Many of you might say, "you didn't start it, this picture did," and you might be right. But the other part of this was that this charming illustration was posted by a man who I know, and I knew at the time, would never ever change his mind. I know this because I know him well enough to know that his particular religious leaning precludes him from seeing women as anything other than reproduction machines.
But, this illustration infuriated me. I felt condescended to, I felt lectured, and more than that, I felt quite invisible. Our argument took us down the path of inconceivable truths; arguing choice with a person who sees you as a baby maker is the fastest way to get nowhere. He accused women of using abortion as a get out of jail free card, he asked me what the baby would say if I asked if it wanted to live, and for my part, I gave him quick synopsis of what it means to be a woman in the world. Other people chimed in, one man in particular even went so far as to threaten, believe it or not, another woman who was arguing the pro-choice point. I am pretty sure he addressed her as "girly." I mean, it got pretty heated. For two days. On Facebook.
And I could not stop. I was checking for his answers. I would become enraged when he clearly demonstrated that women were not anywhere near the top of his "list of worldly concerns." Then yesterday, at about 5 pm, I remembered why I started arguing in the first place, what I was hoping to accomplish, and instead of arguing my point, I told him that his post was mean. It was insulting, and it was condescending. I told him that I did not remember him that way, that I remembered him as a considerate and respectful person, and this illustration was neither. And that is when he apologized. Then, we wished each other well. And that was it.
I am not going to change minds. I am not trying to tell anyone to live a life any differently than the one they have chosen. I will not attack you for your religion, no matter what it is. I won't insult you to prove a point. In that same vein, I expect the same treatment. I really don't feel it necessary for anyone else to tell me about my body. I have no use for people, institutions, or governments which treat me like I cannot make a decision based on the breadth and depth of my life.
But it is hard not to argue. It is hard not to feel every moment of every day that I have to deliberate on what I have to do to be safe. It is challenging for me to forget that I have to consider physical threat in almost every decision I make about how I move through the world. My life is chock full of deliberations regarding the safety of my body and mind, and it is this way because generally speaking, men are a threat. Not all men; but statistically, there is more than a slim possibility that harm will come to me at the hands of a male human.
It is also difficult to argue. Difficult because rape is under reported. The statistics on rape are staggeringly incorrect. Why? because of the social stigma rape places on the victim. Because any time a man hurts a woman, the go to response is, what did she do wrong? Because many women are afraid to accuse because they know when they do, they are, at the least, immediately suspect, and at the most, in greater danger of further harm.
I have been sexually abused. Most of the women I know have, at one time or another, had an incident where they were assaulted, raped, or threatened by a man. This is not an exaggeration. This is a truth. This world does not value or protect women. We are targets, every one of us, all over the world.
This is why I argued. Instead of starting with telling my friend that this post was insulting and I believed he was better than that, I started with defense. I started with outrage. I started with the anger of a person who has had to strategically move through the world in order to be safe. I started with the profound sadness of a person who has listened to countless women tell me of their horrible and traumatic rape/abuse/exploitation.
I cannot, in good conscious, excuse it. Not after the pain I have felt and seen. It is hard for me to listen to you go on and on about the value of a human life after I have lived 46 years of not being valued. It is in every sense of the word, an outrage.
Politicians push cases of rape forward as a way to justify abortion, and while it is valid, it also feels hollow, because I should be able to make this very challenging decision about my life and my body even if I am not raped. The idea that people other than the mother think they can overrule her on this very important decision is in itself a violent and invasive act. Like rape, it is a product of the violent world we live in.
Pain begets pain. Violence begets violence. The point, finally, is not rape. It is not ending a life. The point is that we live in a world that is so broken that it believes collectively that violence is the answer to every big problem. All this, rape, abuse, legislating women's bodies, is a product of a mindset that does no one any favors. It is the mindset of anger, of thoughtlessness, of fear.
It is the mindset that forgets to ask, what are we doing to men, collectively, that pushes them to do such horrible things?