Tuesday, 15 May 2012

About Racism, Anti-Choice and Enslavement ...

Religious and fundamentalist gynophobes attempting to roll back women's sexual and reproductive rights typically use the struggles of oppressed groups. Abortion criminalizers try desperately to hitch their obfuscation propaganda & glurge wagons to accepted analysis and reflections.

Anti-choice zealots have exploited the historical realities of the Shoah and of the US Civil Rights movement, and they've cherry-picked bits of feminist theory to patch up their shoddy arguments.

Pro-choice advocates have considered connections between racist appropriation and reproductive rights, such as the original and trenchant one developed here:
Pamela Bridgewater’s argument, expressed over the past several years in articles and forums, and at the heart of a book in final revision called "Breeding a Nation: Reproductive Slavery and the Pursuit of Freedom", presents the most compelling conceptual and constitutional frame I know for considering women’s bodily integrity and defending it from the right.

In brief, her argument rolls out like this. The broad culture tells a standard story of the struggle for reproductive rights, beginning with the flapper, climaxing with the pill, Griswold v. Connecticut and an assumption of privacy rights under the Fourteenth Amendment and concluding with Roe v. Wade. The same culture tells a traditional story of black emancipation, beginning with the Middle Passage, climaxing with Dred Scott, Harpers Ferry and Civil War and concluding with the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. Both stories have a postscript—a battle royal between liberation and reaction—but, as Bridgewater asserts, “Taken together, these stories have no comprehensive meaning. They tell no collective tale. They create no expectation of sexual freedom and no protection against, or remedy for, reproductive slavery. They exist in separate spheres; that is a mistake.” What unites them but what both leave out, except incidentally, is the experience of black women. Most significantly, they leave out “the lost chapter of slave breeding.”

I need to hit the pause button on the argument for a moment, because the considerable scholarship that revisionist historians have done for the past few decades has not filtered into mass consciousness. The mass-culture story of slavery is usually told in terms of economics, labor, color, men. Women outnumbered men in the enslaved population two to one by slavery’s end, but they enter the conventional story mainly under the rubric “family,” or in the cartoon triptych Mammy-Jezebel-Sapphire, or in the figure of Sally Hemmings. Yes, we have come to acknowledge, women were sexually exploited. Yes, many of the founders of this great nation prowled the slave quarters and fathered a nation in the literal as well as figurative sense. Yes, maybe rape was even rampant. That the slave system in the US depended on human beings not just as labor but as reproducible raw material is not part of the story America typically tells itself. That women had a particular currency in this system, prized for their sex or their wombs and often both, and that this uniquely female experience of slavery resonates through history to the present is not generally acknowledged. Even the left, in uncritically reiterating Malcolm X’s distinction between “the house Negro” and “the field Negro,” erases the female experience, the harrowing reality of the “favorite” that Harriet Jacobs describes in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.

We don’t commonly recognize that American slaveholders supported closing the trans-Atlantic slave trade; that they did so to protect the domestic market, boosting their own nascent breeding operation. Women were the primary focus: their bodies, their “stock,” their reproductive capacity, their issue. Planters advertised for them in the same way as they did for breeding cows or mares, in farm magazines and catalogs. They shared tips with one another on how to get maximum value out of their breeders. They sold or lent enslaved men as studs and were known to lock teenage boys and girls together to mate in a kind of bullpen. They propagated new slaves themselves, and allowed their sons to, and had their physicians exploit female anatomy while working to suppress African midwives’ practice in areas of fertility, contraception and abortion. Reproduction and its control became the planters’ prerogative and profit source. Women could try to escape, ingest toxins or jump out a window—abortion by suicide, except it was hardly a sure thing.

This business was not hidden at the time, as Pamela details expansively. And, indeed, there it was, this open secret, embedded in a line from Uncle Tom’s Cabin [...] “'If we could get a breed of gals that didn't care, now, for their young uns…would be ’bout the greatest mod’rn improvement I knows on,” says one slave hunter to another after Eliza makes her dramatic escape, carrying her child over the ice floes.

The foregoing is the merest scaffolding of one of the building blocks of Bridgewater’s argument, which continues thus. “If we integrate the lost chapter of slave breeding into those two traditional but separate stories, if we reconcile female slave resistance to coerced breeding as, in part, a struggle for emancipation and, in part, a struggle for reproductive freedom, the two tales become one: a comprehensive narrative that fuses the pursuit of reproductive freedom into the pursuit of civil freedom.”
Urban US African-Americans are constantly besieged by disingenous campaigns.

