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Unacceptable Gestures, and Why I Need You To Pick a Side

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No, not those. The bird is always an acceptable gesture.


Pictured: Always Acceptable


No, I’m referring to a much bigger gesture. A gesture being made at the state and national level.

There are all of these bananashit bills being introduced, bills that are just so far out there that I can’t even bring myself to google and link. Bills to eliminate Kindergarten in New Hampshire, bills to make every miscarriage a crime in Georgia, bills to remove child labor laws, bills to remove safety testing on children’s products, bills to cut Headstart because women should be doing it for free, bills targeting teachers that strip them of their collective bargaining rights (teaching is still gendered feminine, so they feel safe going after the icky girls who should be doing it for free because what the hell else are they good for? Oddly, firefighters and police are exempt. Shocking.)


Pictured: Me and Paprika, Watching The Tidal Wave of Bananashit Bills Coming In




And of course, your favorite and mine, all of the bills at the state and national level that aim to strip women of our autonomy and our freedom of choice, and to make damn sure that we know bitches aint shit. Bills to make it legal to deny lifesaving care, to make it impossible to get woman specific care and treatment, bills that strip the funding to FEED PREGNANT WOMEN AND THEN THEIR INFANTS. Not to mention denying them pre and post natal care. If you don’t want to be pregnant? Fuck you.

If you do want to be pregnant but you are poor? Fuck you! Sex is too good for poor people!


The Future Says: Seriously, Guys?



What shocks me about all of this is not that it’s happening. Anyone who has been following reproductive rights at all in the past oh…forever– could have warned you that the right-wing would try to do this.

What shocks me isn’t how little they seem to care about children, given how pro life and pro family they claim to be. Everyone already learned that lesson when they decided that the best motivator for poor kids was pain, pain and more pain with a side of starving and cut assistance for the spectral “Welfare queen” of the 80’s.

What shocks me is the apathy from the other side, from the squishy middle, from the independents, from the sensibly “objective” people, and from ironically detached liberals who don’t want to protest because that would be “sinking to their level”.

These people, for some reason (and by “reason” I mean because of their assloads of privilege) do not see gestures of overt sexism, classism and racism as problematic in and of themselves.

Oh yes, they say– it would be awful if these things became laws, but they won’t pass the senate (they might, they might not, they might well in a year when [if, god please, if!] the right takes the senate majority), so don’t get so upset. Stop getting all lathered up over the silly gestures of the tea baggers and the bible-abusers, it’s no big deal.

Tell me again why this is acceptable?


Pictured: What's Goin' On


Why is it alright for anyone to make a symbolic gesture that proudly gesticulates that I and others like me are not human? Why is it OK to make gestures against our rights, autonomy, freedom, choice, and dignity.

Why is that gesture acceptable? If I was an elected official and authored a gesture bill stripping African- Americans of their right to own property, there would be, and quite fucking rightfully so, calls for me to step down. I would have to issue an apology. That kind of overt racism is, should be, must be absolutely unacceptable.

So why are all of these gestures being met with so much apathy? Why is it acceptable to hate women (especially women of color, this shit is SO racist) so overtly?

This is the question that those who pose themselves as objective, as ironically detached and too cool to protest need to ask themselves. What level of violence would it take for you to care? What monstrous thing would break the apathy?

Feminists are organizing marches, feminists are writing letters and calling and petitioning. Feminists are not the problem here. We need a groundswell of support for women.

Because until we demand that the right backs the fuck off and actually focuses on creating jobs and fixing the economy, they won’t. Until a vast, vast majority tells them it’s unacceptable to hate women in law, they’ll take it as Carte Blanche to keep on kicking us when we’re down.

Pick a side. Because women’s rights are men’s rights and children’s rights, all of which are worker’s rights, immigrant’s rights and the rights of People of Color, of LGBTQI people, and of the poor. Because women’s rights are human rights, and human rights must not be open to debate, or gestures of contempt.


Pictured: What Needs to be Goin' On.





About Pepper

Pepper Lee Hales is a twenty something, married, vicious feminist liberal. She likes dogs, cats, spiders, epistemics and cake.

5 responses »

  1. Clearly the Republicans want to end sin by ending the human race. The only answer to keep women from running afoul of the law is to avoid having kids altogether.

    Why women miscarry is still a mystery to medical science. There are untold factors that could influence whether the baby is carried to term or not. To find out more, read this:

  2. Wisconsin Woman

    Don’t make the union issue seem like it’s just targeting women. It is, but it’s also going after minorities and men. Solidarity means everyone.

    Also, the police and firemen are exempt because they A) contributed to Walker’s campaign and B) are needed for crowd control and to keep protesters at bay. Unfortunately for Gov. Walker, they now publicly regret contributing and are assisting the protesters.

  3. @ Wisconsin Woman–

    I hope that the OP didn’t make it seem like A) it’s all about Wisconsin, and I just don’t understand what’s goin’ on and B) I want women’s right to be privileged above the rights of others.

    In fact, I did not mention Wisconsin at all, not because what’s happening there isn’t incredibly important, but because this post takes a look at the bigger picture. There are anti collective bargaining bills in several states right now, and other kinds of horsepucky happening in other non-Wisconsin places that is just as vile, particularly for women. Even women of color, or lesbians, both of whom are certainly part of the group “minorities.”

