Willow Smith's Hair: Gender, Race, and White Feminism

Over the holiday weekend, this quote from Will Smith on his daughter Willow's choice of hairstyle flew about the intertubes, making the rounds of the feminisphere on tumblr, twitter, and showing up on a few of the bigger blogs as well:
“We let Willow cut her hair. When you have a little girl, it’s like how can you teach her that you’re in control of her body? If I teach her that I’m in charge of whether or not she can touch her hair, she’s going to replace me with some other man when she goes out in the world. She can’t cut my hair but that’s her hair. She has got to have command of her body. So when she goes out into the world, she’s going out with a command that is hers. She is used to making those decisions herself. We try to keep giving them those decisions until they can hold the full weight of their lives.”
I reblogged it when I saw it, with a comment about "Parenting, ur doin it right," as did most of the other people I saw reblogging it.

But this morning, as I was reading through my daily un-newspaper (the collection of blogs from which I get my news on a daily basis), I found the above-linked post by Renee of Womanist Musings, which addressed the quote in a context that focuses on the racial dynamic at play when you're talking about a young black girl's hair like that.

And I realized, as I read her commentary on the way white feminists picked up and passed around this quote, treating it as a statement on gender equality and encouraging a young girl's sense of bodily sovereignty while ignoring the girl's race and how that intersects to give the statement a totally different meaning and context...that I had done exactly that.  I read that quote and got excited about what it meant in terms of gender only, without taking into account the additional politics of black women's hair and how that was really the bigger issue being addressed here.

So I wanted to A: apologize for my personal intersectionality fail in how I viewed/addressed the issue when I saw it this weekend (though I didn't do it *here*; I will however be cross-posting some version of this to tumblr), and B: signal-boost a great post about the racial+gender politics of it, for those who similarly heard about this but forgot to look beyond our own immediate gendered oppression.

Today in Not Actually Helping

Look, I'm as much a fan as anyone of the making-a-point "lol let's propose bills restricting men's reproductive rights to see how y'all like it" legislative shenanigans that have become semi-popular lately.  Attempting to require invasive ultrasounds before prescribing ED pills, declaring the existence of "sperm persons" and making murder of said spermsons illegal, that sort of thing.  It's funny in a dark sort of way, it makes a good point about the ridiculous invasiveness of the legislation the right-wing is pushing across the country.

But it can be taken too far.  Just because we know damn well that the pushback bills won't actually be passed, doesn't mean we can do absolutely anything we want.  (Okay, yes, we *can* - but everyone knows that just because you can, doesn't mean you should.)  Some bills are funny but inappropriate, as a mockery of equally-inappropriate bills that they actually intend seriously.  Today, I ran across one that, to me at least, crosses that line.

In Utah, a doctor wrote and submitted a bill that would institute heavy penalties against any man who impregnated a woman:
  • Restrict elective abortion to the first 16 weeks.
  • Require DNA testing to determine paternity of all out-of-wedlock children, even aborted.
  • Require the father to establish a $50,000 trust fund to care for any out-of-wedlock child, even if adopted. If the child is aborted, the fund is used for sex education.
  • If the father can’t pay, he joins the military and uses his enlistment bonus and salary to pay.
  • No man can avoid paternity claiming “she seduced me,” or that she claimed she was on the pill, had her tubes tied, whatever.
  • Man under 18? His parents are responsible.
It would be funny, in an over-the-top sort of way, except for numbers 1 and 4 there.  The first one, for obvious reasons - I don't think any of us would see a 16-week restriction as a fair trade for penalties against impregnators to try to discourage them.  And the fourth one, because compulsory military service is a really fucked-up idea.

And then there's the fact that, despite what RH Reality Check may think of the bill's aims, I don't actually think the bill's author is intending this as a joke or mockery.  He calls it a way to eradicate abortion, and I think he means it, for all that he knows it would never even get passed, much less pass constitutional muster before the courts if someone challenged it.

Oh, and when you have a doctor claiming it would scare men into using 3 condoms as an entry in the "pros" column for his bill, considering that using multiple condoms is actually less safe than using a single condom...I'm kind of disinclined to think it's a good idea on any level, from the silly nonsense down to no-I-really-mean-it.  And I would like to see a little - or a lot - more discernment from such a big, generally reputable source on reproductive health issues as RHRC before they slap the "not gonna happen but funny anyway" sticker on something like this.

