I don't blog about politics much. 9 times out of 10 I'm content to keep my internet presence mum about the mutual ruthless manipulation that is American political maneuvering and talk about what I ate for dinner instead. Once in a while, though, I find something on my plate that's so alarming that I would rather write about it than swallow it.
I noticed today, for the first time this election season, that someone has plastered Dwinelle Hall with pro-Proposition 85 flyers. That's not what's so alarming to me, but it is a nice segue into what I want to talk about. I was actually reflecting on the standard rhetoric of the abortion debate when one piece of it suddenly became very interesting to me. You're all familiar with the usual phrase describing cases deemed exceptionally worthy of permissiveness: "rape or danger to the life of the mother".
Before I talk about it further, take a look at that for a moment and see if anything strikes you about it. Seriously. Stop reading and think about it.
So do you see it? What is the word being used here to refer to the hypothetical woman contemplating a hypothetical abortion? Not woman. Not pregnant woman. Not potential mother. Mother. What? If abortion is a consideration it means that the woman in question is not entirely decided upon motherhood as her next course of action, and may in fact be dead set against it. But to the complete strangers debating whether she should be allowed to make that decision at this juncture, even those arguing that she should, she's already semantically committed to the plan.
Creeps me the fuck out, guys. I think it's one of those arguments where if you stop in the middle and realize you're using the same language as your opponent, you start to feel like you're losing and going about it all wrong. You don't win legality for abortion by calling any woman or girl who's pregnant a mother. It's taking as a foregone conclusion precisely the thing you want to make not a foregone conclusion. It's also putting the idea in people's minds that you're trying to do something outrageously illogical -- after all, she's a mother, and mothers are people who have babies. What are you pulling here saying we can have a mother who doesn't have a baby? From now on I'm going to make a point, in any discussion of abortion, of referring to the real or hypothetical pregnant woman involved as just that -- a pregnant woman. Because if "danger to the life of the pregnant woman" doesn't paint as terrifying a picture as "danger to the life of the mother", there's a problem here that goes beyond the legality of abortion.
When I passed the pro-85 poster in Dwinelle, it caught my eye primarily because a girl had stopped in front of it and was reading it with an angry look on her face. A boy who was walking with her stopped also, read the poster, and told her flatly, "take it down". She did so and walked away crumpling it up. I took a few steps and passed another poster, then stopped and thought for a moment. If you take down one poster out of 500, no one passing by will notice that they're only seeing the message 499 times. You haven't stopped them seeing it, you've only decreased the repetitions by an insignificant amount. Besides, censorship makes me uneasy even when it's applied to arguments I dearly wish weren't being disseminated. So instead of taking down poster number two, I took out a pen and wrote a large clear NO to replace the YES. It wasn't the most persuasive and comprehensive comment I could have made -- I was rushed and distracted and didn't think too hard about it until later -- but it does give me a strategy to work with. Why try to shut your opponents up when you can talk back at them instead?Posted by dianna at November 7, 2006 12:53 AM