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February 07, 2006



You lose credibility when you begin characterizing your "opponent" as ugly, or as a minion. I agree with you.



This post reminds of two things: the ancedote about people asking Gloria Steinem "Why are you a feminist? You're pretty." and the recent insults aimed at Jill over at Feministe about her looks. (Commentators rushed to assure her that she wasn't fat and ugly.) It seems as though we cannot escape the notion that the worst thing for women is to be ugly. Somehow, being fat and ugly is worse than being disenfranchised, denied employment opportunities, or what have you.

That, to me, is the most pernicious part: that if you're beautiful, nothing else is of consequence (or else is a very distant second); and if you're ugly, you're just mad that the beautiful people are more successful. Talk about a powerful tool for demonizing and hurting women.

Faux Real

Anyone notice that the majority of pro-lifers on that page appear to be underage?

Apparently they have the Derbyshire effect in action on that side of the political aisle, and that says more for the pro-choice side than I can muster in a few paragraphs.


This is not surprising; they are the biggest stakeholders in the struggle over reproductive rights.

Pro-choice, of course, but pro-life? Pro-life women's pregnancies are safe either way. If we avoid the whole "is pro-life about men trying to control women's bodies/sexuality?" debate or the "fetal rights" notion, I'm not sure I can identify pro-life stakeholders, but to the extent that we can, I'd say they're anyone--men and women--who believe that abortion is deeply wrong, destructive, immoral, harmful to society, offensive to God, and what have you.

Also, I think you're offering a willfully ungenerous reading of Rachel's "There's something beautiful about..." line. I read it as a nod to the beauty of the struggle for justice. I find beauty in footage of old civil rights marches that's entirely independent of the sexual appeal of it's participants. The sentiment "there's something beautiful about a diverse and disparate group of people coming together to fight for justice for us all" seems like the most charitable and straightforward reading of her post (I'll give you the commenter who quotes George Carlin...)


I'm sorry, poor word choice on my part; despite the clear evidence to the contrary I didn't mean to accuse of you of intentional "willful" misreading. Uncalled for and not my intention.


Hugo, perhaps pro-choice women would be less likely to view pro-life women like Stepford wives if they didn't resort to contests in which the aim is to be prettier than their opponent. Such tactics just kind of go with Stepford like sensibilities. In an effort to stereotype their opponents they seem to have accurately stereotyped themselves instead. And re Rachel's comment, perhaps it was intended in the spirit of "Pretty is as pretty does." And those who fight for liberty and justice are prettier because so is their cause. But then I'm pro-choice.


Barbara, fair enough -- but it's absurd to suggest that most pro-life women do participate in such contests! You are still stereotyping pro-life women, and it still won't fly. The pro-life movement is richly diverse. Ever hear of PLAGAL, the pro-life alliance of lesbians and gays?


No, Hugo, I said that the pro-life women who tried to stereotype their opponents by engaging in beauty contests succeeded only in stereotyping themeselves. Just for the record, I don't think this represents a broad swath of pro-life women but then again, I don't follow it closely enough to know, for instance, that your reaction was typical.


Again, that's fair. But I assure you that the pro-lifer who created the beauty contest was no more represenative of her sisters on her side of the movement than Rachel is of the pro-choice side when she stereotypes her opponents as marching in "silent, scary, uniformity."


I noticed this line on the first page: In perfect formation, the Christians surged ahead in silence. Similar descriptions appear on the second as well. Without commenting on either your ultimate point or hers, Rachel Neumann's characterization doesn't seem entirely inaccurate -- these anti-choice protestors (or someone sympathetic) describe themselves as silent and uniform.

There's more depth here, of course -- how much of this photoessay, including the third page, is tongue in cheek? How representative is she of the way anti-choice women view themselves? What exactly did Ms. Neumann mean? And so on.

Like djw, I'm sceptical of saying anti-choice women see themselves as stakeholders in this debate. Granted, many of them are holding signs that say abortion harms women, so maybe they do, but this is a line I've never understood, and in my experience opposition to abortion is a straight-up 'right to life' position.


There's more depth here, of course -- how much of this photoessay, including the third page, is tongue in cheek?

This is how I viewed this. A sort of photo-essay by someone more concerned with photography than the march and the ending a sort of humourous (to some)ending. Like Ok we can't agree so lets settle this by a beauty contest - or maybe even paper, scissors rock if you like.

Now you could read more into it, though looking at the main site and the articles there, it gives a wider impression of the work of this person.

Hugo described this as a 'Pro-life' site. So when I went there I was expecting some sort of argument and the use of the beauty contest as serious.

I did not find this though I must thank Hugo for highlighting this site as it does give information on the current controversy in the UK as depicted in the first photo series on the main site.

be well


Noumena, I wonder if Neumann would say the same thing about the "women in black" and their silent anti-war protests... Perhaps I'm wrong, but I picked up on the implication that silence represented the inability of conservative women to speak for themselves.