The man who wrote this bill is not on our side.  Let's not gloss over that and lol at it like he's in on the joke, okay?


The Miter Mafia and HHS, Part II

I didn't title the first part as Part I only because I didn't realize I would be writing a Part II.  The problem is, I wrote my first post about the 5 pages of "summary" at the start of their 21-page whinefest, hit publish...and then I kept reading.  And there is far too much fuckery in there to keep to myself.

This is why you read me: I'm the gift that keeps on giving!

So, my original post was about what I got out of pages 1-5.  Yes.  A whole post about just the first 5 pages.  Now.  Picking up on page 6...

"Indeed, for individuals with a conscientious objection to contraceptive coverage, the ANPRM actually exacerbates the problem.  In its February 10 rule, the Administration proposed to have insurers “offer contraceptive coverage directly to the employer’s plan participants (and their beneficiaries) who desire it."  The ANPRM,however, no longer uses the language of “offer,” which allows for the possibility of acceptance or rejection.  Instead, HHS would now require insurers or third-party administrators simply to “provide this coverage automatically to participants and beneficiaries covered under the organization’s plan (for example, without an application or enrollment process), and protect the privacy of participants and beneficiaries covered under the plan who use contraceptive services.” 
As a result, women will have less freedom, not more.  They will not have the freedom to decline such coverage.  They will not have the freedom to keep their own minor children from being offered “free” and “private” contraceptive services and related “education and counseling” without their consent.  Thus, the mandate now poses a threat to the rights not only of employers, religious and secular, but of parents as well.  It is even proposed that this intervention into the family may be delegated to “private, non-profit organization[s]”potentially including groups such as Planned Parenthood, which may volunteer for the task.

Restriction is Freedom!  Up is Down!  Right is Left!  Making something available without requiring you to A: have prior knowledge that it exists, and B: jump through hoops to get it, is TAKING AWAY OUR FREEDOM, LADIES!  (As usual, the Church refuses to acknowledge cis women who can't get pregnant, trans women, trans men, and everyone else not a fertile cis lady who will use birth control specifically to keep her uterus empty.)

They are being willfully obtuse about the difference between "automatic coverage" and "taking advantage of coverage provided", of course.  Yes, everyone will be automatically covered, but it's not like the insurance companies are going to show up at your doorstep and force packets of the Pill into your hands.  Being covered by this rule is a passive state that doesn't affect you in any way, unless you choose to access these services.  Hell, I'm sure they'd be thrilled if nobody used the coverage, as that means less money spent on providing it.  As I understand Catholic doctrine, the sin is *using* birth control, not simply *having access* to it.  So this objection is purely spurious, not that I expected anything better from the MM's spin machine.

And what is this fuckery about minor children?  We are talking about health plans provided to employees and, in some cases, college students.  All of whom are adults.

If they're talking about the minor children of the employees who may be covered as dependents on their parents' plan, well...again I will point out that it's a passive coverage.  Considering that most kids don't exactly get individual mail notifying them of their coverage under their parents' health insurance, how exactly are they going to know A: that it's covered, and B: even if they know that (which would most likely be because of the giant shit fit the MM is throwing over this rule in the first place), how to go about accessing it?  Again, this is not a situation where PP employees are going to climb through your child's bedroom window and deliver the Pill by the bucketload.  They're kicking up stink over a, while possible, extremely implausible occurrence.

Next up, page 8, where they express their dissatisfaction with the definition of "religious organization" (which we all know they want to mean "any organization with a religious person running it, no matter the purpose and scope of their work or who they serve or hire"):
Reduced to its simplest terms, an organization is “religious,” in the Administration’s view, only if it is insular, while organizations with a missionary or public outreach are deemed insufficiently “religious” to qualify for the exemption.  We are free to worship our God, but not to serve our neighbor.
Bzzzzzzzt!  Thanks for playing, try again never.  This is their usual bullshit of "any restriction in any way of how we do our public service stuff, even if it's for the protection of said public we're "serving", even simply removing government contracts or money from the equation and leaving us to do it on our own, is OPPRESSING OUR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM!"

Y'all are absolutely free to both worship your god and serve your neighbor.  You just can't use worshiping your god as a shield for discrimination in how you serve your neighbor (or how you treat the secular personnel you hire to help you serve your neighbor).  There's a difference.

