Archives: March 2007

31 Mar 2007, Comments Off on This is kind of endearing

This is kind of endearing

Author: Helen

Image from http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/monet/haystacks/matin.jpg

There’s an error appearing in great numbers at Road to Surfdom at present, to do with an empty haystack:

Warning: mb_strstr() [function.mb-strstr]: Empty haystack in /home/roadtosu/public_html/wp-includes/functions-formatting.php on line 45

Warning: mb_strstr() [function.mb-strstr]: Empty haystack in /home/roadtosu/public_html/wp-includes/functions-formatting.php on line 45

Warning: mb_strstr() [function.mb-strstr]: Empty haystack in /home/roadtosu/public_html/wp-includes/functions-formatting.php on line 45

I guess “empty haystack” means no Thomas Hardy-esque wenches or D.H. Lawrencian brooding young men.

30 Mar 2007, Comments Off on Outsourcing Environmental policy to Indonesia

Outsourcing Environmental policy to Indonesia

Author: Helen

Image from http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/03/12/1078594569985.html

So, Malcolm Turnbull and his boss the Rodent have suddenly come out with this policy to pay $200m to encourage developing nations in the southern hemisphere with significant rainforest, such as Brazil Australia and Indonesia, to stop logging them.
So why am I not giving credit where it it appears to be due? Why am I, an erstwhile Green voter, not planning to vote Liberal at the next election because of this excellent Librul forest policy? Why am I, instead, full of bile and spleen and whitehot rage?

Mr Turnbull says a global response is needed and the $200 million project will be used to plant trees and reduce illegal logging in South-East Asia.

Including Australia? Oh, wait…

“The funding will go, given the nature of our geography, will largely go to South-East Asia,” Mr Turnbull said.

“The biggest deforesters in the world or the places where the most deforestation of tropical forests is occurring are in Brazil and Indonesia, they’re the top two so naturally our focus is going to be on our part of the world

Our part of the world? C’mon Malcolm, you can say it: Our part of the world includes… yes… US!

but we’re not limiting it to that.”

Geez, Malcolm. You think that when you announce a policy of spending hundreds of millions to buy out the logging industry, it might not be appropriate to APPLY IT TO THE FEW HUNDRED PEOPLE WHO ARE CLEARFELL LOGGING THE REMNANT OF OLD GROWTH FORESTS IN YOUR OWN COUNTRY? YA THINK??

Sorry for the shouting.

The truly awesome Bernice Balconey (no relation) and Aussie Bob have more facts, with less spittle.

 
 
(Thanks to Enemy Combatant of LP for the post title).
Crossposted at Road to Surfdom

26 Mar 2007, Comments Off on Keep yourself Decent

Keep yourself Decent

Author: Helen

When a dear reader™ asked me to write something about the journalist Pamela Bone, I procrastinated like you wouldn’t believe. It was in relation to International Womens’ Day, when she published an article about the reprehensible refusal of modern feminists to do things her way:

Was it before or after September 11 that thinkers of the Left – for feminism was a movement of the Left – decided that racism was a far more serious crime than sexism? When did cultural sensitivity trump women’s rights? Was it about the time that Australian feminist Germaine Greer defended the practice of female genital mutilation because, as she pointed out, Western women put studs through their nipples and labia?
…I don’t hold much hope on this International Women’s Day of seeing big protests in Australian cities against female genital mutilation; or against honour killings, stonings, child marriages, forced seclusion or any of the other persecutions to which women are still subjected. The fire of Western feminism has quietly died away, first as a victim of its success, lately as a victim of cultural relativism, of anti-Americanism and reluctance to be seen to be condemning the enemies of the enemy.

For one thing, Kim at LP had already done a very good followup to that. And at first I was inclined to just let Bone’s article sail through to the keeper. Like Kim said, “I didn’t want to give her the time of (International Womens’) day”. And just because I loved Pamela Bone’s work on feminism and the work-and-family balance problem, why should I expect her views to correlate with mine on everything? Australia needed its Christopher Hitchens, apparently, and somebody had to do it. I guess it was a shame it had to be Boney.

