Pro-choice actions and wearing in the activist groove

September 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

My life was full to the brim with activism for a few months, and for the last week or so I’ve been staking out some more time for academia, my day job, helped along by a self-enforced sabbatical in the ACT.

I have three new posts from the F Collective site that I’ve been meaning to share here, but I’ve left it a little long, so two in one hit today (don’t say I never treat you nice). The first post is about a protest I was heavily involved in planning and took a key part in, the second I helped organise but couldn’t attend. Lived vicariously through the photos, and you can too.


#Occupied: The NSW Right to Life Conference

On Saturday, this Right to Life event took place. Except that it didn’t, because feminists occupied it. Or, if you like, #destroyedthejoint.

NSW Right to Life invited the lovely David Bereit (pronounced bee-rite) to speak at their conference dinner on Saturday night while he does a speaking ‘tour‘ of Australia.

If you’ve followed any of the links above, I don’t have to tell you that this man is proud to announce that he has closed 23 abortion centres. He was national director of Stop Planned Parenthood. He started 40 days for life. He is vile and he wants to take away women’s control of their bodies, and trans* folks bodies too.

*Some feminists* (no names) were motivated enough to want to interrupt this guy. We wanted to let him know that he is not welcome to fuck us over, to try to change the culture of reproductive rights in Australia. We wanted to take direct, non-violent action to make sure the people peddling this stuff know that they are not unopposed – in fact their opposition (that’s us) is strong, tough and amazing. We wanted to take our glittery, beautiful, feminist fight to those who want to take away our control of our bodies. So we did.

We went to North Ryde RSL and threw a glittery ballet flat at him, in homage to other inspiring activists who have used this symbol to make their voices heard. We yelled “this is for all the women who’ve died in backyard abortions.” The room went silent. They heard us.

Two feminists then occupied the floor in front of the lectern. Our comrades rushed in to join us at the front. One of us took over the lectern and spoke about women’s rights to control their bodies. We played Peaches (fuck the pain away). Some of us gave attendees at tables our ‘prayer for women everywhere,’ which you can see here (PDF): Prayer 1.

We stood proudly in a row in front of the audience. We ruined their meal.

We glitter bombed the audience. We used glitter and pink shoes and music to have fun and show that resistance against oppression is beautiful. We did it to contrast their conception of femininity as passive, a chalice for ‘new life,’ with our ideas of liberated femininity. Our femininity is empowered, and on Saturday night, it was about action, fierceness, non-violent resistance, solidarity and strength.

Mary Lee Sargent, a mother of feminist direct action, says of women (this web page is poorly formatted but worth reading!):

We have been socialized to fear physical danger, discouraged from taking risks and engaging in deeds of daring- do… Despite these obstacles, what leaps out at anyone who reads the newspapers is that women are resisting injustice. For those who look, it is also evident that women have always resisted injustice and will continue to resist it in the future.

We did it. More on this soon.


Though shalt not mess with my reproductive rights

That protest we invited you to – did you make it?

If you didn’t, here’s what you missed!

If you did, here’s a selection of photos to remember it by. They’re beauties, all taken and provided by the excellent Kate Ausburn, of coal seam gas reporting fame. You can check out her full set here.

F member and attendee Emily said:

It was fun!

Turnout was good. Around 30 – 35 on my rough head count, which is amazing for 7:30 Monday and with such a short build up. There also seemed to be a lot of women who were not necessarily there from F directly. I think that is pretty exciting.

Interestingly Notre Dame had security guards at all of their entrances and you could only get through with Notre Dame ID. It has clearly stepped up since Saturday night 🙂

We were highly visible and George and Mac did a great job with signs, leaflets and posters. Oh and we also got pretty noisy with some chanting with the two giant mega phones and the accompaniment of horns as people drove past.

All in all I reckon it was a pretty successful action and a nice accompaniment to the Saturday night disruption.



The feminist equivalent of smashing your head on a brick wall: debating abortion on social media

August 29, 2012 § 3 Comments

I had a painful debate about reproductive rights on social media recently. I have to give a major trigger warning for cisgendered privilege on this post: I attempted to correct myself half way through the debate, but frankly on both sides the gender essentialism is pretty bad. I am sorry about that. I realised after writing this how influenced I am by un-reconstructed feminist thought when it comes to repro rights.

Anyway, it started with this image, which I saw on facebook, ‘liked’ and shared, all in about two seconds flat in a pre-coffee blur last Saturday:

What it lacks in nuance it makes up for with cute.

Or maybe it started long ago, in the fucked up political discourse on women’s bodies and reproduction. Either way, start it sure as hell did.

I received this comment from a cis man of my acquaintance, and it was ‘liked’ by another dude too:

Only animals may have an opinion about animal rights. Only slaves may have an opinion about slavery. Etc, etc.

