Friday, 14 June 2019

Ask Auntie Kate: Everybody’s Auntie, Nobody’s Fool …




Dear Auntie,

What’s a good comeback for someone who says, “only women who are raped deserve to have an abortion”? 

Thanks,
M

Well for starters, that’s a horrible thing to say. That’s like saying “only people who have their nose broken from an assault deserve to have it fixed” or “car accident victims only warrant medical help if another driver smashes into them on purpose”. A woman shouldn’t need to be degraded and violated to warrant a termination.

People have accidents. Sometimes they’re freak accidents. Others are accidents waiting to happen. Or worse yet, people hurt other people on purpose. The reason behind someone’s need for medical care shouldn’t dictate their right to it. 


I could go on and on about people’s right to safe abortion ... and I will.

People against abortion often disregard the lack of sex education, access to contraception, pathetic support for single mothers, children in foster care, basic human rights, etc. If ‘pro-lifers’ were truly ‘pro-life,’ they’d include those already living.


Women deserve control over their own bodies, as they are the ones to bear the hardships of pregnancy, breastfeeding and childcare.

And before the ‘Not-all Daves’ open their man-holes about the non-deadbeat, single dads caring for their own children, women are statistically waaaaaaayyyyy more likely to be primary carers of their kids. But thanks for pointing that out Dave.

I saw a tweet recently about how if we could automatically transfer unwanted pregnancies to the fathers, abortion laws would change overnight.

Women have a right to a sex life without pregnancy. We live in a society where babies have a huge, life changing impact on mental and physical health, finances, mobility, and careers. Not to mention social services andchild support are utterly inadequate and difficult to access.

Uteruses are only impregnatable a few days a month, for a few decades. In comparison, testicles create like a gajillion sperm daily, for a person's entire life. If the spermanators can fund Viagra research, they can fund better contraception options. AND, they can make them free and easily available.


One love,
Auntie K8


Dear Auntie,

Recently, one of my best male friends stopped talking to me because I wouldn’t go out with him. He said I was leading him on and that I ‘friend zoned’ him. I didn’t even know he liked me, and I don’t think of him like that anyway. I’ve tried to apologise, but he refuses to look at me. It’s awkward and I feel bad cos he’s a nice guy.

What do I do?

From,
Alyssa

Dear Alyssa,
         
I’m so sorry you lost what you thought was a good friend. It’s never nice when someone drops out of your life for a confusing and unfair reason. But, rest assured, this dude has done you a massive favour.

Whenever someone I cared about shows me they are actually a massive douche canoe, I think about Keanu Reeves’ character in the Matrix dodging bullets. Think of those bullets as chauvinistic constructs, and you are Keanu.


Text Box: youText Box: Horrible RelationshipText Box: Low self-esteem

For starters, (deeeeeep breath)

THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS THE FRIEND ZONE!!!

I have been salty about this topic for years! The ‘Friendzone’ is just another concept the ‘menz’ have invented to protect their precious, fragile egos. This ridiculous notion that so many men seem to think women owe them sex is hard evidence of how toxic the patriarchy is. It also proves men truly think everything we do is about them. We wear make-up to impress them, we get dressed up for them. If we are friendly or polite or showing skin we must want to have disappointing sex with them.

All roads lead to Sexland, and the ‘fake friend’ route, is an indirect, disheartening one. It is objectification on yet another creepy level, and also where ‘soft boys’ (men who are not outwardly or aggressively abusive or physical) justify the phantasmagorical ‘nice guys finish last’ phenomena.

I’m sorry (not sorry) to say, Alyssa, your “nice guy” was feigning friendship because his conditioned man-brain can’t comprehend the simple notion that you are a human being who is worthy of a platonic relationship. He has lurked around, pretending to value you as a person, thinking it will eventuate in sex.

This covert behaviour is almost worse than men who are directly abusive or sleezy, as it is so manipulative and underhanded it makes me want to vomit on their man-buns.

