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Doin’ it in hard times

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, December 11, 2008 0:09 EDT
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A couple of items, one a little silly and one totally not. First of all, the not-silly item: Single-minded, obsessive anti-choice nuts are trying to leverage our economic hard times in order to—what else?—force more women to give birth against their will. Because what this country needs when feeding and housing people is getting iffy is more people to house and feed. Groups are trying to pressure states into cutting off funding for Planned Parenthood, citing economic woes as a reason. Partially, this is because anti-choicers believe, against all evidence to the contrary, that they’re performing abortions on every single woman who walks out the door. Really, even if you slip in and out in under 5 minutes to give them a couple of bucks for a bag of condoms, the stress of the occasion probably forced one of your eggs to give up hope. Or something like that. They’re a bit fuzzy on biology in any sense.

If I were to propose that the best thing to cut to save state money is a program that improves worker productivity, and saves us money by preventing STDs, unwanted pregnancy, cancer, and by catching cancers while they’re still small and much more manageable, then you’d laugh in my face. “You’re right! Let’s cut programs that get $5 return on every dollar we spend. And then let’s take the money we would have spent on Planned Parenthood, wipe our asses with it, and set it on fire!” Brilliant. But of course, the anti-choice nuts are so singularly obsessed with punishing people, especially women, for fucking, that they never stop to realize that every person “punished” in this way adds to a social problem that costs us all. Because you know who else pays when someone is afflicted with an unplanned pregnancy or an STD that they have to deal with? At bare minimum, their bosses and other co-workers who have to cover for them when they miss work. And, of course, if their problems start to get really expensive (like HIV), then the costs that get spread around get astronomical. The fuckers aren’t the only ones punished for fucking. We all are. Of course, most of us are fuckers, so I suppose it’s a full circle. But even crazy anti-choice nuts practicing non-consensual abstinence have to pay.

The argument is that Planned Parenthood has too much money to spend saving the rest of us even more money.

But the new lobbying effort, backed by conservative Christian groups such as the Family Research Council, focuses more on economic than moral concerns. The campaign paints Planned Parenthood as a wealthy organization that doesn’t need taxpayer help. Planned Parenthood reported record revenue and a $115 million budget surplus last year, and it is building a network of elegant health centers to attract middle-class clients.

Here’s another great policy idea: Let’s punish non-profits who show fiscal responsibility by slashing their funds. If applied properly, this system could eventually mean that the only non-profits eligible for government funding are the ones who can’t do anything right, which means a few groups dedicated to wipe-then-burn uses of funding, and of course crisis pregnancy centers. By the way, you know what budget surplus is sure to be eaten up by an economic downturn in 2009? Well, basically everyone’s. Thank god some people save during flush times in order to have money on hand during hard times.

But what’s really going on here with this move is that the anti-choice movement is desperately clinging to one of their all-time favorite myths, which is that abortion is an “industry”, and that if it weren’t so profitable, then no woman would ever get one. We addressed that myth in this video:


RH Reality Check: Framing Reproductive Rights from RH Reality Check on Vimeo.

Of course, the problem with this myth is that while there are regular, for profit clinics that provide abortion, Planned Parenthood is a non-profit. Which means no profit. Which sort of destroys the argument right there. The entire surplus is going right back into the 2009 budget.

Also, they’re operating under the Hyde Amendment. They can’t spend any of their government funding on abortion. Which I think should be a solid reminder that this really isn’t about abortion at all. That’s just a cover story for the fact that they’re trying to shut down women’s health clinics that provide contraception. Because they’re against that, too. And probably STD screening and safe sex education, too.

Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, who has said he opposes abortion but doesn’t want to ban it, has vowed to hold firm against cutting Planned Parenthood’s funds.

Which is the only logical thing to do if you really do have moral issues with abortion. If abortion itself is the problem, Planned Parenthood is your best friend because they work harder than anyone at preventing the cause of upwards of 95% of all abortions—unwanted pregnancy. But if you’re bothered more by women having sex “without consequences”, then of course you want to cut off Planned Parenthood and force the abortion rate to go up to punish the fornicators.

