Rape, Pregnancy, and Non Sequitors

*WARNING: You’ll likely be ticked off by the end of reading this by something I’ve said. If you are deeply wedded to life-begins-at-conception beliefs, you really won’t like this. So, if you don’t like having your beliefs and the ways you’ve always read your Bible challenged, then you should probably stop reading now. And if you are going to be annoyed because they are not a bunch of links to allow you to verify what I’m saying, then you might want to stop reading now also. I figure it’s late, I’m tired, and you are fully capable of Googling all this if you doubt its veracity. I don’t mean to sound mean or hostile, I just want you to be prepared. Smile.*

Rep. Todd Akin, who is running for a Senate seat in Minnesota Missouri and sits on the House Science committee, went on record last week saying that in cases of “legitimate rape” the female body has ways of shutting down to prevent pregnancy – ergo there’s no need for a rape or incest exemption from more restrictive abortion laws. While the Republican Party is fighting like hell to get Akin to drop out of his Senate race and is distancing the party from Akin faster than Usain Bolt from his competition on the track, the reality is that Akin’s ideas are not that different than the Republican Party platform. Congressman Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s vice presidential pick, co-sponsored a bill with Todd Akin that would drastically redefine rape to be limited only to “forcible rape.” Moreover, the Republican Party platform will announce abortion policy that would make abortion much more difficult to access while NOT exempting rape and incest.

My outrage over this has been building since Akin’s comments went viral over the weekend, but what provoked me to write this post was Mike Huckabee’s, former candidate for president, response to Akin. He has claimed that since there are people who’ve done great things that were the product of a rape, there shouldn’t be a rape/incest exemption because we don’t know what “God” might do with that life to redeem the horrible circumstances under which they were created. Sigh. I’ve got 4 issues with this that I’ll run down right quick. These four issues are in addition to the idiocy and ignorance that led to Akin’s comment in the first place. Basically, I find these comments to be about as ludicrous as the DirecTV commercials but not nearly as comical.

Issue 1: I take issue with the ideology that every conception is a blessing because God is present at every conception. Okay, I know I just lost about half of you. Hear me out, please. In the Bible, it is written that when 2 or 3 are gathered together in my Name [God’s], there am I [God] in the midst. Well, I simply do not believe that rape –any kind of rape, stranger, date, forcible, deception, manipulation, incest, incapable of consenting – sets up the conditions that meet the criteria for God’s abiding presence. Just saying. Therefore, every conception isn’t necessarily a blessing. Besides, blessings don’t just exist inherently. To name an experience, event, circumstance, or situation is a blessing or not is to engage in constructive meaning-making of that experience, event, circumstance, or situation. Basically, what may be a blessing in my eyes, may not be a blessing in yours and I can’t push my interpretation on to you.

Issue 2: I take issue with the ideology that says that the ends justify the means. To make it sound religious, I’ll use a phrase I grew up hearing: “God writes straight with crooked lines.” Now, I just lost about a quarter of the rest of you still reading this. If you’ll bear with me, I think you’ll see what I’m saying. I do believe that good can come out of evil, however, that is not a justification for abetting the evil. You do not use what *might* happen that could be positive as justification for continuing to victimize the woman who’s been raped. She did not consent to the sexual act, she therefore did not consent to the pregnancy, and therefore she should not be forced to consent to give birth. Period.

Issue 3: Now for the other half of what’s wrong with this idea that if you abort the fetus that is the result of rape, you might be depriving the world of its next great thinker, scientist, freedom fighter, etc. I have three words for you: Get. Over. Yourself. Let me expound. As much as I have grown to love the movie, I blame “It’s a Wonderful Life” for this narcissistic belief that the world would be irreparably damaged if you (or anybody else) weren’t born. One thing I do know is that God will find someone else to fulfill your role in His divine plan (if there is such a thing – personally I just think that the grand plan is to get us to treat each other with justice and equity and we experience things that we can choose to allow us to push toward greater equity and justice or push us away from it). Besides, in the movie “The Butterfly Effect,” it’s eliminating someone from Ashton Kutcher’s character’s life that finally sets everything right.

