Thursday, September 10

Why 'Pro Life' is not pro life

At first, being ‘Pro Life’ sounds very positive. ‘Pro’ always sounds positive and ‘Life’ is a good thing, too. But are ‘Pro Life’ supporters really supporting life? Are they supporting the poor? Children who live in poverty with their parents, people who don’t even have a roof over their heads? Do they support all aspects of life, such as homosexuality or trans-sexuality? For most of those ‘Pro Life’ supporters, the answer to all of these questions is ‘nope.’ A lot of ‘Pro Life’ supporters are against food stamps or social security. They despise the poor and the homeless as ‘lazy’ or ‘worthless.’ They see every kind of ‘non-straight’ sexuality as ‘perverted’ and ‘against God’s will.’
Which kind of life do they support, then? The unborn life, obviously. They will go to great lengths to make sure women can’t have an abortion no matter the reason. No matter how young, sick, or traumatized the woman is. The already born and alive woman doesn’t matter, the unborn foetus does. And, since most of them claim Christianity as their reason, they are even justified in that point of view. Why? Read on.

The three religions which all consider Abraham their founder (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) also share the same view of women. Women as a such do not matter, they are merely tools by which the man can enhance his family - his clan. Children are the possession of the father (hence a woman has to be ‘bought’ by her future husband and his family - possession against possession of the same worth). A woman’s only reason for living is to produce children, to enhance the clan, to add to her husband’s wealth in children. A woman who can’t do that is worthless. A woman who refuses to do that is bad. If this reminds you of the quiver-full movement, it’s not a coincidence. They (and several Christian sects which allow polygamy) simply reduce one basic message of the old testament to its very bones.
From this view of women, polygamy makes sense. A woman needs full nine months to produce offspring. A man who has several wives at the same time can have more children throughout his life than a man with just one. A man who regularly ‘exchanges’ his woman for a younger one also can have more children, since men can father children longer than women can bear them. Abraham, the founding father of those religions, was ‘cursed’ with a barren wife for a long time (until God finally made her fertile and she produced children for her husband in advanced years). His wife offered him her slave maid instead - which was legally perfectly okay at that time, since the slave was Abraham’s possession, too, and that means all children she bore him were his, anyway.
Despising any kind of ‘non-straight’ sexuality (sex between man and woman to make children) also makes sense. Sex is not for pleasure or other reasons, only for enhancing the family. Sex between two members of the same gender - or feeling you’re the ‘wrong’ gender, but incapable of performing the other gender’s duties in reproduction, is not the way it’s ‘meant to be.’ Any kind of sex which can’t lead to children is not ‘meant to be’ - hence any kind of non-vaginal sex is not allowed, either. Sorry, guys, no more anal or oral sex, I’m afraid.
A woman can’t be trusted to decide well for her own body. She basically can’t be trusted to do anything on her own - it’s still ingrained in our minds, even after two full and one ongoing waves of Feminism. Therefore, women have to jump through several hoops if they dare to decide to have an abortion. They have to watch an ultrasound of their ‘child’ or listen to the heartbeat. They are supposed to feel guilty about it.
If, as someone on the internet once put it, men were giving birth, the pill would be available in many wonderful flavours and there would be an abortion clinic on ever block (possibly right next to Starbucks).

