On the Tragedy of Deaths of People Who Never Lived

John Scalzi gave us this rather disturbing post, which highlights all the ways in which the GOP’s current legislation around reproductive rights, and their rhetoric about rape, empowers violent men to control women’s lives. Think Sharron Angle, Todd Akin, Roger Rivard, and most recently, Richard Mourdock. If you have experienced any level of sexual assault, I advise you to proceed with EXTREME CAUTION. It’s a very effective post, but for the same reason can be triggering.

I don’t really have anything to add to Scalzi’s analysis. If you think that it would be so much nicer if all those women who are made pregnant by rapists could just have the babies adopted, rather than terminate the pregnancies, I suggest you read the post. Think adoption makes everyone happy? Seriously: read the post.

Scalzi’s focus is on the relationship between sexual violence and reproductive freedom (or the lack thereof), rather than a comprehensive argument in favor of abortion rights, and the comments are mostly very pro-choice and pro-woman. There are some comments, however, that want to convince us of why Abortion = BAD. I want to show you one of them, and I want to respond to it.

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All-China Women’s Federation Insults Single Women

Leta Hong Fincher at NYT shows us how the All-China Women’s Federation, which was founded in 1949 by the Communist Party to “protect women’s rights and interests,” is trying to scare single young women into lowering their standards. They really do not mince words.

Pretty girls don’t need a lot of education to marry into a rich and powerful family, but girls with an average or ugly appearance will find it difficult. These kinds of girls hope to further their education in order to increase their competitiveness. The tragedy is, they don’t realize that as women age, they are worth less and less, so by the time they get their M.A. or Ph.D., they are already old, like yellowed pearls.

How many bullshit misogynist beliefs can you pack into a short paragraph?

Is it really so unlikely that many young women are pursuing higher education because they want to be highly educated and have ambitious careers? Is it possible that some women want to be professors, attorneys, physicians, historians, or otherwise noted experts in their fields? Do you really think they go to all that trouble just to make themselves more interesting for potential husbands? Does it take an M.A. or Ph.D. to get an MRS?

Many highly educated “leftover women” are very progressive in their thinking and enjoy going to nightclubs to search for a one-night stand, or they become the mistress of a high official or rich man. It is only when they have lost their youth and are kicked out by the man, that they decide to look for a life partner. Therefore, most “leftover women” do not deserve our sympathy.

Don’t sleep around, ladies! Don’t spend your 20s having fun and fucking all the dudes you want! You need to marry the first guy who shows an interest, or else you’ll be old and single. And by “old” we mean over 27.

The main reason many girls become “leftover women” is that their standards for a partner are too high … As girls are not too picky, finding a partner should be as easy as blowing away a speck of dust.

Can you find the contradiction in this statement?

When holding out for a man, if you say he must be rich and brilliant, romantic and hardworking … this is just being willful. Does this kind of perfect man exist? Maybe he does exist, but why on earth would he want to marry you?

So, how are single men supposed to set their standards for potential mates? There are actually more men under a certain age in China than women, so what kind of advice are men getting to make themselves more appealing to eligible young women?

This is possibly the best part:

When you find out that he is having an affair, you may be in a towering rage, but you must know that if you make a fuss, you are denying the man “face” … No man is capable of spending a lifetime being loyal to an outmoded wife who never changes … Try changing your hairstyle or your fashion. Women must constantly change for the better.

*blogger pours herself some more vodka*

What the effing shit.

Ms. Hong Fincher explains the agency’s motivation:

Curious, I searched the Women’s Federation Web site and found that it posted its first article on “leftover” women in 2007, shortly after China’s State Council issued an edict on strengthening the Population and Family Planning program to address “unprecedented population pressures.” These pressures include the sex-ratio imbalance — which “causes a threat to social stability” — and the “low quality of the general population, which makes it hard to meet the requirements of fierce competition for national strength,” according to the State Council. The State Council names “upgrading population quality (suzhi)” as one of its key goals, and appoints the Women’s Federation as a primary implementer of its population planning policy.

What better way to upgrade population quality than to frighten “high-quality” women into marrying and having a child for the good of the nation?

Let’s get this much out of the way: Eugenics is SO 1930s. We see through your “population quality” nonsense, China.

The sex-ratio imbalance is significant. The agency’s scare-mongering of single women makes it sound like their country is suffering a serious shortage of single men.

It is a well-documented fact that, due to the combined pressures of their one-child policy and the cultural preference for sons, there are significantly more men than women in the Chinese population of marriageable age. A man shortage is the very opposite of China’s problem in “population pressures.”

