In defense of the sanctimonious women's studies set || First feminist blog on the internet

I am not my reproductive organs.

I don’t want to have kids. I don’t need or want to be defined by a biological process and a couple of organs that I don’t even need. Reproductive organs don’t define womanhood, and I am not my ladyregion, and conflating them doesn’t do anyone any good.

Ivanka Trump says that motherhood is “the most important job any woman can have”

Ivanka Trump, trotted out of late as proof that obviously Donald can’t possibly be a misogynist because some of his sperm has X chromosomes in it, has taken to video to tell us all about Donald’s policy proposals for working moms. (It’s the one he only developed because Ivanka herself pushed him to it, saying, “Daddy, daddy, we have to do this!” because nothing says “I respect women” like making your adult daughter sound like Veruca Salt at a campaign stop.) And because we can’t have woman- and family-friendly policies in place just because they’re the right thing to do in our current economy and societal structure, Ivanka had to come right out of the gate telling us that the most important job that any woman can have is mother.

She, her inherited real estate job, her clothing company, and her nanny speak directly from the heart.

So I, my freelance job, my sporadic blog writing, and my two largely self-sufficient dogs will do the same.

Note to lawmakers: Rape does result in pregnancy

[Content note for rape.]

This appears to be a tough one.

The whole thing about how rape does result in pregnancy.

(I’m guessing that has something to do with a lack of comprehensive sex education. That’s why it’s important, y’all.)

But lawmakers, officially, for the record, in case it comes up in the future and you absolutely can’t resist your better judgment not to talk about it: Rape does result in pregnancy.

With “significant frequency,” according to the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

No, Planned Parenthood isn’t selling baby parts, and here’s why the lie is so toxic.

The anti-choice narrative since Planned Parenthood’s inception has been that PP has been ghoulishly profiting off of abortions, both by dragging in huge amounts of cash for the procedure and (as is currently under discussion) selling baby parts for exorbitant prices. First of all, I have to inject some basic common sense: If you’re hearing rumors that gloriously satisfy your hate-on for an organization while simultaneously sounding like a late-season plot of Charmed, they’re probably not entirely, or even a little bit, valid. “They sell and/or eat dead babies” has been a charge, throughout history, lobbed against the Chinese, Jewish, pagan, and so many other marginalized people, and never substantiated because people don’t do that. Even the people you’d really, really like to paint as monsters.


This week in US juridical misogyny…

1) You’ll be interested to know that if you get fired for breastfeeding, that is not an instance of sex discrimination, according to a ruling from the Eighth Circuit Court that the Supreme Court has decided to let stand, because, well, man can lactate. It’s been known to happen. They just mostly don’t. So, you know, no problem. Also, if your supervisor tells you that you should be at home with your baby, well, he could say that to a man, too, so that’s also not sex discrimination.

A lawyer has linked us to the following: “Just as one final follow-up, here’s a snopes article on the misleading headlines:” Thanks! And sorry I didn’t catch that.

Let’s just get this out there: yes, it is possible for some cis men sometimes to lactate, if they make it a goal and work toward it. The same is true for trans women, and that’s fantastic, in my book, because I have known trans women to whom that would have meant a lot. And trans men certainly can lactate.

That said, I highly doubt the Eighth Circuit Court could give two shits about trans people. Call it my innate cynicism if you must, but I doubt they even thought about trans people. When it comes to cis people, the vast, overwhelming majority of people who lactate are women. End of story. The vast majority of people who are lactating regularly, intensely, and in a way to support a baby are going to be cis women, and then some trans men. Nobody tells men that they should be at home with their babies. Nobody uses men’s reproductive functions to torment them, by, say, refusing a lactating woman access to a room in which she can pump, causing her pain, anxiety, and possible injury (I’ve known women who’ve developed mastitis–it is incredibly painful). This is a throwback to the Rehnquist court, when it was ruled that pregnancy discrimination wasn’t sex discrimination because if a man got pregnant, he’d be subject to the same conditions. And if Rehnquist was contemplating the plight of trans men, I’m the lowest form of life, an anti-vaxxer.

I don’t know how this happened, legally speaking, and I don’t care. It’s a fucking travesty. It reminds me of the title of an opinion piece that ran in the NYT a week or so ago: “Should the Supreme Court Take into Account How Its Rulings Will Affect the Real World?” YES IT FUCKING WELL SHOULD. I don’t see the virtue in adhering to any old document, be it the Bible or the Constitution just for the sake of textual fidelity. This is the REAL WORLD, and we have to live in it, and it needs to be as reasonable as possible.