Issue 4: I take issue with this ideology that a woman shouldn’t have the right to choose what happens with her own body and more so that she should not elevate her needs over that of the fetus inside her. In the words of moral development theorist Carol Gilligan, higher levels of moral development centered around an ethic of care, involve women seeing themselves as morally equivalent to others instead of continually sacrificing themselves for others when doing so results in self-harm. What I see in the Republican Party’s anti-choice platform (because let’s be real, they’re not pro-life), is a denial of women’s moral equivalency. And that is just oppressive.

P.S. – I know I’m missing a #higheredWed post, but that will have to come tomorrow. I’m still trying to get the hang of keeping to my writing schedule while I’m doing my archival research. :/

My Last Word on Chic-fil-A Belongs to Wayne

Yes, this will be my last, well really it’s my first and only blog post about Chic-fil-A. These aren’t even my words; however, this author, Wayne Self, says this SO beautifully that I can just step inside his personal pronouns and hear myself. So, I’m copying his post below in its entirety unedited. It’s the smartest thing I’ve read yet about the situation and I hope you’ll take the time to fully read and completely consider Wayne’s words.

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Here’s the link to the original page, in case you want to go there directly: http://www.owldolatrous.com/?p=288

The Chick Fellatio: stuck in the craw

This post is all I have to say about the Chick-Fil-A controversy. It sums up various posts on the issue and various points made by my friends and I. From now own, rather than spend time debating this issue person by person, I’m going to point people here.

My hope here is to find common ground with those who have disagreed with me on the issue, and maybe to persuade. It’s not to ridicule or to best.

So, in the interest of common ground, let’s start here:  I acknowledge the absurdity of all this debate.

It’s definitely strange to have days-long Facebook debates flare up everywhere over a chicken sandwich. The anger, sarcasm, and hurt feelings on display seem strange or even laughable because most people have seen Chick-Fil-A as just a restaurant with a funny ad campaign. I’ll get into some of the whys and wherefores of that later. But, for now, let’s just say that, yes. It can seem ridiculous to get all worked up over fast-food chicken.

Let’s also agree that this isn’t about curtailing anyone’s rights under First Amendment. The Constitution is a legal document. This is not a legal argument. No one is arguing that Chik-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy should be put in prison, or silenced, or censored by the government. This has nothing to do with government censorship or government abridgment of Freedom of Speech. So don’t worry: the ability of this millionaire to legally spend his millions as he sees fit is not in jeopardy. You need not defend it.

Now, let’s get to the nitty-gritty of things. Please read carefully. These things have been said before, but not by me, and not all in one place. Please read with an open mind. If you can’t read with an open mind, please leave, take a minute, come back, and try again. If you can’t do that, then please don’t bother. Please read all of the words here, rather than just reading half of the argument and assuming you know what I’m saying. Read these words as they are written. Again, if you don’t want to read my words, then don’t continue.

So here goes:

1. This isn’t simply about marriage. Shocker, right? It’s extremely frustrating that same-sex marriage is the great continental divide. People are judged according to how they stand on this issue, as if no other issue matters. Did you know that a person can be for same-sex marriage and still be homophobic? Did you know that a person can be against same-sex marriage and be gay? We all get categorized very quickly based on the marriage issue and maybe that’s not fair. But here’s what you should know:

– In 29 states in America today, my partner of 18 years, Cody, or I could be fired for being gay. Period. No questions asked. One of those states is Louisiana, our home state. We live in self-imposed exile from beloved homeland, family, and friends, in part, because of this legal restriction on our ability to live our lives together.

– In 75 countries in the world, being gay is illegal. In many, the penalty is life in prison. These are countries we can’t openly visit. In 9 countries, being gay is punishable by death. In many others, violence against gays is tacitly accepted by the authorities. These are countries where we would be killed. Killed.

– Two organizations that work very hard to maintain this status quo and roll back any protections that we may have are the Family Research Council and the Marriage & Family Foundation. For example, the Family Research council leadership has officially stated that same-gender-loving behavior should be criminalized in this country. They draw their pay, in part, from the donations of companies like Chick-Fil-A. Both groups have also done “missionary” work abroad that served to strengthen and promote criminalization of same-sex relations.

– Chick-Fil-A has given roughly $5M to these organizations to support their work.

– Chick-Fil-A’s money comes from the profits they make when you purchase their products.