Especially the Catholic church (which is the most fundamental of all large Christian sects, also called churches) and other extremely fundamental sects have a huge problem with contraceptives in all forms. A contraceptive not only means that sex outside of marriage remains without consequences, it also gives a woman a way to choose not to become pregnant and, thus, not to fulfil her God-given mission in life of pushing out children at the highest possible speed.
And if the contraception fails (which happens more often than you probably think), abortion provides a way to terminate the pregnancy - also avoiding doing your God-given task. It’s known by now that the Romans completely exhausted all reserves of a plant simply because it provided them with a natural ‘morning after’ pill.
German has a word for women illegally performing abortions which is both fitting and unveiling the truth: Engelmacherin (Angel Maker). Those women did not only ‘kill’ the foetuses, they often also severely injured the women, causing them to die or to become infertile, so they could never bear a child again.
Before the late 1960s/early 1970s, when the second wave of Feminists fought for the change of § 218 (which deals with abortion) in Germany, women either went to one of those Engelmacherinnen or they went to Switzerland or the Netherlands (depending on whether they lived in the south or the north of Germany). But only rich women (or women knocked up by a rich man who didn’t want anybody to know about it) could afford going abroad for an abortion. Everyone else (including women who already had a host of children and simply didn’t want any more of them) had to seek illegal means in the country.
In Goethe’s version of “Faust,” Gretchen (the heroine and Faust’s love interest) gets executed at the end of part one for drowning her newborn child after Faust knocked her up and then left after killing her brother and (by proxy through shock) her mother. That is the last way of getting rid of a child you’re not supposed to have - killing it after it was born. Adoption became a topic much later, although Gretchen technically could have left the baby on the steps of a church, though probably not a local one where people would have gone snooping for the mother. But is Gretchen going to hell for it? No - she is saved by God and, at the very end, saves Faust from his well-deserved trip due south.
If you think this is just about the middle ages: the last institutions for ‘fallen girls’ who became pregnant outside of marriage in Europe were closed in the 1970s - not the 1870s or 1070s.

Back to ‘Pro Life’ supporters, though. They go to great lengths - including harassing poor women and setting abortion clinics on fire - in order to protect ‘unborn life.’ Now, ‘unborn life’ is an oxymoron as a such. You can’t be ‘unborn’ and ‘alive’ at the same time. A foetus, for all it may later on become, is not a baby. It’s not completely ‘done’ already. It can’t survive outside the womb. And the womb is so complicated in its workings science still hasn’t been able to create an artificial one, despite trying very hard.
And humans - unlike, say, cats - do not always carry their foetuses to term, anyway. As it were, the period is proof of the fact that we’ve been built with the inborn ability to abort pregnancy. The period is the uterus casting out tissue which has been built up to house a foetus, should the woman get pregnant. This tissue is actually a fail-safe device certain mammals have while others don’t. A cat, which doesn’t have that tissue, must carry every foetus to term, even if it’s severely malformed, even if there’s a terrible famine and the mother cat is close to dying. A woman, who does have that tissue, has a body which can terminate a pregnancy due to internal or external reasons - it’s called ‘miscarriage,’ usually. Internal reasons would be an extremely malformed foetus which wouldn’t survive outside the body, anyway, or certain sicknesses which can cause a miscarriage. External reasons include famines, since there’s no real reason to add another mouth to the tribe while nobody has enough to eat. Scientists think that only one in ten pregnancies is actually carried to term, most of the other nine are terminated so early the woman never realizes she was pregnant in the first place.
But what about that one pregnancy which proceeds past that point? Well, there’s good and valid reasons to abort that one, too, you see. Medical reasons like the mother running the danger of dying, if she carries the child to term. Psychological reasons like the mother becoming pregnant due to rape or abuse. Social reasons as well, such as the mother being in a situation in which she can’t or won’t have (yet another) a child.
The idea that all of the above are no good reasons for abortion is bringing up that old-fashioned idea about women again. The woman is just a tool, the child is more important. It doesn’t matter how she became pregnant (rape/abuse), whether the pregnancy is endangering her (medical reasons), or whether she doesn’t want that child (social reasons). So what if the woman was raped? At least she produced another child, the ‘how’ doesn’t matter. So what if the woman dies in childbirth? The child can still be raised and the mother can be replaced. So what if she doesn’t want (yet another) a child? Her opinion doesn’t matter, she’s only worth as much as the children she produces.

‘Pro Life’ supporters give a rat’s ass about life. If they did care, they would care first and foremost about the life which exists already. They would care about the poor and the homeless, about abuse and rape, about inequality in society. After all of those problems and many more have been solved, they might start to care about ‘unborn life,’ but not before.

