the same as saying “They’re idiots,” but at least it’s a known, specific type of idiocy.

  8. 8
    emjaybee says:

    Yes thank your for that last link, especially. When I was a pro-lifer, I was always in the same position as that writer. I was always distressed by the lack of context–of understanding why a woman might want to have an abortion–within the movement. It was pretty obvious that it wasn’t because women were too stupid or evil to keep from getting pregnant unnecessarily. But that was the assumption that seemed to underlie so many of the actions the pro-life movement would take.

    Ironically, one of the reasons I became pro-choice was the realization that a pro-choice society that gave young girls and women more healthcare, birth control, and opportunity would actually end up with *fewer* unwanted pregnancies–and fewer abortions.

    And that the pro-life agenda, if consistently carried out, would make every action a woman of reproductive age takes subject to scrutiny and criminal prosecution. I don’t like abortion, I find it ethically troublesome. But I don’t want the society that would result from banning it. I would much rather make a world where it was simply unnecessary.

  9. 9
    Simon says:

    I’m with you, emjaybee. I’m very uneasy about abortion, but I’m not going to force my uneasiness on other people, the more so as for my physiology abortion is purely an academic question.

    Shouldn’t I want to protect the innocent? Well, a pregnant woman is not guilty in my book, and the fetus has never historically been considered a full human being – when slaves were 3/5ths of a person, a fetus was 0/5ths – and to pretend otherwise is purest sophistry. The crocodile tears being shed for the fetus now are merely a device, as demonstrated by the anti-abortionists’ stunning lack of interest in the child once it gets born.

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