Monday, May 26, 2008

A Long and Boring Rant About Privilege - Read at Your Own Risk

***Disclaimer: I wrote and rewrote this twenty times in my head, and it kept coming across as...arrogant, I guess, and judgemental. But I feel like my feelings on the issue are legitimate, and I wanted to express them anyway. So, sorry if this post makes me seem like an ass. I'm really not, most of the time.***

The Bound4Life people were back this Saturday. One of our escorts, the fantastic JF, went out with tape over his mouth that said "Choice" and just stood with them. Ballsy. Afterwards they were quite nice and a couple of them introduced themselves - including the ringleader, KT.

I've been thinking a lot about the B4L kids and I'm still rather torn. On the one hand, they only come on Saturdays so patients don't see them - they are harmless. They are different than the regular protesters; they're not there to harrass people, or even really to be seen, so much as they just want God to stop abortion. It's kind of sweet, in an ignorant and misguided way. I do respect their enthusiasm though, and their desire to avoid confrontation and offence, even though sometimes good intentions aren't quite enough.

So I do think they're okay. I don't have much of a problem with them. But then, on the other hand...

It's kind of complicated. I've discovered the concept of privilege relatively recently, and it's a bitch, let me tell you. It's an ongoing series of "aha!" moments, but not the fun ones, more like the "oh god, I'm talking out my big, pale, white ass again" ones. It is very, very difficult to escape one's own privilege; I'm not actually sure it can be done. However, you can examine your own privilege and be aware of it, which is something I've been working on over the last couple years. It's painful, especially when you've got so much of it - whiteness, money, education, opportunity, etc. etc.

Male privilege is pretty bad (just look at our regular protesters), but I think white privilege is the worst. Or at least, whatever you would call the kind of privilege that incorporates white skin, middle or upper middle class upbringing, and living in North America. I'll just call it WASP privilege, although that's not the best term as it is both too inclusive and not inclusive enough for the group I'm thinking of. Regardless, it's the group that includes me and people like me - including KT.

The point of all this is, I think what the B4L people do is kind of off-putting because it demonstrates such a painful lack of self-examination. These kids have no idea of their own privilege; if they did, they would be ashamed to be out there in public, being so ridiculously clueless. It's their idealism and their naivete that makes them so pathetic - you can tell that they really believe in saving the little babies, and that if they could have a few minutes alone with a woman considering abortion, they could not only change her mind, but also probably bring her to Christ.

Because they see the world through a lens of WASP privilege, however, they have no way of identifying with the situation at all. True, some women who come into the clinic are also born of privilege, but the vast majority are not - they are in far shittier situations than people like me could imagine. And people like KT, with her support network of friends and family, her money and social status, they think it's just a matter of changing her mind. They just have no concept of having NO OTHER OPTION.

Abortion is shitty, it's true. But for some people, it's the lesser of two evils. If you've never been in the situation, you won't understand. Hell I haven't, and I don't. But at least I'm not trying to undermine people's choices. At least I recognize that I am far too privileged to understand a given situation, and I have no right to interfere without permission into someone's life.

KT thinks she's helping people, but she isn't. Because they didn't ask for her help, and she doesn't know how to help. How do you talk from privilege? How do you ask someone to consider an option that their money, status and skin colour CANNOT buy? It's not an option at all!

The other thing that pisses me off (related to all this) is the whole idea of asking God to end abortion. I mean what the fuck, really? They're not asking Him to solve the problems that lead to abortion, or to help the women who choose abortion out of the shitty situation they are inevitably in. They don't give a shit, they just don't want the babies to die. They don't care about the women, nor do they try to care. They don't understand the complexities of the issue at all. They just identify a situation that doesn't fit in with their sunny, rosy, WASPy vision of the world, and they pray for it to end, without giving a flying fuck about the people that NEED the option to be there.

These are the people that, if they wanted to "help" people in Burma, would ask God to end cyclones. As if that's the problem. Not poverty, debt, oppressive government, first world apathy, nothing like that. Just fucking cyclones.

So my point is, I like their enthusiam, I am appalled by their arrogance, ignorance and lack of self-examination. It's not their fault they are born of privilege, just like it's not my fault I am either. But it is their fault that they have no interest in analysing an issue they supposedly care so much about, and it is their fault they can't see past their own privilege in order to actually help people. Sorry for sounding extremely privileged and intellectually elitist, and probably hypocritical, but some things make me really mad. So there.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Old and New Faces

I know, I haven't blogged. I'm sorry.

It's been a big week. I was in Nova Scotia this weekend - saw Leonard Cohen in Halifax....AMAZING. Everything I was hoping for and more. I cried and cried, it was pretty appalling. Good times.