They’re not worried about women being unable to find men who want to marry them. The All-China Women’s Federation is really looking out for the interests of “leftover” men. They’re trying to minimize the number of men who can’t have families by convincing women that their time is running out. They could try giving men advice on how to make themselves more attractive to women, because, let’s face it, women in China can afford to be choosy in ways that men can’t, but that would require the government to acknowledge that men are not superior to women in every way.

I understand that there is a healthy rate of population decline, and it is possible to go beyond it, but perhaps the Chinese government should have thought about that before they instituted a one-child policy in a culture that views daughters as dead weight. If the problem really is a matter of women having expectations that men can’t meet, then there should be a campaign of teaching men how to be better partners so that women will be more likely to have their one baby apiece. There would still be some men left out, unless they also decide to encourage polyandry, but if the emphasis were on teaching men how to improve themselves, it might actually achieve the goal of persuading more women to get married.

That is, of course, assuming that China suffers from legions of women holding out for the man who is “rich and brilliant, romantic and hard-working,” which I doubt. I think it’s more likely that some Chinese women just don’t want to get married or raise a kid. They want to be highly educated, have interesting jobs, and spend their younger years having a good time. They’re not looking for Mr. Right because they don’t need him. Perhaps China is a victim of its own success in population control. Many young women see that the population density is too damn high, and they figure they’re doing their country a favor by not adding one more human being per couple to the country’s already-limited real estate. Or perhaps marriage is unappealing to them because men have been taught to believe that they can sleep around and then blame it on the wife for not keeping her hairstyle up to date.

I will offer a reality check: if a man in a population with China’s sex-ratio imbalance cheats on his wife, it’s not because his wife isn’t keeping up his interest, it’s because HE’S A FUCKING MORON.

I tell you, China is pissing me off. I gave them a uniquely varied approach to gender roles in the post-Plague world of Charlinder’s Walk, and the All-China Women’s Federation is partying like it’s 1955. They target highly educated women and treat them like they have peanut shells for brains. It’s safe to assume that a woman with an M.A. or higher knows how to count, and understands what her country’s ratio of females to males implies.

Message to the Chinese government: “high-quality” women do not owe their vaginas to your men, or their uteri to your tax rolls. You would make far better use of their training and qualifications if you appreciated them for their brains.

Roger Rivard: “Bitches be lyin’.”

Keep on putting that foot in your mouth, Wisconsin state Rep. Roger Rivard! While we’re at it, what do you think of this lovely length of rope I’m holding?

He told the Journal Sentinel that his father had advised him not to have premarital sex, and he took that seriously.

“He also told me one thing, ‘If you do (have premarital sex), just remember, consensual sex can turn into rape in an awful hurry,’ ” Rivard said. “Because all of a sudden a young lady gets pregnant and the parents are madder than a wet hen and she’s not going to say, ‘Oh, yeah, I was part of the program.’ All that she has to say or the parents have to say is it was rape because she’s underage. And he just said, ‘Remember, Roger, if you go down that road, some girls,’ he said, ‘they rape so easy.’

“What the whole genesis of it was, it was advice to me, telling me, ‘If you’re going to go down that road, you may have consensual sex that night and then the next morning it may be rape.’ So the way he said it was, ‘Just remember, Roger, some girls, they rape so easy. It may be rape the next morning.’

“So it’s been kind of taken out of context.”

Dude honestly thinks that this explanation makes his earlier remarks seem less offensive. He’s just elaborating on his father’s advice that young women falsely report rape to escape the stigma of having sex.

“Oh, no, I was stupid enough to open my legs with a dude, and now I’m knocked up! People are going to judge me for enjoying peen, and my social standing will never recover. You know what’ll make this go my way? I’m going to accuse my partner of a violent crime,  and assuming the police actually do anything to pursue the case, I’m going to spend months with my vagina under scrutiny! I want to be asked how many guys I’ve boned. I want to hear people discussing what I was wearing at the time, how I must have provoked him, and why I was stupid enough to ‘let’ him do it. I want my name to be dragged through the mud for months if the prosecution gets far enough to take the case to trial. That’ll be so much better for my reputation than admitting that I let a guy into my pants.”

SAID NO WOMAN EVER.

Do you think that our culture really needs to be more suspicious of survivors who report their rapes than it is now? Do you think we should be more skeptical in general of women’s reports of the violence they’ve endured? Do you think we should do even more to encourage women* to think extra-hard before they report rape? Do you think that women generally prefer the attention they receive in response to crying rape over the social consequences of having consensual sex with the same guy?

