A Few Quick, Mostly Unrelated Things

1. Here’s the thing I really don’t understand about when Mitt insists that, you know, Steve Jobs did build Apple and Papa John did build Papa John’s, etc. Mitt ran Bain Capital. Even if he won’t acknowledge that roads were built not by him and government programs funded half of what he did with Bain and all the rest, he knows he has administrative staff, right? He knows he has janitors and an HR department (presumably) and an Accounts department and all that, right? And he knows he needs them in order for Bain Capital to be successful? And all companies need their staff and CEOs can’t be CEOs of shit without them? Right?

2. I know this is going to get me kicked out of the club, but please bear with me. I know that all of the anti-abortion bills being kicked around, in the U.S. Congress for D.C., and in various states, are very anti-woman, sometimes include provisions against hormonal contraception, and are not doing enough to protect the health of the mother. And even if all this weren’t going on, I’m still very much pro-choice, because it comes down to, you can’t legislate when life begins so you have to allow women/people and their doctors to decide when an abortion is called for. But. I don’t think that the people taking the position that abortion is not okay even in cases of rape are wrong on their own premises. If the premise is that life begins at conception and therefore abortion is murder, then you really can’t make an exception for rape. You can make an exception for the life/health of the mother, because you do have the right to kill in self-defense, but not for rape, because the fetus didn’t/isn’t raping you, so you don’t have the right to kill it.

I get that the person holding the position of, “I sincerely respect women and believe in feminism BUT I also believe that life begins at conception and therefore abortion is murder so as much as it pains me to think of a woman traumatized by rape having to also bear the child of her rapist, I can’t justify allowing for the murder of that child” is, like, a figment of my imagination. But if that person exists I respect them.

I think people who ARE pro-life but make exceptions for rape are holding one of two positions. The more respectable one to me is, “Look, abortion isn’t quite murder and a fetus isn’t quite a person and I don’t know really when life begins, but it’s morally problematic enough that I think it should be outlawed except in extreme circumstances.” And that’s okay. I still disagree, because I’m still pro-choice, and I still think that the question of when life begins is fuzzy and nebulous enough that you shouldn’t legislate it, but I can respect that person. The one I can’t respect is the one who is going, “Slutty whores who willingly have sex deserve whatever happens to them as a result, up to and including babies. But innocent virgins who were raped [because, let’s face it, most of the people who hold this position have a pretty narrow definition of ‘rape’, too] don’t have to bear the baby because they are not the ones who sinned.”

3. I’m thrilled about the new Obamacare provisions kicking into effect this week. But I want to reiterate: Contraception is not just women’s health care. It’s people’s health care. Gentlemen, do you want to have sex and not have babies? Then you need contraception, too. Just because the women are the ones who physically take the pill (or whatever), doesn’t mean that women are the only beneficiaries of the effects.

4. I know that maybe I’m only feeling this way because my main news source is Rachel Maddow and my more moderate, balanced news source is Jon Stewart, but I’m starting to get the feeling that Mitt Romney is secretly super-liberal and involved in some sort of conspiracy to ensure that Obama stays President. He can’t possibly be making all these dunderheaded mistakes and be seriously running for president, can he? Making all these shady comments about his non-released tax returns? Insulting the London Olympics AND Palestinians AND Mexicans? Being the stereotypical Clueless Rich Guy from some 1930s cartoon? This has to be some sort of performance art that’s not only going to allow Obama to win in a landslide, but to actually push through some of his most liberal programs because they’ll look so much better than whatever Romney is promoting this week? I mean, think about it. Mitt was for Romneycare, then when it became Obamacare, he hated it. He was for abortion, even raised money for Planned Parenthood, and now he hates it. He was pro-gay rights, now he hates that, too. But what if it’s all a scam? What if he still loves all those things and is doing his best to ensure that Obama is in a position to protect/promote those very things?

You want to check my eyes? Why?

