Wow. This is some crazy shit.
So, early on in the day we had posts like this one at Feministing. Which was basically a long comments thread about a young woman at Yale who was reported to have undertaken an art project in which she inseminated then self-aborted as frequently as possible during the course of nine months.
(And those of us concerned about someday conceiving through insemination were like, “Um…really? What, you just, like, kept getting pregnant? For reals? Like how many times? And how was the dreaded two-week-wait? Did you have any indication pre-testing that you’d managed to conceive? Were you moody? What method did you use to inseminate? Did you enlist the help of male friends, or did you go up to random strangers in bars so they couldn’t sue you later?”)
So then we had Pandagon basically saying, yeah, this didn’t make any sense. Which lead to this article, ultimately pointing out that the entire thing was an art project. Lindsay Beyerstein is calling it a hoax, and for all I know it is, though by whom I’m not entirely sure (the student or the paper that made her famous?). The most recent article up by aforementioned paper repeatedly uses the term “miscarriage”, which seems a bit misleading to me. (Dictionary.com backs it up: the expulsion of a fetus before it is viable.) But what’s interesting is what’s being said.
Feministing is erring on the side of too much controversy, not enough dialogue. According to the previously mentioned most recent-ish Yale Daily News article, NARAL Pro-Choice America “condemned the exhibition” in an email, no evidence of which is available on the NARAL website.
In a way this is a good thing (and probably, to some extent, unavoidable in intelligent social animals).
And in a way, it’s very very fucked up.
This whole thing brings up a pretty interesting idea, which has to do with reactionary defensiveness in the face of perceived judgement. By which I mean to say, the people who will take this entire event and use it to prove the point that, as Jen at Feministing wrote, women are cavalierly getting abortions “just for the heck of it, because they’re bored on a Saturday night or something”, are the people who believe that already, and will use anything at all to make that point.
I think what bothers me here is that while condemning Aliza Shvarts for daring to publicly choose both to conceive and then to abort (well: for daring to imply she had done, anyway), it’s hard to deny that what she’s done is taken freedom of choice to its very extreme end. The argument is being made that the project is insensitive to women who have experienced miscarriage; eh, it’s art, it can be as insensitive as it wants to be. And while as a woman who is looking forward to a rocky road to conception myself, this sort of flaunted conception-self-induced-miscarriage is a little touchy. But you have to understand something about about how fertility works
But Shvarts reiterated Thursday that she repeatedly use a needleless syringe to insert semen into herself. At the end of her menstrual cycle, she took abortifacient herbs to induce bleeding, she said. She said she does not know whether or not she was ever pregnant.
One is only fertile for a handful of days mid-cycle anyway; the end of the cycle is when you’re bound to bleed if you’re not pregnant, so taking herbs to induce bleeding is all well and good on the off chance you managed to conceive (during the days you were actually fertile, and I’ve read nothing so far to indicate that Shvarts had any real idea on that level what she was doing with that needleless syringe). But it’s more than likely that the art project, as it stands, is menstrual blood and shrink wrap.
Of course, if a woman decided to do a menstrual-blood-and-shrink-wrap art piece, she’d probably take a great deal of flak for that, too. For what it’s worth.
Ultimately, the thing is this: I can’t worry about what idiots will say about women. Because once I start buying into any sense of defensiveness I’m playing their game. If I sit here and write that such a controversial act makes it impossible to have a reasonable discourse about a woman’s right to own her body, then I am playing by the rules of the people who refuse to have that conversation in the first place. Fuck those people. All over the world women do not own their bodies. Women’s bodies are frequently seen as just another battle ground. Women in the armed services have more to fear from fellow soldiers than they do from combat. Women in this country have been locked up, “detained” in the lingo, so as to not pollute young soldiers with their nasty vaginas. WordPress doesn’t recognize “vaginas” as a valid word. Penises does not get a red line. Why is that?
So while I agree that the entire thing is distasteful, in its way, I have to applaud the mind that came up with this as a concept. What better way to demonstrate reproductive freedom? Wearing your pro-choice button is great. I’m just saying, this sparks a hell of a lot more discussion.