Because if those are your attitudes, then you probably don’t think very well of women and girls. If you’re an elected official who expresses those views in a public setting, a lot of female voters might even think they can’t trust you.

ETA: *The can of worms that opens up when a woman reports a rape is bad enough, but this goes double for men who are raped.

It gets so much worse than that, Dr. Hampikian.

In a random fit of “What brought that on?”, the New York Times has run an op-ed from Greg Hampikian about how the entire male sex is becoming increasingly irrelevant to human life. Being a professor of both Biology and Criminal Justice, Dr. Hampikian gives us both the physiological:

Then, at some point, your father spent a few minutes close by, but then left. A little while later, you encountered some very odd tiny cells that he had shed. They did not merge with you, or give you any cell membranes or nutrients — just an infinitesimally small packet of DNA, less than one-millionth of your mass.

Over the next nine months, you stole minerals from your mother’s bones and oxygen from her blood, and you received all your nutrition, energy and immune protection from her. By the time you were born your mother had contributed six to eight pounds of your weight. Then as a parting gift, she swathed you in billions of bacteria from her birth canal and groin that continue to protect your skin, digestive system and general health. In contrast, your father’s 3.3 picograms of DNA comes out to less than one pound of male contribution since the beginning of Homo sapiens 107 billion babies ago.

The hand-wringing about infinitesimal mass is a red herring; no matter how tiny in terms of body weight contributed, children nevertheless walk around with approximately 50% of their fathers’ DNA. The irony to that figure is that, since the X chromosome is bigger than the Y, boys actually get fewer genes from their fathers than do girls, but I digress. We might as well be talking about how much my Lion OS weighs down my MacBook.

That said, his point is taken, and his perspective is appreciated, that once the sperm has been procured, all the biological work of making a human being falls on the mother. And since we now have frozen sperm and other ARTs, women don’t really need to deal with men if our goal is to make more of ourselves. This is not exactly a new idea, and yet somehow, most women are still actively heterosexual.

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Merida is a raging badass.

In a day that was way more trouble than it was worth until the movie began, I went downtown and saw Brave.

First of all: fabulous movie. Totally worth the endless procession of ads and previews the theater made us sit through before they started the feature.

Second: surprisingly enough, I actually don’t mind the trope of the fierce redhead heroine. As a person who had to go through the hassle of growing up a red-haired child, I think there’s some truth to the idea of redhead girls as ferocious and independent. It’s not that we’re born that way, it’s that we develop that way as a survival mechanism. If you had to deal with the attention that I did growing up, you’d be fierce and stubborn, too.

It is a very thoughtful, nuanced study of a mother-daughter relationship, first and foremost. It wouldn’t be a kids’ movie if they did an honest exploration of the horrors of forced marriage, but they give the topic its due within the limits of the target audience by pointing out that actually, it is not in the interests of a couple of teenagers to be set up in a marriage for reasons other than that they have actually gotten to know each other and decided they want to marry. Most of all, it’s about the relationship between Merida and her mother, Elinor. If there’s a basic no-brainer life lesson, it is: when you purchase a magic spell to make your mom act differently, you need to be specific about the changes to be made. Otherwise you will end up turning your mom into a dangerous wild animal and plunging your kingdom into pandemonium. Just saying.

 

There is no safety in numbers for women in Cairo.

Via Ophelia Benson, a protest against sexual assault in Cairo turned to shit when a mob of men attacked the marchers. Benson asks,

What is the matter with them? What the hell is their point – that assaulting women is good? That women’s wish not to be assaulted is evil and deserving of punishment in the form of assault?

Yes, I think that about covers it. I think the assaulting men wished to convey the message that women who ask not to be assaulted are evil and will be punished with more assault. We don’t want them thinking they own their lives and get to leave the house whenever they want. Soon they might start thinking they’re actual human beings, or something.

 

Sister Margaret Farley is awesome; cue the Vatican’s tantrum.

Tom Kington via Raw Story tells us about the badassery of Sister Margaret Farley, a professor of Christian ethics at Yale, who has written a book that sounds like it takes some very sensible positions on sexuality. Does this mean the Vatican is throwing a fit at her? Does a deer shit in the woods?

The statement singles out Farley’s claim that many women “have found great good in self-pleasuring – perhaps especially in the discovery of their own possibilities for pleasure – something many had not experienced or even known about in their ordinary sexual relations with husbands or lovers.”