2. This isn’t about mutual tolerance because there’s nothing mutual about it. If we agree to disagree on this issue, you walk away a full member of this society and I don’t. There is no “live and let live” on this issue because Dan Cathy is spending millions to very specifically NOT let me live. I’m not trying to do that to him.

Asking for “mutual tolerance” on this like running up to a bully beating a kid to death on the playground and scolding them both for not getting along. I’m not trying to dissolve Mr. Cathy’s marriage or make his sex illegal. I’m not trying to make him a second-class citizen, or get him killed. He’s doing that to me, folks; I’m just fighting back.

All your life, you’re told to stand up to bullies, but when WE do it, we’re told WE are the ones being intolerant? Well, okay. Yes. I refuse to tolerate getting my ass kicked. “Guilty as charged.”

But what are you guilty of? When you see a bully beating up a smaller kid and you don’t take a side, then you ARE taking a side. You’re siding with the bully. And when you cheer him on, you’re revealing something about your own character that really is a shame.

3. This isn’t about Jesus. I have a lot of Christian friends. Most of them are of the liberal variety, it’s true, but even this concept seems lost on some of you. Most of them are pro-LGBT rights. Pro-gay and Pro-Christ are NOT mutually exclusive. They never have been, in the history of Christianity, though it’s been difficult at times. It’s not impossible to be both.

If someone is telling you it is, then maybe you should wonder why they’d do that. I see divorced Christians, remarried Christians, drug addict Christians. I see people with WWJD bracelets bumping and grinding on TV and raking in millions to do it. I see greedy, rapacious, vengeful people who are Christians. And these people are accepted in the Church, and the Church does very little to combat them. Sometimes it seems like being gay is the ONLY thing certain modern Christian movements won’t allow. Why’s that, I wonder?

Jesus had almost nothing to say about sexual behavior of any kind. He was too busy teaching more important things. Empathy is at the heart of his teachings. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Remember that? It’s in red. So let’s examine that:

4. If things were reversed, I’d stand up for you.

Please think about this: How would you feel if KFC came out tomorrow and said they were spending money against equality for Asian Americans, or African Americans, or religious people? Really. Think about it. What would you do? How would you feel? How would you feel if, after their announcement, there was a big increase in KFC sales and I was all over Facebook supporting KFC. Please stop reading right now and imagine this. I’m serious.

You can stop now because it’s ludicrous. It would never happen.

Oh, I don’t mean the part about KFC being against some group. That COULD happen. I mean the part about me supporting them. Let me tell you something, and you can damn well believe it: I’d sign on for the boycott IMMEDIATELY.

Why? Well, because I believe in equality for all people, that’s why. But also, personally, from the bottom of my heart: because you are my friend, and I don’t willingly support people who harm you for just being you. How could I? How could I, really? But, more importantly for our purposes, how could you?

Seriously, how could you? What has Chick-Fil-A ever done for you? Sold you some fatty chicken at a ridiculous mark-up? Made you chuckle at semi-literate cartoon cows? You mean more to me than KFC possibly could. If I, in turn, don’t mean more to you than a chicken sandwich from Chik-Fil-A–if my life, my quality of life, and my dignity are such afterthoughts to you that you’d not only refuse the boycott, but go out of your way to support someone who was hurting me? if I let this stand, if I don’t stand up to the bullies and if I let my friends egg the bullies on, what does that make me?

Well, it makes me a Chikin.

Yeah, so suddenly it is cause for anger, ridiculous or not.

But I’m not going to stop being Facebook friends with anyone over this issue.

Instead, I will remain. And, when you see my face with my partner’s in my profile, maybe you will examine not simply what your opinions are about gay people, or gay marriage, or the first amendment, even; maybe you’ll  examine not merely your opinions but your values. What is friendship to you? What is loyalty? How important are human life and dignity to you? Are they more important than fitting in with your social group? Are they more important than loyalty to a corporate brand, or a political party, or some misguided church teaching?

That’s why we’re so angry. This is personal for us. There are times in your life when you have the opportunity to stand up for your friends. When you let that opportunity pass, your friends notice. It doesn’t mean we can’t be friends, but it diminishes you, and it diminishes the friendship. That’s how it is, no matter what the issue or what the venue.

So stand up. Stand up for us. Do the right thing. You don’t have to agree with us on everything, but repudiate Chick-Fil-A. Unlike them on Facebook. Withdraw your support for them. Join us in the boycott. If you can’t do that, then please ask yourself whether I’m your friend. In fact, ask yourself whether anyone is.