Biologist and story-teller Boucar Diouf produced a witty opinion piece in response to CON MP Woodworth's odious M312, which was ridiculed by racist, CONdescending, and literal-minded anti-choice fetus lobbyists.
As a biologist, I always find it rude to hear men of a certain age openly advocate for the control of what happens inside women's bodies. It must be said that such male imperative is not new. After the discovery of sperm by the Dutchman Antoni van Leeuwenhoek in 1677, even the most respected thinkers of the time believed that women did not bring any contribution to the formation of the fetus. The sperm was presented as holding a tiny human being poised in its head. The woman's body, viewed as a flower pot, only served to grow this little male seed. It wasn"t until 1887 that scientists Oscar Hertwig and Herman Fol, challenged the supremacy of men by demonstrating the fetus was the result of a merger between a sperm and the ovum.

More than two centuries after this discovery, women's struggle for full human rights still meets resistance in Ottawa. And yet, isn't a man who opposes abortion, somewhat like a Black man who rails against tanning booths? In both cases, credibility is absent.
The whole Google-translated text is available here; the original - here. I suggested the white guy (@jasminll) working for the Catholic Church might be racist.

Blob Blogging Wingnut questioned my tweet. Confusing analogy with metaphor, SHE claimed that I was responding to his comment - "Vraiment?" - incorrectly.

My reply tweet challenged the notion that Black dermatologists would support tanning booths & reminded HER of a previous analogy FAIL on HER part, with regard to Bill C-484 (SHE'd compared a physical assault against a pregnant woman which resulted in miscarriage to a break-and-enter during which a parrot in a cage is stolen, as two separate criminal offenses).

SHE then declared that in actuality, Black people were against tanning and thus Diouf was wrong. I responded that SHE appeared ignorant of the pressures in the Black community to be "light-skinned".

Clearly out of touch with the specific ways racism manifests itself within the Black communities, with respect to degrees of skin colour, SHE blunders on, claiming that I didn't understand what SHE calls Diouf's "fallacious analogy".

Well, duh. It's not an analogy.

And get a clue, SUZANNE. Diouf is not only a biologist, he's also a story-teller who cleverly plays with notions of essentialism: male vs female, black vs white.

I'm now waiting for Blob Blogging Wingnut to state that Black people have the right to own parrots, just like men have the right to prevent pregnant women from obtaining abortions.



Anonymous said...

ugh. i am so sick of the pro-life camp comparing 'fetus rights' to 'the right of slaves to be free'. these idiots actually have the nerve to compare the civil rights movement to the pro-life movement! its just asinine.

Anonymous said...

does this mean that slavers who breed slaves are pro-life and that slaves who try to abort are murderers?

I can just hear the anti-choice wingnuts trotting out the 'two wrongs dont make a right' defense!

deBeauxOs said...

Anonymous, at 6:55 - You have an amazing predilection for presenting all the *right* anti-choice, racist, pro-slavery, misogynist points for the abortion criminalizers.

With an ally like you making their case, they don't need to troll the comments section at DJ!

Anonymous said...

debeaux: ever since woodworths motion I have been educating myself about the pro-life movement

recently I learned that this photo: http://www.forkparty.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Fetus.jpeg and many like it are of a dead fetus ex-utero that was taken by a professional photographer. I mean, how can you get fantastic lighting like that INSIDE the womb??

anyways, whats funny about this pic and others is that these are the very pics the pro-lifers trot out to show the 'beauty of life' etc etc and they dumbfucks don't even know that its of an aborted fetus!

deBeauxOs said...

Or possibly they're photographs of the result of spontaneous abortions or miscarriages.

Documentation is helpful in assessing whether all the fetal and placental tissues have been evacuated, and useful for teaching medical students considering gynaecology & obstetrics specialisation.

Anonymous said...


Although claiming to show the living fetus, Nilsson actually photographed abortus material obtained from women who terminated their pregnancies under the liberal Swedish law. Working with dead embryos allowed Nilsson to experiment with lighting, background and positions, such as placing the thumb into the fetus’ mouth. But the origin of the pictures was rarely mentioned, even by ‘pro-life’ activists, who in the 1970s appropriated these icons.


some idiot in comments at the very end says this photo was taken inside the womb blah blah but comeon, you *cannot* get lighting like that in a uterus, give me a fucking break!

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