About the Name of this blog

This blog's title refers to a Dani fable recounted by Robert Gardner. The Dani live in the highlands of New Guinea, and at the the time he studied them, they lived in one of the only remaining areas in the world un-colonized by Europeans.

The Dani, who Gardner identifies only as a "Mountain People," in the film "The Dead Birds," have a myth that states there was once a great race between a bird and a snake to determine the lives of human beings. The question that would be decided in this race was, "Should men shed their skins and live forever like snakes, or die like birds?" According to the mythology, the bird won the race, and therefore man must die.

In the spirit of ethnographic analysis, this blog will examine myth, society, culture and architecture, and hopefully examine issues that make us human. As with any ethnography, some of the analysis may be uncomfortable to read, some of it may challenge your preconceptions about the world, but hopefully, all of it will enlighten and inform.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Who Is the Actual Prostitute Here?


I would like to pose a question: who is the true whore, a woman who uses contraception to prevent an unintended pregnancy or a politician who sells out a common liberty just to pander to a very small interest group in order to further their political career?

Today, Foster Friess, a prominent Santorum supporter, said that rather than using contraception, girls in his day just kept their legs shut.  The actual quote is "This contraceptive thing, my gosh, it's so... inexpensive. Back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives."   This refers to the idea that in the past, a girl should hold an aspirin between her knees to prevent pregnancy.  If you do that, you can’t have sex, and if you don’t have sex, you are extremely unlikely to get pregnant.  (I’m not even touching the virgin birth issue.)

And later in the day, Santorum went on record supporting him.  Now I’m not going to accuse Santorum of pandering, he is a practicing Catholic, with many children, who has always supported criminalizing contraception.  Even though I disagree strongly with this position, I do respect that it has been his unwavering belief.

But many others on the right have not always held this opinion, but suddenly, ever since Obama came out with his new contraception rules for insurance companies, they have not been able to rise up against birth control fast enough.  Every candidate on the Republican side of the presidential race opposes legal contraception.  (With the possible exception of Ron Paul, who is contrary in almost every belief.  I don’t know where Ron Paul stands on this issue, but he is against abortion, which taints his pure Libertarian image a bit.)

First I want to address the contraception issue.  Women are again being painted, as they have throughout history, as either virgins or whores.  There is no grey area.  If you use contraception, you are a slut, unless of course, you need it for an actual medical problem.  However, things like high probablilities of ectopic pregnancies, which tend to kill both baby and mother, are not considered medical problems, so I’m not sure what they consider to be medically necessary contraception.

But the point is, historically, women have never been trusted with something as important as their own fertility: that was the property of their husbands.  In fact, throughout most of history, the woman herself was her husband’s property.  Even after we ceased race based slavery, gender slavery was the unquestioned norm. 

The consequence of women not being able to control their fertility was a horror where most women died in childbirth.  The stepmother in Cinderella was the norm, and she favored the daughters she had with Cinderella’s father, over the older daughter from the mother who died having her.   Even though the ugly stepsisters are often depicted as older than Cinderella, they would have been younger.  This also means that the bulk of Cinderella’s father’s estate would have passed to Cinderella, since no sons are ever mentioned in the story.  This is why the stepsisters would have hated her.  This story is important, because it depicted the reality of life before contraception.  It resonated because it illustrated a common experience.

Contraception changed that.  First of all, for the first time in history, women began to outlive men.  Before that, it was rare for a woman to live through menopause, unless she had a vastly older husband that died and left her widowed.  A women normally died in early middle age, worn out by childbirth that was too close to the end of her fertility.

Women were free from the chains that bound them.  They suddenly had the right to chose when, or even if, they became pregnant.  Sex could become a pleasure, not a duty, and a child could become a miracle instead of a burden.

The consequences rippled out.  Fewer unwanted babies reduced the crime rates.  (read Freakonomics for a detailed description of this)  Less babies born into poverty reduced starvation and after it was instituted, reduced the amount of welfare.  Fewer children enabled women to have careers, and find fulfillment outside of the home.

And men hated it.

From the start, they fought against birth control.  Countries made it illegal, the church made it a mortal sin, doctors refused to prescribe it, and insurance companies refused to cover it.  And yet, women continued to demand it.  They marched, they rallied, they stood up and refused to back down.  Suffragettes worked for contraception with the same passion that they pursued the right to vote.  And when they got the vote, they voted for people who supported contraception.  (And yes, I know, there were some anti-abortion suffragists, but most supported birth control.)

I read an op-ed from a woman who said birth control was a new device to enslave women, and the pill treated femininity as a disease, but that is a very rare view.  I read a statistic that up to 80% of all women use birth control at some point in their lives.

Babies are no longer a consequence.  This does not make a woman a slut, it gives her power and control over her life, and we must stop denigrating her for this jurisdiction.  There is no sin in her making personal decisions on her own fertility.

Now to contrast this with the actual prostitution: the prostitution of positions for votes.

When you sell something of yourself to another in order to receive compensation, you are a whore.  Whether you are buying a campaign contribution or a vote, you are actually prostituting yourself.

And this is what the Republicans are doing.  In issue after issue, the presidential candidates sell out their previous beliefs for ones that play better to the right wing base.  Whether it is gay marriage, taxes, abortion, contraception, or anything else, their personal beliefs are subject to change with the next poll. 

They pander for right wing votes for the nomination, then pander for independents in the general election.  They have no actual positions, they have focus groups.  They buy their position by selling their souls.

No wonder that Congress has a lower approval rating than some foreign dictators do.  This is not a joke, most Americans feel more positively towards Castro and Chavez than they do toward their own legislature.  How can you trust anyone that bends in the slightest political breeze.

A woman using contraception is standing up for something, her own rights to make choices in her life.  A politician decrying contraception is selling their soul for power.

They have become the Whores of Babylon.

No comments:

Post a Comment