Recently, spurred into action by anti-contraception and pro-vaginal probe requirements before abortion, a friend sent out a request for submission of any works around these topics for the blog http://wearethefiftypercent.tumblr.com/ .
I have been trying to come up with something for her and for what she’s trying to do. I think it is good and noble, and I love that she is fighting for something that transcends a single issue or two—that has ramifications for human and civil rights that affects all of us no matter our disability status, age, sexual orientation, or gender.
However, when I turn my attention to the creation of something to contribute I find myself lacking.
These issues of state-sanctioned pre-abortion vaginal probing and the doing away with many kinds of contraception are not “women’s health issues” any more than digital rectal examinations for prostate cancer are “men’s health issues” (not that they are at all comparable, but really, what can you compare with issues these broad and dire?). Rather, they are both simply human health issues. It is obtuse and asinine to argue that health issues specific to women do not affect men. We women are colleagues, peers, friends, lovers, partners, children, and parents of men. We do not live in a gender-specific bubble, and neither do men.
I thought about writing about how women’s healthcare is generally seen as “preventative,” because historically men have been doctors and antiquated notions of separate spheres and gender binaries kept women from receiving adequate medical treatment until fairly recently. Thus, women are once again relegated to the realm of the passive (the preventative), whereas men stay actors, diagnosed and taking steps in treatment towards “wellness.”
No, no, much too dry.
So, then, I thought, I’ll go the personal angle.
I could write about the way that sexualized, gendered violence has touched my life, and how the legislation that looms large effectively asserts and maintains my own objectivity as perceived by men who feel power over me because of my biology. Depressingly, this angle ends with the knowledge that it does not take anti-contraception, anti-abortion, anti-woman, anti-human rights legislation to legitimize the ownership that men have felt over my being and my body. This is something that poor women and men, that people of color, that disabled people, have always felt and known.
Besides, no one wants to read that much nowadays.
Thus, I’m left with one answer: write a little something down and take a picture à la the 99% Movement. But this is something that I know I cannot do. See, as a U.S. American I am a consumer of food, of books, of technology, of hormonal contraception. As a young, nondisabled woman of Korean descent, I am also a commodity. In my skin carries the pressure of the touch of boyfriends past who would whisper in my ear, “Hey, China doll.” My mind is branded with the lecherous looks of white men from all walks of life.
To take a picture of myself as if it could sum up how I feel about the anti-human rights legislation feels too close to the object-commodification that has been one source of pressure that blooms like an Evergreen through the seasons of my young life.
Anyway, I’ve never been someone who is able to produce clever one-liners.
So what? So what is there to do?
I don’t know, but I know what I wish I could do.
I wish that through my words I could let people see how fed up I am with people thinking they have the right to decide for me. Because, as a consumer of history, I know of Margaret Sanger, of back-alley abortions, of Roe v. Wade. I also know of forced sterilizations of thousands of Black American women and Native women. Of sharecropping systems that kept Blacks enslaved and then banishments that drove Black families off the land they worked because it became too attractive to while folk in town. I know that Asians are such a small U.S. American minority group today because of the lethal combination of casual social acceptance of propagandistic racial stereotypes and exclusionary, quota-style legislation (think the Page Act of 1875, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the National Origins Act of 1924, just to name a few).
What worries me about joining the discussion of anti-contraception, anti-abortion legislation is the reality that the government has been invading the lives—ignoring the rights—of racial and ethnic nonwhites, the working class and poor, the very young and old, and anyone who is disabled or even has a body shape outside of the hegemonic, masculine norm.
I am afraid that my brothers and sisters who feel so connected to this cause will not see this fight as the same fight for justice for Trayvon Martin. I’m afraid that they won’t see that it is linked to the slaying of 17 people—adults and children—in the Panjwai District in Afghanistan at the hands of US Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales who was serving his fourth tour of duty.
I wish that I had something to give to my friend, but all I have is the complex, messy reality of me.