I Am Not a Political Football

[Content Note: Privilege; misogyny; hostility to agency.]

Here is something I've written: There are the occasions that men—intellectual men, clever men, engaged men—insist on playing devil's advocate, desirous of a debate on some aspect of feminist theory or reproductive rights or some other subject generally filed under the heading: Women's Issues. These intellectual, clever, engaged men want to endlessly probe my argument for weaknesses, want to wrestle over details, want to argue just for fun—and they wonder, these intellectual, clever, engaged men, why my voice keeps raising and why my face is flushed and why, after an hour of fighting my corner, hot tears burn the corners of my eyes. Why do you have to take this stuff so personally? ask the intellectual, clever, and engaged men, who have never considered that the content of the abstract exercise that's so much fun for them is the stuff of my life.

Here is another thing I've written: It is unfair to ask a woman to leave aside her personal experience and discuss feminist issues in the abstract. You are discussing the stuff of her life. Asking her to "not make it personal" is to ask her to wrench her womanhood from her personhood. Don't play Devil's advocate. Seriously. Just don't.

There are a lot of men (and this is not just a thing that men do to women, but a thing that privileged people do to people who do not share their privilege) who do not understand what The Big Deal is with talking to women about various things that fall under the umbrella of Women's Issues, especially reproductive rights, in ways that treat politics as nothing more than a game.

This morning, after I tweeted a link to my piece on the Indiana state senate's latest attack in the war on agency, this happened:

I don't want to appear to be picking on @MiguelCanabosis individually and exclusively, because this is pretty typical of a lot of exchanges I have on Twitter. It's just one example, and it just happened to be the most recent example on the day that I decided I wanted to say something about this sort of interaction.

The thing is, this shit is exhausting.

And I want to state very clearly that not all women feel the same way about this (or anything else, because we are not a monolith; also, not only women and not all women have uteri). There are some women who think of reproductive rights legislation in a strictly dispassionate, analytical, and impersonal way. There are some women who don't think about reproductive rights legislation at all.

But for those of us who do think about it, and who further think about it, either exclusively or in addition to analytically, in a passionate, intimate, and highly personal way, the quips and observations about whether the Republicans' continued attacks on our bodily autonomy, agency, and right of consent is good or bad politics is really fucking gross.

Not only does it elide the fact that conservatives have won a lot of goddamn battles, and constantly oblige reproductive rights advocates to fight and fight and fight against the onslaught of agency-denying horseshit, which is why there are currently 202 entries in Shakesville's Chipping Away at Roe label alone, but the flippancy of the "their overreach in trying to make your body state property will eventually work against them" premise is aggressively indifferent to the actual emotional toll it takes on lots of women to feel like we do not have the right of self-determination, to feel like we are not fully human, to feel like our country fucking hates us.

Being a real ally means centering the humanity of the people on whose behalf you intend to leverage your privilege, not letting your privilege insulate you from the ugly realities of the harm done by their marginalization.

If you seriously think it's a "good idea" to make millions of women feel this way, because politics is just a game to be a won, I strongly urge you to reconsider.

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