I know someone can develop genuine feelings for a friend, and if they truly respect and like you, they won’t hold it against you for not reciprocating. Rejection and feeling vulnerable is never great, but it does help you grow as a person. Engaging in a fabricated ‘friendship’ with someone you secretly want to bone in the hope they will too, only to act like an atomic dookie loaf when they don’t, is covert, predatory and reeks of misogyny. This situation is not your fault. You owe no apology.

Another underwhelming aspect of this shitastic scenario is how many men seem to be unable to separate platonic, emotionally supportive relationships with sexual relationships.

Let me mansplain …

Due to our culture of toxic masculinity, blokes are often shamed for crying, being sentimental, or showing angerless emotion. This mindset can lead to men feeling comfortable being vulnerable only in the safe spaces women create for them.

More often than not, this role is almost exclusively held by wives/girlfriends. So,  fellas struggle to comprehend how a woman can maintain emotional connection and support but not want a bit of afternoon delight. I believe men are getting better at talking about their "icky" feelings with each other, and that will relieve some of the burden of emotional labour we’ve been charged with.

All people reserve the right to personal preference to flirt without anything further, or to act friendly and affectionate without it being misinterpreted. Hell, we even deserve the free-will to feel initial attraction and then change our feelings! Inconceivable I know.

Etiquette surrounding flirting has become so confusing, we often struggle to decode if it’s even happening. There’s a simple solution: open your word hole and communicate. Make your intent clear in a respectful way, hopefully ascertain if it’s mutual, try not to take it personally if it’s not, and flirting is only flirting if it’s reciprocated. One-sided flirting is called ‘harassment’.

To conclude, there’s no such thing as ‘the friend-zone’. It’s called ‘being friends’, and you deserve good ones.


One love,
Auntie Kate




Kate Beth, our resident ranter here at TSF, has been a successful and inspiring role model for young people throughout her extensive, international, dance-teaching career.
Now a passionate eco-feminist, writer, activist, and lecturer, (and ex-professional dancer turned artist), Kate is currently completing her honours degree in sociology exploring art therapy, ‘bully culture’, and intersectionalism.
Kate is honoured to help empower young feminists with brilliant advice, facts, 
sass, and effective rebuttals to help unravel all the mansplaining, gaslighting, hair splitting, sealioning, red herrings, and entitlement, that is the patriarchy.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of the Sydney Feminists. Our Blogger and Tumblr serve as platforms for a diverse array of women to put forth their ideas and explore topics. To learn more about the philosophy behind TSF’s Blogger/ Tumblr, please read our statement here: https://www.sydneyfeminists.org/a


Thursday, 6 June 2019

Conservative Middle America and its Absurdist Abortion Laws: a Critical Assessment

In this piece, I will test the first of the two premises that underpin the wave of restrictive abortion legislative currently proliferating conservative America. The first premise is that a fetus is a person, which leads to the second premise that killing a person is wrong.  If legislation is built on premise one, it relies on the following being true: that fertilistion is the point at which a ‘person’ comes into being (in a legal sense), and this is the only morally relevant consideration across all possible circumstances that a person could seek an abortion.  So, all cases of abortion are murder and the rights of a mass of cells trump those of the person who keeps them viable, even in cases of rape or incest.

Good health and social policy should first do no harm and then preserve the freedoms of those the policy affects. Where restriction of freedoms is deemed necessary, a pragmatic approach is always best where freedoms are limited only as much as necessary to reach the desired outcome. So, any law that might mean women could be charged with a criminal offence for miscarrying a pregnancy is, by this metric, absurd.  The current onslaught of anti-abortion legislation bills passed by state governments across America will mean people can get lawfully charged with such an offence; this is the antithesis of good health and social policy.

I am gobsmacked that in 2019 old, white men are still policing women’s bodies and limiting our choices. It’s nearly one hundred years since women were confirmed as actual people in the eyes of the law. Since then, we have had to fight tooth and nail to demand each woman, and those who identify as woman, possess the full rights personhood bestows. Yet, old, male legislators still want to tinker in the ovarian affairs of others.




