Monthly Archives: February 2011
Birth control sabotage has been revealed to be a common form of partner abuse. In a report released earlier this week by the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 25 percent of women callers to the hot line, who voluntarily answered questions about birth control and pressure to get pregnant in their relationships, reported some form of reproductive coercion.
The callers said their partners hid birth control pills or flushed them down the toilet. Some refused to wear condoms or poked holes in them. One woman’s partner became furious when she recently got her period.
The study’s authors state firmly that reproductive coercion is a form of abuse. Family Violence Prevention Fund president Esta Soler says, “While there is a cultural assumption that some women use pregnancy as a way to trap their partner in a relationship, this survey shows that men who are abusive will sabotage their partner’s birth control and pressure them to become pregnant as a way to trap or control their partner.”
And physical and emotional abuse go hand-in-hand with birth control sabotage: Another study on reproductive coercion found that one-third of women using reproductive health clinics (of five studied), whose partners were physically abusive, also said their partners had pressured or forced them into pregnancy, often hiding or destroying contraception.
This tactic should alarm feminists and anti-domestic-violence workers. It also suggests a revealing political analogy.
It seems these ostensibly “pro-family” men, who are busily destroying contraception in pursuit of children, have a lot in common with the “pro-family” (read: anti-reproductive rights) political agenda.
So why aren’t we willing to call the anti-choice agenda abusive, too?
The conservative political agenda is anti-women working outside the home, anti-abortion, anti-birth control, and once upon a time, anti-battered women’s shelters (the better to keep women inside the home and attached to intact nuclear families). Each of these stances, in some way, disempowers women.
It’s easy to see how restricting shelters keeps women under the thumb of abusive men: It’s a no brainer. If there’s no safe place to go, you’re trapped.
The same holds for denying women access to birth control or abortion. If you’re pregnant with this man’s child, you’re attached–you’re trapped, again, by an unwanted pregnancy.
And women who don’t work outside the home tend to have less say within it. Not to mention that a lack of income makes it hard to leave an abusive partner.
The “pro-family” political agenda may claim to uphold “traditional” American values, but for for many young men claiming to want “normal” nuclear families, pregnancy coercion is a form of abuse and control. What kind of “family values” are those?
This post originally appeared in the Ms. Magazine Blog, February 18, 2011
– Angela Fortain
In her series “Overt Underthings” artist, Angela Fortain, considers a paradox: Distorting the body can both liberate and imprison, she says. Society dictates constraining fashions which, once dawned, create power over others.
Power over others?
By way of men’s desire, women’s envy.
The power to shape space as others turn in our direction.
Lower status bowing to higher. Standing based on beauty – and what to make of that?
The power to gain love? Or sex? And must one undergo body-torture to attain either?
How might power become less available inside the constrained body?
Are the powers bestowed – or removed – substantive or superficial?
Finally, Fortain muses, “Separating the sensual object that once transformed the wearer into an object of sexuality allows us to examine the object, and our own desire.”
The power of objects… our own desire?
Fortain’s work provokes more questions than answers. As art should.
This piece was originally shown at “CONTROL,” an exhibition of California women artists presented by The Women’s Caucus for Art at New York’s Ceres Gallery, February 1 – February 26th, 2011.
For more on Angela Fortain’s work go to ARTslant.
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There is plenty of bad news on the gay/lesbian front. Suicides, gay-bashing. Just a few months ago a gubernatorial candidate maintained that “homosexuality is not an equally valid option” but felt women having sex with horses was hot. Historically, men have been more homophobic than women. But why?
It’s common to think of gay men as woman-like. Some act feminine, feminine stereotypes abound, and gay men do often perform sexually like women.
The very idea that men might be like, or act like, women is pretty threatening to manly men. But even more so when manhood feels insecure.
Men acting anywhere in the realm of womanhood collapses the great divide between male and female. Seeming more the same, male dominance and status are at risk.
Further, if gays and lesbians couple together no one can be the male head of home. Another blockage to male dominance.
But in the last four years the level of homophobia among men has dropped drastically, according to a Gallup poll taken a few months ago. Today men are no more homophobic than women. What happened?
Importantly, women’s status has risen. If women and men are equal, then men acting like women isn’t the big threat it had once been.
But women and men haven’t achieved full equality yet. So what else is going on?
New York Times columnist, Charles Blow called a couple of experts to get insight into the change in men’s attitudes. He talked with sociologist, Michael Kimmel, who studies men, and Ritch Savin-Williams, Cornell’s Chair of Human Development and an expert on same-sex attraction.
Dr. Kimmel notes that, “Men have gotten increasingly comfortable with the relative equality of ‘the other.’ The dire predictions for diversity have not only not come true, they’ve been proved to be other way.”
Additionally, as gays and lesbians come out of the closet people come to see that they are like the rest of us: our fathers and mothers, our sisters and brothers, our friends and coworkers. Who knew they were real people?
Most interestingly, “virulent homophobes are increasingly being exposed for engaging in homosexuality,” as Blow put it. Evangelical Ted Haggard and George Rekers of the Family Research Council have both been outed. Not long ago, anti-gay megachurch pastor Eddie Long was accused of coercing young men into sex. Some are starting to see that spouting homophobia can be a front for the gay man inside. (Is homophobia acting to decrease claims of homophobia?)
Despite continued gay bashing, things are looking up.
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The “Protect Life Act” is being considered right now in Congress. Paired with the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” these two bills claim to be “pro life” yet seem more geared toward death for desperate girls and women… and a presidency.
Under HR 358 hospitals receiving federal funds can refuse to perform abortions, even when a woman’s life is in danger.
HR 3 eliminates the tax deduction for employer-sponsored health plans covering the procedure. The real goal? Force employers to drop abortion coverage from their policies.
The actual aim of both bills is to chip away access to safe, legal abortion, making it so difficult to obtain or afford that it is effectively prohibited, if not legally banned.
Interestingly, a global study found that even when abortion was officially illegal, there was little affect on abortion rates. Instead, desperate women die when untrained providers lack knowledge and skill, or when women try to abort, themselves.
Back before Roe v. Wade, a young Air Force doctor named Robert Duemler walked into an emergency room where blood was splattered all over the walls, the floor, the gurney, the towels, and the emergency crew. Beneath them a woman lay bleeding from a sharp object that had been pushed up her vagina. She died, leaving behind a bewildered husband and five impoverished children.
Scenes like these led many medical professionals to fight for a woman’s right to choose.
Personally, I don’t especially like abortion, and I wish that women never felt a need to get one. But restricting it has little effect. Instead, women and girls end up dying.
If prohibiting abortion doesn’t actually stop it, what are the real goal of bills like HR 358 and HR 3?
Getting the GOP base enthused and out to vote in the next major election may be one aim.
Meanwhile, amid high unemployment the GOP turn their attention away from the economy, perhaps hoping continued bad economic news will eventually kill a presidency.
Related posts on BroadBlogs
Doctors Let Woman Die to Protect Fetus
Are You Pro Life, Or Do You Just Want To Control Women?