I responded thus:

Yeah it’s overly simplistic etc. I think the point would be better made: Don’t have a vagina? Don’t have an opinion on women’s reproductive rights that impinges on the physical and political rights of those who do.

But it ain’t quite so catchy.

Shockingly, my hilarity did not deter same acquaintance. He came back with:

Even then I don’t think it stands. They could come back and say ‘not a foetus?, don’t suggest killing foetuses’. The debate is over whether there is another party here that needs to be given rights/consideration as well.

Better just to say that it’s important to take seriously the first person testimony of the people who are affected by your actions.

This from me:

No I disagree. I don’t actually think foetuses are separate to the woman’s body, they can’t survive without her (in the vast majority of cases) and the hypothetical anti-choicer’s point is moot. A foetus obviously can’t have an opinion.

I was countered with a comment to the effect that the real debate was over whether people other than women was “affected” by abortion.

I then said:

Yep, and I am saying, and I think what a lot of the pro-choice movement would say, that the pregnant person is affected physically, with major flow ons economically and socially. The foetus is not a person (this is not the same as saying it’s not the subject of grief, a person in people’s minds etc, but it’s not a physical person capable of surviving without the pregnant person’s body). The other family or the male involved is not affected physically and likely not economically. So I think the point is “get out of the way”. This may have political problems, but I think it reflects the reality for most women affected by unwanted pregnancy. Their lives would be a whole lot easier if anti-choicers would get out of the grill of their physical autonomy, so to speak.

Which was responded to thus:

I’m very sympathetic. Not being able to get an abortion is a serious violation of a woman’s autonomy. But to me, ‘birth’ is as arbitrary a line to draw as ‘conception’. Late in a pregnancy I think there are competing considerations that have to be weighed up.

A friend of mine then came in with this gem:

But some of the worst anti-choicers have vaginas… Melinda Tankard Reist. She should have less right to express her vicious opinion than the pro-choice vaginaless.

To which acquaintance said:

Seems dangerous to give people less right to express their opinion when they disagree with you.

A skeptical feminista entered the fray and wrote:

Doesn’t it USUALLY take two people to reproduce? Surely there is another person’s opinion which can be considered?

Two men saw fit to ‘like’ this.

I responded:

Woman’s body is the one that gets pregnant, sorry darl. While someone else’ opinion might be considered, there’s no point to the pro choice movement if it’s not for total autonomy over our bodies. Again, not saying men don’t have feelings or that we as a society aren’t attached to an idea of a baby as the pregnancy comes to term. It’s to make the point that when a foetus can’t survive without the mother, is PART of the mother, not separate from her, the mother should always have the right to decide. It’s not pretty, it’s not painless, but that’s where it’s at if we want to argue that women are fully human ie fully physically autonomous. And that’s me done on this one, folks.

Please note that close to 1000 words had been spilled by this point. I was very tired.

However, then I saw that little red 1 again, and I read this:

“It’s to make the point that when a foetus can’t survive without the mother, is PART of the mother, not separate from her, the mother should always have the right to decide.”

Would the same be true of an adult? i.e. if by bad luck you got attached to another person and couldn’t survive without their support for 9 months, would it be fine for them to not support you/kill you? I would think the point isn’t the dependence but rather that the foetus isn’t conscious.

While I had sworn to bow out, I was sufficiently incensed to crescendo with:

Was intending to be done with this post but find myself with 5 mins spare, so a few things:

Firstly, I should have said earlier that I reject your initial comparison of women’s and animal rights. I think the concept of rights is tied to human life or it’s potential. Wile there are arguments for non-humans to be treated in ethical ways, I don’t think this is the same as a ‘right’.

Similarly while I think children have rights, I reject the notion that a foetus, while it is part of the mother’s body, has rights. While I agree that towards the end of term it gets tricky I think this is largely because of new technologies around premature children. Babies can potentially survive without the mother much earlier.

Finally I think it’s more about dependence and how the particular type of dependence of the foetus on the pregnant person impinges on hir rights. This is not actually the same as your hypothetical example for several reasons: 1) bodily integrity is totally compromised 2) women’s bodies tend to become public property for political and social reasons when pregnant. Both of the reasons impact directly on the pregnant person’s capacity to have full social and political engagement.

That has to trump any other concerns if we are serious about arguing women are fully respected and participating human beings. And this is what most of feminism’s claims rest on, so I think it’s important to defend it fully.

Also I think what tends to get lost in this is that reproductive rights demands run both ways – forcing anyone to have an abortion, or be sterilised, give a child up etc is an anathema to anyone who is serious about reproductive rights.

But it’s not feminists who do these things, it’s the State, usually, as in cases of forced adoption or forced sterilisation. Examples include the recent exposure of forced adoption practices in Australia and the forced sterilisation of trans people in Sweden and elsewhere.

Still reading? You must have a similar martyr complex to me. Helped me clarify my own position though, so in the end no complaints.

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