Blogging for Choice

Blogging For ChoiceWhen people say “choice” the first thing we tend to think of is abortions. Me, I’m never going to get an abortion — unless the universe really hates me, that is. You see, when I was 23 I got my tubes tied so, unless I’m one of those less than 1% of women whose body naturally reverses the tubal, I’m not going to get pregnant which means I’ll never have to think about getting an abortion.

I grew up in a world where my right to bodily sovereignty was considered a basic right (though that way of thinking is slowly being eroded). Roe v. Wade pioneered the way for that kind of thinking, and so it’s in part responsible for my ability to get my tubes tied without kids, without a husband, and without being nearly post-menopausal. Roe v. Wade made it possible for me to never have to be faced with the decision to have an abortion.

So, yes, that decision gave countless women access to safe medical abortions, but that’s not all it did. It also was a major step in the direction of giving women control over their sexual lives and their bodies; it helped to give women access to birth control methods and family planning that otherwise would not have been available to them. It said that, yes, women do have the ability and right to make their own decisions regarding whether or not they want children.

When I think about “choice” I don’t just think about the abortion debate; I think about how thankful I am that I was allowed to make a choice that enriched my life. We need to create a society that allows more women to make such choices, not less.

How NOT to get me to support your cause

The Right Reason?
The “Right” Reason?

Note to Mother’s Rights Activists: If you want my support, do not use sexist advertising like the image above.

My tits will never feed babies. This is by my choice. Not you, not your group, not anyone has the right to decide what the “right” way to use my tits are.

And, frankly, setting up this “right” way — ie. breastfeeding — sets up the “wrong” way as any way that is not involving a child. Way to reinforce that women should feel shame about ourselves. That breasts should only be seen as neutral when there’s a baby attached to them. That every woman wants to be a mother, and furthermore that they should be a mother.

You can decide how you want to use your breasts, but leave my breasts — and the breasts of all other women — out of it. Leave them out of your sexist, anti-woman, anti-non-mother campaign. Leave me out of it. Because I will never support you.

Update: Darth Sidhe has posted an excellent analysis on why this campaign is anti-woman.

Hat tip to Darth Sidhe, image found via cf_hardcore LJ.

To my fellow sisters-in-arms:

Stop it. Stop invalidating me because of my reproductive choices. Stop telling me what is and is not worthy of discussion. Stop calling me names because I have a different sexual expression than you. Stop discriminating against our sisters just because they don’t have the same naughty bits as you. Stop telling women that they should not be allowed to choose their life’s path. And, for the love of little green apples, stop trying to make the only valid path in life the one you want to take.

That’s what the patriarchy does, not us. Get it?

So, stop it. Just fucking STOP IT.

Parents are from Mars, Non-Parents are from Venus

I’ve suffered from yet another Attack of the 50-line Comment, so I decided to make a post about it instead of cluttering Jenn’s comment box. Jenn has done what I’ve come to believe is tantamount to death in many feminist circles: she has spoken up for her rights as a non-parent in her post, baby wars. She was firm in her opinions, harsh (perhaps too harsh) in her judgement, and made the mistake of bringing up breastfeeding. Her criticism of our baby-worshipping cultures brought the attention of Dru Blood, a mother very much concerned about parental rights. If you can stomach the tense exchange, I recommend reading it. Just keep in mind that this post is a general response to the arguments, so I’m not pulling quotes or anything. Anyway, on with the show.

One of the main arguments from the non-parents is that we don’t hate parents (or kids), we hate bad parents. The kinds that refuse to teach or discipline their kids, who let them run wild in inappropriate places (sometimes to the point of endangering the kids and those around them), and who freak out at even the most polite suggestion that they, I don’t know, at least keep an eye on where their children are. Overall, I support this stance; kids are kids and therefore it’s the adult’s responsibility to make sure they’re protected and as well behaved as possible. This is, more-or-less, the stance that Jenn took. Dru, arguing for the parents’ side, pointed out that there’s a fine line between parents trying and failing and not trying at all. In many cases it simply is not easy, or possible, to tell which is which. And, she’s right. If the world were black and white, we wouldn’t need to be having these kinds of conversations.

