Thursday, January 24, 2008

Late January newsworthiness

I meant to be at a literary event (the debut of a new lit mag, Bruiser Review) Thursday night, but got scared off by the fact that the temperature sign outside my window said 0 degrees. And the temperature on the screen at CLTV said 00 degrees (!!). So I decided to stay in and combine some recent photos of the CTA (six different stations, all taken Mon. 1/21) with somewhat political content, for no good reason.

Monday morning I had my volunteer shift at the Archicenter and spent much more time on the computer than usual. I looked up a piece about the acclaimed urban/ruins photographer Camilo Jose Vergara that I'd heard on "Morning Edition" as I rushed around earlier, about Vergara's project of documenting Martin Luther King Jr. paintings and murals in American cities. I also found a story about this book by a journalist and photographer exploring the various streets named after MLK in America. Sounds intriguing, like the similar-themed MLK Blvd Flickr group and blog.

I also spent quite a bit of time on, looking up abandoned CTA stations and being amazed at the number of demolished stations and entire vanished lines. I knew about some of it, but still...I'll definitely have some full-fledged posts on that someday. I set out to photograph an image on the Vergara NPR page, and the abandoned station I'd seen on Chicago-L. A couple different explorer friends had mentioned the possibility of going to Gary on Monday, but one couldn't and one went when I had the Archicenter shift. I'd felt weird anyway about the prospect of white people romping around the ruins of Gary on the King holiday. So what did I do? I ended up photographing the ruins of Englewood. Oh well.

So, a good afternoon photographing, and a visit to my friend Shag--I hadn't seen him or his cats in ages. Then the gloom I've been in this week seized me again. Tuesday, I lay on the couch thoroughly depressed and listening to a very good "Talk of the Nation" discussion called Abortion Experiences: 35 Years After Roe v. Wade. Since it was the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, of course. The point was that abortion is extremely common but rarely discussed in terms of personal experience, and I was impressed with the diverse experiences/opinions I heard on the show.

There was obviously a lot in the more political parts of the blogosphere, but I'm not political enough here to say much about it myself, so I'll just link to a good collection of pieces at Alternet. I was especially impressed with Amanda Marcotte's piece that discussed adoption politics: “It seems women across the nation realized that if they had a right to abort a pregnancy, they also had a right to keep a baby, and didn't have to give it up just because their parents, church, and community said so. People treat "choice" like a code word for "abortion", but it really does mean "choice"--the choice to have an abortion, sure, but also the choice to be a single mother, to be childless, to delay marriage, never to marry at all, or to be a lesbian.” By the way, I've had a rant boiling in me for a long time about the hit-and-now-Academy-Award-nominated Juno, but I don't want to rant about movies I haven't actually seen. It isn't the typical feminist response ("what's with all these movies about unexpected pregnancy that don't discuss abortion?"), it's the way adoption appears to be treated in that film. But I need to see it first.

One more. Cristina Page has a blog at Birth Control Watch and the link right there is to another hugely important, not-discussed-enough part of the abortion debate: how religious right groups aren't just trying to ban abortion, but birth control as well, by actually trying to redefine forms of birth control AS abortion. First they try to confuse emergency contraception with the "abortion pill," then since EC is actually high doses of the birth control pill, they can redefine the pill as abortion. Her post about teenagers and pregnancy was decent but predictable; I'm annoyed at how often the socioeconomic factors around early motherhood get left out and everything's reduced to education/birth control access or morality. Reading about the 18-year-old mother of four in There Are No Children Here (who has a fifth by the epilogue), in a time and place when many very young women were mothers (I know I should know the statistics today, by comparison) really complicates things for anyone on any side of the abstinence vs. comprehensive sex ed debate, doesn't it? I'll point you to another essential read, Dubious Conceptions: The Politics of Teenage Pregnancy.

UPDATE: I got a comment from a good friend that strongly disagreed with some of the opinions here, and just posted a long excerpt in comments from one of the late Ellen Willis's essential essays about abortion rights, have a look. If I'm going to express opinions, I have to be willing to accept dissent/criticism (but I'm kind of thin-skinned, so it's not always easy).


dk said...

call it what it is, pro-death. abortion is despicable. don't want a kid? make the choice to not engage in certain behaviors. simple. i may not think outlawing it will do much good, but at least the pro-life/anti-choice whatevers have the high ground.

Katherine said...

I knew at some point someone would disagree with something here. I'd rather have that happen than be ignored. As long as there's no personal attacks/anonymous rants (oh, those aren't allowed anyway) well, agree to disagree.

Two points: first, a lot of women around the world don't always have the choice about what behaviors they engage in (I'm not just talking about rape).

Second, from "Abortion: Is a Woman a Person?" (1979) by Ellen Willis:

"...Even if she chooses to give up the baby, unwanted pregnancy is in itself a serious trauma...However gratifying pregnancy may be to a woman who desires it, for the unwilling it is literally an invasion--the closet analogy is to the difference between lovemaking and rape...Clearly, abortion is by normal standards an act of self-defense.
Whenever I make the case to a right-to-lifer, the exchange that follows is always substantially the same:
RTL: If a woman chooses to have sex, she should be willing to take the consequences. We must all be responsible for our actions.
EW: Men have sex, without having to 'take the consequences.'
RTL: You can't help that--it's biology.
EW: You don't think a woman has as much right as man to enjoy sex? Without living in fear that one slip will transform her life?
RTL: She has no right to selfish pleasure at the expense of the unborn.
It would seem, then, that the nitty-gritty issue in the abortion debate is not life but sex. If the fetus is sacrosanct, it follows that women must be continually vulnerable to the invasion of their bodies and loss of their freedom and independence--unless they are willing to resort to the only perfectly reliable contraceptive, abstinence. This is precisely the 'solution' right-to-lifers suggest, usually with a touch of glee; as Rep. Elwood Rudd once put it, 'If a woman has a right to control her own body, let her exercise control before she gets pregnant.' A common ploy is to compare sex to overeating or overdrinking, the idea being that pregnancy is a just punishment, like obesity or cirrhosis.
In 1979 it is depressing to have to insist that sex is not an unneccessary, morally dubious self-indulgence but a basic human need, no less for women than for men...The don't-have-sex argument is really another version of the familiar antifeminist dictum that autonomy and femaleness--that is, female sexuality, are incompatible; if you choose the first, you lose the second..."

I agree. But again, I'm not going to censor different points of view here.

S.A.S. said...

I'm the editor of Bruiser Review and I'm sorry you couldn't make it to the party. It was a lot of fun but I imagine the frigid temps kept a lot of folks away.

Anyway, thanks for mentioning us. If you e-mail me (I have a hard time communicating through blog comments) I'll send you a list of places where the mag can be found around town. Cheers!

-Simon A. Smith