Image Description: Photo of white, male hands signing a legal document. 

It is an inescapable truth that nature bears down harder on women than men. None of us with the capacity to bear children were asked whether it was something we wanted; it was assigned in the genetic lottery. Given we had no choice in the development of the capacity to bear children, it is important then to protect the choices we do have, namely when, how, if, and with whom we have children.


For a group of people so against abortion, you would think the Conservative right would support more comprehensive sex education. Because that is a way in which we will reduce the number of people seeking abortions. And it is non-intrusive (in terms of freedom-limiting), whilst simultaneously promoting an equitable distribution of the burden of pregnancy between both responsible parties.

But if you thought that, then you are wrong.

According to the fine state of Alabama (whose Governor is a woman, no less) the way to stop unwanted pregnancy is to ban abortions. A law banning abortions does only that: ban legal abortion. It doesn’t concomitantly provide additional resources or assistance for those who are having sex or to those affected as a result.

How did a law of this kind even pass in state government, given it runs counter to the landmark Supreme Court ruling, Roe v Wade (1973)? According to Roe v Wade, a woman has a constitutional right to privacy that would be violated if abortions were banned.

According to legislators, though, the intent of Alabama’s law was to conflict with Roe v Wade. There’s a growing push from Conservative politicians to overturn it. And supporters are mobilising.  If enough States can demonstrate that their laws are unconstitutional then a case can be made to the Supreme Court to show that the original ruling is wrong and should be overturned.


 Image Description: Photo of a gavel sitting on its dais on a desk. 

Alabama’s law did not occur in isolation. Georgia recently signed off on a far more restrictive abortion law, making all abortions illegal after the detection of the first fetal heartbeat, which is around six weeks. This legislation was a savvy political powerplay by Georgia’s government.  By providing women six weeks to obtain a lawful abortion, it appears they are supporting a women’s right to choose. However, the law must have been written by a man, because women only suspect pregnancy when they miss their period and pregnancy is measured from the beginning of the last menstrual cycle. Most women will not know they are pregnant until the 5-6-week mark, leaving women next to no time to access an abortion in the peach state. In practical terms, Georgia’s law is effectively a ban on abortion. 

Additionally, Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio have each successfully restricted eligibility and access to safe and affordable abortions.

This step is a dangerous and regressive one for America.  All women will be worse off for it (especially if Roe v Wade is overturned). And, through the invocation of fetal rights, which is the basis on which all these new laws are supported, indigenous, black and poor women will be disproportionally worse off as a result.

In Western Countries, evidence shows people from lower socioeconomic areas will have children at a younger age and have more of them. They will also have some or all those children removed by the state, experience higher instances of sexual assault, and, experience chronic housing, work and income insecurity.



Image Description: Photo of the American Flag blowing in the wind. 

This law just adds an additional layer of difficulty to the already disadvantaged. Also, the children born as a result will no doubt be trapped in the poverty cycle, further demonstrating social and economic mobility and opportunity is not offered to everyone in the Land of the Free.

It is clear from what I have written above that these new, ultra-restrictive anti-abortion laws are inequitable and untethered to any sort of social program to assist those who can longer seek lawful abortions.  It is unfair to make pregnant women unintentional criminals through restrictive legislation like this. Let’s call a spade a spade here too. This law is patently racist and classist. Wealthy white woman with unwanted pregnancies will still be able to safely access one.

Let’s look at the legislation in further detail. Across all jurisdictions, the ability to effectively ban abortion services hinges on the legal status of the fetus. Let me state the legal status of a fetus is a debate that has been going on for a very long time – medical doctors, scientists, philosophers, even theologians have never reached a consensus. The lawmaker’s in Alabama have not suddenly found the answer. They simply predicate the claim on God’s providence: God sees all life as precious and tells as via His commandments to not commit murder. According to Alabama, a fetus is a person. So, aborting a fetus is equivalent to murder and therefore should be banned.