Her point also brings up another issue. While I think that non-parent (childfree or otherwise) advice is valuable, since we offer an outside perspective, I acknowledge that it is that very outside perspective that makes it impossible for us to truly understand a parent’s situation. The same, however, can be said about parents talking to non-parents; yes, your kids may be your world, but that doesn’t mean that everyone wants to have a kid right now, nor or even ever. There is a point where parents and non-parents cannot truly understand the other, but I believe that, while it’s an important point, it is ultimately a superficial one.

In my studies on the matter as both a feminist and a childfree woman I’ve found that it is the very same parts of the patriarchy working against both sides of the divide: the institutions/social conventions that want to force mothers into some pre-conceived notion of motherhood (and punish them when they don’t fit into them perfectly) also work against childless and childfree women (and, to a lesser extent, they also work against fathers and non-parent men). One glance at the childfree livejournal community shows that, beyond the anti-[bad]parent venting, many posts are about the frustrations that childfree people face when total strangers shame them for not making the “right” reproductive choices. Having lived in mostly liberal areas, I haven’t personally encountered some of the worst horror stories, but I have had to get into more than a few terse conversations with my friends over my choice to be childfree. The worst I got was my uncle, who I love very much, calling me an “idiot” for wanting to get a tubal ligation.

Again, even though I tend toward the non-parent side, I fully believe that the parents’ arguments are valid, and furthermore I think it’s important for parents to bring some perspective to non-parents in this argument. But, just as I feel Dru Blood got hostile towards Jenn, so too have I felt in the past that many individuals in the feminist communities I lurk in are automatically hostile towards non-parents who are trying to understand but still refusing to slip back into the default value of acknowledging parents’ experiences as more valuable than our own. And, I guess, that’s what I feel feminist circles as a whole have a hard time understanding: individuals may get that the experiences of parents and non-parents are equally valuable, but society doesn’t.

No one is saying parents have it easy, far from it. The patriarchy is about control and it doesn’t care if the women are childed or not. But I would argue that the pervading opinion, in the US at least, is that having a child is the only way to become a 100% human being. And those without children are, by proxy, lesser and therefore we have to just suck it up and deal with it if our lives are intruded on by someone’s child. That doesn’t excuse some of the more extreme non-parent positions, just as the valid arguments of parents who want the ability to go out of their house with their young children doesn’t excuse the more extreme parent positions. All I’m saying is that the valid arguments parents have about their hardships are not exclusive of the valid arguments that we non-parents have.

Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t go to a park and expect to have a nice, quiet stroll sans-children. I wouldn’t expect to go to a matinee G or PG movie on a weekend and not be surrounded by kids of varying age and varying rowdiness. I respect family-friendly spaces; heck, I think we should have more of them. Referencing a point that Jenn made in her original post about flying with a kid kicking your seat (my experience is with a kid dropping hirs pacifier on my foot), I would absolutely love for airlines to offer three kinds of flights: normal (like they are now), family-friendly (designed for kids, with G-rated movies and stuff), and adult-friendly (no kids under 13 allowed, designed for adults with PG-13 movies). With three choices, I see it as a win-win situation. Of course, with the airlines in some serious financial trouble it’s not feasible at the moment (too many people would get shut out of flight times they need), but I hold out for one day in the future.

Bottom line: I want to respect the rights of parents without giving up my own. I think our problem right now is entitlement complexes on both sides, with society goading us to fight each other so we don’t notice how badly our governments are shafting us. The problem isn’t parents or non-parents, per se, but rather a society that wants to control our choices rather than help us make them. An example of what I mean is that when Katrina blew through Miami schools were closed but my friend’s company was not. Because of this, the parents who didn’t have the luxury of having a stay-at-home spouse had to bring their kids in. The workplace had no daycare facility and was obviously not set up to handle children. In my friend’s work area there were four or five children, bored out of their skulls, making a ruckus and making it very hard for anyone to work. I don’t blame my friend for being annoyed (I would be, too). I don’t blame the parents for bringing the kids in (what other choice did they have?). I blame the company and our stupid government for not mandating that a company of that size have a daycare facility for the children of its employees.

