Owning Myself

I have been thinking about choice and control a lot in the last week.  The the Silence is the Enemy blog campaign, and the murder of Dr. Tiller have coincided with a time that I am having to make a number of medical decisions.  All of the medical people I have been dealing with have been carefully discussing options with me, and completely respectful of my choices. I am in control of what is done as much as anybody can be.

It is startling and uncomfortable to note that many would want that control taken away from me if I were a pregnant woman.

At the core of the anti-choice movement, and the rape culture is the unspoken idea that women in particular, but also children, and any one weaker than their attacker, do not own their own bodies.  They do not get to say how they are used and who uses them.

The anti-choice people want to make the debate about ‘killing babies’ and ignore the forced pregnancy aspect of their position.  Listening to them over the last week, I have heard no concern for the mothers whose babies are killing them, or whose babies have died inside of them and need to be removed to protect the mothers health.  These are the people Dr. Tiller helped when no one else would.

I do not condsider a fertilized ovum to be a person, but even if I did, I could not grant that person the right to commandeer the body of another person to serve its needs.  Many, even most, parents are willing to sacrifice for their children.  But if they are not willing, no court will compel the parent of a five year old to donate blood, much less a kidney or bone marrow, or part of a liver to save their child’s life.  How can a fetus have greater rights than a five year old?

Ultimately it comes down to the question of who owns my body.  If it is mine, no one should be allowed to use it without my consent.


Silence Is The Enemy

There is a concerted effort in the blogosphere this month to draw attention to the mass rape of women and young girls, particularly in Liberia.  It is being organized by Sheril Kirshenbaum at The Intersection.  She will have updates throughout the month, and has a list of actions we can take to raise awareness.  This has to stop being the unspeakable crime, because if we can’t speak about it we can’t stop it.

She and a group of other bloggers will be donating all of their blog income this month to Doctors Without Borders, who treat many of the victims.  Income is determined by blog traffic, so you can contribute just by clicking through to the blogs. You can find a list of the blog coalition here.  If you follow any of these blogs in a reader, you need to click through to the blog itself to generate the increase it traffic that will increase contributions.

You can also increase the profile of this issue by blogging about it yourself, and linking to these blogs.

Update:  The bloggers who are donating their proceeds are:


By any other name…

There have been a number of discussions about the ethics of blogging under a pseudonym, and whether a blogger using a pseudonym was in some way less credible than a blogger who used his or her real name.  It has come to the surface again because of the vindictive outing of an Alaskan blogger by a politician who didn’t like what she had written.  This was particularly ugly, because the only purpose to the outing was to hurt the blogger.  It was a petty and childish action.

I don’t know why this blogger chose a pseudonym, and it doesn’t matter.  It was her decision to make and should have been respected.  The only time the identity of a writer is relevant in evaluating an argument is when the author presents him or herself as an expert.  If the author is not claiming special expertise, then the position the author is taking can and should be evaluated on it’s own merits, not the reputation of the author.

There are many reasons to use a pen-name, or maybe I should say a keyboard-name, some serious, some trivial.  My choice of nom d’blog began as entirely trivial.  I like the name.  I am not especially worried about anonymity, and most of the people that I know regularly read my blog know who I am.  But I do have some non-trivial considerations.  As a teacher I like keeping a certain distance between my teacher hat and my private opinions.  I do not write about my students in an identifiable form, but maintaining a separation makes that even a bit more secure.  I am generally willing to discuss my political positions with students, when it is relevant to the class discussion, or outside of class, but I am not particularly interested in having my students Google my name and come up with everything I have ever posted to drag into class discussions when it isn’t relevant.

I am not easily intimidated, and would not change what I have written if I knew it would have my name attached to it, but I have found some interesting features to pseudonymity.  I use the same name to comment on other blogs, some with much higher traffic than my own, and so have interacted as Shadowcatdancing with a variety of people, and have found them sometimes making assumptions about my age, gender, etc. that have brought home the fact that they must judge me on my words alone, without any of the cues that we use to so conveniently pigeonhole people in face-to-face interactions.  I has been downright educational.  And I don’t want to give that up.  At lest, not yet.

It would not be difficult to track me down, and eventually some student will undoubtedly do so.  When it does I will likely be a little annoyed, but it won’t change what I say, and I won’t start using my “real” name, because, as I said before, I like Shadowcatdancing, and it is as much my name as the one on my birth certificate.


Watching congressional hearings leaves me with a new appreciation of just how intellectually limited some of our elected representatives are.

Funny,  I don’t remember feeling that way when I watched the Watergate hearings.  I grant you I was only in Middle School at the time, but I spent my days that summer glued to the TV, and I have come to the conclusion that there are few Barbara Jordans in the House today.

I couldn’t watch the whole thing.  Being a grown-up this time I had to go to work, but the questions asked of Liddy in the 30 minutes or so I could watch seemed to in many cases miss the point.

One Repesentative used his time to lecture Liddy about how he should give the money back.  Meaning, it seemed, that he thought AIG should give back to the treasury the amount they had given out in bonuses, as if this would make everything alright.  He clearly failed to understand what everybody is pissed about.  Far more than being concerned that taxpayer dollars are going to pay these bonuses, people are pissed at the idea that people who nearly destroyed the company are being rewarded outrageously.  The company returnong money to the government will not satisfy anyone who is outraged by all this.  The people who are pissed, and that appears to be the majority of the population, want the people who got the bonuses to return the money.  It would be nice if they also showed some evidence of understanding why we are so pissed, but that may be asking too much.

