Kameron Hurley has a good post up today regarding thoughts that came to her while waiting for an appointment at Planned Parenthood. It's one of those posts that most women can probably relate to, especially those of us who didn't have a regular job with health insurance for much of our early adulthood. The organization is really successful, and it's awe-inspiring the way that they manage both to provide services to the community while also politically advocating for the population they serve.
Because PP works, they are the target of much, if not most, of the vitriol of the anti-reproductive rights crowd. There is a prevalent belief amongst The Wingnuttery that PP is cash cow of an organization, razzling and dazzling weak-minded females with their flashy propaganda about having all the crazy sex you want without ever having to bear the consequ-, um, babies that result because you can have 5, 10, 2 dozen abortions! Step right up and give PP your money, so that the fat cat feminists can have their expensive cars and designer footwear they wear to the decadent orgies they attend every night, reveling in all the cash that the abortion "business" makes. Recently, an anti-abortion nut trolled my blog trying to convince us that we'd been the dupes of the PP mind control game that tricks us into having all sorts of abortions. Some wingnuts who think that PP is an abortion mill, making cash hand over fist by performing abortion are deluded and some are lying, but none make a lick of sense. PP has probably done more than any other group in this country in preventing abortions by getting affordable contraception in the hands of people who need it. Anyone who is genuinely interested in reducing the number of abortions in this country needs to write PP a check right now.
That they are big and that they are effective explains why they are the target of so much anti-woman fervor, but sometimes I wonder if there's a little more to the story. As Kameron describes in her story, and as I recall from my broke days of going there, they have a ton of security measures and instructions all over the place on how to escape if you are attacked. PP knows from being under constant threat of a terrorist attack, my friends. I think that PP is a target for so much misogynist fury not just because they are effective, but also because of something as simple as their name.
I'm sure the name Planned Parenthood was chosen because it was accurate, and also to generate interest and empower the clientele. Nowadays, the notion that women plan when they have children is the norm, and that's created a lot of resentment. Planning is power and control.
The woman who makes plans is pretty much always a negative stereotype in our culture. Sylvia Ann Hewlett got on all the talk shows by writing a book scolding women not to plan to have their children later in life when it was easier for them for fear that they may not be able to have them, and a great time was had by all on the shows pitying women who got their comeuppance for thinking they could exert control over their own destinies only to be left childless. Even in situations where women are doing their best to fulfill social expectations, taking control is viewed negatively. For example, we adore ourselves a blushing bride, but a woman who manages her own wedding planning is going to be labeled a Bridezilla before all is said and done.
Plans indicate control and plans also indicate desire. You make a plan because you have things you want and you need to figure out the best way to get them. Every time a woman swallows her birth control pill, there's a world of desires behind that decision and the pill is one of the tools she's using to achieve those desires--a job, an education, marriage to the man she really wants not just to the first that got her pregnant, no marriage at all, a smaller family, more income to spend on hobbies, more time to herself, you name it. There's a lot of feminist ink spilled on the discussion of how female sexual desire is demonized in our culture, but even more than that, almost all female desires are suspect, except of course the desire to serve. (One reason that fields like math and science are still underpopulated with women is that intelligent women often turn their talents to fields where service is still emphasized, like medicine.)
In the book The Mommy Myth, Douglas and Michaels discuss the media beatification Bobbi McCaughey, the woman who bore septuplets. McCaughey's pregnancy was an exercise in exactly the masochistic feminine sacrifice demanded of women by patriarchal institutions like the Baptist church she belongs to, giving up her mobility and even comfort (she had to be contorted into all sorts of positions to prevent labor), giving her entire body over in service to others. Her story was offered up as a not-subtle rebuke to your average pill-taking, condom-pushing, abortion rights-supporting American woman, with her plans and desires.