As long as we continue attacking each other, nothing will get done. It’s not helpful for us to get all up in each other’s faces about the little things because we’re all fighting for the same reason: we want to be heard and acknowledged. We want society to fix our problems because we can’t do it ourselves. Discourse is good, but not if all it does is divide us further. Neither sides can respect each other as long as we continue to fight as if we’re diametrically opposed. We need, as Jenn has proposed, to communicate with each other. There is common ground and both non-parents and parents alike need to find it. Because otherwise it’s just all of us being oppressed, inconvenienced, and just plain getting the short end of the stick.

A Childfree Life

This post won’t be long, ’cause I’m going to get my tired behind back into bed right afterwards. Went to the hospital yesterday and checked in – when I repeated my birthdate the receptionist was mildly surprised at my age – then went through the 2+ hours of waiting. Mom and I had gotten there early after almost missing our intended ferry, if we had caught the buffer ferry we would have been fine too. But, in our typical way, we spent most of the time debating any sort of issue under the sun so it was all good.

About 30 mins before surgery I got an IV in my hand with a saline solution and some antibiotics (doc’s orders because of my bleed time results) then I was eventually lead into surgery where my anaesthesiologist gave me my general anaesthesia – it hurt. At first I thought I had somehow pulled the needle when I was getting up onto the bed, but he apologized for it hurting and gave me the rest in lesser doses that hurt less. I was out like a light.

So, I woke up after surgery in my typical fashion – early. At least this time it was after everything was taken care of so, unlike my wisdom teeth removal, I didn’t have to deal with nurses who thought I was still under and doctors cauterizing my mouth because of that. Yeah, they didn’t get it until I started wimpering. Good times. Anyway, so back to this story, I was groggy and talked my nurse’s ear off, but I got up to go to the bathroom almost immediately (and I was told that I’d have to drink water first, ha! I’ve peed more in these past 24 hours than I do even if I drink my usual 4 litres of water) but I shook like a freight train.

Soon after that came the viscious cycle of nausea and stomach pain – the anti-nauseants would work until I was given the pain meds then I would throw up any water that I drank and, when I tried to take my oral meds I threw that up too. Somehow the food managed to stay down, but that was about it. Finally after being there for a couple of hours dozing in and out depending on how bad the pain was, my nurse contacted my doc and got me some Demerol. It put me out for another hour or so, but it did the trick. After that I got my oral med down and was able to walk around shake-free. While I was getting ready to go, my new nurse (the shift changed while I was there) was chatting to me about things and asked if I had kids, I said no, she was like “oh” then we continued chatting about things. Like the receptionist, no judgements or dirty looks, just a mild surprise.

On the car ride home I watched part of a Stargate episode before falling asleep, again dozing in and out and periodically asking mom where we were (I’m sure she loved having the “are we there yet?” kid in the car again, hehe). We got home, I tried to take my oral meds on an empty stomach (yeah, bad idea) and barfed it and more water up. After eating some saltines, I took another one, watched a Stargate ep or two and fell asleep. I woke up at about 3, went to find mom (she and her partner were playing World of Warcraft still). I was going to take another med, but was feeling a tad queasy even after eating a saltine so I decided against it. Turns out it worked just fine, because I woke up this morning without any crampy feeling in my tummy; just feeling bruised, which I am.

So, yeah, as I’m sure y’all can tell, this experience was harrowing and nauseating (ha, ha). At one point mom asked me how I felt and I was like, “Horrible, but it is so worth it.” And it is. A couple days of pain is a small price to pay for never having to worry about pregnancy again. I’m sure once the reality sinks in (and my stomach stops feeling bruised), I’ll be bouncing off the wall in excitement. Until then, it’s just me and more Stargate.