Liddy appeared to understand, better than the clueless congressman, but he did not make these bonus deals; he inherited them.  He is not getting paid for his work to save AIG, and said he paid the bonuses because he considered the risk of not paying them too great.  What exactly that risk was was not made clear in the time I could watch, and the few questioners who had their turn did not ask for clarification.  It may have been explored in more detail later, but if it was, it has not been picked up by any of the news shows I have seen.

So far, I am not impressed by Congressional outrage.

I miss Barbara Jordan.

So Go Already!

A spoiled five-year-old gathers up teddy bear and blankie and goes to a parent, who is busy cleaning up the messes the child has made, and says, “If I can’t have all the cookies I want I’m going to run away!”

The parent looks up, says “Good-bye!” and goes back to work.

There is nothing left for the spoiled child but a temper tantrum, “I mean it!  I’m leaving!”

The Randians are engaging in temper tantrums all over the internet.  They have threatened to ‘go John Galt’ and to their great dismay are discovering that the grown-ups are too busy cleaning up their messes to pay attention to them.

Randian philosophy has always been essentially childish, rooted the the five-year-old’s wail of “Mine!” and unwilling to accept adult responsibilites.  It glorifies selfishness and narcisism, cooing “Greed is good,” only slightly less repulsively than Gordon Gecko.  They don’t want to share their toys.

So to all those ‘creative elites’ who are stamping their feet, holding their breaths until they turn blue, and yelling that they really mean it, they are going away, there can be only one response.

Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

Motherhood and Medical Ethics

I find the blog reactions to the octuplet mom interesting.  It falls largely in the extremes — she is a sick freak, or her decisions about what to do with her body are none of your business even if it is going to cost us money.  I find my self disagreeing with both extremes.

I suspect she may have some mental health issues, but I am not in a position to judge what they are, and mental health issues rate sympathy, and should have rated intervention by those close enough to the situation to do so, including the fertility clinic, not scorn.

As for the automatic “her-reproductive-decisions-are-none-of-your-business” response, I can’t agree with that either.  And it is not because she is poor, or unmarried.  I would have at least some of the same issues with this even if it had been a rich couple that could afford to provide for these kids in a manner I can only dream about.

There is an economic issue.  Since Kaiser delivered and is caring for these premies, and I am a member of Kaiser, and currently struggling to make my health insurance payments in a declining economy, this is somewhat more personally ‘on my dime’ than just the fact that the taxpayers will wind up paying to care for these kids in a number of ways, and we will. But money is not the primary issue.

Fertility treatment is a legitimate use of medical resources, and should not be contingent on marital status or wealth, but it should not be used to produce high multiple births.  If she had produce 14 kids in 7-14 pregnancies, I might question her judgement, but I would not consider it my business.  But pursuing a high multiple birth by having 6 embryos implanted (reports are saying 2 of the embryos twinned in utero) is unethical, and the clinic had an obligation to refuse to do so, even if she wanted it.  This action put not only the mother at risk, but insured ensured that all of the babies would be premature, low birth-weight babies that would have life-long problems.  Even if the potential parents have the money to pay for all of the medical care themselves, and all of the help they will need to raise the children, it would still be unethical.

That is why this should not have happened.  Not because she isn’t married, and doesn’t have any money.

Invoking controversy

I dislike most of what Rick Warren stands for.

I disagree with much of his theology, particularly his beliefs about sexuality, and with regard to his position on Prop 8 he is either intellectually lazy or dishonest or both.  He has either bought the lies being told by the supporters of Proposition 8, that it was necessary to protect free speech in the pulpit, and was too lazy to engage in the five minutes of reasoning necessary to realize that contention was ridiculous, or he realized it was a lie and repeated it anyway because it was likely to work.  Neither is an admirable quality, but I am inclined to believe the former, because I have never seen or heard anything from him that gave any indication of intellectual effort.  His claim that marraige is and always has been one man and one woman, in all cultures and all religions is demonstrably false, so clearly false that five minutes of internet time would provide him with a wealth of counter examples.  Many of those counter examples come from the bible itself, a book he should be more than passing familiar with.  The Hebrew patriarchs clearly had more than one wife, and concubines that were not wives, all with God’s blessing, and yet polygamy is one of those things he lists as not the traditional view of marriage he is defending.  Warren comes from a tradition that does not encourage scholarship, Biblical or otherwise, an attitude that has always been a mystery to me, but that he does not see this contradiction is evidence of a determined refusal to think.

And yet, despite this, I am not that upset about his giving the invocation on 20 January.  There are important differences between him and the Robertsons and Dobsons.  Unlike many megachurch pastors he takes the obligation to care for the poor and the sick seriously, and that is in my view crucial to what it means to be a Christian, far more crucial than who you sleep with.   It doesn’t make me want to attend his church, or read his books, but it lets me see him in a broader context than his sexual bigotry.

I probably would not have invited him to participate in the inauguration, but I am pretty sure Barack Obama is a more generous person than I am.  He has promised to be the President not just for the people who voted for him, but for the people who didn’t vote for him.  This invitation is part of that promise.  This is not the victory celebration for his supporters; that was in Chicago on election night.  This event belongs to the entire country,  and Warren represents a significant part of our population.  However much I may disagree with them, they need to be included.

But that doesn’t mean we quit fighting them on the issues.