I am confident an unborn child will, at some point during the gestational journey, become a rights-holding person. What I am not confident about and what causes issues for lawmakers, is when that point is. What does God say on the matter? Well, there is no evidence in the Bible that God believed life begins when an egg is fertilised. But, if I hazard a guess, I would interpret the beginning of life as being His gifting Adam and Eve this through His breath (which is an enduring, life-giving motif throughout the bible). 


If at week 12, the fetus is considered a child, under the conservative fetal-rights model a woman could lawfully get an abortion the day before her scan or the day after. Now, having a date limit of when a woman can legally access abortion is a standard feature of abortion law and regulation. However, the date limit becomes important because it highlights an incompatibility of outcomes. See, the medical procedure would presumably be the same either side of the 12-week scan appointment and therefore is irrelevant to its legality. Lawfulness is determined by what day the woman chooses to terminate.  So, if you’re a lawmaker whose laws equate abortion with murder, you either have to admit some ‘murders’ are permissible or give the fetus personhood status as early as possible.  The Conservatives have gone for the latter of these options. But the result creates two new problems.


Image Description: Photo of an African woman looking down at her pregnant belly and holding it tenderly.
 
The first problem is that moderate people who might otherwise consider themselves anti-abortion still believe abortion should be permissible in cases where the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest. This permissibility derives from the unique set of circumstances the pregnant woman experienced. It provides some nuance in how a better legislator might go about reform of abortion laws. If your stance on abortion relies on the status of the fetus, then you would have to force pregnant rape victims and incest survivors to carry their attacker’s child to term or you would have to accept some murders are permissible. No guessing where Alabama landed on that one.

The second new issue when you assign personhood to a fertilised egg is you then have two rights-holders occupying one body. One of those rights-holders (the mother) has an initial duty to carry the baby to term. What happens if their rights conflict? Say the mother develops a heart condition brought on by pregnancy and her doctors advise her she may suffer a deadly heart event during labour. What happens then? Under the fetal-rights based laws, she is forced into a tragic dilemma – fulfil her duty to the other rights-holder and carry the child to term, which will likely end her life, or find a back-alley abortionist to terminate the pregnancy, which is itself risky. In choosing the latter, though, the state could lawfully charge the woman with second-degree murder.

Anti-abortionists may commiserate about the unfortunateness of the situation whilst simultaneously pointing out how rare it is. But they still must maintain that the woman is duty-bound to sacrifice her life to ensure the viability of the unborn child.  This is another way of telling women our individual lives are less valuable than the mass of cells in our wombs.  Anti-abortionists might also say ‘what a tragic situation. BUT she would still be alive today if she had not had the back-alley abortion.’ Which is no different than saying, “your ability to make decisions about your body is always trumped by the mass of cells you are carrying.”  

To close, I want to add a final nail to the coffin of fetus-rights based anti-abortion arguments. I will do so by looking at what God says about abortion in the Bible – because He does talk about them. Interestingly, what the Bible said is never what the Conservatives use.  First and foremost, abortion is not listed in the bible among crimes warranting the death penalty. Without even looking at a bible, I bet murder is on thereFurther, if a pregnant woman is found guilty of committing adultery, then, through God’s will, she will miscarry that pregnancy.  And lastly, when abortion is overtly referenced in the bible it is to show the circumstance under which it is permissible: an injured woman can abort her child if she provides adequate financial compensation to her husband. 


Image Description: Photo of a person holding a Bible. A crucifix is visible at the top of the book.

The Bible does not say all abortion is wrong. Using an unborn child to exact punishment against women shows no life is worth protecting above all other considerations, including restricting the choices of women. 

By: Rachael Thurston

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of the Sydney Feminists. Our Blogger and Tumblr serve as platforms for a diverse array of women to put forth their ideas and explore topics. To learn more about the philosophy behind TSF’s Blogger/ Tumblr, please read our statement here: https://www.sydneyfeminists.org/a

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