On "sick" states and birthrates

So, I was over at Amptoons reading a thread entitled Even For Pro-Lifers, Banning Abortion Makes No Sense, in which Amp makes a bunch of points about reducing the number of abortions that I couldn’t agree more on. Read it, go, I command you. Anyway, I went through the comments and ended up writing a response. Due to my bombastic nature, I decided to cut out one part entirely ’cause it was off on a tangent that deserved more than the page it already had. Ergo, I’m posting it here for your viewing pleasure.

So, first of all, some stats.

Abortion rates in various countries [via Amp]:

As I’ve said in the past, pro-lifers should be asking which countries have the least abortion? Belgium has an abortion rate of 6.8 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44. The Netherlands, 6.5. Germany, 7.8. Compare that to the USA’s rate of 22. Even better, compare it to countries where abortion is illegal: Egypt, 23; Brazil, 40; Chile, 50; Peru, 56.

Approximate net birth rates (births per 1000 – deaths per 1000) [via Robert, formatted for space]:

Belgium: 0.3 Netherlands: 2.4 Germany: -2.3

Compared to:

USA: 5.9 Egypt: ~18 Peru: ~14.7 Chile: ~9.6

(Source for Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, US: | (Source for Egypt, Peru, Chile:

And finally, top 5 countries with highest standard of living [via AndiF]:

1. Norway (birth rate rank 179 of 226)
2. Sweden (birth rate rank 195 0f 226)
3. Australia (birth rate rank 172 of 226)
4. Canada (birth rate rank 186 of 226)
5. Netherlands (birth rate rank 151 of 226)

I think the stats on the top five countries with the highest living standards makes a powerful statement: equal opportunity seems to lead to a true “culture of life” – higher standards of living, less unwanted pregnancies, less abortions, etc. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the countries with the highest standards of living are in general the ones that have gone a long way in encouraging equality and freedom for all and instituting good social programs. Using the birthrate stats, this achievement is often accompanied by a drop in population size, but if a society is looking for the best living standard for its current citizens wouldn’t it make sense for the birthrate to drop off until the number of people was equalized with the country’s resources to maintain a base standard of living for said people?

So, with that in mind I’d like to move on to the comment that sparked this tangent. This particular part of the debate focuses on birth rates and their correlations to “good”/”bad” societies. The main argument posited by the “negative birthrate = bad” side is that those trends will inevitably lead to the demise of the race/culture/country. I’m, obviously, going to be arguing for the “negative birthrate can be good” side.

Glaivester said:

I do believe that a society that refuses to reproduce at levels sufficient to maintain its population is a seriously sick society (unless, of course, this is a conscious and temporary trend to deal with overpopulation, e.g. Japan).

Glaivester’s implicit criticisms on those of us who choose not to reproduce aside, I’d argue that the “refusal” to reproduce at replacement levels is an indicator of a sick society, rather than a cause. Of course, my idea of “sickness” is a society in which people are not free to pursue their happiness to its fullest extent, which may or may not be Glaivester’s idea. To me, a 100% “healthy” society is an ideal one; one in which equality thrives and opportunities are available to all.

Now, since we’re using Japan as an example, I’d like to state my meagre credentials: I’ve done some minor studying of Japan, as it was one of my focus countries in my Asian Studies degree. I wouldn’t be quick to exempt them from the “sick society” label, even by Glaivester’s definition, as their conscious trend in lowering birthrates may not be as temporary as simple overpopulation awareness would be.