Okay, now, stop eating and drinking and cover your keyboards, everyone, this next one had me making extremely undignified sounds at my desk.  Page 12, regarding the fact that the insurer would still be providing the objectionable services using premiums the employer paid to them:
One might ask how this is any different from paying salary to an employee who then uses that salary toward purposes the employer believes to be intrinsically evil.  

Ahem.  What I mean to say is, lol they are making the exact argument I - and probably many other people - fully expected them to fall back on in order to take the next step in exerting religious control over nonreligious people simply because those nonreligious people happen to depend on the religious people for an income to live off of.  They're currently only using it as an analogy for the relationship between the employer and the insurer that provides the "intrinsically evil" care, but that tells us they do believe the two to be equivalent.  So given that, how long before they start applying that argument directly?

Continuing shortly thereafter on page 13, the MM begins making up new "rights" for themselves, as they are so often wont to do...
One can suppress religion not only by making conscientious objectors actively cooperate with what they see as evil, but also by depriving them of the right (a right that others continue to exercise) to support what they see as good.  Those who favor contraceptive coverage will retain the right they have always had as employers to provide a health plan consistent with their values.  Objecting religious organizations will lose that right, because any plan they offer will be amended by others so that the practical outcome for employees is exactly the same as if the organization had no such objection.  
Yeah, that's...really not what's going on here.  Not even a little bit.  Employers do not have any "right" to "provide a health plan consistent with their values".  What they have is a legal obligation to provide a health plan to their employees, without discriminating in that coverage.  Y'all are making this up.  This "right" is pulled *right* (u c wat i did thar?) out of your collective ass.

And you notice, dear readers, that they're not even baww'ing about their precious pennies funding it at this point.  They're just upset because the practical outcome for employees is not within their control.  That they cannot literally force their employees to abide by their moral rules or force them to pay out the ass for the privilege of self-determination to go outside the purview of the church's control.  They are revealing perhaps more than they think they are, when they make this objection.  They've just admitted that no matter what kind of compromise we offer, it will never be okay unless they can completely bar their employees access to family planning of any kind, without regard for the employee's moral rules on the subject.  They really do believe that employing a person entitles you to control over that person, including in extremely personal areas of their life, if it's because "Jesus said so".

They then try to pretzel-logic their way into arguing that there's no point in providing contraceptive services for free like this anyway, because either it's the government trying to "convince" employees of religious organizations to use contraception they weren't already using, or just relieving the financial burden on those who already use them and pay out of pocket for it, in which case the savings that are supposed to go to paying for the coverage, which are intended to come from costs like childbirth and well-baby care that won't be necessary if more people have access to contraception, won't be there to support it.
The Administration’s assumption under Goal 2 [to fund the coverage with savings on birth/well-baby costs] is that the employees of objecting employers were not already using contraceptives.  If, for example, they already were paying for contraceptives with their own financial resources, there would be no reduction in births from making those contraceptives “free.”  (The only thing to which this would “increase access” is whatever the employees will now purchase with the money they no longer spend on contraception—and that could be almost anything.)  Yet in earlier rulemaking, the Administration tried to justify its narrow and discriminatory definition of an exempt “religious employer” by arguing that any broader class of religious organizations probably has many employees who have no objection to contraception and so will not be seriously impacted by the mandate. The Administration faces a dilemma on this point.  Is it trying to change these employees’ reproductive behavior, or not?  That is, does it assume that its policy will chiefly influence employees of religious employers to increase their use of contraception by removing perceived cost barriers, or that it will merely reduce the out-of-pocket cost of contraception for employees who already use it? If the former, it intrudes into the right of employees and their families to take account of the teaching of their faith without undue influence from government.  If the latter, the policy may produce no “savings” that can be applied toward helping to offset the costs of contraceptive coverage, because it is chiefly being applied to people who already accept and use contraceptives anyway. In the very cases where the contraceptive coverage is “free”—that is, where its costs are offset by “savings” in other areas—the Administration would achieve this goal by undermining a far more important freedom.
So they're again taking the very broad stance - you know, the one that can't even remotely be repackaged as being about "religious freedom" - that contraception should not be universally covered at all.

