I like this song, but be forewarned: I’m going to disagree with Bjork and argue that there’s definitely, definitely logic to human behavior.
There’s a quote floating around, credited to Cheris Kramarae and Paula Treichler, that “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.” Always good for a laugh, but I can see how some people might think this quote is nothing more than an exaggeration. “Of course even anti-feminists think women are people,” you might think. “What else could they think they are? Robots?”
Well, in some cases, yes.
Though, to be perfectly fair, the theme of these ads seems to be, “Yes, women are people, but wouldn’t it be much better if they were robots?” But this is far from the only example of the routine dehumanization of women. For instance, there’s this obnoxious article in the Daily Mail that tries to make a scandal out of the 1% of women who conceive by IVF and then, for whatever reason, find they have to abort the pregnancy.
Now, there’s two ways to approach the startling information that anyone would spend thousands of dollars, as well as heaps of time and pain, in order to conceive, only to choose to abort a few weeks or months later. You can take the feminist approach, and assume that the women making these decisions are human, and therefore have their very human reasons to do what they do. Perhaps there’s birth defects. (Indeed, as Robin Marty points out, 1% is well below the birth defect rate, which implies that’s pretty much the only thing going on.) Perhaps something horrible happened in between conceiving and aborting that made the abortion the best idea. If you believe women are human, you probably think they have their own reasons that make sense, once spelled out.
But if you’re a raging misogynist asshole, you’d assume that women aren’t human, but instead these evil, fickle, stupid creatures whose fundamental design flaw was letting them have a brain in the first place, and that they only abort because they’re too flighty to even remember that they had all those invasive IVF treatments because they wanted to get pregnant in the first place. And demanding that they be forced to bear children becomes easier, because you can’t violate the human rights of someone you don’t think is a human being at all.
Guess which angle the Daily Mail takes?
Dozens of women are aborting babies conceived by IVF because they have changed their minds about motherhood, figures suggest.
They really have to massage the figures to “suggest” this, since they have no evidence of this behavior that falls outside the realm of understandable human behavior.
Many are in their teens, twenties and early thirties, implying that numerous abortions were carried out for social reasons, rather than on health grounds.
When I say that I think that anti-choicers are motivated by misogyny, this is what I mean. That so many people actually believe that women get pregnant to enjoy the pleasures of having your uterus suctioned out indicates a straight-up unwillingness to believe that women are people who operate under basic people rules, with the first two being a) Avoid pain and b) Avoid massive inconvenience. Human beings don’t even like sitting in traffic, for fuck’s sake. To believe that women get pregnant because they enjoy abortions is to argue that women aren’t human beings, and therefore don’t deserve rights like human beings.
This article has nothing to do with real journalism. Even a standard issue fluffy trend piece—and hey, I like writing ’em, so long as they’re basically harmless—uses at least one or two actual, real life examples of the very thing you’re writing about. But all they’ve got for this IVF abortion parties crap is some off-the-wall speculation.
But Ann Furedi, head of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said that some women could become so caught up in the IVF process that the realities of motherhood did not hit until they conceived.
She said: ‘For infertile people, overcoming the problem becomes a goal in itself.
‘Sometimes it is only when women get pregnant that they can allow themselves to ask the question about whether it is what they really want or not.’
Well, while we’re making shit up, let’s go all the way. Women get IVF and then get abortions because they’re space aliens who don’t operate by human rules. Or maybe they’re emasculation performance artists who are pushing the buttons of sexist men before they move on to their new project, which is posting pictures of men’s soft penises on their front doors with circles crossing them out. Or maybe they’re agents of the gods, sent here to test us. Get creative, motherfuckers!
Because, you see, their attempts to actually find these mysterious women who love abortion parties didn’t really turn up much. In trying to stoke the misogynist flames, they only were able to come up with these examples:
One woman told how she had an abortion after being pressurised into starting a family by her husband. Another opted to abort her much-wanted IVF baby when it became clear her marriage was breaking up.
Well, they don’t sound like monsters to me, even though that’s what the Daily Mail wants you to conclude. This all sounds like it goes straight in to the “shit happens” file. Relationships break up, and frankly, I think it’s taking responsibility not to bring a child into this world during a divorce, which is generally up there with getting fired and having a close relative die in terms of stress. Your average person might not be willing to take this responsibility after going through so much trouble to get pregnant in the first place. There’s a certain admirable bravery to cutting your losses early, when the human tendency is to throw good money after bad long after it’s obvious that things aren’t going to work out how you’d hoped. These women deserve our sympathy for their loss of their dreams of marriage and family, not this abuse.
Applying the “assume first that women are human” method to understanding these things can clarify a lot of thinking. In this thread, we got in to a small discussion about how it is certainly harder for single mothers economically than those who live in dual income households. But this doesn’t excuse conservatives whipping out the penis-in-the-house panacea that they propose as a solution to everything. Why? Not because anyone is denying that two heads are usually better than one. But because the conservative argument starts from the premise that women aren’t human. It starts from the premise that single mothers aren’t married because they, unlike human beings, can’t see the value in having a healthy, happy partnership. But if we work from the premise that single mothers are human beings, we have to assume that by and large, they want love and companionship as human beings do. And that their lack of having a man at home probably has less to do with desire than opportunity. Perhaps we might think about how hard it is to find a good partner when you’re playing the game after drawing a good hand, and how much harder it is when you have to eliminate potential partners because they don’t date mothers or because you don’t ever have the time to see them.
The more you ponder it, the more alarming it is how much we’re socialized to assume the worst of women up front. And how much clearer your vision gets when you start thinking of women’s motivations like you think of men’s—as if they act like you do if you’re human.