2) Purvi Patel, in Indiana, is facing up to 70 years in prison for the mutually exclusive “crimes” of having an illegal abortion (feticide) and felony neglect of a dependent minor. The latter charge, of course, requires a live minor, whereas feticide requires a dead fetus, so perhaps you, unlike the Indiana jury, can see the problem here (this is one of the problems with not requiring logical reasoning as a skill in high school). And that’s not even getting into the problems of any kind of abortion being illegal (aside from the kind forced on a pregnant woman against her will–but I know how much juries in this country hate to acknowledge that a woman’s desires matter). Patel’s crime was to order abortifacient drugs on-line and then have a miscarriage/stillbirth. For this she could spend the rest of her life in prison. Not in El Salvador. In Indiana.

What the linked article doesn’t address is how the police got called into the situation in the first place. Patel went to a hospital for heavy vaginal bleeding, and admitted to the doctors that she had been pregnant and had miscarried. So who called the cops? Isn’t there an issue of doctor-patient confidentiality here? Is the lesson that women who do this shouldn’t go to the ER for help, but should just let themselves bleed to death rather than risk public humiliation and decades in prison?

And what about Patel’s race? I wonder what the racial make-up of that jury was, whether it was easy for them to see Patel as some kind of monstrous, exotic child-murderess because she is neither white nor Christian? And where is the father of the fetus in all this? What kind of scumbag lets a woman face this on her own without taking responsibility for his share in her ordeals?

Taking Medication While Pregnant: I’m Not Sorry

Hello to everybody! I know I dropped out of sight for a while, not just in terms of posting but also in terms of commenting. I wasn’t ready to talk about why, but having just received good news and passed a benchmark, I am now.

After years of trying to maneuver myself into a good situation and despairing, and not as many tries as I had feared, I find myself pregnant! I am delighted—I know I’ve mentioned on these boards how much I want to have a baby, and how anxious I was getting as the calendar pages flipped over with no possibility in sight. I just passed the first trimester, and my screenings have all come back with good news—my baby (because this is a wanted pregnancy and I’m thinking of it as a baby, I will use the word “baby”) is healthy, as far as modern medicine can tell thus far. What I hadn’t realized was how exhausting pregnancy is. I’d been told, but I hadn’t fully understood. Six o’clock rolls around and I’m ready to pass out. I haven’t been able to engage as much as I would like in any number of things, Feministe included.  And I’m sorry.

I feel and am extraordinarily lucky to have the family I have, the support I have, the health insurance and access to medical care that I have.

One of the major decisions I had to make was what to do about the medications I’m on to keep my depression in remission. There’s a lot of anxiety flying back and forth about pregnant women taking any medications, let alone one as new and unknown as one of the meds I’m taking. Hell, if you order sushi in the US someone is likely to tell you off. I originally tried to do what I thought was the good, responsible thing and taper off my meds.

This went over like a lead balloon. I went down one milligram on one of my meds and within a few weeks I was passing the time by idly wondering how I would kill myself if, you know, I decided to do such a thing, not that I was planning on it, but I wanted to make sure I would know what steps to take if I did decide to, just because you never know. Because that’s a totally normal train of thought to follow while zoning out on the subway. Nothing crazy about that, no sir. (It’s my mental illness, and if I want to characterize the thought processes it entails as crazy, I will do so. I know it’s pejorative. I mean to be pejorative. My depressive thought processes are the product of mental illness and also should be condemned. They are detached from reality, incorrect, irrational, self-destructive, and corrupt. But if you would feel better if you mentally substitute “fucked up” for “crazy,” that’s fine by me.)

So I went to see a specialist in reproductive psychiatry (I live in New York City, don’t you know)—and again, believe me, I know exactly how lucky I am to be able to do that. She met with me during a four-hour consultation and at the end told me that whatever possible, minor, and even as-yet-unknown potential side effects my medications might have on my developing baby were completely dwarfed by the significant, major, and enduring effects my depression would definitely have on my developing baby. I was floored—I’d never before considered that my depression could hurt a baby I was making, but indeed, the doctor told me that they can test children even at three or four and still find significant differences—and not good ones—between children whose mothers were depressed during pregnancy and those whose mothers were not.