I admit I did have a “WTF?” moment in 2004. The message has continued fairly consistently up to the present day: Teh Left should be supporting the war in Iraq, particularly in order to liberate their Muslim sisters, but they’re all namby-pamby multicultis who are afraid to say boo to a Mufti, and soft on Saddam.

I thought she was wrong then, and I thought she was wrong now. I also thought she had a perfect right to say it (in the sense that I disagree with what you are saying but I will defend to the death your right to say it); but when I did a bit of revision in an effort to get this post going, I googled “Decent Left” – a concept I hadn’t, to be honest, bothered much about. Now I’m bothered. Annoyed would be a better word. It’s hubristic enough to claim that Teh Left are all failures, except for yourself and others like you. To adopt a name like “the Decent Left” is to imply that the rest of us are… what? The completely shambolic, can’t take ’em anywhere, throw up on your shoes Left? The sell their grandmother for a deal of dope Left? Sheesh. How offensive.

Boney’s assertions about the need to wage war and bomb Iraq to kingdom come in order to install democracy and freedom for women is based on a few questionable assumptions. Here’s a few.

Western feminism has abandoned its Muslim sisters in favour of keeping quiet about the social injustices they suffer, because they’re too corrupted with social relativism and think anything any ethnic group does must automatically be allowed (Pee Cee!)

This one has already been answered quite comprehensively by Kim at Larvatus Prodeo and commenters. See the comment by “Jo” for an impressive collection of links to feminist activism related to Islam. Also, self-identified feminists might choose to support or join groups like Amnesty International and MSF – but because you don’t wave a placard identifying yourself as such means you don’t make it into Bone’s purely anecdotal study “sample”, I guess. Which brings us to

If feminists cared about Muslim women, they w0uld have been out demonstrating in the streets about Saddam Hussein, or about Muslim cultural practices, rather than the Coalition of the Willing.

There’s a whole nested set of assumptions in there. For one, “demonstrating in the streets” is the only legitimate avenue of protest. Now I’m not averse to the occasional riot, but — awwww, how quaint and old-lefty that is. For another thing, street protests tend to be about things your government, or your country’s corporations (or corporations in your country, for that matter), et cetera, have done or are proposing to do. Street demonstrations about another country’s government are rare in that they are accurately perceived to be pretty useless and unlikely to send any message, however diluted, to a country with a fairly rudimentary media.

Again, the feminist who donates to MSF is probably on the money as far as any individual is trying to actually contribute to a better outcome for women and all people in Iraq, but then, she doesn’t send a loud message to the Decent Left that she is actually doing something. There’s also a feeling here on the indecent Left that much as we would like our Middle Eastern sisters to throw their burkas off immediately, telling people in other countries what to do has been the plague of Western society in past centuries, and the track record hasn’t been good. And saying it with bombs is not Decent.

Western society = feminism = individual freedom whereas any Middle eastern society = Islam = repression of females. Therefore, any military invasion of a Middle Eastern country must, ipso facto, increase the wellbeing and freedom of women.

Events since 2003 have not convinced me of this point. Prior to the invasion, Iraq was a pretty ordinary place for a woman to live. Post-invasion, it has become a hellhole where not only has the impact of Muslim fundamentalism increased exponentially, so that most of the secular gains of the last decade have been rolled back, but even a “traditional” woman who doesn’t care if she has to take a male relative every single time she walks outside her house can’t assume she can give birth to children and have them attend school and kindergarten safely. You can’t even live in Baghdad, let alone advance the conditions of your gender. So tell me again, what was the great feminist advantage in invading Iraq?

War is the answer.
This is the point Bone keeps coming back to. If you really care, you’ll invade. Nothing says caring like bombing the crap out of people.

I can’t agree. And we can’t invade everyone. If reducing Iraq to a smoking rubble with intermittent electricity, intermittent water, a broken education and hospital system and a professional class which has largely fled and left the place to increasingly militant and uneducated (can’t think why!) young men is a good way to advance women’s rights, and far be it from me to argue with a senior member of the MSM, but then we should do it in Zimbabwe too, and in Burma, and … and… well, you can see the problem.

I also think that if you’re all for the war, you should think about how it feels for women whose sons and daughters are going over to fight. Bone’s not young or healthy enough to go herself, otherwise we know she’d be first in line, but would she be willing to give up a son or daughter? We know Howard and Janette aren’t.

