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Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Hmmm....

   August Pollak clarifies his position on the pro-choice T-shirt.  Others who have really solid feminist understanding have concurred.  I am forced to rethink how strongly I came across supporting the T-shirt.
   But.....
   My initial opinion was formed of two very strong opinions that I hold very dearly.  1)  Subversive messages require subversive media and 2) The pressure on women to hide their sexual/reproductive histories is so strong that it causes almost complete breakdown of communication between women. 
   Point one is pretty important.  Despite the great hopes of many cultural critics, subversive messages require subversive media.  Point to a mainstream medium that has forwarded a subversive message, and I can guarantee you they are echoing/ripping off a subversive artist or journalist.  The only way to get your message across in the mainstream media is to subvert their methods without their knowledge, an increasingly difficult task.  Subverting mainstream media by introducing subversive messages through the prism of other media is the duty of media pranksters, and there are some pretty great ones they've pulled off.  
   The other point is that women are isolated from each other to such a strong degree that outreach of any sort is an uphill battle.  This is something that is particularly difficult for liberal and especially feminist writers and activists to understand, since we tend to keep in touch with each other.  I see that completely understandable prejudice working in Pollak's post:

As far as "other options to advertise that women do this and are not alone" I can think of countless alternative ideas right off the top of my head. Websites. Advocacy campaigns. An infinite number of different messages. Jesus- what would be a better message to say women aren't alone? How about making the shirt say "You're not alone" with the Planned Parenthood logo? "We're here to help?" "I support your choice?" Anything else?
 
  I am not in this to fisk a blogger I like a lot, but I think it's critical for better understanding.  Let's try to imagine what it's like for a woman who isn't a feminist activist or writer who is nonetheless pregnant and doesn't want to be.  Other ideas.  Websites--Google "abortion" and see what you get--well, you get a bunch of cleverly disguised pro-life sites.  (See what I'm saying about how subversive messages need subversive media?)  Advocacy campaigns counter-acted by advocacy campaigns that openly push evocative stereotypes that we cannot counter by publicizing obvious antidotes to those stereotypes because it's too in-your-face.  T-shirts that say, "You're not alone?" or any other messages are not good at counteracting stereotypes.
   Think about it--you have been told your whole life that only sluts (or lower-class women) get abortions.  Despite your best efforts at contraception, you get pregnant by your long-term boyfriend.  How is "You're not alone" going to speak to you?  Even women who aren't super well-educated aren't dumb--if that woman wearing that shirt looks like a "good" woman, all that says is that she supports you getting an abortion.  Nothing about that says that she, yes, even she the golden girl, has had an abortion. 
   Those stereotypes are powerful.  Tonight a couple of really, really smart women I know who are completely pro-choice were repeating stereotypes about women who use abortion as a primary method of birth control.  When I challenged them, and pointed out that it's a myth that most women who have them are hardly relying on them as contraception, they just ran over me.  Some women do it--they have abortions 3, 4 times a year.  I didn't know what to say, except to lamely say that it's silly to blow a rarity out of proportion and that anyone who knows anyone who has had an abortion should know that it's not something that anyone would choose as a birth control method, but that fell on deaf ears.  These are women who have tons of friends who have had abortions, and they still cough up these stereotypes.
   Imagine women who don't move in circles that generally support that choice, or even women's sexual expression at all.  And that's more women than not in this country. 
   I'm not saying that T-shirt can fix this problem.  But what subversive media does better than anything is reaching out to audiences who otherwise have no access to that message, often because the authorities in their lives forbid it.  I cannot myself imagine where I would be if my friends and I hadn't spent our teenage years listening to music, snatches of life on the outside we would find one day when we were set free.  It didn't take much for us.  For a woman who is pregnant and desperate not to be, it may not take all that much to convince her that yes, good women do it.

11 Comments:

Blogger ms. jared said...

great post. i absolutely agree with you.

xoxo, jared

7/28/2004

 
Blogger Adam said...

Why is Google not giving the "right" results? You run an influential weblog, right? Why not find (or create) the definitive website on your side of the topic, and ask everyone to link to it. Won't a Google search then respond in the way you want?

7/28/2004

 
Blogger Amanda said...

But Google does give the right results! The right-wingnut results! But that's not helpful really to someone who wants an abortion but doesn't know much about it.

7/29/2004

 
Blogger Adam said...

So what site do you recommend for being helpful to women considering abortion?

7/29/2004

 
Blogger Amanda said...

Planned Parenthood. I'm guessing that doesn't pass muster, eh?

7/29/2004

 
Blogger Adam said...

No, Planned Parenthood is a fine site. Now, just put a link to it from your page, in something like your blogroll, or from posts you make. And then tell your friends to all do the same, linking from the word "abortion" (or whatever words you want). Here is a sample:

If you're thinking about abortion, Planned Parenthood is a great place to read about it.

(Note that my links here in your comments won't have the effect you want, since Blogger redirects them through a special page to combat "comment spam": I could be a robot, using your site's influence to boost my own Google ranks.)

The results of this can be quite striking, if you have enough influential websites posting enough links on their pages. Remember what you get when you search Google for "miserable failure"? Read about it in this BBC article.

Good luck, it would be cool if this works.

7/29/2004

 
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