Things That Are Not What They Seem

Last month, bill C-484, the “Unborn Victims of Crime” Act passed second reading in the House of Commons, mainly because those who want it passed are passionate about it, while few in parliament can muster up much beyond an apathetic grunt on the “con” side. In the midst of media analysis almost exclusively focused on the baby-eating feminist demon, the National Post has finally published (web-only, natch) a response from Joyce Arthur of the Abortion Rights Coalition (via bastardlogic and fern hill) calling them out on:

  • the semantic danger of using the term “unborn child” in a legal document to refer to a fetus as soon as a woman even suspects she may be pregnant, at the same time as claiming that this bill in no way confers personhood on that “fetus”
  • the claim that the majority of the Canadian population supports a bill such as this one having come from a study conducted by an anti-abortion lobby group using exceptionally biasing language designed to make you look like a baby-eating demon if you wouldn’t support it
  • the near-constant repetition of the message “this has nothing to do with abortion, you’re all crazy and don’t even want to protect a pregnant woman from murder because you hate babies/motherhood/housewives so much” from those who are paid to spin their opinions (media and politicians) while the supporters from among the general public say things like “Those who know and understand science support C-484, for the science is clear – from the moment of conception, the fetus is really and truly human life” (quoted by fern hill)

It makes me nauseous to listen to people far for this schtick.

On the second quick note of things that are totally not what they seem except when they are, lots of blogs have been linking to this NY Times magazine article on Abstinence Clubs all growed up and gone to college. If you read the whole thing, you’ll find that this young woman sees her abstinence as a feminist decision that she has made in order to reclaim control over her body and counter the cultural pressure to have her body owned by men and obtained via sex. And I would love to support that decision (and if she were my friend or I knew her for real, I would do exactly that) as well as her reasons, but it saddens me to see an intelligent young woman unable to get at that one glaring thread running through the whole tangled concept, which is that her decision is now being used to allow the public male population to claim ownership of her body via her virginity.

Towards the end of the article, it talks about a fairly civil debate between this young woman and a local campus sex blogger, which, to the chagrin of most, did not turn into a hair pulling battle between the virgin and the whore. Despite their best attempts, however, the discussion on the subject became about which of the two was more marriageable, and the conclusion drawn by a few and projected (by them) onto “most guys” was that a “girl like Janie” was the one you would rather take home to Mom. And Janie loses by winning, because the sanctioning of why she’s good enough, the stated purpose and goal of her life, and yes, the ownership of her body, has been asserted based on her sexual choices.

And I can’t quite help but think that on some level, she knows that, and she’s actually exploiting the same kind of “empowerful” rhetoric that attempts to frame “Girls Gone Wild” as a feminist decision. Because “virginity is extremely alluring” is one of the scariest statements of brainwashed Stepfordism that ever I have seen, and when the New York Times reporter uses it as the repeated, number one choice quote for your story, you have to start to suspect that maybe something is up. The banner ad claiming that virginity in the Ivy League is, among other things “sexy and fun” just makes my head explode.

But of course, it’s not about caving to pressure for male approval at all. It just maybe seems that way, because of all the male approval being tossed around in order to remind you that if you step outside of this extremely rigidly defined role, everything you think you are will crumble and nothing you’ve wanted for your life will come true. Way to take the power back.

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4 thoughts on “Things That Are Not What They Seem

  1. Really excellent post… the whole virginity thing is fetishized to a fare-thee-well here in Bob Jones country. I find it very hard to believe it’s any kind of ‘feminist decision for autonomy’ with all the dudely wink-wink-nudge-nudge going on simultaneously.

  2. purtek says:

    Exactly. And honestly, though I know it sounds exceptionally condescending, I really do feel sorry for people who sincerely believe that stuff like this is empowering or countercultural (well, assuming they’re not getting all hostile and in your face about it). I mean, whatever works for you, given something like this, but the possibility of having it fall apart rather violently is just too apparent to me.

  3. BetaCandy says:

    Until things change, I think the only feminist thing women can do that involves sex is to set up enclaves where men are the sex objects, and treat them as such.

    Because it just seems like ANY move you make regarding your sex life is going to be interpreted as valid because men somewhere approve of it. While I’m not seriously suggesting that counter-objectification is the way to go, it would at least make a fucking point. Pun intended.

  4. purtek says:

    Well, it would make the point, but I, at least, wouldn’t get any actual pleasure out of such an arrangement, and that doesn’t really count among the “wins” in my world. On a serious note, the fact that even the question of how to behave in a feminist manner is dependent not on the action itself, but on its interpretation says something about subjectivity and agency on the part of women.

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