After that we were in LaHave (well, just outside of it) for a memorial for my recently deceased Great-Uncle Eric. I also just heard that my good friends ET and WJ, who live out in BC, have given birth to their first child. It's a boy! And so, to wax philosophical, the wheel of life turns.

Tuesday's clinic was fine. The protesters have a new sign, a lovely picture of the Virgin Mary. Also, Glare-y Mary made her triumphant return to the protesting circuit. They're just bringing back all the old favourites for summer! So exciting. We're making a few changes ourselves; losing some escorts, gaining some new ones. Spring is in the air!

Just an added tidbit, when EN was coming back from the bakery, Glare-y Mary said over him to another protester (but obviously directed at EN), "We've already won". This makes me laugh. Mostly because people are still having legal abortions, so clearly they haven't won. I just love Glare-y Mary. I want to take her out for tea.

Clearly I don't have much to write about, but there was some grumbling among the regulars so I thought I would at least make an appearance. I promise I will try harder next week. :)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Questions and Answers

Tuesday's clinic was pretty tame. The protesters were slow coming out, and then went inside when the escorts left. The only thing out of the ordinary was that Crazy Legs was out (I guess her leg healed) - they had her holding a sign, though; presumably to hamper her ability to chase people down and throw herself in front of cars.

When I got here on Tuesday the first person who spoke to me was a woman who came up to my desk with her forms and asked me how to spell 'chlamydia' (even now I don't think I have it right). It got me thinking about all the funny (and sometimes heartbreaking) things people ask or say to me in this job.

Here are some:

"Is your doctor qualified?"

No, actually every week we pick a new hobo off the street to come in and perform the procedure. This week it's the guy who masturbates in the Pita Pit bathroom. Enjoy!

"Can you tell me if --- has an appointment there this week/was there last week?"

Sure, why don't I just give you a list of the people who were here, along with their phone numbers and medical histories? It's called confidentiality.

"My daughter got herself pregnant, and needs to have an abortion."

Amazing! Did she artificially inseminate herself just so she could have an abortion, or did her male genitals accidentally touch her female ones (hate it when that happens!)?

"Do I have to wait in the waiting room with everyone else?"

Of course not! We have individual waiting rooms for every patient. The building is a lot bigger than it looks from the outside.

"Is it legal?"

Nope, so some of the money you pay us goes towards bribes for the cops. Oh, and for the phonebook people.

"Is there any way I can find out who the father is before you do the procedure?"

Yes, it's called DNA testing and it costs a lot of money. Strangely enough, we're not equipped to do it here. those are just some of them. They make me laugh, which makes the sad questions a lot more bearable. I also get a lot of questions that come from general misinformation and ignorance about abortion, like if they will be infertile afterwards, and if it causes breast cancer. A lot of people just cannot believe we are a legit operation like any other doctor's clinic. I guess a lot of the lies spread by the anti-choice movement have worked (to a certain extent), which is too bad.

In other news, I'm going to have an article about repro rights published in the Colorado-based Weird Sisters West magazine, which is pretty cool.

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Tale of Two Protests

Well, it's kind of stupid to be blogging today since I will probably be blogging tomorrow as well, but whatever, there's stuff I wanted to mention that I didn't get to over the weekend.

The March for Life was on Wednesday, so I went down to check it out, along with a competent squad of pro-choice spies. And a dog. It was kind of like Scooby Doo, actually. (Now I have this wonderful mental image of someone pulling a vampire mask off a guy, only to discover that - gasp! - it was Peter Ryan all along! "And I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for you nosey abortionists!"). The whole thing seemed much smaller than last year, and I didn't see any media - I assume the planning was a bit rushed because of the flood. Of course there were still busloads of people from all over the province. And Knights of Columbus, all dressed up in their ridiculous capes and fuzzy hats.

After their usual self-congratulatory speeches and so on, they "marched" to the CPC and stood around in the parking lot. They were supposed to be praying for teh babiezz, but a lot of them spent the silent prayer period glaring at us as we stood, grinning and waving, in the clinic parking lot. I think they were already feeling a little nasty because they weren't allowed to put roses around the Legislature. They still managed to find a way to waste money, though - by putting them in front of the LAW SCHOOL. WTF??

They put a bucket of roses on a chair facing the clinic, with a poem on it about babies or something (I didn't actually read it). When we went over to take a picture of it, which necessitated getting close to the fence, one of the men leaned over the fence right in front of us, and made a cross out of holy water on the clinic, while all the while giving us the stink eye. Sometimes I think these people really need to re-read their own mythology, because I really don't think Jesus went around giving his "enemies" the stink eye. They tend to try to use that one time he got mad at the money-lenders as justification for their general douchebaggery towards people who don't agree with them.

