wearing your choice
August 9, 2004 10:02 AM

There was a big discussion about this shirt (it just says "I had an abortion" in blue letters on a brown shirt if you don't care to follow the link) on the LJ feminist community maybe two weeks ago.

This week, Alison brings the same question to the WHB crew. I have to love these folks for not saying some of the things the LJ feminists said (many were of the "EGADS! That's shameful! Hide your abortion, you slut!" persuasion, sadly). Read the WHB comments - those who wouldn't wear the shirt cite safety and privacy concerns, which I think are completely valid. Having an abortion shouldn't be any more shameful than having your tubes tied or a kidney removed, in my opinion, but it also shouldn't have to be any more public.

Do you see anyone wearing a "I had a hysterectomy" t-shirt? No. But then, no one's afraid that vicious pro-lifers will start hurling words like "slut" and "whore" at them as the pro-life contingent did at the March if they admit to having such a procedure done. It's not politicized the way abortion is, yet it's still something people might not want to publicize about themselves.

While I respect that many women would choose not to wear this shirt in any context, I think there are times when making the fact that so many of the women's lives around you are made possible by their ability to legally choose abortion. I think these shirts are useful in letting other women know they're not alone, that abortion is normal and shame-free. As with any political message worn on your person, you need to be aware of how it could be received and be ready to have that conversation (I have a t-shirt that just says "eat", for instance, that sometimes gets me into conversations where I have to explain the whole history and position of size acceptance); when the subject is as contentious as abortion - and the opponents are as given to radicalism and evangelism - you need to know that you can handle the debate that will come your way.

That said, I don't believe I should choose my clothing based on fear (this is way too close to the idea that women who aren't "modest" invite sexual assualt - WRONG). And the idea that wearing one's abortion on one's sleeve should subject a woman to attack by anti-abortion folk just makes me want to go out and buy the shirt [Or make one that applies more directly - maybe "I would have an abortion."]. Political discourse should be more polite than that. Political discourse shouldn't be fucking dangerous.

I'd be curious to hear if women who've worn these shirts have been subjected to attacks outside of an expected confrontation (i.e. to a feminist meeting or the mall vs. during clinic defense or at a protest). I wonder if we're reacting to real encounters in our fear of confrontation, or if we're underestimating our opponents.

Ultimately, I hope the shirt is a positive step towards more open discussion of abortion, and helps people to see that abortion is not solely the province of women who are "bad" by some standard (though all of those standards are, in my mind, ridiculous). I hope it's useful.

TrackBack : in sexually liberated stuff « whb: nature v. suture | Main | it's just sex. »
your wicked thoughts

I'd wear a "I had a tubal ligation" tee if such a thing existed. But the thing is, most people wouldn't get it.

these are the thoughts of Dorothea Salo on August 9, 2004 11:54 AM

The shirt that says "eat" is something that I would wear. Did you make it, or get it somewhere?

these are the thoughts of Kerri on August 9, 2004 12:25 PM

I got the eat t-shirt from Wacky Jac ages ago.

I'd like a "I haven't had to have an abortion because I got decent sex ed in school; abstinence only doesn't work" t-shirt. Or something with a pithier version of the same message. But yeah, I can see how people wouldn't get the "tubal ligation" and think it was a dental procedure or something.

these are the thoughts of april on August 9, 2004 12:57 PM

Someone I know thinks those shirts are deeply offensive to infertile women. That women who have abortions shouldn't flaunt their rampant fertility in the faces of those who can't conceive.

Then again, children at the grocery store are also deeply offensive to some infertile women.

People? Are nuts.

I would wear such a shirt if it applied to me.

these are the thoughts of Natalie on August 9, 2004 01:25 PM

Now, I can see the offense if you wore such a shirt to, say, a conference of infertile women. It would feel like a big Fuck You.

But out on the street? At a feminist event? "I had an abortion" doesn't mean "and I don't feel sorry for you that you can't have kids and you want them".

these are the thoughts of april on August 9, 2004 01:34 PM

Though I think you could turn that around and say that a woman who has had several abortions could be offended that an infertile woman has never needed to make the choice between abortion and childbirth. It's a stretch though.

I like the sex ed shirts. Or maybe something like "I didn't need an abortion because my healthcare covers contraceptives"

these are the thoughts of Kerri on August 11, 2004 09:56 AM

please note that your IP address is logged when comments are posted, and comment abuse including spam will be investigated and reported to your internet service provider.

in this section
miss anything? (monthly)
artsy stuff
books & tv & internet stuff
fat & health stuff
feministy stuff
generally political stuff
nerdy & silly stuff
sexually liberated stuff
vaguely personal stuff
work & money stuff
i have a livejournal, too
more info
email me
design by seven ten


about the site wicked thoughts edge of the season arts links we have brains