Now for the more fun story about doin’ it in a downturn. Judy Berman at Broadsheet had a puzzling blog post criticizing a rather silly but harmless enough blog called The Clothes That Got Me Laid. Now, I’ve only perused a bit of the clothes blog, but I’m amused by the idea, because it captures a common enough trope in the single and randy world. I remember a friend of mine who had a pair of pants she swore up and down were her lucky pants in this department. We discussed this phenomenon in depth, since these were attractive but not outrageous pants. They fit well, looked good, but weren’t like skin tight or anything. Like her other pants, basically. Was it that she felt more confident in these pants? If so, was it because they’d worked before? Or was it an ineffable pants quality? Did she make sure to wear them when she was going out on dates where she was totally game? I like the idea of a blog dedicated to hashing this sort of thing out.

But Judy Berman is concerned about the blog.

Now, I know this is all in good, stupid fun, so I’m not going to get all bent out of shape about it. But I do find it annoying. There’s just something pathetic about the idea that sex appeal is something you can go out and purchase, whether the cash you’re shelling out is for breast implants or a $372 pair of riding boots. (Never mind that a recession seems like a particularly inappropriate moment to push the idea that consumerism leads to fulfillment.)

At the heart of what bugs me about the Clothes That Got Me Laid is the lip service it pays to third-wave feminism. Contrary to popular stereotype, the movement isn’t just about wearing makeup and sleeping around. It’s about individuality, freedom and personal agency. Could someone remind me again what those three things have to do with decking yourself out in other people’s outfits because you don’t have the confidence to snag a bed buddy all by your cute, smart, witty self?

It’s true that you can’t buy yourself sex appeal or style. But you nonetheless have to buy yourself clothes, and so yeah, you do have to spend money on your style. How much, of course, varies. And I fail to see how this blog reflects any kind of movement feminism. It appears to be a blog about clothes. Because one is a feminist doesn’t mean that one can’t have interests that don’t directly pertain to feminism. I would hope no one thinks I’m trying to pass off, “Cute shoes” as a feminist statement. (By the way, this sort of thing is exactly what made me write the chapter in my book about how there’s no good shoes for feminists, because everything you wear is Making A Statement.) I will say that the issues around clothes and make-up are third wave feminist issues, but mostly because I think a lot of third wave types like myself tend to believe that self-decoration is a pleasure in itself, and one that has both been pushed on women until it’s a chore but also one that men have largely been deprived of. But the act of ogling cute clothes itself is not necessarily political.

That said, I have to say Berman’s instructions to be cute, witty, and smart without doing anything such as reading a blog about style to perhaps educate yourself on at least the cute factor is fucking intimidating. Look, only .5% (if that) of cute, witty, and smart ladies just rolled out of bed that way and never had to strive. What’s great about fashion blogs is that they give you an opportunity to look around, see what you like, hear what other people have to say about that, and then develop a style. Most of us can’t just go, “Tah-dah!” and look perfect and unique without trying. Fashion blogs democratize something that usually is supposed to defy democratization. The vast majority of us don’t have any game or style through genetics, but what we can do is create these places where everyone can share a little of this and a little of that and everyone reading can slowly get better. This blog is clever because it takes it to the next level—it’s based on reader submissions and there’s even a rough measurement system of whether or not you got laid. Okay, it’s a little silly and there’s no guarantees, but it’s still a fun way to learn, right? Better than going through fashion magazines that just churn out the latest trends without ever seriously considering if they’re something that could work for you, the reader.

Courtney Martin’s book “Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters” talks a lot about how young women feel this relentless pressure not only to be perfect, but to appear to be perfect without effort. That’s immediately what repulsed me about Berman’s post, because she bought right into that tendency to tell young women that there’s something wrong with you if you have to work to become what you want to be, instead of just able to be that without any effort. Developing a style is like developing any kind of taste. You have to work at it and experiment and, god forbid, share information with others. Nothing comes without work.

And I think it’s insufficient to tut-tut and suggest that trying to look good is frivolous and therefore should be beneath a young woman. Life without frivolity is not worth living for most of us. Going on dates, looking cute, flirting, sleeping with boys and thrilling yourself—the problem with these things is not with them so much as they have been considered both mandatory for all women whether they like it or not and also the sole thing that women should do, instead of care about careers or politics. But I like the idea of a world where men and women are both free to be serious minded people who also have fun looking cute and flirting and screwing around if they want to.

As for the recession era concerns, clearly the solution is for someone to start a blog called “Secondhand And Sale Clothes That Got Me Laid”. Most of my clothes fit in that category, so I can say by default if nothing else that I think this is a rich topic for frivolous blog mining.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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