Overpopulation is a problem, yes, and one that I would agree the negative replacement rate is helping to combat. But other problems are also leading to the low birthrate, problems that seem to be gaining more attention as women and men make the conscious decision not to reproduce. One such problem is the institution of heterosexual marriage/partnership – because of issues such as the traditional work environment couples rarely see each other due to long working hours. Once kids are introduced to the mix, it falls to the mother (who is expected to have given up her career regardless of her feelings on the matter) to parent the children while the father is consumed by work. Not a healthy situation for any involved, so many married couples are opting out of parenthood. On the same issue, because of pressures such as those I’ve noted, many women are foregoing marriage altogether in favour of keeping their freedom to live their life as they want. These aren’t necessarily people who don’t want kids, but they are people who have decided for various reasons that it’s unacceptable to bring children into the world they live in.

These decisions have started to garner media attention. Sure, most of it is the “oh no! we have an aging population to support, what are you selfish kids doing? underpopulation is a huge problem!” alarmist malarkey, but as more people come forward with their reasons for not having kids the awareness of these social problems is spreading. Unless the government wants to try to institute forced conceptions, a policy that I doubt would fly, it has the choice of accepting the steadily declining birthrate, or improving society in order to make having children a possibility for those people who would want kids in a reasonably healthy society.

What, then, does Japan’s case say about the possible correlation between higher living standards and lower birth rates? Well, my theory is that a lower birthrate is a natural attempt to promote healing of the society. Like I said above, societies without unnatural enforced childbearing (whether it be socially mandated or legally mandated) tend to have a negative birthrate that in turn gives them a greater pool of resources from which to build a strong social network that raises the standard of living in general. So, on one level, Japan’s population drop will increase the resources available to the general populace. However, the political statement made by childfree groups like the NOKS goes beyond population concerns, or even the personal desire not to have kids.

Only time will tell whether or not these declining birthrate countries die out or level off at some point with a high standard of living for all. Still, if I had to bet money on the outcome, I’d wager that, barring unforeseen external events, countries like Norway and Sweden will continue to thrive and Japan will begin seeing some radical policy changes during the next few generations in response to the people who choose not to marry and/or have kids.

Bad, tekanji, bad!

Okay, I haven’t delivered on my promised third part of my Girls and Game Ads series. I will, I swear. See, now you have a promise and a swear! But it isn’t entirely the fault of my laziness, really, I’ve been busy too! No, not just playing Sims 2 (I just got University, I blame EA!), but switching around my flights to Miami and scheduling my tubal ligation. Yeah, I said tubal ligation. Excuse me while I squee like a fangirl. That’s right, folks, on September 7 I will say goodbye to my fertility and hello to reproductive freedom. More on that after the procedure.

I’m also attending a gaming conference in Seattle on the 10th. I originally wasn’t able to go ’cause I was supposed to be in Miami, but then the hurricane hit and my dad’s house got trashed by a tree so I postponed until the 12. So I’ll be traveling so much my head hurts, but it’ll be totally worth it. I’ll try to write on that too, but I might not get to it with all the running around I’ll be doing directly after.

Oh and, as you may see, I’ve added a “personal” section to the blog. It’s part of my effort to both fan my narcissism and remove the “part-time hypocrite” stamp from my forehead (you know what I’m talking about, Sour Duck) and put some more personal into my political. I’ve also added a “series” category to keep a bit better track of any post series we do here. Oh, and done some link cleanup. Some were broken, some I never read, and some I decided were too outside the spirit of my blog to keep. I’m somewhat sorry to see Little Miss Attila go, but half the time I popped over to see what was up in her neck of the woods I would be greeted by language I found offensive. I value other perspectives, but I can’t support things like calling people other people’s “bitches”.

PS. I know this blog’s design is hideous and broken for IE users. Please poke me to update it, ’cause I really should but I’m a bad, bad, person because my laziness keeps getting in the way.

New Contraceptive May Save Lives

A new form of contraceptive (microbicides) is under development, one that looks like it might be able to strike a serious blow against the epidemic of STDs, HIV in particular.

It comes in the form of cream, gel, or capsule and has the power to save over 2.5 million lives over a period of three years, as estimated by the Rockefeller Foundation. […]

With 14 different versions in the works and 5 already proven safe enough for scientists to begin testing, microbicides are expected to hit the market at some date in the next 3 years.