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Reframing Contraception, or, Why Men Need Contraception, Too

Here is how human reproduction DOES NOT work. A man places his penis in a woman’s vagina. She allows this because she is a slutty slutty slut who sluts. Her whorish delight in having a man place his penis inside her spontaneously creates a baby inside her womb, a sort of amoeba-like clone of her. Sometimes the wanton trollop has been contained by marriage to a just and Godly man, whose piety has been rewarded in financial security, in which case the baby is a blessing to be welcomed. But in some cases, she’s allowing men to whom she’s not married to put their penii* inside her. Then when a baby spontaneously appears in her womb, she sucks state resources away to pay for her selfish, child-having lifestyle. There are obviously no other circumstances from which a child might issue than the two we’ve just described.

Here is how human reproduction DOES work. A man places his penis in (or sometimes just near, if my mid-nineties sex ed can be trusted) and ejaculates. His ejaculate, or semen, contains spermatozoa, or sperm. One of these sperm combines with one of the woman’s ova, or eggs. That combination of sperm and egg then nestles itself in the lining of the woman’s uterus, lives there for nine months, give or take, and then exits her womb.

Let me draw your attention to the key difference here. In the first scenario, the baby is entirely the woman’s. It is created only out of her own sluttiness and its genetic material is exclusively hers. Therefore, all of the responsibility for the child falls exclusively on the woman.

But, and I know this might come as a shock to those of you who’ve been listening to certain pundits speak on the question of who should have access to contraception, that’s not actually how human reproduction works. In fact, human offspring are the product – and therefore the responsibility – of a woman AND a man!

Now, I’ll wait a minute as you digest this piece of shocking information. But then let’s apply this new knowledge to questions about contraception. In any heterosexual sex act, the couple must decide if they wish for a baby to result, or not. If they do not, they must take steps to prevent such an occurrence. One method of choice in this country is the birth control pill. If a person is in a monogamous pair, or in other ways limits his or her sexual partnerships, it may be the only method.

Now, the pill only works if the woman takes it. That’s just how it’s designed. So the woman is required to take on the chemical alterations that the pill produces. Some are good – skin clearing and periods being less of a pain in the neck are two – and some are difficult to bear – such as libido depression and weight gain and other, nastier ones occasionally. And the woman is frequently also responsible for paying for it. But the fact remains that, most of the time, both the male and female parties to a heterosexual sex act require either the wherewithal to have a child, or reliable contraception.

So let’s please stop talking about contraception as if it’s only a women’s issue, okay? I know that it affects women MORE than it affects men – but that’s only because we frequently pretend that the first scenario there is the real one. We need to stop doing that.

*ETA – My husband wants me to let you know the correct pluralization of “penis” is not “penii” but “penes”. Because he is a dorky dorky dork. Who dorks.

Some More Talk About Contraception

So when I was in grad school –

Oh, wait, I need to be more specific, don’t I? When I was at UIC, getting my MA in English with a Gender and Women’s Studies concentration, I took a class with this woman. It was a great class full of stuff I’d never thought about before, like there was a book about how the “first wave” of feminism in the latter half of the nineteenth century wasn’t just suffragettes. There were women doing a lot more work on the daily lives of women and had these ideas about communal apartment buildings with a common kitchen and day care center and laundry and stuff, so that women could do these housekeeping tasks communally and more quickly and therefore have time to do other shit.

And she also listened to us whine about Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s racism for a while and then pointed out to us that we exhibit racial ignorance when we declaim female genital mutilation so vehemently without understanding that there are two different things going on – the bad kind where clitori, labia, etc. are cut off, sewn together, etc., all in an effort to make sex actively unpleasant for women because otherwise they’d be dirty, dirty whores; and a practice wherein just the clitoral hood is removed, roughly the anatomical equivalent of male circumcision, and then the girls’ sexuality is celebrated with an all-night party in their honor, and allegedly such an operation actually makes sex more enjoyable, because the clitoris is more easily accessible. And while I know some women would argue that actually their clitori are too sensitive for more access to be enjoyable to them, the point is that the rhetoric around the first kind is, “Women are dirty whores and must be prevented from enjoying sex,” and also that the procedures themselves are highly painful and awful and make sex bad for life, and with the second, the pain is not so bad or so permanent, and the rhetoric around the second kind is, “You’ve hit puberty! Time to get down with your bad self! Woohoo!” And that’s very different.

