Pointless paternalist policing of the potentially pregnant

Meet Jody Allen Crowe. He’s on a mission to save the world one baby at a time. As the owner of a bar in Mankato, Minnesota, he happened upon a harrowing discovery: sometimes pregnant women drink! Jody’s done his research. Once he found out that pregnant women drink, he went on a mission to find out exactly how many pregnant women drink, how much they drink, and which women are doing the most drinking. Armed with this important information, he founded Healthy Brains for Children, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the promotion of a singular method of keeping pregnant women from drinking: putting pregnancy tests in bar bathrooms.

From the website:

Because the zygote is self-contained, any alcohol in the bloodstream of the mother will not impact the embryo before the placenta is formed and delivering nutrients to the embryo… By placing pregnancy test dispensers in the women’s bathrooms in bars, gas stations, hotels, restaurants, fitness centers, etc., women will have a constant reminder to think before they take a drink of alcohol. They will be able to take a pregnancy test in the privacy of the restroom without having to purchase a pregnancy test over the counter at the drugstore or local big box stores. In a small community, purchasing a pregnancy test can be an embarrassing event and expose the woman to the gossip of the town. The advertisement on the dispenser reminds women to test each time they decide to have a drink of alcohol to ensure their child will be born with an alcohol-free fetal development.

The New York Times article about Crowe points out that pregnancy tests are among the most shoplifted products, citing a 16 and Pregnant star recently arrested for the same as an example. Of course, a 16-year-old girl with no job and a lot to lose is probably not whipping out her AmEx to buy a pregnancy test from a vending machine before dropping another benjamin or two on a night out at a wine bar, but I digress. Hilariously, the site further contends that a woman who has recently purchased a pregnancy test at a drug store must then “rush to find a bathroom.”

I’ve been pregnant a few times. I used to lead weekly discussions in a group of women on the topics of breastfeeding and fertility. We all purchased pregnancy tests at some point or another, and on precisely zero of these occasions that I was aware of did we then rush to find a public bathroom to test ourselves so that we could get on with the business of eating sushi and getting shitfaced. Before you get started on me, yes, I am aware that my personal observations do not constitute a scientific study, but there are reasons we didn’t rush to public bathrooms. There are a lot of reasons. And there are even more reasons the business-savvy pregnancy test marketing brains haven’t ever done this before.

A woman who uses this vending machine is necessarily:

1. unaware of her pregnant or non-pregnant state

2. either at the bar already before she considers testing or too embarrassed to go to a drug store and buy one

3. in a room with a lot of other women

4. concerned deeply with the health of her Schroedinger’s fetus

5. not in a relationship wherein a pregnancy would be publicly acceptable

6. not planning a pregnancy

7. not concerned enough time in advance to buy one on the internet

Jody Allen Crowe has demonstrated a profound inability to understand women, not to mention child development. As this study found, moderate alcohol consumption in the first twelve weeks is not associated with negative outcomes, and there’s a reason for that. For all of Healthy Brains for Children’s balking at alcohol going through the placenta to the fetus, a placenta isn’t developed enough to begin transmitting much of anything at all to the fetus until it is nine weeks along, and not in portions enough to harm it until it is fully developed at the end of the first trimester.

In pregnancy speak, the weeks start counting from the first day of the last period, which is usually about two weeks before the fetus is conceived. Two weeks after conception is the expected period. That’s when you can have a positive pregnancy test. Eight weeks after that is three missed periods. Even if you’ve missed the morning sickness, cravings, and absent periods, by then you’re starting to show, and you’re probably even starting to feel the little bugger kick. That’s plenty of time for our pregnant mother to go on a handful of benders before her fetus is at all damaged.