My favourite sign at the march had a picture of the Virgin Mary on it, and then all around it just said "pray pray pray pray pray pray" etc.

They ended up getting a little write up in the Gleaner, but it was mostly Peter Ryan spewing his bullshit about abortion being the reason the population is declining in New Brunswick. I am going to have to address this in a future blog, because it is just too ridiculous for me to leave alone.

On Saturday, we had our rally against Bill C-484 at City Hall. It was bloody cold, so I was pleasantly surprised that we had a pretty good turnout (the CBC said 60 people, but I would put it closer to 40). We had two very good speakers, and I was interviewed by both CBC and KHJ, so that was awesome. I was so glad we had the media there - coverage is the important thing, after all. Look, even people in little ol' Fredericton care about this bill, and think it's bullshit!

The best part about the whole thing was that our protest consisted of mainly people under thirty, which was a great counter-point to the largely male, geriatric population of the March for Life.

I watched 'Lake of Fire' this weekend so I will probably be blogging about that soon, too. But I'm going to stop now.

I hope everyone had a good weekend, and that the flood cleanup is going well!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Protecting teh Babiezz

Just to keep you all posted, the flood is over (at least in Fredericton), but I am still not back in my apartment. There is still water in the basement - they've turned the power back on, but not the hot water as of yet. Even when they do I might have to stay away for a while longer until they get the basement cleaned up, because it's going to be moldy, and I really would enjoy never having another bronchial spasm.

So I'm at my parents' place for the time being, which is fine, although I miss having my cats and partner around. Could be worse.

There was no clinic today; just cleaning up a little after the flood.

Tomorrow is the annual March for Life at the Legislature. It starts at 12:30, if you'd like to go down and have a peek. And just so that's not the scariest thing you see this week, check this out. That's right, you murdering whores - birth control kills babies.

Some days I despair for the world.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Postcard from the Flood Zone

This post is a little outside of what I normally write about, but I just wanted you all to know what was up in Fredericton.

If you know anyone who has lived in Fredericton all their lives, you probably have heard a story or two about the flood of '73. My family and I are relative newbies to the city but I have definitely heard many tales of canoeing down this or that downtown street, etc. The flood of '73 is quite the local legend. So it feels somewhat exciting to be in the middle of what will definitely become a new legend...I can just imagine telling my grandkids about the flood of aught eight. I really hope I don't still live here then, though.

Even though I work and live downtown, I didn't really think I would be that affected. But I guess the fact that I'm writing this from New Maryland says otherwise. Luckily EN (my partner) is housesitting a place out here, so we have a refuge from the water.

We left Wednesday night, when after dinner and drinks in one of the few restaurants still open downtown, our landlord asked us not to flush the toilet or use the drains. A bit of flooding in the basement, you see. We took off that night - our street was already closed, and the water seemed to be only getting higher.

Yesterday morning we came back into town to rescue the cats, and perishable food since we were afraid they might have turned off our power (they being the power company, not the cats). Because our street was closed, we had to come at our house from behind, where a path connects it to the walking trail. All fine, except our backyard was a lake. It turns out they were pumping all the water out of the house into the backyard, so we had to wade through a foot of icy cold, foul-smelling water to get to the house. We repacked our bags with clean clothes, packed up the perishable food and the cats (I still have the battle scars from that), and waded back through the gross water. The basket of food was heavy, but I was glad I wasn't carrying the cats (who could stand to eat less). It definitely wasn't a pleasant experience, but when EN asked me if I wanted him to make two trips, so I didn't have to carry anything, I was actually able to laugh. We've done worse, I reminded him. On that Costa Rica trip I mentioned last week, we carried heavier things along longer paths.

Getting the cats out and to a safe place (EN's parents house) was definitely not the least fun thing we did yesterday. I got a call from SL (the clinic manager) who wanted us to come help her fight back the rising water in the basement. We went over and helped to carry medical equipment to higher places while the plumber installed a second sump pump. We sloshed our way through the basement to throw out wet cardboard boxes. JB bought the last two shop vacs at the hardware store, and we spent a good two hours just sucking up water. It was a lot more uncomfortable than it sounds. We'll be back there again today, as the water kept rising and the second sump pump faltered last night.

So in conclusion, living (and working) in the flood zone is no fun. I can only really think about how thankful I am that I'm privileged enough to have a place to stay, and that our actual house isn't flooded. And I'm just really glad the cats are safe.

Oh and I had to postpone my rally (the anti-C-484 one) to next Saturday (May 10), because I really don't think City Hall will be in great shape by tomorrow. And I heard they're cancelling the market tomorrow as well.