Using this picture, because it really epitomizes everything fucked-up about anti-choicers, starting with the sense that life itself oppresses them. It’s Blog For Choice Day, so join in on your own blogs, or in comments.
I get really angry when I see headlines like the one in this article in GQ about Scott Roeder murdering Dr. George Tiller: “Savior vs. Savior”, with the blurb equating Dr. Tiller and Roeder as men who “believed they were doing right” and as having “convictions”. No one would dare say such a thing about a non-Christian terrorist, that they somehow have a conviction worth respecting. But when the argument is between the conviction that women are people vs. the conviction that women are subhuman incubators, then all of a sudden this false equivalence enters into the situation.
But despite that, the author Devin Freidman—while still committing some inexcusable equivocation to make it more interesting by pretending there’s ambiguity where there really isn’t—mostly creates an interesting contrast between Dr. Tiller and his clinic staff vs. Roeder and his anti-choice buddies. Dr. Tiller comes across as a pragmatic, down-to-earth (almost to a fault), brave man who had a full life with a happy marriage, happy children, and meaningful work. Roeder comes off as a broken man with no connections to others, whose convictions are mostly regarding imaginary things, such as the dangers of fluoride in the drinking water and the threat of the Illuminati. Dr. Tiller and his staff went out every day and helped real people with real problems fix those problems. Roeder and the anti-choice crew not only have no interest in real people, but seem actively hostile to them—their anger and denial when confronted with evidence that women who have abortions have minds and feelings of their own is palpable. It’s too real, I suppose, and they prefer to live in a world of fantasy. Dr. Tiller was a man in the world—involved in politics, able to relate to his patients in a compassionate way, always obsessing over details and reorganizing for efficiency. Roeder and his pals are, to quote Freidman, “surrounded by the latticework of society but not of it.” They’re obsessed with imaginary threats to purity—see contamination in everything from food to water to abortion, which is of course their stand-in for their fears of sexual contamination.
In this contrast, you really begin to see the perversity of calling the anti-choice movement “pro-life”—it’s an oxymoron. They’re motivated, on a base level, by a hatred of life. Or, life as most of us define it, when we use phrases like “what I want to do with my life”, “living my life”, “life is good”, and pretty much every other use of “life” outside of anti-choice propaganda. Life, for most people, is about being in this world. It’s about enjoying food, enjoying sex, having goals, making plans, creating relationships, loving each other, developing beliefs, thinking thoughts, learning, enjoying a good night’s rest, listening to music, enjoying drama, enjoying quiet, kicking your feet up and petting the cat, diving into your work, making a difference, helping others, selfishly hiding away and doing for yourself, falling in love, grieving a loss, the thrill of winning, the sorrow of losing, the ambiguities of the human spirit, the bright light of reason, the joy of discovery, the curiosity inspired by mystery, a walk in the park, a Christmas with family, a loud concert, a good book.
But when anti-choicers speak reverently of “life”, they don’t mean this. They imagine things that are technically alive, but have no relationship to this word—Terri Schiavo laying in bed with no brain to speak of, a mindless fetus, a fertilized egg, a stem cell. They relate to these beings, who are not really living, and scrounge up nothing but anger and hatred at those of us who are perceived as actually living in the impure, disgusting, life-having world with connections to family and friends, brainy intellectual engagement with reality and of course, dirty, filthy, despicable sex. The impure wetness of real life disturbs them. They dwell endlessly on the medically disgusting aspects of abortion—aspects that exist in all medical procedures—because their minds are enraptured by hatred of the perceived filthiness of human bodies and life. The world with all its squirming, actually living life—it’s bothersome. Better to dwell on the imagined peace of the fetus, the immoveable quiet of a person in a vegetative state. Someone who is recognizably human but not really living—the purest, simplest, least disgusting way of being. Purity is always under threat, from fluoride to uncontrolled sexuality.
Which really points up to why I’m pro-choice, and it’s because I think life is for living. And living is complicated, and thank god, because the highly constrained, ritualistically pure worldview anti-choicers want to impose on the rest of us seems like the most boring way of being, hardly living at all. I’m baffled by the knee jerk hatred of actual living that is underlying the anti-choice viewpoint. For instance, the comments on the Hyde Amendment video I linked last week (and was featured in) are reliably anti-choice:
I don’t want my tax dollars:
to pay for STD treatments when people know full well that sex leads to babies and sometimes diseases…..