But above all, I think people who want to go on crusades need to keep in mind that old saying, which apparently is not part of the Hippocratic Oath: First, do no harm. Saddam was a bastard of the deepest dye – but the Coalition has made things even worse.

Hilzoy of Obsidian Wings, fortunately, has produced a beautifully written post on why taking military action is not the answer to everything. (Thanks to Patrick at Making Light for that link.) And, you know, I think Hilzoy and other bloggers who opposed the Iraq war are decent. And the senior military officers who opposed the war are decent. If you want to corner the market on decency, go right ahead, but people will make up their own minds. Is this decent? Is this? Maybe this?

Yeah, the Decent Left has me confused all right.

 
 
Crossposted at Road to Surfdom

21 Mar 2007, Comments Off on Googlebomb

Googlebomb

Author: Helen

From Tigtog, via Creek Running North:

Jill Filipovic and internet searches

This is a crosspost to effect a Googlebomb, correcting an injustice against a fellow feminist blogger.

Jill Filipovic, who blogs at Feministe and Ms. JD, is a NYU law student who has been the subject of cyber-obsession on a discussion board allegedly populated by law students. The discussions regarding Jill Filipovic (and many other female law students) are sexist and sexual in nature, rating the women’s physical attractiveness and fantasising about sexual contact, both consensual and non-consensual. Neither Jill Filipovic or any other of these women contributed, or gave their permission to be discussed, to the discussion board in question.

Jill Filopovic‘s name and class routines etc have been regularly posted to this board, and at least one of the pseudonymous board-members claims to be Jill Filipovic‘s classmate. Photos that Jill Filipovic posted (with full rights reserved) to an interent photo-storing and sharing site have also been posted to the sleazy discussion board without her permission. This is a horrendous invasion of Jill Filipovic‘s privacy, a violation of copyright law, and calls the ethics and character of the alleged law-students participating in these discussions on the discussion board into question.

A major side-effect of an already nasty situation is that the sexist, objectifying cyber-obsession threads come up on the first page of internet search results on Jill Filipovic‘s name. To an inexperienced user of the internet, it may even look as if Jill Filipovic and other female law students chose to compete in these Hot or Not rating competitions, instead of having their pictures posted without permission.

This post is an attempt to balance those internet results to point to the significant writings of Jill Filipovic instead, using the Googlebomb tactic and also linking this post to social networking sites (eg. del.ici.ous, Stumbleupon). Please feel free to copy any or all of what I’ve written here to your own blog in order to help change the top-ranked search engine results for Jill Filipovic. If you don’t have your own blog then please at least link to one of Jill’s this post[s] listed below at your preferred social networking site and give it the tag “Filipovic” (as well as any others you think appropriate).

I have linked to these sites in this post:
Jill Filipovic‘s bio page at Feministe
Jill Filipovic‘s blog posts at the Ms. JD blog
Jill Filipovic‘s article about these scummy lawschool sleazebags at Feministe
Jill Filipovic‘s article at Ms. JD: When Law Students Attack

If any of the other female law students stalked by the same sleazy site wish to copy this text with names altered, you hereby have my full permission to do so. All other rights reserved. (C) 2007 tigtog

Socialize:   del.icio.us | digg | reddit | Squidoo | Technorati

21 Mar 2007, Comments Off on Two more Saturdays

Two more Saturdays

Author: Helen

www.tessmckenna.com

Tess Mckenna plays Feloktric at the Brunswick Green

TESS MCKENNA & THE SHAPIROS have valued every note every paradiddle every nuance every heckle every day over 33 degrees every vote every joke every smile every man every woman every child every mix every tear every beef penang every drop of every drink & every irony during our march residency @ the brunswick green hotel but this is the second last opportunity for supporters of australian independent music to come & be so highly valued………….
saturday the 24th of march 2007 313 – 315 sydney road brunswick
we are back to at our original timeslot of 4:47pm

19 Mar 2007, Comments Off on Now it can be told

Now it can be told

Author: Helen

First Kruddy, then the Inner Northern chapter of the Melbourne blogosphere (also the outer outer northern, as in, Canberra): Cast Iron Balcony lifts the lid on corruption.

I was there, purely in an information gathering role, of course.

Shame, shame.

