RIP Howard Zinn

28 01 2010

I don’t normally do memorial posts, but I have to type a brief note on Howard Zinn due to the impact he had on my life and my academic path. I was never a big fan of history, see. I kind of hated it, which now is hard to believe, but the history you learn in grade school is pretty narrow. In 11th grade, though, we read a chapter of A People’s History of the United States and it blew my mind. This guy was for real. Since then, I went on to get a degree in history, and I think the exposure to Zinn was a big part of the turning of the tide. So hats off to you, Sir, for daring to tell a fuller version of the story. And if you haven’t read A People’s History, pick up your copy today.

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Blog for Choice 2010: Illegal Abortion Does Not Mean Fewer Abortions

22 01 2010

It’s Blog for Choice Day!

In honor of the day, I’d like to put something out there that might be helpful to you fabulous pro-choicers in discussing the issue with your pro-life friends.  This may be obvious to you already, but it was a point that I never really thought of when I was talking with my pro-life college roommates about abortion, and I think it’s really powerful.  So try asking this question:

Are you opposed to legal abortion because you believe that fewer abortions will result?

This is a powerful question because I think a lot of people who are opposed to abortion for religious reasons simply want women to stop having abortions.  If we can make it clear that outlawing abortion, or making it financially impossible to have a safe abortion, or putting up obstacles to safe and legal abortions, does not actually decrease abortions, we may be able to encourage pro-lifers to take their fight away from the courtrooms.

We do have some points of commonality.  I think that many pro-choice and pro-life people would prefer that there were fewer abortions.  How can we achieve this goal?  Not through outlawing abortion.  Outlawing abortion means that women will use dangerous herbs, sharp objects, etc. to self-abort, or will go to “practitioners” that may not be providing abortions in safe or sterile environments.  Women won’t stop aborting because it’s illegal, but they will increase the risk to their own health and lives.  Take the US before Roe, or the many countries where abortion is not legal and accessible, as examples.  We can achieve the goal of fewer abortions, though, through other means.  Think sex education (including education about the meaning of consent for both men and women), full health insurance coverage (including Medicaid coverage) of contraceptive counseling and options, and fighting against poverty, especially for women.  When women have options and education in a general sense, they will be able to engage in responsible family planning and avoid unwanted pregnancies.  True, there are some folks who are opposed to family planning in general, but I think there may be a lot of pro-lifers who would ultimately agree that these are good goals.  Work on them.





Individual Rights: At What Cost for Women?

12 01 2010

I was just reading an article comparing US and Mexican abortion laws, and the author, Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, made a really good point that I think we need to keep reminding ourselves of as we fight for our liberal values.  We can talk about individual autonomy and choice all we want, and that perspective can be great, but choice doesn’t mean much if you can’t access the choice.  Often choices require financial privilege or other means that not everyone has.  While some forms of privacy/autonomy are easy for governments to ensure (negative liberties that don’t require the government to take action, only to refrain from it), positive autonomy requires resources.

This is where I go all socialist on you, but I really think we have a lot to learn from forms of government (and on a smaller level, forms of community activism or tribal systems) where the focus is on the group rather than the individual.  Yes, this form can hurt women when they are blended into the group as a whole, but it also can provide guarantees of community support.  The individualist system often claims to give all individuals a choice, autonomy, etc., but if the individuals do not have the resources to exercise these rights, then those individuals (often women) will suffer.  The challenge is to find a balance, where women are not marginalized, not erased, and not harmed in between the lines of the law.  It’s probably a challenge that can never be fully realized, but it’s a good goal.





Thoughts on Gender from a Telemarketer

10 01 2010

At the moment, I’m working in the subscriptions office of a major symphony orchestra, and I’ve found some trends emerging in the past four months or so when it comes to the spin callers and patrons place on gender (and sexuality).  This is just a list, maybe intelligent thoughts will follow:

  • Husband: “You’ll have to talk to my wife.  She’s my secretary/social secretary/the family secretary.”
  • Callers assuming that the wife might be home during the day but the husband will only be home at night.
  • Callers saying “is your wife home?” or “is your husband home?” without any evidence that the relationship between the male and female member of a household is indeed husband/wife.
  • Callers assuming that “partner” means opposite sex.
  • Callers suggesting that a patron bring a date to the symphony, as opposed to a friend or family member.
  • Wife: “My husband’s in charge/has all the control/etc.”
  • Husband: “No, she doesn’t want that” or “Honey, you don’t want that.”