Wednesday, August 19

Dress code WTF?

I’ve been thinking about the topic for a while now, ever since I read a story about a five-year-old girl supposedly dressed ‘too sexy’ for her kindergarten in a long dress with bare shoulders and spaghetti straps. I found that outrageous, because I can remember wearing that kind of summer dress myself, in kindergarten and elementary school. And because she and the other kids in kindergarten were FIVE YEARS old. At five, most kids can hardly understand the difference between ‘boy’ and ‘girl.’ Then I stumbled onto the story of Woodford Country High School (which is probably just one of many high schools with similar dress codes). If you have about half an hour, be sure to watch the student-made documentary linked to in the article.

In western civilisations, we have a basic agreement that primary sexual organs of both men and women should be covered outside our own homes. Women should also cover her secondary sexual organs (mammaries, breasts, or boobs, depending on your level of education and/or mental maturity). I learned recently it’s actually legal for women to go topless in NYC, but that’s beside the point. A bathing short for a man (even a tight, European style one) and a bikini for a woman are already enough to meet those basic requirements.
Above that, clothing follows the rules of both fashion and common sense. When I was in school, dress code could pretty much be summed up by ‘don’t wear to school what you wouldn’t wear in the company of your dear granny.’ Or, with more common sense thrown in: wear something comfortable you can learn in. It usually translated to jeans and sweatshirts in winter and shorts or skirts and t-shirts in summer. Yes, sometimes those shorts were short in every sense of the word. Yes, often those skirts ended well above the knee (we are talking about the 1980 - mini-skirts were all the rage then). T-shirts didn’t always possess sleeves and quite some of them had a V-neck or another low-cut neck. Which means all the girls I went to school with - including me - would have been sent to the headmaster constantly at WCHS.
Why did any of the boys actually manage to successfully finish school? I mean, the poor things were constantly plagued by rows and rows of girls in short skirts or shorts and T-shirts displaying their collarbones and shoulders. Some girls even would show a hint of cleavage (depending how much cleavage was available for them).

What does a dress code like the one of WCHS (as mentioned only one of many schools with such a dress code) teach the children?
It teaches the girls to be even more worried about their looks than they are already, being teenagers. It teaches them propriety is more important than being comfortable (especially in summer when ‘lighter’ clothes are not only fashionable, but also healthy). It teaches them it’s their fault, if they ever get sexually assaulted (because they were dressed wrong). It teaches them to fear boys and, as a result of that, all men.
It teaches the boys that they are monsters deep down, forcing the girls to dress in a certain way to avoid being a victim. It teaches them it will always be the girl’s fault, if something should happen. It teaches them girls are worth less than boys (so they get regulated and the boys don’t). It teaches them to be ashamed of themselves for being hormone-driven monsters beyond their own control.

If boys really can’t learn with girls around who show a minimum of skin, then there would be some easy ways to solve the problem.
1.) Split children up again, teach the boys at one school and the girls at another. It would also solve the problem of girls not to participate in science topics. Participation of girls in science classes is much better in girls-only schools.
2.) Don’t punish the girls with dress codes, lock up boys until they’ve reached adulthood and are more or less capable of controlling their hormones. In some cases, that might mean lock them up until they’re 92, but so what?
3.) Be an honest school, create and enforce a school uniform (which will always be a dress code which is objective and can be measured). We’re not necessarily talking about plait skirts for girls and suits for boys here (although suits might prepare the boys for the corporate life), it could also be certain pants and certain shirts to go with them, for summer and winter. Girls could wear Capri pants during the summer at least (they end well below the knee).