18 Mar 2007, Comments Off on Three Dollars

Three Dollars

Author: Helen

He walked up to me yesterday with a book of raffle tickets. That’s to be expected. Parents of school age children will be familiar with the dance that’s played out almost weekly in every office in Australia. I’ll buy a chocolate bar from your cardboard carrier if you buy one of the tickets from my book.

Usually, I’m always happy to cough up, muttering under my breath the school fundraiser’s creed (“it’ll be a fine thing when the Defence department has to put on a cake stall to buy a fighter jet”). I know that even if I don’t want that raffle ticket and I’m never going to come within cooee of that BMW or Gold Coast holiday, he’ll buy my chocolate when it comes around. But this time, I couldn’t bring myself to fork that $3 over, because of the school name printed on the book of raffle tickets: Haileybury.

I explained politely to my workmate that I couldn’t in all conscience support a school which had been reported to be deliberately poaching surrounding schools’ top students. Sure, it’s legal– but in a world where how much money you have increasingly determines your school experience, that kind of behaviour just hollows out the public system even further until it becomes a safety net for the desperate. That’s what the private schools want, because then people wanting a decent education won’t have a choice (and the fact that the marketers and Federal government always say that their promotion of private education is about “choice” is deeply ironic). Then they’ll put their fees up again, secure in the knowledge that parents will be spooked into going into debt or taking second jobs to support the private system.

Incidentally, since the answer to this is always “I know taxi drivers who put their kids through private, so you can too!”, have any studies been done on the effect on children and their families where Mum or Dad has had to take a night job to pay the school fees, or the family is overloaded with a massive debt which could tip them into losing the house in a recession? Is there anything out there on that? I’d like to know.

But back to the topic: why should I cough up for a raffle for a private school which, to all accounts, I’m already unwillingly supporting with my taxes, on top of the fees they collect? Haileybury is already “(a) major beneficiary of increased funding from the Federal government“, and I don’t think it should be. The public system needs a mighty injection of funds right now to bring its resources up to scratch and pay teachers properly. Instead, my taxes get spent on making Liberal mates private businesses wealthier.

Later that night, I sat around a table with parents from Girlchild’s public High school, ScarySuburb City College. Some of them swapped stories about hurtful comments and unresearched assumptions people had made about ScarySuburb City. The Friends of ScarySuburb City are trying to help the school in a practical way — fundraising for some of the extras that the students at Haileybury and other private schools take for granted. And the parents in those schools, who disparage our child’s school, want people like me to send even more money their way? At least with the raffle tickets, I can say no.

In this crazy world where we have abandoned the right of all children to a decent public education and are diverting my taxes so that schools like Haileybury can spend on marketing and extra sporting facilities, I’ll be damned if I’ll give a further voluntary donation to a school which already has so much. I’d rather give it to the Friends of ScarySuburb City. I know – it’s ridiculous, it’s petty, it’s ultimately futile – but it’s my little protest.

I’ll be at ScarySuburb City open day today, sausage sizzling. For a wiser and more mature analysis of the problem, looky here.

8 Mar 2007, Comments Off on IWD: Blog against Sexism

IWD: Blog against Sexism

Author: Helen

As you probably already know, it’s Blog against Sexism dayThanks for the reminder, Tigtog – which is also International Womens Day. Naturally, I set about thinking about what I would hang my Blog Against Sexism post on.
Image from http://vegankid.solidaritydesign.net/2007/02/24/blog-against-sexism-day-2007/My workload this week doesn’t augur well for a long and complex post, so I was just going to do a bit of a linkfest, when- goodness me!– Mr Dolce and Mr Gabbana, purveyors of overpriced leather crap to the vacuous, dropped this stinking great pantload. [Warning, probably not work safe].

The photo features a blank looking young woman in a bathing suit and high heels being pinned down by a glossy shirtless man while four other men look on.

I can see I’m not alone in being unimpressed (and unlikely to purchase handbags from this emporium, or respect those who do). Pavlov asks, “if they think this image conveys a ‘game’ about ‘seduction’ and ‘beauty’, what sort of image would they have come up with to illustrate an actual gang rape?”

