The Rabbit Hole: women’s bodies, sex, guns, violence

Criminalizing miscarriages, rape insurance, limiting access to abortion and contraception, abstinence only education, children holding hands labeled as gateway to deviant sexual behavior, laws against teachers that discuss or recognize the existence of homosexuality in schools, license to discriminate based on religion; all the while promoting guns and indiscriminate access to guns, without limitations, background reviews, qualifications, or consequences; at the same time, widening “stand your ground laws” and removing social and legal ramifications for shooting children either through negligence, in rage, or sense of disrespect; all built on a stage propped up with moral and religious high ground.

It’s a bit of a rabbit hole.

Women’s bodies, sex, guns, and violence. Legislation for each sweeping state by state, aimed to limit the first two and expand the latter.  There’s something perverse in all this.  There’s something very perverse happening in this country.  I increasingly find myself feeling a looming dread, increasingly fearful of what is taking place all around me.

I read about all of this and can’t help but feel powerless, full of dread, fear for the future.  I then hope that, as with many things in this great country, it will all self-correct and be an embarrassing blip in America’s history and efforts to progress, until I remember the religious fervor that drives it all, the chiseling away of separation of church and state, the examples I know so well of communities and countries that exert Islamic law even though the majority of the citizens don’t believe in religion at gun point, and finally, the impact of a small minority of motivated, highly mobilized individuals armed with guns AND their interpretation of Islam.  As I’m reminded of that, I see the similarities playing out in the US.

Religion at gun point.  Guns, violence, women’s bodies, sex… religion.

The rabbit hole.  My dilemma in writing.

Suddenly, writing about my personal infertility seems so small in comparison, and somehow even more compelling.  I am always aware that women’s bodies go hand in hand with politics and its relation to male privilege, to ideological perversions, to centuries of male-interpreted religion, to the use of God to justify control of one group over another.  I’ve been watching, anxiously as conservatism along with governing through fear takes over this country for over a decade, specifically and obviously, since 9/11.  As a woman, as a Muslim, I’m well versed in the use of religion to instill fear among the masses and justify control of one group over another.  I’m all too familiar.  With headlines like the ones above, I’m less sure about this religious trend being a blip in US History, or things self correcting against the wave of religious, Christian fervor overwhelming country and governance.

I meant to write about disempowerment of infertility.  I’m feeling quite disempowered as a woman.  Of course I feel disempowered and afraid.  Depending on which state I live, I could be prosecuted for one of my many miscarriages.  It can happen in any state.  If not, it can happen at the federal level if Republican have wins in 2016 taking over either in Congress or the White House, or (gasp) both.

All these issues occupy my thinking of late, all of which are so complicated and layered, I can’t even begin to touch on them here or do justice in any coherent matter that doesn’t sound like ranting to me.  While it would offer a therapeutic outlet to simply rant and list what is distressing, it feels futile and a bit impossible to do justice to any of it.  It’s not an easy task to discuss all the layers, neatly, sequenced, without conflating it all.  I don’t know how to adequately: tackle the historical contexts, give examples of detrimental impact on our nation, state obviousness of religious influence in US governing, argue for the amazing pillars this country was built on such as separation of church and state, demonstrate the impact of self serving interpretations of constitutional amendments and Christianity in justifying control over others; how all this is no different than Sha’riah law currently practiced in Muslim countries.

This is the rabbit hole my mind encounters.  How does one speak to all the perverse legal developments surrounding women’s bodies and guns, and the obvious perverse correlations.

And make no mistake.  There is perversity in all of it.

I’ve come to appreciate how we come across people or events just when your mind is grappling with something or looking for a particular answer.  And at some point, you encounter someone or something that helps to add perspective or even make sense of it all.

As I contemplated the rabbit hole and the futility of writing two things happened.  First, I happened to watch a movie “The Whistleblower” (2010).  I hadn’t read through reviews or even gotten much sense of the subject.  I just noticed Rachel Weisz and that it was a thriller, and put it on.  It was hard to watch, and had it been fictional, I would have turned it off. Although I had to forward through some of the scenes, I found myself debating whether graphic depictions were exploitative and unnecessary, as with many other movies that try to capture rape and violence against women.  But in this case, the movie didn’t spend a lot of time indulging in the scenes.  Instead the few brief scenes force you to see how dehumanized the women were.  How the women were things, unapologetically and easily controlled, through fear and violence, and not just by a battalion of men, but directly and indirectly by entire countries, governments, and the UN.  It did more than I could to demonstrate how women and their bodies are seen by people and by governments as objects, not human, over which power can be exerted, justifiably… as the one character says, “war whores” are to be expected.  Of course, I know the horrors of human trafficking and of war exist, but did not know of this specific story as recent as 1999.