    Also, I am well aware of the practical reasons why the police and firefighters were exempted, but that does not in any way diminish the gendered nature of the split. We live in a patriarchy, “men’s” work is still considered more valuable than “women’s” work.

    I am 10000000000% pro-union. I am the child of two generations of union workers, who never would have been even marginally middle class without the unions.

    But. My point still stands– these rights are all connected, and if you’re going to stand for one set of rights, you really need to stand for the others. I will happily fight for the rights of public employees, or any other of worker. But I need them, especially the men, not to turn around and shrug and declare “eh, womens issue” when the GOP is doubling down on the misogyny. Solidarity cannot flow just one way.

    Also, please read the about page before further comments. You’ll find that “WHAT ABOUT THE MEEEEEEEEEEENZ!!??11?!1?” comments are not welcome here, and that is essentially what you are demanding I do– not focus on paltry little shit like women’s bodily autonomy in order to focus on your area of interest. This blog has a comment policy, and while there’s not a lot of discussion, what discussion there is is structured, because that’s how we run this motherfucker.

  4. Your post resonates with some of what’s going on right now in my life as I introduce first-year college students to the basic ideas of feminism (I won’t say “feminist literary criticism,” as we’re encouraged to do, because I’m in that camp that believes that to simply look at it as some sort of academic exercise is to miss the point entirely). It’s interesting to me how often students recoil from the very word, when their initial writing (a freewrite on “what is feminism”) tends to demonstrate an overwhelming lack of knowledge, from ignorance about the origins of feminism to the goals of “feminists” (especially as a guy, I allow for a lot of lassitude in responses, as it’s not really mine to validate their answers. Buuuut… I’m pretty sure the complete annihilation of all morals, dignity, and murdering infants aren’t really acknowledged positions). I discussed this with some other faculty/staff here last year, and we came to the conclusion that it’s largely because the word itself has been coopted, in many cases, by the right to indicate something scary and/or unnatural, when I think nothing could be further from the truth. Many of my students are genuinely shocked when I show them charts of pay inequality, or when we discuss why they refer to “doctors” and “female doctors” and “nurses” and “male nurses.”
    Bringing it more locally, and to some of the things you specifically mention here – antiabortion legislation. In the great state of South Dakota, for example, where I live and teach, there have been any number of bills introduced this year that, honestly, just can’t get much better from the perspective of someone who uses frustration as an excuse to drink. One of these, which was a pretty blatantly anti-choice bill, was tabled because people “misunderstood” it, according to the guy who wrote it. According to people who research such things, like Georgetown law professors, the bill could have been interpreted as making it legally questionable whether an immediate family member of a woman seeking an abortion who killed an abortion doctor could be tried for murder or whether it would be “self-defense” on behalf of the foetus (!!!!!!!). Others have explained the bill as a “parody” or “joke,” like the one that was introduced to require all SD citizens to carry a gun is said to be. (Digression: which of these sounds more likely? “Oh, nuts, I could really use a rifle right now, but unfortunately, the government doesn’t provide/require them” or “I have influenza and can’t seek medical treatment because my employer isn’t required to provide it”?).
    I guess this leads me to a question for one of you, if you’d be kind enough: Is a “joke” or gesture like this fundamentally different from, well, a racist or sexist or rape joke? Because I don’t see how it could be.
    Also, I’d appreciate any thoughts you have on this article, (link below).

  5. @ Dan S.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!

    No, I think you’re absolutely right. Feminism has been completely blacklisted, much like socialism, because people not only don’t understand it, they are actively resistant to thinking about it. I think it’s partly the religious right, partly this pervasive idea that has been beaten into people from the top down that everything is better now, all the sexism and racism is gone, and everyone has a fair shake, and partly the forces of the same old same objectification, and degradation that teaches people to other women.

    And these bills are definitely playing on the first and last of those methods of upholding the sexist status quo. There is a pervasive erasure, on the right and even amongst moderates, of the role of women in actually doing the hard labor of building a baby. Women are not just warm incubators, or aquaria, and pregnancy, especially in the US, is a fucking dangerous job.

    Amanda Marcotte, over at has some really good posts on sperm magic, which is the idea that women are passive receptacles, like fields, into which the dudes seed is planted. This goes back a long, long, long, long time, as I’m sure you know, and has persisted even in science until quite recently (i.e. even well into the 20th century it was believed the egg was passive, but it turns out the egg is incredibly biochemically active in choosing which sperm to accept.)

    So it’s still pretty firmly lodged in our culture, and frankly, until we can do away with the idea that blastocysts, zygotes and feti are the work of the father and are merely “carried” by the mother, the abortion debate will persist.

    I agree with the article you posted that it is also about women’s sexuality and several thousands of years of anxiety about containing and owning it. The thing that kills me is that these same people have no problem with viagra, or any other medical intervention for that matter, but they can’t accept that technology to safely end an unwanted pregnancy is as valid as any other technology. Well, and pretending there was no abortion inthe past gives me the LOLz. Then again, they don’t care about dead slut, so yaknow.

    BAnd yes, I put these bills on the same exact spectrum of racist, sexist, rape and DV jokes. Except at the extreme end because of the authority of those involved in drafting this pablum. It’s a way to intimidate women, and manipulate men into casually believing the sperm magic you poke it you own it stuff that they are unfairly awash in anyway.


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