Of course, Hansel and Zoolander Dazza & Gazza reckoned it was a nice, playful, artistic gang rape fantasy, and not at all about creating a faux scandal and getting themselves in the news, thereby making more money from the women they claim to “love” while allowing themselves a quick vent of the woman-hatred buildup at the same time. And I’m sure there will be plenty of people bending over backward to excuse them. Don’t hold your breath for a sensible criticism of D&G from Janice Breen “I don’t know what all the fuss is about skeletal models, it’s just like Hussein Chalayan’s smashable perspex frocks and convertible coffee table/timber skirts and Tsubi’s swarming rats; merely shock value, just because people are actually dying from it is completely irrelevant” Burns, either.

And as for trying to portray your opponents as “old fashioned”, nice try guys, but no cigar. (And yes, that cigar was just a cigar.)

Note that these guys probably have this problem partly because they inhabit a rather hermetic and separate and elite world, that is, the fashion industry. (Huh, timber skirts indeed). Note how “conservative” commentators dump on academics supposedly for the same thing, although most lecturers are working stiffs who go home to the suburbs like everyone else. It’s good to see that, with the skinny-model issue and offensive advertising, the media are starting to call the fashion industry on their stupidity and poor social boundaries, which probably springs from the fact that they are more truly in an ivory tower than any intellectual – but they have vastly more influence on how people actually behave. And how they view and treat women.

Diversion: The IWD rally at the GPO in Melbourne was small, but a goodun. Never mind the width, feel the quality. There was some strange moisture falling out of the sky at intervals which might have disconcerted potential rioters. I missed most of Julia Gillard’s speech because I was a bit late.
For the benefit of US lefty academics, I should point out that I was jostling shoulders amicably with the ASU (some of whom are janitors, in their lingo).

 
Crossposted at Road to Surfdom

5 Mar 2007, Comments Off on Let’s hear it for Michael

Let’s hear it for Michael

Author: Helen

He’s a US army major with a plain face and a buzzcut up to there. He’s the epitome of someone I wouldn’t expect to like. But ever since, back in 2004, I saw him on TV saying “I will not abandon David Hicks”, I’ve loved Michael Mori.

It’s with complete disbelief that I’ve listened to him on news reports, vigorously criticising the US trial process and the system at Guantanamo… and Mori was an army guy, with a buzzcut up to there, and I couldn’t believe he was saying such stuff. And over the years I’ve asked myself the question, “how can Mori go to bat for David Hicks and stick it up the US military judicial system with such passion, and avoid persecution by the system itself?” because it seemed impossible that he could get away with it. Especially the other day, when I heard him on the ABC really tearing the US authorities a new one over the trumped up (his words), retrospective charge of “providing material support for terrorism”. Woohoo! You go, girl.

And then the other day I turned on my car radio, and of course, my question was answered.

At Gitmo, they’re making sure that no act of courage and integrity goes unpunished.

(Cross posted at Road to Surfdom)

2 Mar 2007, Comments Off on The Quick Brown Fox

The Quick Brown Fox

Author: Helen

Image from http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/object/article?o=5&f=/c/a/2006/01/22/BAG5QGRAKC1.DTL

A while back, under “asshattery”, I quoted two LP commenters whose opinion was that feminism is the concern of overprivileged white chicks, so truly progressive people shouldn’t bother with it, as it’s only making selfish elites even more selfish.

Russell Arben Fox, while somewhat religious, is no asshat. He is a thoughtful writer, the civility of whose responses to his commenters, even the ones who disagree with them, is a model for us all. He’s also fighting the good fight against neoliberal ideas (as far as I can tell). So, it was sad to see him make a similar claim about people who are on the pro-choice side on abortion.

Fox is a moderate, not a wingnut. On balance, he comes down against “…abortion restrictions [such as…parental notification laws, mandated counseling and waiting periods, etc.” On the other hand, he feels that (what he sees as) unlimited access to abortion is just making

…one’s sexual choices … indistinguishable from any other set other commodified choices, ideally having no ramifications on one’s living arrangements, extended family, position in society, obligation to future generations, unacknowledged dependence upon unwritten moral standards, involvement in collective goals, etc.

