Inconceivable: the really intense reactions

It continues to amaze me how people are reacting.

– The arguments that if a woman did this project just once, or if she had been pregnant by accident, and then aborted/miscarried and documented it, then it would be okay. But, repeating it, is not okay.

– The arguments based on the person reacting’s own desire to have a baby, or that they had a miscarriage themselves and find it shocking, horrifying, disgusting, inconceivable (pun!) that a woman would get pregnant on purpose, then abort.

– The way almost no one doubted the story (though the “herbal” thing is so thin.)

– People who are in theory, pro-choice, but who still found this inconceivable, to the point of violent anger, and wishing death, illness, or permanent infertility upon the artist, also maligning her sexuality, calling her slutty, questioning her class background, calling her elite, an idiot, even calling her *name* “pretentious”.

– People’s lack of awareness of cultural relativity in general. Might it occur to some U.S. & other women who use birth control at all, that their own decision to limit their fertility in that way, might look shocking, inconceivable, appalling, disgusting, to women from other cultures, and in the U.S., from strongly fundamentalist religious backgrounds? Might some woman who is actually oppressed because of her inability to conceive, be offended to the point of anger and disgust, by your condoms or your tubal ligation?

The entire project and the responses show, that though we have a strong current of “pro choice” politics in the U.S., it does not go so far as to actually attribute choice to women about what to do with their bodies.

* We can choose to work in stressful, toxic jobs.
* We can choose to get cosmetic surgery.
* We can choose to drive our bodies into the ground and risk our health by being professional or amateur athletes (ruined knees, anyone?)
* We can choose to risk our bodies in extreme sports.
* We can choose to do risky work, work with people with contagious diseases, and so on.
* We can choose to smoke, or be alcoholics.
* We can choose the risk of carrying a pregnancy to term.
* We can choose to get an abortion, if the fetus has spina bifida or Downs or for any arbitrary reason.
* We can choose to get pregnant over and over, even if our chance of miscarrying is very high, as long as we “want a baby”.
* We can choose to get pregnant, and then change our minds and abort.
* We can choose to get pregnant and then give up the baby.
* We can choose to get pregnant in order to harvest the baby’s bone marrow if it is a match for our other child who is ill.

All those things are our “choice” freely. Supposedly. If that is freedom.

And, we can choose to get an abortion, only if our intent is pure by some nebulous standard. Only if we say that we didn’t mean it, that we weren’t sluts, that we weren’t careless.

Only if we don’t do it for art.

Oh, wait, we could probably get an abortion if we were strippers or supermodels and needed to get one in order to keep making a living. Those things are art… right?

But to get one to make an artistic and political statement — Somehow, that is creating a visceral disgust in many people.

If I have actual agency and choice and control over our bodies, then, my body is my canvas. What I do with it is up to me.

How I talk about it, and document and video and photograph it, is also up to me.

Next time your friend confides in you that she had an abortion, will you ask her why? Will you make sure that her motives are pure, that she was careful in some way not to get pregnant in the first place, before you feel something of the disgust with her that people have been expressing for Shvarts?

And your disgust, your blogging, your explanations of your own life, your conviction that it is wrong and must be stopped, your frenzy of hate and outrage, where will it be when you next see one of those white panel vans with the giant anti-abortion billboards with bloody fetuses on it, parked in your town? The huge number of pro-life web sites, videos, and so on, on the web? What will you do? What action will you take to express your feelings? Is what they do a cry for attention, a feeble, laughable attempt to make a political statement? If not, then why is what Shvarts described mocked, reviled, belittled? Are those pro-life people insensitive, elitist, outrageous, unacceptable with their grief-triggering images? If that’s what you think, pro-choice or anti, then, what are you saying about that use of imagery by anti-choice activists?

I challenge people to think a little more about it all, and give their reactions more analysis and time. And, about the project, I certainly realize it is upsetting, perturbing, “triggering” for many people. I respect that, but it is not good justification to lash out with hostility at another woman’s choices. As with blogs and fanfic, art gets to push boundaries, and can carry “trigger” or warning labels to let people know.

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9 Responses to Inconceivable: the really intense reactions

  1. Armchairshrink says:

    I love this post. Do you mind if I link to it my journal?

  2. Liz says:

    Link away! I will be interested to see your thoughts.

  3. Maevele says:

    I had been trying to put tother a posst about this, and now between you and Armchair, my points have all been more than made.

  4. Liz says:

    I’m just gonna link back to Armchair’s post, it is very good:

  5. Liz says:

    Especially I love this bit, "The reason people are pissed about this, then, is because of the cognitive dissonance inherent in facing the fact that no, there’s no magic line between miscarriage, abortion, and menstruation – that it’s all fundamentally the same uterus expelling the same damn tissue, sperm magic notwithstanding. I would argue that this is the primary reason, and that it beats out, however slightly, the competing anger about a woman (1)attempting to impregnate herself (and thereby co-opting that sacred male prerogative) and then (2) attempting to abort (further emasculating the male prerogative) while (3) thinking she had the right to go and talk about it."

  6. Anonymous says:

    As a chica who's experienced an ru-486 abortion, I find Shvarts' project to be totally righteous. NARAL's reaction – saying that it's "not a constructive addition to the debate over reproductive rights" – makes me RAGE. I'm so glad that there are radical folks like you challenging that hypocritical bullshit!

  7. crow says:

    Thank you for both your posts. So many people don't seem to get that pro choice means you can have an abortion for any reason, and some of us don't feel abortion should rarely be done.

  8. Ms. Jane says:

    I spent a long time thinking about why I was so disturbed by the piece, and I think the bottom line for me is that I don't like art that involves bodily fluids of any kind. I wouldn't want to view something with blood, menstrual other otherwise, sperm, or urine either. Just a personal choice.The piece also smacks of "PAY ATTENTION TO MEEEEE" teenagely narcissim that I find incredibly annoying. Granted, I was exactly the same when I was in college, so maybe that's why she bothers me so much.

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