Masturbation, she concludes, “actually serves relationships rather than hindering them”. That view, the Vatican stated, contradicted the Catholic belief that masturbation is a “gravely disordered action”.

Farley’s approval of gay sex ignored “Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity”, while her backing for gay unions was tantamount to “approval of deviant behaviour,” the Vatican said. Her openness to divorce and remarriage was deemed as “contravening God’s law”.

Sister Margaret Farley says that masturbation is awesome, including for women, that gay sex and same-sex unions are fine, and that divorce is something that sometimes needs to happen.

The Vatican’s doctrinal office says that women should never feel free to to enjoy the awesomeness that is the clit, that queer folk are objectively disordered, and that you should stay in a shitty marriage forever rather than get divorced.

I’m sure the Vatican would rather she follow the lead of Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, who continues to rail against marriage equality and contraceptive access and has paid hush money to child-raping priests in Milwaukee to get them out of the way.

Sister Farley is a voice of sanity, compassion and realism, while the berobed old men at the Vatican are advocates for misery, hate and self-loathing.

ALL THE BABIES

Heh heh.

While the “every sperm is sacred” amendment is clever, I would like to propose something that can actually be enforced, and which would give the legislators in question a chance to put their love of children into practice. It would be an answer to this question here:

Between the years of 1907 and 2008, only 77 women have been elected to the Oklahoma state legislature, and currently less than 20 is serving out of a total 149. But who better to pass laws about women’s bodies than a group of men who will never have to worry about the consequences of their religious zealotry?

Who says they won’t have to worry about the consequences of their religious zealotry?

The next time a state legislature is frothing up one of these “defeat the scourge of women who are not perennially pregnant” bills, let’s attach an amendment that creates the following conditions:

1. The state will allow for Safe Haven dropoffs of infants up to 30 days. The state will similarly provide special shelters for homeless pregnant women and girls.

2. The state will release to the public the home addresses of all the state lawmakers who voted Yes on the bill.

3. All of those lawmakers’ homes will be considered Safe Haven zones for unwanted newborns AND special shelters for pregnant women and girls facing parental rejection, domestic violence and extreme poverty. Those homes will be held legally responsible for the safe placement of all newborns left at their doors and for the provision of shelter, food, clothing, medical care and protection from violent partners for all pregnant females seeking assistance.

You think babies are so awesome that women should be legally forced to gestate and birth indefinitely? They’ll be coming (both the women and the babies) to your doorstep. Have plenty of beds ready.

 

American Nuns > Vatican

I think it’s time for a new schism.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an umbrella organization which involves 80% of U.S. Catholic sisters, is having the hammer brought down on it by the Vatican for not being a pack of bigoted assholes. I wish that were an exaggeration:

The Vatican’s assessment, issued on Wednesday, said that members of the group, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, had challenged church teaching on homosexuality and the male-only priesthood, and promoted “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

Yeah, I’ll bet they say things like, “A mother of four should not be left to die of pregnancy-related causes.”

The sisters were also reprimanded for making public statements that “disagree with or challenge the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.” During the debate over the health care overhaul in 2010, American bishops came out in opposition to the health plan, but dozens of sisters, many of whom belong to the Leadership Conference, signed a statement supporting it — support that provided crucial cover for the Obama administration in the battle over health care.

Yep. Women who support universal health care need to STFU, while old guys in fancy robes, who would rather let Americans die by the millions of preventable causes than tolerate birth control coverage, are the “authentic teachers of faith and morals.”

“I’m stunned,” said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby founded by sisters. Her group was also cited in the Vatican document, along with the Leadership Conference, for focusing its work too much on poverty and economic injustice, while keeping “silent” on abortion and same-sex marriage.

Oh, yes. Oh fucking yes. The nuns care too much about alleviating poverty, and not enough about demonizing gays or attacking women who think they get to control their reproduction.

Oddly enough, I don’t even recall Jesus saying anything about homosexuality or abortion. This is the guy who hung out with a bunch of single men and a woman of ill-repute. He did, however, have some strong opinions about how we treat the poor.

Sisters, you all are so much cooler than your church. Break away from those ridiculous bigots. Start your own religion: the Church of Actually Giving a Shit About Humanity. All the Catholics who are horrified at the Church for their homophobia, misogyny and support of child-raping priests but who keep making noises about “social justice” and “ritual” will have a better place to give their money and time. The ones who want their religion to be more focused on persecuting gays, letting pregnant women die, and preaching against using condoms to prevent the spread of HIV, can fend for themselves.

You’re better than they are, and they’re not even trying to hide how threatened they are by that. Let those assholes rot.