He doesn’t support legislative banning of abortion, because he recognises that will cause suffering, which is commendable. Before we go any further, what positive recommendation does Fox have for the how we should conduct our reproductive lives? His position is fairly complex, but in general he’s in favour of

… Deterring abortion, discouraging abortion, not outright banning it as a criminal act.
…the creation of an environment where abortions [are] formally discouraged…a more restricted and less present abortion culture, with concomitant consequences for how people interact with and assume responsibilities for one another both sexually and socially.

I’m not a libertarian. I’m no apologist for rampant consumerism and social fragmentation. But Fox’s post is offensive to me in several ways. First, it conflates the idea of “choice”, in the context of reproductive rights, with “consumerism”. Therefore, limiting abortion (by some not-too-specific non-legislative method; I don’t know, shaming? shunning?) equals taking responsibility and promotes social cohesion, but access to abortion makes the decision to abort no more mentally taxing – or meaningful – than shopping for a new pair of Jimmy Choo shoes.

You have to hand it to advocates of abortion rights: the rhetoric of choice is perfect for advancing their cause in the modern world. Who doesn’t want more choices, after all? … Abortion as a supremely individualistic, personal, private, even affirmative act makes perfect sense–you control your own body, you determine your own sex life, you weigh your own feelings, you chart your own future…it all fits together.
…Choice, as an ideological priority, is rather commercial: it is about managing one’s options, about taking care of business.

I think that Fox is defining the word choice in an overly specific way which fits his chosen thesis. Humans make choices in every facet of their daily lives; whether or not to go to university, to finish school, to vote for this or that party, to eat this or not eat that, to live here or to live there. Why trivialise this process? There’s another word for it, especially in serious matters like getting married or divorced or having an abortion: Decision. Like it or not, we need to make decisions. The inability to make a decision for oneself is a sign of poverty or powerlessness or both, not necessarily of social cohesion. The ability and desire to make a decision by and for oneself can just as well be a sign of responsibility rather than libertarian selfishness. He seems to be saying that the inability of an Exclusive Brethren woman to make crucial decisions in her own life, because the community has made such decisions for her, is somehow more dignified. I can’t see why.

There’s another theme at work in Fox’s post. He subscribes to the idea that I mentioned above, that abortion activism (like feminism) is by privileged women, for privileged women, and as such is lacking in worth (like, it’s implied, privileged women themselves, by which he means middle class women. And who are they? I’ll get onto that later).

it’s about allowing people–almost always white, middle- and upper-class, secular people–more and freer sexual choices than previous generations enjoyed.

He quotes two other academics, both male, to support this view. Harry Brighouse:


I hated being in a demonstration in which the police were on our side; I hated being in a demonstration in which my side was visibly composed of wealthier more privileged people than the other side; and I hated the fact that I knew that, my socialist contingent excepted, the people on my side were less committed to my ideals of social justice than many of the leaders of the other side; who were often leading lay Catholics and Catholic priests whom I’d seen at meetings and demonstrations in support of our Central America work and helping to organise community support for strikes of low paid workers…

And Bill Martin:


Most people in the anti-abortion movement associate the pro-choice movement with the middle class. This is not entirely accurate, but I think that the dominant rhetoric of the pro-choice movement is very much a product of the middle-class point of view.

(He then goes on to describe an anecdotal example of a woman at a rally with a really badly worded placard. Which is supposed to reveal the triviality of the entire pro-choice movement… or something.)

This saddens me. If you read Crooked Timber you’ll know Harry Brighouse is a generally pro-feminist academic who writes good stuff about gender equality in parenting, so the message here is a surprise. Go home, honky chicks, because The Left has better things to fight for than your selfish abortions.

Lawyers, Guns and Money has already addressed Fox’s post. Read the whole thing, because they say a lot of the things I’d like to say on this topic, and so might keep this post under 2,000 words. My take: The idea that the things feminists want to fight for, such as reproductive rights (including contraception and emergency contraception as well as abortion), subsidised parental leave, high quality and affordable childcare, and the opposition to exploitative culture in general, to name a few: to claim that that’s all by and for middle- to upper- class women with no thought for or positive impact on poorer women, is just wrong. It doesn’t make sense.

If a woman with an unwanted pregancy also has a low income and/or other disadvantages, how is she helped by outlawing abortion and emergency contraception? If we make abortion illegal, or more restricted, what class of person is still going to get a safe hospital abortion, and has always done so? That’s right – a privileged rich woman.