The first thing I noticed was what Faux Real mentioned: all of the women (and girls) on the pro-life side looked so damn young. Not that there weren't young women (and girls) on the pro-choice side, just that there didn't seem to be anyone out of college on the pro-life side .....and it kinda makes you wonder.

There may be other explanations, but it reminds me me of when I was pro-life (for all of an afternoon) when I was in high school - and why. I felt much very protective of the "babies" and I didn't identify with the women who actually have had to deal with abortion and unwanted pregnancy in more than just the abstract.


To be fair, many of the women there were from Operation Outcry -- a pro-life outfit entirely staffed by women who've had abortions.  If I weren't on my self-imposed "no blogging about abortion hiatus" I might write about them.  Maybe I will.  Check out the link anyway.


Just to add an eyewitness observation: I didn't make it to the march this year, but I attended last year, on the pro-choice side. The pro-life marchers were, indeed, eerily silent. We chanted and cheered; they did not. Also, our side carried a wide variety of colorful handmade signs and banners, while the majority of their marchers carried the same pre-printed black sign.

It seems to me Ms. Neumann is just calling 'em like she sees 'em.


BantamBlonde:The pro-life marchers were, indeed, eerily silent. We chanted and cheered; they did not. Also, our side carried a wide variety of colorful handmade signs and banners, while the majority of their marchers carried the same pre-printed black sign.

Well, look at it from the perspective of the pro-lifers (a group I do not claim membership in, BTW): they are there to protest against what many of them see as a monstrous crime. For the religiously-motivated pro-lifers abortion must seem like some kind of holocaust. If you start with the first principles that all human life is sacred and that all forms of human life, including foetuses, are entitled to the same regard, then it logically follows that abortion would, to such a mindset, constitute murder. If we take the analogy further, it is muder on a systematic and widespead scale, that is overtly condoned and even celebrated in some circles.

I would imagine someone with this worldview wouldn't be terribly chipper when protesting abortion. If we lived in a world where eating stewed puppies was considered de rigeur, and you found such a practice abhorent, I bet you wouldn't show up to the protest march in gaily-colored clothes while beaming a smile.

Barbara:And those who fight for liberty and justice are prettier because so is their cause.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. To a religiously-motivated prolifer, you must seem like a member of the schuzstaffel (again, I am not endorsing this view, just making an argument). After all, the prolifer would say that they are there to fight for the liberty, justice and existence of the unborn.


Yes, Glitch, that's why my post ended with "But then again . . ." I don't expect universal agreement on the point. And in this case liberty of the one is at odds with existence of the other. That's why the fight is so bitter.


Glitch, I agree. In fact, I thought about mentioning in my post that I actually worried that their tactics were more effective than ours, as they seemed dignified and serious, while we may have come across as frivolous. But I didn't, because I felt it would detract from my main point: Ms. Neumann is not "exchanging one stereotype for another." She's merely describing the ambience chosen by each side, and declaring which one she finds more beautiful.


And here I thought I was being gracious by not taking issue with the term "forced childbirth."

First rule of civilized debate: call people by the terms they wish to be called. Pro-life, pro-choice. Not "anti-choice" or "pro-death" or any of that hatefilled nonsense.


Hugo, as much as I agree with you about the need for civility, I don't think that the rules of civilized debate necessarily require that we use our opponents' terminology. That's exactly the kind of concession the Bush Administration is counting on when they name things like the Healthy Forests Initiative and the Clear Skies Initiative.

Mr. Bad

I don't see any clear difference in beauty between either side, and in fact if I had to choose I'd vote that the pro-choice women were the prettier bunch. However, as others have noted the pro-choice side looks younger, so perhaps issues linking age and beauty are at play here, i.e., that all other things being equal, the younger women are stereotyped as being 'prettier.' Perhaps this is as much a statement on societal attitudes towards beauty than anything else, and if so, I find it interesting that (for the most part) women are the ones perpetuating the mythical link between age and beauty.


Bantam, let me clarify. Those administration terms refer to initiatives, not social movements. I mean we should use the terms people use to describe their movements. That doesn't mean we need to adopt Orwellian doublespeak every time our government does so.



Raging Grannies are my favorite. Seriously, it's interesting how they pretend like pro-choice people don't like hetereosexual sex- when the pro-lifers are those that fear sex the most.


"First rule of civilized debate: call people by the terms they wish to be called. Pro-life, pro-choice."

Again, I agree with you.


But the term "pro-life" is Orwellian doublespeak, because most of them also support the death penalty and war (I know you don't, but and there are a few people who don't, but the majority do), and don't support any programs that might actually help unwanted children once they're born.

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