"There are three things you must ask yourself before you say anything…"
Nobody follows this rule.
But everybody should follow this rule.
I think it’s especially important that Craig Ferguson, a cis, straight, white man is the one saying this. When privileged people are entering a conversation with the marginalized, they need to keep these things in mind.
In social justice, there’s this absurd meme (that I’ve been guilty of myself) is that we are the “voice for the voiceless,” but that’s not right. The oppressed are not voiceless – they’re just not being listened to.”
Wooo, I like this.
Perfect quote is perfect.
Gonna print this out and stick it on my mirror. Keep that shit in check.
Or that one is “GIVING” a voice to a marginalized person. Which is very problematic as well. Having a voice is different to not being heard.
Since this “Ask a Feminist” thing is going around again, I find myself cringing with some of the answers I gave two years ago. In particular, in my response to the question on abortion, I used disability as a reason for abortion, which dehumanizes persons with disabilities and places them in a category of second class citizens. This is harmful language and reasoning that I regret using two years ago, and I’d like to take this time to issue a formal apology for that.
I’m sorry that my actions as a feminist perpetuated the stigma of disability, and used their bodies as a pawn in my pro-choice argument. I will not do this in the future.
… It’s a necessary step towards rejecting the indefensible notion that God’s grace of ordination can only work through one gender, but somehow the other six Sacraments don’t have that limitation.”
John Casper, comment on:
This is so incredibly true.
an-imperially-afflicted-person asked: Kudos to you!!! I'm really impressed & inspired by your ability to approach your state rep about something you do not agree with. You're awesome.
Thanks! I wish I could say I approached it like this:
But really it was more like:
But the support from my online feminist community really helped! Thank YOU!
Speaking to a Pro-Life Legislator
This would be easier if my face wouldn’t twitch when I’m nervous. Halfway through my conversation with Jenna Haggar, a state representative from District 10 in Sioux Falls, SD, my cheek just below my right eye starting twitching uncontrollably. I put my hand up to hold it still, but she’d seen it. She knew I was nervous.
I first noticed Haggar in my favorite coffee shop earlier this week, when a pastor saw her and started praising her for her work on passing HB 1162, signed into law on March 31st of this year. HB 1162, as RH Reality Check’s Teddy Wilson discusses, is a ban on sex-selective abortions in the state of South Dakota. It’s been criticized in national press as racist because the justifications for it, as stated by many of the bill’s proponents, South Dakota has an increasing population of Asian-American immigrants who come from cultures where sex-selective abortions - particularly the abortion of female fetuses - is supposedly common.
I knew when I saw her in the coffee shop today that I couldn’t walk out (again) without talking to her, without letting her know that this pro-choice South Dakotan was upset about this bill. My first question was the obvious one: is this happening in South Dakota? (Her answers here are accurate to the spirit of what she said, but not direct quotations as my recorder is unfortunately out of batteries. These are paraphrases, and I was not working in an official capacity as a journalist but rather as a constiuent).
"You know, we don’t have any studies on whether or not it was or it wasn’t. Abortion in South Dakota ends at 14 weeks-"
I interrupted her, “But you can’t tell gender for sure until about 20 or so weeks in, right? So why would it even matter?”
"Actually, you can tell earlier than that - there are blood tests you can take at a pharmacy and have them sent to a lab and you can find out at 9 to 11 weeks into the pregnancy, so you don’t have to actually wait for the ultrasound."
I was, admittedly, a bit thrown by that because I’d never heard of these blood tests and they didn’t sound reliable at all (how do you distinguish your own blood from the baby’s without a doctor doing the blood draw?). I regrouped, and went back to my original line of questioning: “So what evidence do we have that this is happening in South Dakota?”
"Well, there isn’t any kind of study or anything, but we didn’t want it happening and now that we’ve made it illegal, we can be assured that it won’t happen.”
"Wouldn’t it have been better to conduct a study - survey women in South Dakota who have had abortions and find out their reasons?"
"Yes, probably, but we thought making it illegal was the better course of action, so now we don’t have to worry about it happening here."
"Okay, so let’s talk about that - what reasons did we have to worry, here in South Dakota?"
Here is when I became distracted by my own nervousness, and she began talking about how sex-selective abortion is a form of gender discrimination and “other cultures practice it.” I interrupted again, “Other cultures? What do you mean by that?”
"Some people especially choose to abort girl babies -"
"No, tell me, what do you mean by other cultures?"
I could feel the eyes of other people in the coffee shop watching us and waited for a response. My teacher parents taught me well that silence is a great motivator.
"In China and throughout Asia, you see populations that are mostly male, and girls are not valued, so I approached it from that direction where I wanted to protect little girls and value women in that way."
There it was.
One of the ways in which HB 1162 impacts those seeking abortions in the state of South Dakota is that it adds another series of questions to the long interrogation they must go through prior to an abortion. I asked her how that would work in the circumstances of “other cultures” - specifically, I asked if this would lead to the harassment of Asian women based on the stereotype.
"No, it wouldn’t do anything like that; there’s no language like that in the bill. The doctor would just have to inform the woman that having an abortion because of the gender of the fetus would be illegal, and he [she used male pronouns for the doctors in question] would be responsible for making sure that’s not happening."
This was vague and unclear, but I left it at that. I’d made the point I wanted to make, which was that it is nearly impossible to explain the reasoning for passing such a bill in the state of South Dakota without eventually resorting to jingoistic code about “other cultures” and their influence. The assumption is that South Dakota is losing its sense of “American values” because Asian immigrants are increasing in population in the state, and therefore we must protect our state from the encroachment of these Others.
I thanked Jenna for being willing to speak to me and told her that I’m a pro-choice South Dakotan who thinks the bill was a waste of money and government time, as we have no proof that it’s happening in South Dakota and that the bill unfairly targets Asian-American immigrants. “I wanted to make sure that my voice was heard.”
"And it was. Thank you for coming over to talk to me. I’ve seen you around here quite a bit!"
We then talked briefly about how this particular coffee shop is a good place to do work and said our goodbyes.
I’ve had to take a few deep breaths after leaving that conversation, as I’m not one to approach strangers whom I know I’m going to conflict with from the beginning, with the specific goal of confronting that conflict. To her credit, Jenna listened carefully and seemed genuinely concerned about my view as a South Dakotan, though we disagreed. I’m glad that I spoke to her, and that my voice was heard.
And, in the larger scheme of things, this is how activism is done in South Dakota. We don’t lead marches or protests on the Capitol building. We don’t hold signs and scream in the street - though all of those forms of protests have their valid place and I guarantee I’ll participate in that when the opportunity comes. Instead, South Dakotans sit down as neighbors, talk about the issues, share their views and work to understand each other. I appreciate that she took the time to talk to me, even though I somewhat ambushed her, and while neither of our minds were changed, I did feel like my voice was heard.
Stories of mishandling and outright ignoring cases of sexual assault within religious institutions go back decades.
My latest over at RH Reality Check.