This is all I have to say. If you’d like to debate the issue further, I’ll do it, but I’m not going to go around and around on the same points. If you’re just going to repeat yourself, save us both some time. If you haven’t taken the time to actually read this carefully and actually consider carefully what I’ve said, then I see no reason to waste further words.

The ball is in your court. Again, I urge you to do the right thing.

– Wayne Self
Twitter: @owldolatrous
Facebook: facebook.com/owldolatrous

Wayne Self is a playwright and composer whose current project is a musical tribute to the 32 LGBT and allied victims of the 1973 arson fire at the Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans, LA. Considered by many to be the largest hate crime against LGBT people in U.S. history, the fire is sometimes seen as a lesson in the perils of silence. ”Upstairs” will give voice to the victims of the fire–many of whom self-identified as Christian–and is scheduled to premier next year, in time for the 40th anniversary of the tragedy. For more information about the Upstairs fire, please visit http://www.bilerico.com/2012/02/new_orleans_inferno_the_upstairs_lounge_fire.phpFor booking or production information, contact ewayneself@owldolatrous.com.

A Selah Moment

I was going to post a very passionate reflection today about being an angry Black woman and the value of anger as a tool of resistance. But I’m going to save all that passion and fervor for Monday. Today, I want to take a selah (I explain more at the end about selah) moment, to just pause and be silent, in a way anyway.

Selah.

In honor of and out of respect for the victims of the terrorist shootings (because terrorists aren’t just Islamic Arabs – there’s a great article by David Sirota on this), I’m choosing to silence the other thoughts and ideas running around in my head and sit in silence. I’m posting so my readers know this is an intentional choice not to add to the noise and the talk – and there is a great deal of talk going on right now. Some of it helpful like Sirota’s piece linked above. Some of it not helpful as it reinforces stereotypes and inflicts pain on marginalized groups.

Selah.

There is value in pausing; value in silence. For me today, it shows my faith that others will speak to this better than I; my hope that we will as a society realize our accountability to each other; and love of peace.

Selah.

Perhaps we can learn from our Muslim brothers and sisters who have begun the fasting period of Ramadan – a month-long pause if you will. As Najeeba Syeed-Miller wrote in her blog post preparing for Ramadan, this holy observance is about practicing a model of conflict resolution and serves as a powerful reminder to produce peace in one’s life.

I think we could all benefit from pausing in silence to practice how to produce peace, instead of producing more and more violence in our world.

Selah.

*Selah is a kind of musical notation used in the Hebrew scriptures, particularly the Psalms, which were meant to be sung, to signal to the musicians and congregation that it was time to pause and reflect on the words that had just been sung. It made the psalm more meditative, more prayerful. Today has been one giant selah moment for me.

Don’t Forget Me

Sorry for the late post; Sunday and Monday really got away from me. However, it’s important to me to be consistent and reliable with my blog posts, so I figured it would be better to get this one in tonight, than to wait to post it tomorrow.

Anyway, before I left on vacation last week, I read my issue of Equality magazine, published by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). I’m a member and monthly partner of HRC so I make sure I take the time to read each quarter’s publication. This Spring’s issue included an interview with Elizabeth Warren who is running for a U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts. I have been interested in her campaign for several reasons but mostly because my fiancé lives in Massachusetts and because of the questions and challenges about her claim to Native American ancestry by her Republican opponent Scott Brown.

Warren has been a long-time proponent of equal rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community (one of the many reasons I like her and hope she wins the Senate seat in MA). Equality asked Warren to speak about what marriage equality in Massachusetts means to her and what its impact is. This was Warren’s response:

“It means we have some great families on our block. … It means that it’s both the profound statement and the simple statement. I love our block, and that’s how it should be. That’s what true marriage equality is about. I forget that some of the families in our neighborhood have two mommies and some have two daddies. And some have a mommy and a daddy and some have only one. … [emphasis added].” (p. 23)

Now, this is a great statement in many ways. Like I said earlier, I like Elizabeth Warren. I think her stances on consumer rights, LGBT equality, and many other issues are pretty much right in line with my own thinking. She’s someone I want to have in elected office in this country. I have faith in what she brings to the table; I think we need her voice. However, when I read this, I was immediately struck by the sentence that begins with the phrase “I forget.” She forgets that some of the families in her neighborhood are headed by same-gender couples? She forgets that some of them are gay fathers co-parenting and some are lesbian mother co-parents? She forgets this. Perhaps she means that it’s become so “normal,” such a part of her everyday life that she no longer notices it as odd or different or aberrant or even special. And that’s great if it’s true and I hope that one day, it’s such a part of everyday life, that LGBT people are so visible and so socially integrated, that it no longer resonates as special. Perhaps that’s what she was trying to say.