They're also making an extremely flawed assumption - namely, that employees of religious organizations which do not offer contraceptive coverage will be able to afford contraception outside that coverage and will have done so in every case.  Some can.  Some do.  Some are able to access other resources, like Planned Parenthood, which can help them access low-cost contraception.  But it is the height of naivete (and no more than I would expect from a bunch of celibate old cis men pontificating from on high) to assume that anyone in this country who wants contraception will have it with or without insurance to help them pay for it.

Not to mention, that people who manage to make whatever sacrifices in order to be safe from unintended pregnancy (or, y'know, to control any of the half a dozen conditions that hormonal birth control helps with...?), may be giving up almost anything to make that work.  Like better food - or enough food.  Clothes for the kids they already have.  The ability to live in a safer part of town.  The MM made that argument themselves, in the above quote, only they meant it to sound scary - who KNOWS what else those godless fucks might be doing with that money??? - rather than reasonable - who knows what those people might be doing without in order to have this?

And at last, we have reached the end of this coal train of bullshit, finishing on a summary note that reemphasizes their misunderstanding of the terms "health care" and "preventative care" by insisting that contraception is neither, and at the last brings it back to trying to make things about their freedom to impose their will on those around them, while disappearing the freedoms and lives of those most affected by this whole fiasco:
The final rule continues to keep in place a regulation that defines as “preventive health care” drugs, devices, and procedures that render a woman temporarily or permanently infertile, and that may be associated with serious adverse health outcomes.  We believe that this mandate is unjust and unlawful—it is bad health policy, and because it entails an element of government coercion against conscience, it creates a religious freedom problem.  
Similarly to the related issue of abortion, this problem comes down to a fundamental clash of freedoms: when the freedoms and rights of two different entities are in mutual opposition to one another, something has to give.  Someone has to come out on top.  Someone has to have the 51%, the tie-breaker vote.  And as usual, the Miter Mafia would see the individual freedom and lives of people with uteruses subsumed to the will of the Church.

Fuck.  These.  Assholes.  I cannot say this clearly enough.  The Miter Mafia is worming its way further and further into the lawmaking and regulation activities of an explicitly secular government which governs a population comprising many different faiths and often, no faith at all.


And I can only hope that the Obama administration and HSS have the spine to stand up to them and tell them exactly where they can shove their notions of Catholic moral supremacy.


Q.Q Harder, Miter Mafia. Your Tears Are Delicious.

Or, How Many Condescending and Belittling Synonyms for "complain" Do I Have In My Vocabulary?*

The Miter Mafia (which is what I'll be using to refer to the Catholic hierarchy from now on, to distinguish between my ire at the Church as a sociopolitical corporation as opposed to blaming the Catholic faithful as a whole) has submitted 21 pages (PDF) of crying about the fact that the government wants to make contraception available to people who want it, to the HHS's official notice of rule change regarding the the "contraception compromise".  Remember, the shitty insurance-company workaround the Obama administration offered to salve the Miter Mafia's hurt fee-fees when they threw their shit fit and held whole cis-male-only Congressional panels to discuss how the idea of people being able to access low-cost or free contraception was making their boners very sad?

Basically, they're still whining about the fact that contraception was not completely removed from the list of mandated preventative services.  (They also include "education and counseling" as part of contraceptive services.  So not only do they want to deny us access to ways to control our fertility, they want to keep us completely in the dark about the fact that said options exist and how they work!)

Failing that, they're stomping their little feetses because the exemption criteria weren't reworked to their specifications.  (Never has there been an organization in this world with more hubris than the Miter Mafia, truly.  In a country with an explicit separation of church and state, where you are far from the only religious organization, what on earth could possibly make you think you get to be the one to dictate the terms of exemption or inclusion from religiously-referential regulations??)  They believe that restricting the exemption to religious organizations is too narrow.  They want any person, or organization headed by a person, who believes that birth control is dirtybadwrong to be able to deny their employees coverage for it.  This is, of course, perfectly in line with their ongoing attempts to widen "conscience clause" protections to an absurd extreme such that bus drivers can refuse to continue their route if they believe a passenger is going to an abortion clinic, nurses can refuse to interact in any way with abortion patients even for mundane things like processing paperwork or checking vitals after the fact, and pharmacists can deny medication to stop bleeding if they think it's because the person had an abortion: they really do believe that nobody should ever have to do anything even tenuously connected with Teh Badz (abortion and b/c), even if that thing is extremely indirect AND within the bounds of something they have consciously chosen to do.  Like, say, being a pharmacist, or a nurse, or a bus driver, or owning/running a company that employs people who may or may not share your beliefs.