Do not claim to prepare children for life with this. Dress codes might happen again in adult life, but then they often are coupled with some kind of uniform and much easier to adhere to.
You want to prepare boys for life among the scantily-dressed women? Teach them what a British granny taught a business man in the London underground recently: no matter what a woman wears or does not wear, it’s no invitation to criticise her or invade her private space or touch her without first obtaining permission. “And now fuck off to your bored wife,” as the nice granny said.
Boy can’t ‘not help it.’ By teaching them that, you do them a grave injustice. Boys could always help it in Germany in the 1980s when I went to school. Boys haven’t changed genetically since then - which means they still can help it, if they’re taught how to. Teach them how to keep under control, how to stare, perhaps, or keep the view in mind for the bathroom later, but not to touch, to invade, to harass, or to rape. If the guys I went to school could learn it, boys today can as well.

Dress code is another way to treat boys and girls differently at school, based on the very early (kindergarten, see above) sexualisation of women. A woman is a human, first and foremost, and she should be treated like that. So don’t objectify the girls by making them ‘cover up,’ challenge the boys by teaching them to learn how to control their raging hormones. It’s a first step away from the objectifying of women in our society.

Wednesday, May 20

Gender-specific Toys

When I was a kid (and I just can see the Grim Reaper rubbing his bony hands and sharpening his scythe), we didn’t have all that many gender-specific toys. At least, they were not marketing toys that way. Yes, on the whole, parents (and other relatives) would often buy ‘typical’ toys for their children, cars for boys, dolls for girls.

But especially when I was a kid (shortly after the mammoths stopped frolicking on the plains), during the late 1970s and very early 1980s, a lot of parents bought toys which were either considered gender-neutral (like building blocks) or they bought what the child wanted to play with. In my case that included toy cars (although I inherited quite some of them from older cousins), stuffed animals, and a few dolls. I was never much of the ‘caregiver’ girl. I didn’t like baby dolls much. I liked dolls I could use to act out the stories in my head. You could say I was writing stories with my dolls before I learned to write and before I really started to write for fun.
The rebellious students from the 1968 revolution and the hippie parents alike didn’t like the fixed gender roles they had often been brought up with. Instead, they usually offered their kids a wide range of different toys and bought what the kids liked, no matter the gender. My mum built me a little wooden base for several old model train houses (including a nice lake) left over from my parents model train days, so I had my own little village for the toy cars, the houses, and three small boxes of model train people I loved to play with.
But then, my parents weren’t the ‘old-fashioned’ parents, either. Even though my mum was a stay-home mum and my dad was working, they split up my education. My dad used to read me stories in the evening and, while I still needed diapers, also changed them. My mum taught me to ride a bike and built me stuff from scratch. They teamed up one year to make me a very special Christmas present: a story written by my dad and illustrated by my mum. I still have it and I treasure it.
Anyway, especially during my childhood (after the ice age had ended), parents made a conscious effort not to force children into a specific gender role.

And these days? Toy stores and toy aisles in other stores are clearly divided by gender. There’s pink stuff for girls and blue or black stuff for boys. Even technically ‘gender neutral’ stuff like Lego blocks are suddenly divided in ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ blocks. Why?
I get it there’s a certain preference hard-wired into most human beings’ brains. It seems girls prefer ‘biological movement’ (meaning they prefer to watch animals or people) and boys prefer ‘mechanical movement’ (meaning they prefer to watch machines, cogwheels and suchlike). This also tells me my brain must have been wired wrong from the beginning, because I always found mechanical motion very fascinating, but I also always liked animals. In school, I tended to build planes with my ruler and my pen, because it was more fun than some boring lessons. And I was comfortable with doing that, because nobody had ever told me it was wrong to like moving my pretend plane around the desk - well, from a gender behaviour point of view, not from a teacher’s point of view.
What I don’t get is the strict diversion between ‘boy stuff’ and ‘girl stuff’ these days. A toy is a toy, no matter who plays with it. What’s bad about a boy playing with dolls? What’s bad about a girl playing with cars? We define what is ‘male’ and what is ‘female,’ when all’s said and done. We tell girls ‘cars are for boys’ and we tell boys ‘dolls are for girls’ and then we’re surprised they only want to play with ‘appropriate’ toys afterwards.
Little kids have no real understanding of the concept of gender. They do what others of their group do, whether that group is ‘family,’ ‘gender,’ or something else entirely. It’s society’s job to show them it’s okay for a girl to like cars and for a boy to like dolls, that they’re not ‘changing gender’ just because they secretly want to play with the ‘wrong’ toy.
And now we’re teaching girls it’s wrong to play with ‘normal’ Lego blocks or want Lego sets like ‘Marvel Superheroes’ (which is still missing Black Widow) or ‘Lego Chima.’ We’re teaching them to only play with the ‘friends’ sets, which include the usual topics such as shops, beauty parlours, or horse ranches.