“I forget…” – that phrase is still problematic for me though. It reminds me of the many times that I have had White people tell me that they “forget” that I’m Black, that they no longer take notice of my racial identity, because I’m really just a person, a human being, just like them, so they can put my race aside and focus on what really matters – my humanity, the thing that makes us more alike than we are different. Often this forgetting is equated with fulfilling Martin Luther King’s dream that his four children would be judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin. We might put this saying in the context of LGBT people by saying that we should judge people by the content of their character, not the nature of their sexual attractions and desires.

I’m all for not using race, sexuality, gender, faith, disability, or any other social identity as a means to judge someone’s worth, ability, value, or character. I am also in full support of the need to get know people as people by their character and integrity, beliefs, habits, dreams, goals, and potential. However, I refuse to believe that doing so means forgetting what may be defining aspects of someone’s identity as a member of a certain social group.

I don’t want my race to be forgotten and I don’t want my sexuality forgotten either. Who I am is tied in important ways to my social identities as African American and lesbian. As a Black lesbian, my experiences and beliefs and the way I move in the world, how the world perceives me, are very much about those social identities and several others. So you don’t do me any favors by forgetting that I am Black or by forgetting that I am a lesbian. You don’t fulfill King’s dream of judging me by the content of my character by forgetting that my character has been shaped by my experiences as a person with a race, gender, and sexuality that are marginalized in this society. Love doesn’t forget something that is so core to my existence in this world.

I don’t want Elizabeth Warren to forget that there are families on her block headed by same-gender couples. I want her to remember that and to remember what that means for how those families have to operate in their daily lives in ways that the heterosexual couples on her families don’t have to think about. The minute that Warren or anybody else forgets about other people’s sexuality or their race (or any other marginalized identity), their ability to effectively challenge heterosexual or racial privilege is compromised. Especially as a representative of the people in the U.S. Senate, I don’t just want Warren to remember those gay and lesbian couples and their families on her block and throughout the great commonwealth of Massachusetts; I need her to remember them. I need her to remember that the legislation she votes on will affect real people, people she knows and sees every day at the grocery store, as she walks her dogs, and on her way to the mailbox. I believe Warren is that kind of person, but saying that she forgets the sexuality of the people heading households on her block doesn’t inspire confidence in me.

Warren says toward the end of her interview with Equality magazine that the main lesson she learned growing up was “That we all had value and that when we recognize the humanity in others, we give voice to the humanity in ourselves” (p. 23). Agreed. Part of recognizing my humanity is remembering my sexuality and any other identity that shapes my experiences in this world. Re-membering, in the Hebrew sense of the word that one puts something back together again, doesn’t just recognize my whole humanity, it also allows those with privilege to re-member – to put back together again – how they have come to be who they are and how their social identities have shaped their experiences in the world. Whiteness and heterosexuality (and other privileged social identities) have gone unmarked in our society, allowing them to exist as the default option, as the norm, making it nearly impossible for people who carry those privileged identities to see the ways that their privilege has shaped their experiences. If you remember how that has happened for me on the wrong side of privilege, perhaps it will help you remember how that may have also happened for you as a beneficiary of privilege.

Maybe you think it shouldn’t be like that. Maybe you think we’d all be better off if we stopped noticing race, sexuality, gender, religion, or any other marker of difference. I would argue that it’s not the noticing that gives us grief, it’s the forgetting. Forgetting what has been put in the center, normalized, optimized, and privileged; forgetting what has been put on the margins, condemned, made aberrant, and undermined; forgetting, not noticing, has made diversity an ugly word instead of the beautiful gift that it is. So, do me a favor: When you see me, really see me, and remember all of what makes me who I am.