And then there's the pouting that the compromise is just Not Good Enough Anyway So You Should Just Rescind The Rule Completely, because it still allows employees to access contraception, even in a way that bypasses the employer, because the employer-provided insurance plan acts as the "conduit" by which access is gained, and thus the employer is tainted by association or some bullshit like that.

It is literally not enough, and will literally never be enough, for them, until they are able to make completely certain that every single person who needs contraceptive services has to go to completely independent third-party agencies for it, and pay full price out of pocket.  And I would not be particularly surprised if they argued against even that, on the basis that the out-of-pocket cost was paid out of wages earned from an employer, so the employer should be able to veto an employee's decision to use their money that way if that employer doesn't want their wages to go to such things.

And of course, they want to force us all to rely on third-party services and pay out-of-pocket while we're still in the middle of a recession, as they oversee giant cuts and defunding efforts to the sorts of places that offer that kind of care.

This is nothing more nor less than an attempt to forcibly impose their moral beliefs on contraception on the entire country, with a series of targeted workarounds that don't directly challenge established law and precedent, but which would have the effect they want anyway.  (Sound familiar?)  Restrict access to contraception on employer-provided health plans --> Expand conscience protections so any employer anywhere for any reason can choose to bar access --> Defund the organizations that help subsidize those (expensive) costs for those who don't have money to burn --> Millions of people completely unable to access contraception and therefore forced to live by the moral dictates of a religion they may or may not subscribe to which teaches that all contraception is bad --> Continue/increase the Church's immense power over the secular world and nonbelievers --> Profit!

(Oh and for bonus fuckery points they describe birth control as "not health care" because it "[disrupts] the healthy functioning of the human reproductive system".  So if you're not conceiving, it ain't healthy.  MOAR BABIES FOR EVERYONE!  I wonder how they can describe as "healthy functioning" the pregnancies that endanger people's lives?)


A Pro-Choice Poem for Mother's Day

This Mother's Day, as the antis try to use it for propaganda
(as they always do)
I want to thank my mother.

I want to thank my mother, not for simply having me -
But for waiting until she was ready to have me.
For having me when she wanted to have a child.
For bringing me into a home and a situation where I was planned,

I want to thank my mother, not for simply having me -
But for all the twenty-six
(and counting)
years that have followed.
For making Halloween costumes and prom dresses,
lunches and dinners and Christmas cookies,
and in the process, teaching me.

I want to thank my mother, not for simply having me -
But for all the times she went to bat against an unfair world,
stood up to bullies,
taught me I deserved better.
For instilling in me a love of reading that has made me into the writer I am today.
For quietly, subtly - just by being the person she is -
instilling in me a budding proto-feminist sensibility,
So that when, in college, I made my first fumbling steps into formal feminism
it was less like learning
than simply coming home.
(And that, too, has made me who and what I am today.)

And with these more usual gratitudes,
I want to thank my mother for something else.
Something the antis would see as directly antithetical to the spirit of the day.
But which, I feel,
is exactly right.

I want to thank my mother,
For helping me to not be a mother.
For taking me to her doctor to get on birth control when I started having sex at 15,
for making it so that I wasn't one of the teens who had to sneak around and buy condoms under cover of shame and darkness.
For taking me at my word when I said for the first time, at about age 12,
"I don't ever want to have kids."
For never pressuring me to produce grandchildren,
and for waving off family members who might have.
(It helps that I have lots of cousins who have had lots of babies already, I suppose.)

And, six years ago this past week,
For driving two hours down at 5 in the morning to my college apartment,
so we could get breakfast before my appointment.
Sitting with me in the awkward hush of the waiting room.
Then, six years ago this very weekend,
Laying in supplies of favorite foods and movies and lots of very thick pads,
shooing my brother out of the house to go hang out with friends,
so that I could bleed out the baby I wasn't ready to have -
will never be ready to have -
in privacy, and safety, and comfort, and support.