So, what baby is Jody really saving? Jody is saving the baby that has been mistakenly conceived by a woman who does not want an abortion. She is mortified to go into a drug store but she is totally okay buying a test in a public bathroom full of strange women. She is twelve weeks pregnant or more and has not noticed. She wants to drink a whole lot tonight but wants to make sure that these two missed periods for which she’s been too humiliated to test don’t mean that she’s pregnant before she does so, and if she is, she’ll go home and start knitting booties instead. She wants to learn her fate in a bar bathroom stall and cry over a positive test there, with only the comfort of sharpie graffiti on the walls naming men at the bar who have sores on their dicks, and maybe the girl fighting with her boyfriend on her iPhone in the next stall. She would rather die than face the humiliation of going to a drug store and buying one, then testing at home, but she’s brave enough to face the world with her unwanted baby belly. Maybe she’ll throw a baby shower.

So that’s pretty unlikely, right? I mean if you’re going to start a business or start selling a product of some kind, you probably want a wider base of potential customers. And if you’re going to save the world, you’re probably going to want to start with a larger pool of save-able victims. Jody Allen Crowe’s crusade against fetal alcohol syndrome ultimately amounts to policing pregnant women. It is a crusade to make sure all women remember that, want it or not, they’re the bearers of the next generation and should not even think about selfishly enjoying themselves before they’ve done everything possible to protect the babies they might have some day. But not only that, he wants women to remember that they’re too stupid to do it on their own, because he can’t even imagine a single possible way to know whether you’re damaging a baby without constant reminders every time you have to take a piss that you might be pregnant. Jody didn’t bother to consider what women might already know or be capable of. In Jody’s mind, he’s pretty sure that he just saved the next generation of children from their stupid, bumbling moms. That’s some nice sexism, Jody.

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Harrod’s gender neutral toy store

Check out the pictures here.  They’re really something.

Have you looked?  Good.  Let’s discuss.

The designer had some inevitable challenges.  How does one approach the basic design of a gender neutral toy store?  Where colors like pink and purple are unambiguously coded feminine, colors like blue and green are considered neutral, regardless of the fact that masculine-coded toys are often in these colors.  While blue and green often show up in girls’ toys and fashion (in stark contrast to the conspicuous lack of pink/purple in boys’ clothes), a bluegreen store would be noticeably absent any sort of feminine influence.  It would represent the forced eviction of all things feminine.  A toy store designer would be hard pressed to design a store that was not coded feminine and also not coded feminine-exclusionary.  We’re left with red, orange, yellow, black, and brown.  Red, orange, and yellow are hard on the eyes and would make the place look like a McDonald’s.  Black and brown don’t present a lot of possibilities.  However, if you’ve seen the pictures, you already know where this went.  The geniuses at Harrod’s have done wonders, wonders I say, with brown.  And it was amazingly ineffective.  Apparently nobody informed the toy manufacturers.

But forget about colors.  How would a gender neutral toy store affect the parents and children within?  Wonderfully, I would hope.  It would provide an ethical place to shop for forward-thinking parents who want their daughters to grow up into a world where she can expect equal wages for equal work, where her potential rapists were persecuted when they committed their crimes without anyone asking her what she did to cause it, and maybe even where the small things in life, like chores and career were divided equally between her and her likely male potential partners.  It would be a haven for socially aware parents who desire to put their money behind bringing up sons who will grow not to see women as sexual objects and domestic servants, but equal people, for parents who don’t believe it’s necessary to raise boys to be antisocial to survive.  It’s too much to ask of a toy store, to be sure, but childhood is arguably where these messages begin.  A gender neutral toy store would be a great place to find toys like tea sets and doll houses that weren’t so heavily coded feminine as to dash any possibility of boys wanting to play with them.  It would be a wonderful place to find race cars and erector sets and building blocks that weren’t so heavily coded masculine as to leave the girls wondering what the other girls and boys might think if she were seen with them.  That would be a wonderful store.  This Harrod’s isn’t it.  The tea sets and dress-up garb are frilly and pink.  The hot wheels and legos are blue.  Apparently nobody informed the toy manufacturers.

Harrod’s toy store is not gender neutral.  Sorry, folks.  It tried.  It put the pink things next to the blue things and in some cases it mixed them all up.  Hopefully this will allow brave little girls the opportunity at least to browse toys she never would have had the chance to browse at her leisure and fondle. Perhaps she’ll pick a few up.  It might encourage some fresh-faced boys to try out this thing called playing house.  It might.  But most kids go to toy stores following the television shows and commercials that advertised the products.  And nobody informed the toy manufacturers.