Why should I have been surprised? I think it’s part of the bizarre mentality in the US that somehow we can separate the interests of a developing fetus/soon-to-be baby—or even an actual child—from the interests of the woman making it or raising it. This has gone on for a while, to the point that scientists actually had to prove that if pregnant women are malnourished, their babies will suffer. The original incarnation of welfare in the US was just ADC—Aid to Dependent Children. No provision was made for their mothers—because as long as the kids get some food, having a starving mother won’t hurt them, right? Alcoholism is bad for the babies of pregnant women. Smoking is bad for the babies of pregnant women. Guess what? Alcoholism and smoking are bad for the women as well. But we don’t give a shit about women, so instead of understanding those things as self-destructive, and the women who engage in them as making the best they can of a difficult situation we run around acting as if pregnant people—people with wanted pregnancies—are willfully trying to harm their babies.

Depression is a whole body illness. It upsets eating and sleeping patterns. It dampens your immune system. It causes physical pain and difficulty as well as draining you of energy. It removes your ability to care for yourself. We can see it in the physical make-up of our brains. Why wouldn’t it affect my baby? To say nothing of my misery. I count too. I am not just an incubator.

The New York Times would not run an article encouraging women with asthma to abjure maintenance medications while pregnant. Or women with diabetes. Or women with any other chronic non-mental illness. But shortly after I made this decision, it did run one attacking the wisdom of staying on anti-depressants while pregnant. I know this because my grandfather helpfully emailed me and asked if I’d like him to send it to me (I said no thanks, I’d consulted with doctors and was perfectly happy with my decision.).

I think that’s irresponsible. It’s dismissive of mental illness. It’s dismissive of women’s suffering. It’s dismissive of the damage depression can do to mother and child.

And I’m glad to link to this rebuttal piece by psychiatrists specializing in the field.

Forgoing anti-depressants is not like skipping one’s daily latte (and quite frankly, unless you’re consuming superhuman levels of caffeine, having a latte is fine). It’s not like having seltzer with dinner instead of wine or beer. It’s not like skipping the sauna. Anti-depressants are not a minor indulgence, a luxury, a frill on my daily life. They are, for me and for many other people, an essential medication that prevents a debilitating chronic illness from consuming my life. I depend on them. That means everybody who depends on me—my godson, my family—depends on them too, because without them I can’t function. That’s what it means to have a chronic illness. And being pregnant doesn’t make that go away.

I’m writing this to provide information for anyone else out there who takes anti-depressants and is contemplating pregnancy, or is already pregnant. You have a right to your health, and so does your baby. You’re not being “selfish” if you stay on your meds—you are taking care of yourself and taking care of your baby too.

South Carolina: Swell for fetuses, less so for victims of domestic violence

In Florida, Stand Your Ground was used as the foundation of George Zimmerman’s defense after he shot and killed Trayvon Martin. In South Carolina, it was used to defend a man who walked out of the house with a gun to confront “women thugs” who had threatened his daughter; he ended up shooting a teenage boy in his car instead. Also in Florida, Marissa Alexander has repeatedly been denied the chance to use the Stand Your Ground defense against charges after she fired a warning shot above the head of her abusive husband. This month, Charleston prosecutors moved to further endanger the Marissa Alexanders of South Carolina by saying that Stand Your Ground shouldn’t apply to victims of domestic violence who confront their abusers.

In defense of “bad” abortions

Most women don’t need to be told the story of a woman’s abortion (or two abortions) after forgetting to use birth control in the heat of the moment. Most of us know a woman who’s done that. About one in three women will be her. Statistically, several women reading this post at this moment have not just had an abortion, but have had a “bad” abortion. So they don’t need to read about someone else’s just to understand.

What would you do if you needed an abortion in a country where it’s outlawed?

I’m in Brazil right now with the wonderful International Reporting Project, and while here I spoke with a young woman who, like many women around the world, got pregnant when she didn’t want to be. Here in Brazil, abortion is generally illegal. After trying several different methods unsuccessfully and reaching out to a variety of slightly-shady people for help, she decided to go the safest route: To say she had been raped and get a safe, legal abortion in a Brazilian hospital. Her story is here. Women in this country are understandably very afraid to speak with anyone about abortion, and lots of women die or are injured from unsafe procedures. I’m particularly grateful to this young woman, who I’m calling Juliana, for her generosity, her honesty and her courage in sharing an extremely complicated story.