Then there’s the whole ‘beauty and caring’ versus ‘violence’ topic of the toys themselves. Boys get guns, tanks, and soldiers. Girls get dolls, pretended (or real) make-up, and household appliances. Sure, Neff has released a ‘girl’ series for their weaponry - the ‘Rebelle’ bows and other weapons. But it took “The Hunger Games” for that to happen.
On the whole, we teach boys it’s ok to use violence and we teach girls they have to mind their looks, mind their children, and do household chores. I’m not against children doing some household chores, mind you, but I’m all for all children doing some household chores, not just the ones with the double X chromosomes.

Since the mid-1990s, we’ve had a recoil from Feminism, in all aspects of our lives. TV-series reverted to the old ‘strong guy, weak girl’ lines. Toys were marketed ‘for boys’ and ‘for girls’ again. More and more pressure has been put on women (and, with a certain delay, men by now as well) to confirm to one, specific, ‘gender’ beauty concept. The concepts differ, of course, and it’s not as rigid (yet) for men, but it’s more rigid now than it used to be in the 1980s.
You don’t believe me? Check TV-series from the early 1980s and compare them to series from the mid-1990s. You’ll find more diverse women in the 1980s and you’ll find much stronger girls (especially in series targeting teens and pre-teens) in the 1980s and early 1990s.

This is one of the best scenes in the whole “Roseanne” TV-series for me. Tomboy Darlene has her first period and thinks her days with sports and ‘boy stuff’ are over and she’ll turn into a clone of her older ‘girlish’ sister Becky and her mother tells her ‘it doesn’t change a thing … everything is for girls, if they want it.’ It’s not one of those ‘cartoon character of your choice says’ moments, it’s just one scene in one episode of a long-running series. It’s just common knowledge and simple facts, delivered from a mother to her daughter. That’s what makes it so good.
I’m not even completely sure whether there would be a series like “Roseanne” today - and whether it would have a character like Darlene in it, if it happened. What about a series like “Clarissa explains it all?” Clarissa was extremely different from the regular girls in TV-series aimed at families or teens when the first season premiered. (In fact, her creator had to defend her against the producers, claiming they wouldn’t have a problem with the same behaviour, if Clarissa were a boy.) She didn’t dress colour-coordinated (a huge thing at that time), she had no ‘normal’ girl’s room, she did computer stuff. (And she regularly broke the fourth wall.) A family like the Darlings would, perhaps, be daring for a series today.

Gender specific toys are a first step of telling children there’s a big gap between the genders. But is there, really? We might have preferences, but there’s no reason why a girl shouldn’t enjoy playing with ‘boy stuff’ or why a boy shouldn’t enjoy playing with ‘girl stuff.’ Toy companies try to convince the children of the opposite and they shouldn’t do that. They’re setting a lot of things in motion for the future of the children. Learning there’s only a small range of acceptable behaviours for girls or boys limits the choices they will feel they can make later in life.

We want more women in technical jobs. We need more women in technical jobs. But that starts with not telling them ‘cars and cogwheels and chemistry sets are for boys.’ It starts with telling them ‘if you’re curious about cars and cogwheels and chemistry sets, have a go at them.’ And we should tell boys ‘if you want to learn how to care for children or animals or a household, have a go at that.’ The important part is always ‘if you want to.’