One of my favorite things she told us was about Iran and family planning, and thinking about it now, I wasn’t sure I was remembering it correctly, so I looked it up. That’s right, people. I did research. For you. Please, please, don’t think you have to run out and buy me expensive chocolates. Homemade cookies would be fine.

Anyway, I was remembering right. In the wake of the revolution in Iran in 1979, the rhetoric there was very, “Have more babies! Have more babies for the cause! More soldiers for Islam! For Iran! For the Revolution!” Family planning institutions were dismantled; health officials were ordered not to speak about contraception. Predictably, the birth rate in Iran went through the roof.

Then about five or six years later, the government of Iran went, “Oh, shit.” Because they did not have enough kindergarten classrooms for all these kids. Or water. So they got very serious about government-sponsored family planning education and coverage. All couples must go through family planning classes in order to get a marriage license. Families are encouraged to wait three to four years between kids, and to have only three kids. They encourage the latter by restricting maternity leave benefits after the third child. There are tons of clinics, mobile clinics and other health care facilities centered around family planning AND – wait for it – THE GOVERNMENT COVERS 80% OF FAMILY PLANNING COSTS. Yes, including the Pill.

Yes, you are reading this right. In crazy, right-wing, fundamentalist Iran, where women can’t show ankle, they can get the Pill, no problem, from their fascist religious-right government.

No, let that sink in. One party in this two-party country thinks it’s wrong to ask businesses to have health insurance plans that cover contraception. Not only that, but one of the two front-runners for that party’s nomination for PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES seems to think that sex should only be procreative, and that contraception and abortion of any kind ought to be forbidden.

But in IRAN, the government will pay for 80% of your Pill. They even have a government-run condom factory.

(I never thought about condoms being made in a factory. I mean, obviously, they are, but now I’ve got an image of it in my head and it’s making me giggle. Because I’m twelve.)

“Come on, Ricki. You wouldn’t want to live as a woman in Iran.” No, I would not. As a Jewish woman, I think Iran would be a pretty bad place for me.

I just want to point out that, look. I am a liberal/progressive Reform Jew and feminist who thinks that the only sex that is immoral is sex in which one or more parties cannot give or have not given consent. But I get that there are people who, for religious and/or moral reasons, really think sex should be restricted to married couples, and while I respectfully disagree, and also think they’re being unrealistic, and that you can’t apply such a standard to the nation via legal means because we have, you know, a separation of church and state around here, I understand why they think the way they think.

But. Even if you think that all sex should be married sex, it still doesn’t make sense to expect that either a) married couples will only have sex when they want children, and will avoid having sex of any kind unless they can afford to support any child that will result in that sex, or b) married couples will simply have all the children that their desired sex life will produce, and that will be fine for both the family and for the state in which they live.

And not only does it not make sense, just, like, thinking about it for more than five seconds, but fortunately for us, Iran already ran the experiment. They do not have separation of church and state, so they felt perfectly justified in applying a religious mandate not to have sex outside marriage to everyone. Then they decided to also religiously mandate baby-making. Their resources were overwhelmed in about half a decade. So they decided that it was perfectly in keeping with strict religious principles against non-marital sex to also support family planning and the reduction of the total number of babies being born. They even educated men and women about sex for pleasure and how women should enjoy it and men should have the patience to get them to the point of enjoying it! No, seriously! That’s sex ed IN IRAN.

Now, things have changed slightly since the article I linked to was written. Apparently there was a “Two is Not Enough!” campaign in 2006. And I don’t know if they’re still doing the sex-for-pleasure education. But still. Iran. Our Republican party is to the right, in matters of sex, of IRAN.

That is all.

The Birth Control Thing

Here’s the thing that always makes me pause when these conservative people start speaking out against birth control – what are they doing to prevent themselves from having more children?

Now, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney both have enough children in a short enough period of time that I guess it’s believable that they haven’t relied on hormonal contraception like the Pill.

But why is other contraception is okay but not the Pill? Because I’m going to go ahead and assume that Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney have both had sex with their wives that they have not intended to be procreative, and not just when said wives were pregnant already. So they must have been preventing it somehow. It’s believable that their methodology did not involve altering their wives’ hormones, but they were either a) using a non-hormonal device like a condom or diaphragm, b) doing things the old-fashioned way, i.e., pulling out, or c) had one party surgically altered so as to never conceive again. And they could only have done c) after all the kids were born (although I don’t know how long their wives nursed, but sometimes that will prevent contraception between kids – but not all the time and not for all women).