If a public good like subsidised child care, for instance, is fought for by “privileged” women, does that make that service useless to working class women who need child care, as long as the matter of pricing and access is properly addressed? Commenters like Fox and others seem to throw the “middle class” thing (and how broad a category that is these days, and how precarious a description that is, especially in the US where so many workers are on short term contracts and are one bankruptcy away from serious poverty) around to make it seem as though middle-class feminists don’t care about anyone but themselves and others like them. I’m sure that’s true for a minority, but for the feminists I am reading nothing could be further than the truth. Feminist bloggers (The writers at ‘Alas’ are a worthy example) often stop to unpack their own privilege and think about how it could be affecting their outlook on the problems they write about. “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” comes to mind, as well as the recent thoughtful writings on poverty.

Some left-wing academics, writers and bloggers may be quite well-off, but others, like Lauren and others, are struggling. Many people who might contribute to activism – young academics especially spring to mind – are employed in very insecure short term contracts with few of the trappings that we might think of as “middle-class” and “privileged”. It might benefit Fox, Brighouse and Martin to read BitingBeaver’s account of her unwanted pregnancy and take note of the fact that her “choices” were not those of some daughter of privilege deciding on a whim to “choose” abortion, and financial pressure was indeed front and centre throughout. The same drama is being played out over the world. Freedom from unwanted pregnancy is one of the key freedoms (a “freedom from”) which can help women in poverty escape that poverty. Not a magic bullet, sure, but to me, a necessary condition.

(Note, too, that BitingBeaver was adamant that not having a further, unwanted child, which she and her partner couldn’t afford, was in the best interests of the children she already had. Hardly socially irresponsible, or heedless of family circumstances, as Fox would like you to think.)

And as for this “I didn’t see you with the Janitors at the minimum wage rally” stuff– please. This is a variant of the “you failed to condemn Muslim treatment of women back in 2003, therefore I’ll dismiss your criticism of {insert topic here}”. Everyone does what they can, and the writer’s claim that pro-abortion women don’t attend rallies against poverty and if they don’t, they don’t care, is simply an opinion thrown out as fact. For one thing, self-identified feminists like me do attend rallies for other causes (Actually, you would have seen me rallying with the janitors, that is, their Oz equivalent – the ASU – at the Your Rights at Work rally). But I have a job and a family, and I can’t attend every rally in town. For another, if I don’t, I object to their insulting inference that it’s because I simply don’t care. (Someone should have told Barbara Ehrenreich that her middle-classness made it impossible for her to care, or advance the cause of, the less well off.)

Moving away from class and back to gender: I’m not going to go too far into the “abortion makes sex devoid of consequence which will lead to the hollowing out of society as a whole” idea, which I think is dealt with better than I could by some of the commenters in Fox’s thread. But I’d like to address the corollary to this which is implied throughout:Although he finds the imposition of restrictions on women repugnant and discriminatory, he can’t get away from the idea that if legalised, abortion would just run rampant – and there’s something missing here. There’s an absence of trust in the ability of women to make this decision themselves.

Steve laBonne, a commenter on Fox’s post puts a more extreme version of this position quite horribly – and this seems to be what a lot of people really think, unfortunately:

I think reducing the number of abortions is potentially a reasonable goal (even for purely medical reasons, routine use of abortion as a substitute for contraception would be undesirable).

See, this is what they think of us. People really do believe women are so stupid, so useless at making decisions in their own interests, that they’d use abortion routinely as a substitute for contraception. Just step back and think about that for a minute. So, what would that entail? Suppose you were fairly fertile, you’d have to go through a surgical procedure several times a year, with all the expense and time off work and recovery times that would involve, instead of using a pill or a condom or a diaphragm. Abortions replacing contraception? Just… not… going… to happen.

But then, we’re so stupid, we need the added “protection” of patriarchal disapproval to deflect us from lurching down this disastrous course. Yes, of course there are a few hopeless cases who seem to make accidental pregnancy their life’s work, but these are not the cases on which legislation (Or some byzantine system of non-judicial social punishment) should be based.

BitchPHD is right: It comes down to not trusting women. And even honky middle-class women are worthy of respect.