Thursday, January 31, 2013

Awkward Feminist Encounters, Vol. 1

Because I am a kind and merciful blogger, I will often take it upon myself to visit websites and read articles that the rest of you would find tiresome, nauseating and irritating. I then distill these articles into an easy-to-read format at Oakmoor's Revenge, which surely fills the lot of you with stupendous gratitude.

Anyways, my most recent foray into the dark underbelly of the Internet comes from Feministing, a strident feminist website that features many screeds and rants about patriarchy and inequality and other things. I visit this website every now and then because it fascinates me, and, because I am a straight white cisnormative middle-class male, I get the thrill of being an interloper in hostile territory.

Once in a while Feministing plays host to essays that are remarkable in their awkwardness and in the depth of their weirdness. Today's example comes in the form of a pro-abortion story by Michelle Kinsey Bruns entitled "Pro-Choice on Amtrak: The Time I Told a Group of Anti-Choice Teenagers About My Abortion."

It's already painfully awkward. Why is she telling a bunch of pro-lifer teenagers about her abortion? Was she invited to do so? Er, no. She actually just runs into a bunch of pro-life Catholic kids on an Amtrak after they've attended the annual March for Life in Washington. She spends some time in her inner monologue criticizing these teenagers as being "puffed up on privilege" and "adolescent hordes," refers to their adult chaperones as "exploitative handlers,"  and expresses concern that once she has confronted the privileged horde about their pro-life views, they will "fall upon [her] and rend [her] flesh." She views them, in short, as humans might one day view aliens from another planet---beings they have never encountered before and thus know nothing about.

Nevertheless, she presses boldly forward, activating her iPhone voice recorder to capture every moment of her iConfrontation. She begins to lecture them from the middle of the car, explaining that a third of all women in the country has had an abortion, and that she is one of those women, having had an abortion when she was eighteen. According to her, it "saved [her] life," and she owes her current success to the abortion she had. The teenagers listen to her impromptu performance piece, appearing to her "quite a bit more polite than they are when swarming the annual counterprotest at the Supreme Court." She does not offer any evidence as to the kids' alleged impoliteness while they are at pro-life protests (are they mean? ugly? vulgar?), and one gets the feeling that she equates "impoliteness" with "disagreeing with Michelle Kinsey Bruns." But no matter.

A "man in black" with "grey hair" (perhaps a priest?) steps towards her and demands to know who she is. She ignores him and implores the children to think less about anti-abortion causes and more about inequality and universal healthcare, because of course these three things are critically incompatible with one another---one cannot be pro-life and pro-universal health care at the same time!

The mystery man again demands to know who she is, and she claims that she is "a private citizen, who exercises [her] rights." Well, isn't that kind of a tautology? Perhaps her point is bolstered by the fact that she is on an Amtrak train, which is a public facility, I guess, so I suppose she's advocating for freedom of speech. Or maybe she's referring to exercising her right to an abortion? I don't know. After this legendary confrontation, she informs the Catholic assembly that she will "never be sorry" for having an abortion, and in fact will "always be proud." That's a hell of a curve ball. I can understand not feeling shame after having an abortion, but feeling pride after having an abortion is pretty bizarre. I feel proud when I get a piece published in a magazine, or when I quit smoking; in contrast, I don't feel pride when I go in for a medical procedure (particularly one as emotionally charged as an abortion, with all its potential feelings of guilt and confusion). Maybe this is the logical end result of the everybody-gets-a-trophy mentality.

She then leaves the car and gets off in Alexandria, imagining the "patronizing emergency spin" that went on in the car after she left, as if it's reasonable to assume that a big group of Catholic pro-lifers has never encountered a zealous pro-abortionist. She reflects that the abortion she underwent years ago "cleared a path" for her to become all that she is today (apparently someone who randomly confronts and lectures teenagers on public railways).

She also states that a woman "has every right to exercise control over the use of her body and the direction of her future." As it so happens, I agree with her, and I think that abortion should be legal as well. But it's just so terribly awkward for the cause when a woman holds a one-person protest against a group of adolescents in a train car and opens the floodgates with intimate details of her personal life in a terribly inappropriate setting. It's uncomfortable and weepy and weird. But that's why I've read the article for you---so that you don't have to deal with it. You heard it here first, folks.

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