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In a radical feminist world, there is no transphobia – Guest Post on ZinniaJones.com

Radical feminism is a platform for gender equality which includes, among other things, the belief that most gender is performed. As a radical feminist, I believe that gender roles are artificially created, that most dimorphism is affected rather than mandated by nature, and that the divide has been pushed beyond all reason to the express benefit of men. This is what we call the patriarchy.

One unfortunate aspect of this socialization is that society, through various messages including but not limited to role-modeling from peers and media, teaches young men that they are entitled to the hearts and minds of women, including but again not limited to domestic and sexual servitude. Women, no more fond of subjugation and servitude than men, become unfortunately prone to self-loathing and more fortunately prone to rebellion.

In the process of shaking ourselves loose the shackles of gendered expectations, different schools of feminism have emerged. Varying degrees of oppression are recognized, and socialized roles and appearances are sorted differently into categories of oppressive and benign. Radical feminism, as the name suggests, subscribes to the most severe criteria. Radical feminism is also unfortunately best known by queer communities as transphobic.

The rift between radical feminism and trans activism begins with the application of known oppressive phenomena to the analysis of trans presentation and activism. On the surface, it’s easy to see what their problem is. To the casual observer, trans women assert and express their womanhood physically and visually. They often wear feminine clothes, shave feminine areas, and insist on feminine names and pronouns. Trans men resist feminine obligations, much the way radical feminists do, but then also resist the designation of “woman.” In the eyes of transphobic radical feminists, the former too closely resembles role enforcement while the latter too closely resembles self-loathing.

If trans people and trans activists were at all interested in sending women at large back to the kitchen, entrenching them further into the sex class, or in the case of trans men, eliminating women altogether or otherwise gender-leveling up, the transphobic radical feminists might have a point. Inconveniently for them, this couldn’t be further from the case.

The patriarchy has the same persistent negative impact on trans women as it does cis women. Society tells them that they are more acceptable when they present in a feminine manner and worth less as a person when they fail to please the eye. The rigid physical standards applied to women cause trans women inordinate amounts of stress. The sex classing of women and requisite caste system of the class (more commonly known as varying degrees of fuckability, or even more commonly as a scale from 1 to 10) has inhumanely relegated trans women with a certain remaining organ to the undesirables. They are expected to be content with either fetishization or pity fucking, along with cis women of the overweight and differently abled varieties. This particular problem has recently been the birth of a massive online “cotton ceiling” debate. We’ll get back to that.

Let us first work on the premise that trans women are women and trans men are men. Of course without the validity of their genders decided upon, it’s easy enough for transphobes to make their arguments unchallenged. The most common radical feminist position on trans identities is that a post-patriarchal world would not require men to call themselves women to be feminine. They could just be feminine men; reverse that for trans men.

But this doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. Society already does not require masculine women to call themselves men or feminine men to call themselves women. Furthermore, a post-patriarchal world – more specifically a post-gender role world – would necessarily have eliminated almost every trait that divides men from women. Things we think of as masculine or feminine would no longer be associated with men or women and would no longer even be recognizable as masculine or feminine. Masculinity and femininity would lose all meaning.

This is not a utopian fantasy. Many things have already lost masculine and feminine categorization. In my mother’s time, trumpet playing was masculine. In my grandmother’s time, making jokes was masculine. Today, neither of these activities are associated with gender. It is not possible to draw a line in this gender-blending at the physical. Perhaps the imaginations of older-generation feminists who grew up in far more oppressive environments than today’s feminists were unable to think as far ahead as, say, the thick-necked, slender-hipped, flat-chested physiques of the very feminine 2012 Olympic women’s gymnastics team, or the soft skin and round, well-developed breasts of a trans woman on HRT. Nonetheless, here we have it. The lines are being erased with the slow liberation of women and medical advancement.