This story is just one small, tiny period of time in one country. There are millions more stories before, during, and after this one.

For most living protected lives in the US and few other countries, gushing with free will, these things are unimaginable horrors.  And when convenient, they are simply uncommon or fictional accounts.

This film helped me because it demonstrates what I am unable to write and what has been keeping me up at nights—women’s bodies, sex, guns, violence, power, privilege, all perversely connected to one another in how any government can justify controlling one group over another.  It speaks volumes of how anything, absolutely anything can be justified and dismissed for a “higher purpose” and for the benefit of privilege, in this case male privilege.  There is privilege in being able to openly ignore sex trafficking with the direct and indirect involvement of government leaders and then to get away with it, without consequences.  One has to be in a position of privilege to see another as “not human”.  One can only rely on the privilege to openly inflict bodily torture as an expression of power, for one’s own amusement, satisfaction, personal gain, and/or control.  One has to see a woman as an object or vehicle to justify control over her body.

Similarly, there is privilege in thinking laws can be implemented to dictate a woman’s reproductive abilities, which by the way, a God-given gift only to a woman.  Another gift is her brain, her decision making abilities, and her free well, all combined to make a powerful determination as to what best to do for her body.

Similarly, there is privilege in creating “stand your ground laws”, when there is a history of gun violence disproportionately hurting and killing minorities, women, and children.  There is privilege in forging ahead with these laws even knowing the inconsistent applications of the law, overwhelmingly favoring white males.

Coincidentally, the day after watching the film and the same week as I’ve been distressed by the last few weeks of legislative battles, the second thing that happened was coming across an essay in this month’s Reader’s Digest (April 2014), “The Stem & The Flower” by David Brooks.  I had been putting off reading the issue and I always read it cover to cover in one sitting.  But I kept delaying it, and as with many things, I sat down with the digest when it was meant to give me perspective when I got to this subheading:

In the garden of democracy, politics should support, not dominate, our lives.

The article was written for me, delivered to me in the “nick of time”, as it starts with the following first sentence.

How much emotional and psychic space should politics take up in a normal, healthy brain?

Going onto share the following wisdom, Brooks writes:

Imagine you are going to a picnic Government is properly in charge of maintaining the essential background order: making sure there is a park, that is reasonably clean and safe, arranging public transportation so as many people as possible can get to it. But if you remember the picnic afterward, these things won’t be what you remember.  You’ll remember the creative food, the interesting conversations, and the fun activities.

Government is the hard work of creating a background order, but it is not the main substance of life…. Government can set the stage but it can’t be the play….

I liken this analogy to government’s role in women’s lives and their reproductive powers, where the government should maintain the health care system and ensure access to safe medical care for all.  It’s up to each individual, in this case, women to determine what is what is needed for their bodies and reproductive health.  Decisions related to their bodies and fertility can be left to women, recognizing that they alone have the power to bring life into this world, and they are alone in this reality and it’s consequences, no matter what the outcome or whose external involvement.

And then, Brooks offers me advice personally:

Unless you’re in the business of politics… [it] should take up a tenth corner of a good citizen’s mind.  The rest should be philosophy, friendship, romance, family, culture, and fun.

Very timely advice, since the politics are taking up 90% of my brain of late… I spent hours writing about it in my journal, and then I’m writing about it here, I’m reading every related headline… my brain actually has been hurting.

For me and my brain, the movie demonstrated all the connections that I couldn’t, for myself if no one else; and the essay allowed me to sleep last night and get up this morning with the decisions to play with the kids and ignore tasks on my formidable, never-ending to do list.

Perhaps I can’t tackle all the issues in a combined fashion, and admittedly, it’s too humbling a task.  But I do recognize that talking about infertility or fertility has to address these issues, if not altogether, then most definitely, one at a time.

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