In my household, we’ve recently started listening to top 40 radio morning shows because the loud music, gossipy tone and cracking noise of listener call-ins is a great formula for vaulting us out of bed.
Our recent station of choice features a daily show hosted by Nick Cannon, the rapper and R+B singer who made headlines when he married the much older Mariah Carey (both had clearly had previous intimate experience, but made a giggly fuss about waiting to consummate their love until their marriage). Cannon appears to have recently been making a new bid to become another Ryan Seacrest-type all-around celebrity, thanks to this radio gig, and his job hosting “America’s Got Talent” which has sidelined his unexciting singing career.
But last week, I heard a discussion on his show that really had me jumping out of bed--a debate over the new emergency contraceptive pill, “ella.” My flag was immediately raised because Cannon belongs to a special class of celebrity whose personal story influences their political views: that is the “my mom didn’t abort me, therefore abortion is wrong” spokespeople, with Tim Tebow the most famous and egregious example.
Back in the day, Cannon released a song called “Can I Live?” sung from the perspective of a fetus to its mother. It’s a silly, sentimental and nonsensical song that launched a thousand jokes and parodies, but its tone is dead serious. You can listen to it here and catch a sample of lyrics (“mommy, I don’t like this clinic”) at this Bitch magazine blog post comparing Cannon’s position on the issues to Tebow’s.
With lyrics like 'Your friends will look at you funny but look at you mommy/ That's a life inside you look at your tummy/ What is becoming ma I am Oprah bound/ You can tell he's a star from the Ultrasound."
Mr. Mariah Carey's message is pretty clear. Though Cannon claims to be ‘passing no judgment’ it is obvious that he wants us to leave this video with the idea that an unplanned pregnancy could result in a guest appearance on Oprah if only the woman in question is willing to make the sacrifice.
This line of thinking on the part of celebrities like Cannon and Tebow also underscores the fact that anti-choice crusaders often come from personal experiences that make them feel negatively towards abortion: they regretted an abortion or “my mother chose life” therefore everyone’s circumstances must mirror theirs. Meanwhile the pro-choice position is one of empathy and nonjudgment for people whose circumstances may be vastly different from their own. The Cannon-Tebow position also defies logic: our own Amanda Marcotte has done an excellent job debunking the “what if your mother had aborted you?” line of thinking here at RHRC.
To ask it is to ignore the fact that any of us exist by pure chance, and that many things could have changed it so we weren’t here. What if your parents never met at all? ...Men make enough sperm in a week to populate the planet; women are born with almost half a million eggs. Many eggs that are fertilized never even implant, and even when pregnancy happens, 15 to 20 percent miscarry... This creates a lot of “what ifs” that never come to fruition, and obsessing over what if too long will drive you mad. On any given day, there are billions of theoretical babies never born for the thousands that are born.
Cannon, a typically jovial media personality who mixes a juvenile interest in celebrity scandals, a share it all attitude about his own sex life, with an occasionally moralizing tone, doesn’t seem to have a coherent and rational perspective to offer, but his anti-choice side keeps poking out. You can listen to some of last week's program here at Cannon’s website, where he seems to take pride in tackling such a “controversial” topic and describes “ella” thus:
“The ELLA Pill works almost as homemade abortions [sic] but was still recently given the official ‘OK’ to be used in the country.”
During the course of the radio recording he initially makes a crack about all the women he’s sent running for the morning-after pill (yuk, yuk) and then later jokes about women who need prescriptions for the pill being “whores”-- mixed messages. Meanwhile his patient female sidekick Nikki explains over and over again that it’s an emergency pill that won’t somehow open the door for unsafe sex. He also can’t seem to get it into his head that the pill is not an abortion pill It’s a shame to hear someone with such a huge platform spouting psuedo-science and poorly-informed opinion straight out of the Concerned Women for America playbook. As Cannon’s star rises and he becomes a higher-profile celebrity, expect more of his distaste for women’s reproductive rights to be trumpeted out as well, with caveats about everyone’s experience being different, but...
Nick Cannon isn’t the first celebrity to spout ill-informed opinions. There are plenty of celebs on the left and right who adhere to conspiracy theories and bunk science. But it’s a particular shame considering the fact that Cannon’s wife, Mariah Carey, has long been held under scrutiny over her body and her choices, including a recent tabloid obsession over whether or not she’s expecting a child. As Jezebel’s Dodai Stewart wrote:
“Gossips are prying so deep into Mariah's uterus that they sourced a dress she wore as coming from maternity store A Pea In The Pod.”
It would be nice if Cannon, like other men in this country, could treat women at large the way they’d like their own wives, sisters and daughters to be treated; with respect and the privacy to make their own reproductive decisions.