If the contention of radical feminism is that neither behavior, nor presentation, nor physical appearance should make or break the difference between men and women, why draw the line at the word “man” or “woman?” The very words will become nonsensical and impossible to define. Sure, there will still be some natural hormonal division, but when people can safely, permanently, and completely alter these differences at will, why deny it? When women and men are socialized equally, what will anyone have lost? What will anyone have gained but the right to define themselves, the right for which radical feminists so arduously fight?

Back to the cotton ceiling debate, or really, any debate online between radical feminists and trans activists: Is a childhood of boy-designated socialization sometimes evident in arguments from trans women? Absolutely. To start with, they don’t question themselves, apologize for themselves, or wait for their turn to speak quite as often as cis women are taught to do from birth. Likewise, a childhood of girl-designated socialization is sometimes evident when trans men make arguments. It will be nice when girl-designated socialization and boy-designated socialization include a childhood where respect and assertiveness are taught equally, but though there has been progress, we’re not there yet.

However, there is no reason to make the leap from a sense of the way somebody was socialized as a child to their “true” gender. Like the wage gap, sex classing, and glass ceiling, all of which very much apply to trans people’s identities rather than their designated birth sex, these are simply the costs and benefits of the patriarchy. Like skirts, heels, trucks, and sports, they are no more reflective of the true identity of a trans person than they are a cis person.

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GirlWritesWhat

Often when I make contributions to Zinnia’s channel, I’m inundated with pleas to check out whatever GirlWritesWhat says on the subject of whatever.  Frankly, I’ve seen maybe one of GirlWritesWhat’s videos and I was disgusted enough never to go there again.  As far as I could tell, her arguments amounted to “feminists suck because they never really consider how hard it is to be a man and have to do man things.”  I felt it wasn’t worth really going any farther into the dungeon.  It’s exhausting already to explain modern social inequality to the middle of the road or gender politic unaffiliated crowd without having first to explain that feminists want to get to do “man things” and that’s the whole fucking point.  But I digress.

I’m not the kind of feminist that spends a lot of time looking into the Mens Rights “side” of things.  I don’t really think their opinions matter.  I am also not the kind of lesbian that likes to hear the American Family Association’s “side” of things.  They aren’t legitimate sides.  They’re hate groups.  One of the things about politics and social struggles that vexes me the most frequently is this idea that there must be a legitimate opposing side to every argument, from which naturally follows the idea that any resulting conclusion is not a conclusion but instead just, like, your opinion, man.  We can chant and chant about how the AFA and whatever other psycho homophobe Republican is currently running on the platform of no birth control and drug testing the unemployed is on the “wrong side of history” in hopes that future liberals will maintain their admirable track record and move things forward but why can’t they be on the wrong side of the present?

However cringe-inducing the idea may be, I don’t have to read GirlWritesWhat or anyone else who speaks of Mens “Rights” and consider it intellectually any more than I have to consider the idea that the world was created in 7 days 5,000 years ago before I agree that evolution happened.  I no longer have to consider the idea that women may not be intellectually equipped to vote because the question is temporally irrelevant.  The radical women’s movements 90 years ago, on the other hand, were forced to answer such nonsense.  How much time are we wasting by lending credence to such ignorance?  Today, I may be considered arrogant for refusing to acknowledge another side.  My opinions may be considered radical.  I’m simply exhausted of losing valuable minutes of my short life to intellectually hollow discourse.  In essence: No, GirlWritesWhat, there is no feminist conspiracy.  Now let the adults speak.

Manboobz, on the other hand, has an incredible tolerance for it.  I follow him on Twitter and every now and then, if I’m feeling chipper and could laugh at anything, I’ll click a link.  Here’s today’s find:


That’s right, folks.  Abusive relationships result in hot sex and therefore we should stop telling men not to hit women.  Telling men not to hit women makes men maim and kill women.

Stop linking me to her shit.  

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Halfway to victory: The diminishing returns of activism (guess post on Zinnia Jones)

The other day as she was reading something online, Zinnia asked me my opinion on the question of why people seem to be more supportive of LGBT activism than feminism. At first I gave the simplest answer I could think of: A cis, straight person can support the rights of LGBT people and then never, or very rarely, be personally affected by that support. They may never knowingly encounter a trans person or be invited to a same-sex wedding ceremony. If they work for a smaller company, they may never encounter an LGBT person at work. They may have none in their family.