So whether you use a pill or a diaphragm, you are preventing sperm from meeting egg. In the first case, you prevent the egg from being released; in the second, you prevent the sperm from getting into the uterus/fallopian tubes. Why is one better than the other?

And pulling out? Pulling out?! That is “onanism”! I know that’s the term typically applied to masturbation, but the real story of Onan is that his oldest brother Er died (was suddenly struck down by God for some unknown reason), so Onan had to marry his brother’s wife Tamar and then their child would be considered as if it were Er’s and inherit all their father’s stuff instead of Onan being next in line. So Onan decided to pull out when he had sex with Tamar so that he didn’t create his own supplanter. And then God struck him down, too.

Now, I have argued that Onan’s crime was deliberately circumventing the system that would have provided his dead brother with an heir at Onan’s own expense, and masturbation has nothing to do with it. But I don’t get to be the Grand High Priestess of any religion, more’s the pity. This story is usually interpreted by others to mean you can’t “spill seed” uselessly, i.e., either masturbate (if you’re a boy) or pull out!

So even if they’re not using hormonal birth control, I don’t understand how what they are doing is okay by their own standards.

And other politicians who’ve done things like spoken out against hormonal contraception being paid for by insurance, or signing the Personhood Pledge, do not have so many children that lack of use of hormonal contraception is really believable. I mean, pulling out can be effective, but let’s be serious, here. Newt? Rick Perry? They both only have two children, and many years of being married to some number of fertile women (Rick, just one; Newt, infamously three). (And also my research has shown that Rick’s two children are named Griffin and Sydney. Would you have ever guessed that Rick Perry would have children named Griffin and Sydney?) And Newt doesn’t have any children with his second two wives, both of whom he started sleeping with while married to his previous wife. What was he doing to prevent conception? (One would think being Newt Gingrich would be enough, but hey, three women married him, so evidently, they didn’t find him as objectionable as I do.) Am I really supposed to believe that no one in any of these situations used hormonal birth control?

I find it somewhat irritating that conversations around birth control, contraception, and abortion always center around the sex that’s being had by people who are not in long-term, committed, even legally binding, relationships. Not that I think having sex outside a long-term, committed, and/or legally binding relationship is wrong. But a lot of policy seems to be dictated by people who believe it is wrong, and discussed in terms that seem to indicate a certain level of acceptance of the idea that it’s wrong. And even if you think it is wrong, you’re leaving out the sex that’s being had within long-term, committed, and/or legally binding relationships, which I’m willing to bet is most of the sex that’s being had. I know that there are lots of jokes about married people not having sex anymore, but I’m still willing to bet that the average person in a committed relationship is having more sex than the average person not in a committed relationship. And neither the individuals in these relationships, nor we as a state, can afford for all of them to be getting pregnant all the damn time!

I had this problem when there was recent talk about male hormonal contraception, and the pundits’ party line was, “Well, women will never trust men to take a pill because it’s not the man that gets pregnant, it’s the woman.” And I’m going, wait a second, I’d trust Jason to take one. Because we’re in a long-term, committed relationship, and it would be his kid that resulted if we weren’t using any birth control, so, yeah, I’d trust him to be invested enough in our┬áreproductive future to take a pill. If I were single, I wouldn’t trust a guy with whom I had a casual relationship, necessarily, but, again, I really suspect that more sexually active people are in committed relationships than not. So why is the discussion held on the assumption that the only people using birth control are unmarried, uncoupled persons?

Anyway, I do think that it’s great to see the politicians who are in favor of paying for contraception rally around feminist concepts like women’s rights over their bodies, etc. But I fail to understand why non-feminists plant their flags against contraception because I have to imagine that even non-feminists like to have sex with their spouses and prefer not to get pregnant every single time. Why isn’t access to reproductive control a universal (or, an all-heterosexual, non-Quiverfull person) issue, and not a women’s, issue?