Friday, February 20, 2009


Ugh, I can't think of anything to say today at all. I haven't been sleeping enough (and not for fun reasons, just dumb ones), and today is one of the low points of tired+cranky. I'm also out of coffee, and tea just isn't the same. Especially without soy milk, which I'm also out of.
But anyway, I just wanted to direct everybody to the excellent blog post at starinapapercup. I haven't followed the octuplet scandal (if you want to call it that) at all, but this definitely made me blink a lot and think hard.
One of the things that I liked was that she admits that she doesn't really agree that people should have giant families, but she's still willing to write a defense of somebody who did. I am a big supporter of reproductive rights, and to me that means I have to support the choices that I don't particularly favor (large families in an overpopulated country during a time of economic crisis) as well as the ones (like abortion) that are so constantly under fire and in danger from people who are nowhere near as accepting. As much as I disagree with the decision to have a large family, I want to respect the rights of other people to make that decision for themselves. When I was in college I was surprised to find the feminists I was hanging out with (briefly, oh so briefly) referring to the "anti-choice" movement. Pro-choice, anti-choice, pro-life, anti-life (presumably)... Those names seem so limiting. I'm sure plenty of pro-choice people have lambasted Suleman. Are we selectively deciding which choices we support? Is that a valid thing to do if the choices they make are harmful to the rest of us in the long run? If lots of people decided to have eight children, that's not particularly good for the environment, overpopulation, etc. Where do we draw the line on personal choice?


StarInaPaperCup said...

Thank you for mentioning me on your blog. :)

I actually refer to the "pro-life" movement as "anti-choice" from time to time, mostly because I don't think "pro-life" is usually a fitting description of their politics, which often seem to be more concerned with punishing women for being sexual than with protecting non-sentient clumps of cells.

Interestingly, the buzz around Suleman is similar - there are more comments (on articles, on youtube, etc.) about her body (e.g. referring to her as a "whore", sexualizing her lips, speculations on what she looks like naked after having birthed 14 babies, etc.) than comments expressing genuine concern about her 14 children.

ammie said...

I do think "anti-choice" is more realistic than "pro-life" but neither seems ideal. It's more about wanting people to make the choice you approve of, on both sides.
I can't believe how terrible people are sometimes. This must be awful for Suleman. I hope those kids have a good childhood.

Emilyon said...

Oh, the octuplets...I've been avoiding this one. I'm totally with you when you say that supporting reproductive rights means supporting reproductive rights, no matter how disturbing I might find Suleman's decision. That said, it sounds like there were some serious breaches of medical ethics on the part of the doctor who facilitated this pregnancy, which raises a lot of messy questions about where we draw the line between what's possible and what's ethical in terms of reproductive decisions, given the state of medical technology.

The more I think about this story, the more I tend to consider how Suleman's case fits within the larger sociological/psychological phenomenon of women who want children--that is to say, babies--at any cost. Think about that group of teen girls who had the "pregnancy pact" a year or two ago, for instance. I'm just wondering how long this phenomenon has been going on, and where it comes from. I mean, what is it saying about society?

I tend to favor the term "anti-choice" too; I think it conveys the political stance of the pro-choice movement much better than "pro-life"

hannah said...

I spent some serious time doing octuplet bashing (honest truth: I didn't even know the mother's name until right now), thanks for making me think about things differently. This has also made me think about reproductive rights in Israel, which is where I am, which is mostly related (in my limited experience) to the two social groups that have a lot of kids and not a lot of money - Israeli Arabs and religious Jews. It's so messy that I am not capable of writing about it here. But it sure is interesting.

also, did I tell you I tried out your recipe for rice cakes with peppers etc? soooo delicious. mmmm.

cassalyn said...

thanks for that. i've avoided the subject and reaction because i was insanely uncomfortable with the exuberance with which people were judging and boldly telling her what to do with her body. how was that ok? there was absolutely no attention paid to the meta-message. so many holes in the narratives out there (really? food stamps are the root of our problems? are you insane?) that my head would just spin. social welfare is conceived of so radically differently in europe, i just couldn't handle the ignorance when people think our way is not the best but the only way. etc. etc. thank you for bringing this up and allowing me to this get off my chest.