It’s not so simple to avoid women. To support equal treatment of women is to admit that you’re a part of a system that disadvantages your mothers, sisters, daughters, and possibly significant others. If you’re a woman, it’s to admit that your fathers, brothers, sons, and possibly significant others are benefiting from a system that gives to them at your expense, and that most of them are either willfully ignoring this fact or actively maintaining the status quo. Feminism means acknowledging harsh realities about people you love. LGBT activism may or may not do the same.

Naturally, Zinnia thought this would be an excellent topic for me to discuss on my monthly contribution to her channel as her videos about LGBT activism, however abrasive, are significantly more liked than anything either she or I can say about feminism, so I spent a lot more time thinking about it. I realized my original thoughts were correct, but incomplete. While the current incarnations of feminism are regarded as either angry fringe movements, or overplayed songs of the past, it certainly had its day in the sun.

The Nineteenth Amendment, passed in 1919 guaranteeing women the right to vote, was the beginning of a century of notable advancement for women. In 1969, president Lyndon B. Johnson signed Executive Order 11375 banning discrimination based on sex in federal workforce hiring decisions. 1972 brought us Title IX which entitled women to equal educational opportunities and finally ended the tyranny of enforced sex discrimination in education, and 1973 brought us the infamous Roe v. Wade, which entitled women to medical and reproductive privacy. These things did not happen with the support of only a few. These things happened with the support of a majority. Yes, at one point, the majority of the United States was identifying and voting feminist.

Currently, LGBT activism is in its heyday. Friends, we just eliminated Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Countries all over the world are legalizing gay marriage. States all over the union are… they’re… trying. President Obama is the first president of the United States to endorse gay marriage. For the first time in history, polls are showing overwhelming support for LGBT rights. The standard of care for trans people is improving with many countries in the world providing full and free access to medical transition, and even in the United States it is getting easier. Progress is being made, but we’re nowhere near done.

Employment nondiscrimination for all gender and sexual minorities needs to be enforced on the federal level. DOMA – the Defense of Marriage Act which makes it so that same-sex marriages, even in states where they are legal, are considered invalid outside of the state and are ineligible for federal benefits – is probably next on the chopping block, but it’s still there. Access to medical transition needs to be as guaranteed as access to any other valid and necessary treatment guaranteed by American health insurance companies. Laws governing the ability to change one’s legal gender status are being liberalized in many states but have fallen backwards in others. Our battle for legal equality is in full force and we’re on the winning team. Of course it’s easy to support it.

Since the civil rights movements in the 1960s, it would seem that, at least for the United States, legal equality is nearly a solved problem. Precedence has been set in the Supreme Court time and again. All we need are the right lawyers, and time. For Americans, this is a point of pride, and the majority, however slim, is happy to join us.

But what happens to equal rights movements when their battles are won? When the privileged majority declares the problem sorted and moves on to another cause du jour? When, instead of cookies and claps on the back, cis straight white men still have to hear about how people of color are overwhelmingly impoverished and imprisoned, women still can’t make a buck in spite of eager and overwhelming academic achievement, are getting raped left and right, and are slowly losing their reproductive rights, or that gender and sexual minorities are still forced into conversion therapy or homelessness?

It’s an inevitable aspect of the human condition that we cheer for the winning teams, donate to the popular charities, save the cuter animals. Legal equality is a popular fight and a solved problem, but social equality is what Americans do worst. In time, like feminism, black power, and any number of fights for real equality, LGBT activism will peter out. The work will be left to those of us affected the most, and ignored by those affected the least. We’ll scowl over statistics that show our disadvantages while the majority ignores us and wonder when it ever got to be so uncool to be LGBT.

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Men don’t like chores.