Perhaps the most significant benefit is the product’s ability to empower women. Rather than negotiating the use of a condom, women would be able to apply the cream with disregard to the sentiment of their partner.

Over at feministing, Jen asks one question that the article fails to address:

I wonder…the article referenced doesn’t touch on whether it would be usable for gay men. I’d presume that lube would be helpful for anal sex, and a lot of gay men I know would rather not use a condom if they didn’t have to (a lot of straight men too, for that matter), so this could potentially have a huge impact on the gay male community and the impact of AIDS on them. Is this only a vag-friendly cream, or could it be used elsewhere?

Hopefully when this medication gets closer to a possible release date, issues such as these will be addressed. Even if it’s vaginal only, however, if proven safe to use, this medication could save a lot of lives. Of course, with the Christian Right all up in arms in the United States about the potentially life-saving HPV vaccines, because, you know, the women “may see it as a license to engage in premarital sex” (says Bridget Maher of the Family Research Council), I expect microbicides will also come under fire eventually. I just hope that, when the time comes, that neither medications will be denied simply because some religious nutbags think that premarital sex is a greater “risk” than saving the lives of women and men.

Via feministing

Midnight Ramblings of a Childfree Mind

When I tell people that, not only do I not want children, but that I intend to get a tubal ligation I often hear the question, “But, what if you change your mind?” There are many responses to that; “when pigs fly,” “when hell freezes over,” “I won’t change my mind,” or sometimes if I’m too weary to argue, “If that happens, I’ll adopt. But it won’t, so it’s a moot point.” The last one thankfully has never spawned a comment like, “But don’t you want to pass on your genes?” Nonetheless, it is wearying to know that no matter what I say, most people just don’t get it.

I’ve been thinking about a way to help people understand that not wanting children isn’t some childish whimsy of my own. When thinking about a similar response to the question “But what if you meet a man who changes your mind?” (as if a man is the only kind of person I’d want to meet, but I digress), I began thinking about relationships and sexuality – something all people can understand on some level.

Think about it this way: if you become life partners with someone, then vows (spoken or unspoken) are exchanged. For better or for worse, you have made a contract with that person to give them your love and affection. In a monogamous relationship, you have given your promise to be with them and only them. If being with that person is something you feel in your heart is right, then do you regret the decision? Do you mourn every time you itch for something new, something different? Do you run off with the first person who takes your fancy, abandoning everything you’ve built with your life partner? No, probably not. The small things can be dealt with easily, and the larger things worked around (relationship counselling or, if absolutely necessary, parting ways).

In some ways, getting sterilized is like taking vows. These vows are not to a partner, but they are still to someone I love. I want to make these vows to myself as a way of honouring part of who I am. A way to make my life better because no longer will I have to face the decision of using birth control, which my body cannot tolerate properly, or relying solely on barrier methods with the constant fear of getting pregnant. It is a freeing decision; a way to ensure that, no matter what my life turns out to be that I will never, ever be pressured or forced into bringing a pregnancy to term. It is something that I need to do for myself, just as marrying someone out of love is something that some people feel they need to do for their relationship and their life partners.

Is it possible that part of me will regret the decision? Sure, but regret is a natural, human response. Part of me even regrets decisions that made my life better. I regret not having found a way to learn Japanese when the program at my university was unbearable. But my education in the general Asian Studies program was as valuable, if not moreso, and going to language school next year in Japan may be even more rewarding than having tried learning in a foreign country with the constant threat of getting bad marks on my mind. None of that will erase the bitterness of what was, but I regret more that it delayed me from what I wanted rather than what I decided to do with that delay. And I don’t regret my decision; I did what I had to do for myself. Right or not, it was my decision to make and I made it.

And, isn’t that what it boils down to? The right to make my decision about my body. To do what is right for me. I don’t want kids, have never wanted kids, and will never want them. I have the right to pursue happiness, and one branch of my happiness has a name: tubal ligation. I will not be happy and I will not be free until I obtain my goal.