Links in this episode:
On this episode of Reality Cast, Barbara Almond will talk about the big taboo, feelings of ambivalence over motherhood. Also, abortion surges to become a number one issue, even as people pretend it’s not, and a baby kidnapping highlights this rare problem.
Liza Donnelly did a great TED Talk about humor and feminism.
- humor *
It’s worth watching, since the laughs are mostly from cartoons she drew for the Power Point.
Thomas Frank famously suggested in his book “What’s The Matter With Kansas” that social conservatives are being hoodwinked by abortion, that they’re voting for bans on abortion and instead getting screwed economically. I think his book had a lot of insights, but on this he was wrong. His assumption was that populist conservatives aren’t interested in destroying the social safety net was wrong, and his assumption that conservative leadership isn’t out to dismantle reproductive rights was wrong. I don’t think there’s a hoodwink going on here. There’s a whole cloth “screw everyone” kind of conservatism, and we’d be remiss in not acknowledging these realities.
And, as if to prove this, the newly elected Republican leadership in the House went straight after restricting abortion access. It was, literally, the third item of business.
- abortion 1 *
Boehner is lying. There are no taxpayer-funded abortions. What they’re doing is trying to make it so that you can’t buy insurance from anyone who offers abortion insurance, or you’ll lose your tax credit. As a law, it wouldn’t have much of an effect; the Stupak compromise already made it likely most insurance companies will just drop any insurance coverage for abortion altogether. But this is about making sure that this has to happen, no matter what. Basically, any opportunity to grand stand about abortion and imply that women who get abortions are dirty sluts who shouldn’t be allowed to even touch the same money as everyone else is an opportunity that conservatives are going to take.
I suppose Frank would say this is just another example of the Republicans throwing a symbolic victory to their base. This bill will stall out after it’s passed. But it’s also setting a precedent of defining taxypayer-funding way out of any lines ever drawn before. I wouldn’t be surprised if Republicans start claiming that it’s taxpayer funding if a woman who has had an abortion gets a tax deduction on her mortgage or drives on federal highways. The idea is setting up women who have abortions as a class who are officially too filthy to have even symbolic contact with others.
Even though the Tea Party has been claimed by the mainstream media to be all about taxes and spending and not social conservatism, in fact this was red meat thrown directly to them. Tea Party leader Mike Pence was all over this bill, where he laid out clearly that controlling female sexuality was a priority over economic issues.
- abortion 2 *
Honestly, the fact of a bad economy may just be making anti-choice sentiment worse for some on the right. They tend to react to anxiety by doubling down their hatred and resentment of others, and women who are perceived as getting away with having sex are on the top of that list.
Unfortunately, the social conservatism of the Tea Party doesn’t fit the narrative that’s been laid down by most of the media, and so coverage of this astounding turn of events has been slim. The one exception, of course, was Rachel Maddow. Isn’t it always?
- abortion 3 *
So, it’s basically the opposite of Frank’s formulation from years ago. People vote for jobs, and they get attacks on abortion rights. Sure, it’s red meat being thrown to a misogynist base. But that doesn’t matter---we need to stop pretending people who campaign against women’s rights don’t take the job of rolling back women’s rights seriously. They take it more seriously than pretty much anything else.
It’s got to be one of the most depressing heart-warming tales that has been brought to the public attention in awhile. It started off mostly as a heart-tugger of a missing child reunited with a family that hasn’t seen her since she was a baby.
- baby 1 *
And it had a really interesting, cool component, which is that the kidnapped baby, now a 23-year-old woman, figured it all out on her own.
- baby 2 *
And for a number of days, this was basically how the story was put to the public. It was all hugs and tears and happiness and completeness. But there were lingering questions you’d have to be a fool to ignore. The big one is, who raised this woman for all these years? Was she the same person who did the kidnapping? Why would she do it? Why would Carlina White be so suspicious of the woman who raised her? There are a lot of questions that are, unfortunately, going to make a lot of people really uneasy. And the answers quickly came to light.
- baby 3 *
Baby kidnappings are relatively rare, at least stranger kidnappings like this. They fit into a pretty standard profile, which Ann Pettway fits, at least to some degree. It’s usually women of child-bearing age, and they’re usually in troubled relationships with men, relationships that feature husbands or boyfriend denigrating them for failing to produce a baby. I don’t know if that’s true of Pettway, but what is true is that she had a number of miscarriages and she resorted to baby-snatching so that she could feel like she was a mother.
That this happens at all should give us pause, because as rare as it is, this is an example of how bad gender essentialism regarding women can get. It’s more than the anti-choice movement that is motivated by this notion that being a mother is every woman’s destiny and highest honor, and that women who don’t do that are failures. Infertility is made more painful because of this gender essentialism. And sometimes women get so desperate to prove themselves worthy women they steal babies. If we lived in a world where motherhood was not pushed as some all-consuming thing that defines a woman, but just one aspect of a complex identity, perhaps this sort of thing wouldn’t happen so much.
That said, baby-snatching is incredibly rare. The chance of it happening is actually less than that of having your baby struck by lightening. People do not want your baby. Unfortunately, the response to this story has been to do news stories that imply that there’s a real chance that your baby is going to disappear if you blink too fast.
- baby 4 *
In this segment they do note that it’s rare, but they don’t talk about the unintended side effect of the heightened surveillance at hospitals, which is that baby-snatchers have changed strategies. A few years ago, almost all baby-snatching was walk in the hospital and walk out sorts of things. In the vast majority of those cases, the kidnapper is caught swiftly, and the harm is minimal. But now that it’s harder to do that, what’s gone up is baby-snatchers are attacking new mothers and pregnant women to steal their babies. So, the price that’s being paid is more murders, some where near-due pregnant women are killed and the babies cut out of them. I’m unconvinced that this is a price worth paying to stop a crime that’s actually pretty rare.
And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, reading makes your pee pee fall off edition. Or, at least that seems to be the basic thrust, no pun intended, of Rush Limbaugh’s latest gambit.
- Limbaugh *
Much of his show recently has been about listing the various things that will totally turn red-blooded American men into women, which are obviously, in his opinion, the worst things you can be. Education is up there, but he’s also been ranting about vegetables and how awful they are. He apparently wants his audience to be ignorant and unhealthy and to die young, but you know, feeling manly all the way.