I love it when stuff like this and the Science! It’s a girl thing! ad come out.  Most sexism is so insidious it’s hard to convince anybody to take a second look at it.  Sometimes convincing people that policing what little girls wear or that women in America getting woefully little maternity leave are problems is like bashing my head against a wall.  The frustratingly complacent masses would mostly rather believe that sexism is over.  So it’s really nice when somebody forgets themselves and gets all blatant about it, then goes to their boss with this blatantly idiotic idea and nobody notices, then goes and implements the idea in grocery stores where the managers and employees don’t or won’t notice.  Then it gets in the news.  Can’t deny it, sorry.  Here it is.  A little slice of sexism.

Introducing: the MAN AISLE.

From the NYPost article, some lovely quotes.

“Guys don’t like taking lists when they go shopping,” Zoitas added.  “This helps them remember what they need.”

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Andy Huber, 23, of Harlem. “I don’t like to spend much time in the grocery store, so having this aisle makes things much easier for me.”

Cause, y’know, women love taking lists and spending tons of time at the store.  At the end of a long, hard week at work, all I can think of is how I can finally take a load off, get a glass of wine, and take an inventory of my kitchen and bathroom.  Who needs parties and free time when I can mill around the detergent aisle and breathe in all the fun?

I think the sexism here is pretty obvious, but I’m too exhausted from my most recent vacation at my local Albertsons and can’t be bothered to write any talking points, so here is some high comedy for you:

Shopping is gathering.  Women are gatherers and men are hunters and therefore women are better suited to shopping.

Shopping is hunting.  Men are hunters and women are gatherers, so shopping would be a lot of fun for men if the girls would get out of the way.

 

 

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Because I’m an atheist – a guest post for Crommunist

Originally posted here.  I love the Crommunist.  He writes a lot of interesting articles about the intersection of race and atheism.  Go check him out.

Because I am an atheist…

..I am no longer burdened with acquiescence to the moral superiority of an entity created by men from an era that loathed my gender, my orientation, and most of all, my autonomy. I can now understand my feelings for what they really are. They are not bogeymen or sinful desires of the flesh that seek to draw me away from anyone’s true purpose or plan for me. My feelings for women are no more or less supernatural than my friends’ feelings for the opposite sex. I am free to pursue relationships, love, and sex with whomever I wish so long as I treat them well. My heart and my bedroom are now happy, restful, pleasurable places instead of battlegrounds. I can now experience the kind of love and ecstasy my friends always have without guilt or fear of having disappointed my Father.

I have learned that I’m a better, more powerful person than I thought I was. Each accomplishment, talent, and triumph for which I previously felt unworthy and attributed to the graciousness of a higher power were in fact my own. When I have overcome poverty, depression, and severe anxiety, it wasn’t because a higher power finally saw fit to have mercy on me. It was because I fought valiantly and won. With my new confidence, I feel better equipped to handle the difficult situations such as the inevitable divorce and subsequent poverty that life has thrown at me since coming out. I don’t have to wonder whether a god will see fit to help me through this one or accept bad situations as my just desserts for straying from its path. I knew I would get through these things just like I got through everything else. And I have. I’m quite capable.

I can mourn. What a relief it is to mourn. I don’t have to fight against “selfish” sadness and find a way to be grateful for what I’ve been given. When my 19 month old nephew died slowly and painfully of leukemia, I struggled to accept the idea that this might have been a test of faith. I feared that if I failed, the same god who allowed what happened to my nephew would allow it to happen to my sons. I believed, and some of my relatives’ pastors stated, that if we could impress god, he surely would not allow it to happen again. In fact it was the cruelty and absurdity of this notion that finally brought me to the end of my faith. Now when people I love die, I can simply miss them. I can think of all of the beautiful ways they have touched my life and then I can let them go.

I no longer worry about the dead, or about my death. I concentrate on my life now, and because of this, it has become more beautiful and fulfilling. I can write my own destiny and make my own choices without fear of supernatural retribution. Sometimes, when I’m alone or scared, I feel more lonely or scared than I once did. I know I am truly alone and there is no warm, invisible hand to hold mine. It took some getting used to. But it is also comforting to know that the same hand was powerless all along, and that I no longer have to fear its letting go of mine when I fail to impress.

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