And I don’t want to spend my money on idiots that haven’t figured out that dick + vagina = baby.
Over and over again, this is what it comes down to—you are told, over and over again, that you should simply stop fucking. I have no idea if people who believe this are into fucking themselves, or if they find fucking unbelievably disgusting and perverse. Actually I do have an idea; most of them do both and try to reconcile their own self-hatred at being corporeal beings with desires, needs, and pleasures by attacking others, especially those who aren’t haunted by hatred at one’s self for actually living in this world. Of course, I suspect this shit gets even more perverse when you’re talking about the broken people who protest at clinics, seething with hatred at women, trying to hurt them for having the nerve to jump into life and take risks—risks for love, for pleasure, for simple human connection. We should stop fucking, they say. Why? Because fucking is all those things—an expression of love, a moment of intense pleasure, a messy reminder that we have real bodies in the here and now?
Is it because fucking reminds us that we’re really alive?
Perversely, I think that the anti-choice hatred of living is also based in a fear of death. Really living also provokes reminders of mortality. Roeder’s obsession with decay really shows how it works. Living means dying, getting closer to it every day. The expression we use to remind ourselves to really live our lives is “carpe diem”—“seize the day”. Unspoken, because you don’t have to speak it, is that you should seize today because tomorrow will not come. Not literally (for most of us), but the sense is that you cannot put off living your life until the future, because the future gets ever-briefer. Most of us are able to understand this, and we make our choices accordingly. We try to get our work done. We don’t stay in on Friday night. We figure we’ll take that chance on falling in love. There isn’t going to be an infinite amount of time to do these things, might as well start living now. Sometimes I think anti-choicers skip that step of understanding, and instead stave off fear of death by dwelling on the hope that not living will keep it away, that you can somehow purify yourself until death stops knocking. Not consciously, but subconsciously, it seems clear. Death is so scary, and so hopefully by denying living, death can be safely ignored.
The focal point of all this angst is abortion, and birth control in general. Women’s bodies have always been the focal point for the anger of those who fear corporeal realities, for those that are grossed out by life and easily provoked by fears of decay. Women are, for whatever reason, seen as more embodied, maybe because our bodies bleed once a month and because life—that fearful, uncontrollable, filthy thing—comes from our bodies. And so we should be controlled, and our sexuality especially needs to be stifled. Female virginity gets fetishized as “pure”, and abortion and birth control are hated and feared, because they’re reminders that people are out there having sex for pleasure, that they foolishly just live their lives and do things because their corporeal bodies reward them with pleasure.
Really, when you think about it, it’s hard not to pity anti-choice obsessives. Whatever makes you so bitter and fearful, what makes sexuality loom so large in your imagination as a threat, must be awful indeed. But fuck ’em. If they took all that aimless energy they currently put into being bitter and angry and disgusted and freaked out, and put even a fraction of it towards reconciling themselves to their own lives and bodies, they’d be able to get the fuck over whatever crawled up their ass and died. Everyone is born into these dilemmas about life and death, about the body and disgust, about living your life in the shadow of your upcoming death. And most of us are able to get past that and realize that a life that’s lived on the margins isn’t a life worth living. We realize that you can live your life around the constant anguish about the biological messiness of life, or you can live your life to its fullest.
And we get over our fear of freedom. Freedom is obviously very scary to anti-choicers. If you’re allowed to fuck, then you have all these decisions to make! You have to know what you’re in to, what you’re not. You have to experiment. You have to be vulnerable—and that’s very scary! You fall in love, but that can mean that you fall out and your heart is broken. If we’re allowed to decide for ourselves, then people will make different decisions, and that’s very scary! Diversity reminds one of the messy complexities of living, and that’s anxiety-provoking. Better instead to have exactly one path to follow—don’t fuck, get married, have a couple of kids, stop fucking, and don’t look sideways or you might accidentally invite tumultuous passion into your life. It’s a life half-lived, for sure, but there’s no danger, diversity, or fear. You’ll still die at the end of it, but maybe if you’re lucky, you won’t know the difference.