That year, we celebrated Mother's Day by keeping me from being a mother.
And I have been grateful, every single year since.
So the next time the antis throw out that tired line,
"Aren't you glad your mother was pro-life?!?!?!"
I will laugh,
as I always do,
because they don't know my mother.
I do.
And she has shown herself, in a thousand thousand ways, a wonderful mother,
and part of that has been in her respect for my body,
my choices,
my life.
That's her pro-life stance.
She's pro-my-life.  Pro-her-daughter's-life.
So I think, when I laugh in the face of the next anti to assign a political stance to a woman they have never met,
based purely on the fact that she has given birth,
I will also say,
"Yes, she is.  But not in the way you think."

Happy Mother's Day, mamana.  I love you.


Putting Words in God's Mouth

By this time, I am fairly well inured to the theatrics of the Fundamentalist Dominionist Christian Right in this country.  As a result of writing for this blog for...gods, what, two years now?  Three?...I read a lot about what the Religious Reich and their puppets the Republican Party are up to.*  I've actually reached a point where as I'm reading through Right Wing Watch, quite often I see the headline, laugh bitterly and say "of course they did" and scroll to the next item without even bothering to read it, because very little they do shocks me these days, and I can't (and don't want to) write about every single case of right-wing bullshit I see.

But even I am thoroughly taken aback by the brazen combination of ego, disrespect for the divine, colonialism, and nationalism in this video.  In it, Lou Engle of the Eagle Forum prays over a group of young people at Awakening 2012.  I honestly can't make out most of what he says right until the very end, when he says the last few lines of the Lord's Prayer, with one very interesting difference:
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,
On Earth as it is in America.
*record screech*  Wait.  What?

See, I'm familiar with the traditional form of the Lord's Prayer.  You know, the one that ends with "On Earth as it is in Heaven", not "in America".

I wonder if he meant to say it that way?  I can't imagine that someone with as much experience in public speaking and public prayer as Lou Engle would slip like that without meaning it, at least on some level.

Which says all kinds of ugly things about his intent here.  On a purely theological level, it strikes me as deeply disrespectful at best, to alter a crucial word in such a fundamental prayer of one's faith, especially in such a dogmatic religion as right-wing fundamentalist Christianity.  I would be less bothered by, for example, an eclectic Wiccan making changes to the Charge of the Goddess to have it better suit them, because many pagan traditions are largely syncretic by design, and accept a wide variety of what we call "unverified personal gnosis" as valid, for the person receiving it if nothing else.  It's sort of different when you have a single holy book that is purportedly the outright dictation of the Lord himself to mortal scribes, in essence, and this is a very specific prayer listed therein.  To change that?  Is basically to say "Thanks, God, but I am going to change the words of the prayer You gave us to suit my own political purposes."  I'm not a Christian anymore, but if I were, I would be horrified to see the Lord's Prayer used this way.

On another level, it smacks of neocolonialism and a truly absurd level of American Exceptionalism.  He is basically expressing a desire that the world be remade in our image.  Yeah, in case you hadn't noticed, Lou, we've tried that.  We're still doing it.  And it has resulted in a lot of pain and death and deliberate genocide, and the irretrievable loss of cultures and languages and belief systems, all eradicated in the name of Christianization.  That is a terrible history.  That is not something to aspire to or ask your god's blessing to make it happen (more/again).

It also occurs to me that just replacing one word with the other like that conflates America and Heaven (most likely by design).  Which is more than a little disingenuous, especially that when you judge the U.S's situation by the metrics of Jesus' dictates - love one another, care for the sick and the poor, etc - we are a truly epic failure.  Even if there actually were somewhere on this planet where things are "on Earth as it is in Heaven", it sure as fuck isn't in this country.

And this is why we say things like, "The Christian Right is neither."

*Which is why I laughed myself silly at one of my father's attacks in our last angry altercation over his political proselytizing: he accused me of "not being able to handle hearing what the other side has to say" as an attempt to undermine my response because I had flat-out refused to watch Glenn Beck videos he wanted me to see.  Sorry, Papa, I am on the Outrage Watchers program.  I only get a limited number of Rage Points to spend every day, and I'm not going to blow them all on one Glenn Beck video just to prove a point to you.  But it certainly makes it an absurd assertion that I'm "insulating myself from honest debate" or some such.


Related Posts with Thumbnails