The Radical Notion

Encouraging women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians

On Appeasement April 1, 2009

Today, we have two recent examples of political appeasement – one in Afghanistan, and one in the United States. In the U.S., Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius, who is nominated to head the Department of Health and Human Services, has signed into law a bill passed in the Kansas legislature, restricting women’s abortion rights (via).

As far as fetal ultrasound mandates go, I think Twisty says it best:

Because stupid ignorant women apparently don’t have the slightest idea what pregnancy is; they need this vital information, available only through a medical procedure, about what is really going on in their lady-ovens. If they are given the opportunity (i.e. forced) to endure a fetus-screening (”Here’s baby’s precious little beating heart, here’s his adorable little brain stem …”), they will see the error of their ways and comply with the godbag mandate to shut up and be punished for the sin of fornication by incubating to term, followed by a lifetime of child-rearing drudgery.

[…]For a woman seeking an abortion, this weepy ultrasound intervention, like most state and medical interference in private lives, is wildly inappropriate. It’s nothing but pressure to conform by shaming the woman into a culturally-mandated response. No “information” is imparted, only social cues. The only possible rationale behind any […]anti-abortion bill is to make abortion as inconvenient, shaming, and difficult as possible.

But why would Sebelius, a notably pro-choice governor of an anti-choice state, suddenly vote against her record? From the NYT article, we get this scintillating tidbit: “Kansas abortion opponents had predicted that Ms. Sebelius, who is awaiting Senate confirmation for the health and human services post, would sign the bill to appear more moderate.” That’s right – Sebelius’s HHS nomination has spurred a wave of anti-choice protest.

Even though the official letter for “the cause” mentions that under Sebelius’s rule as governor, Kansas actually saw a decrease in the number of abortions performed, the fact that she managed to do so while “vot[ing] to weaken or eliminate even such modest measures as unborn victims, parental notification, waiting periods and informed consent, […] cut[ting] state funding for abortion alternatives, veto[ing] a bill imposing minimal sanitary standards on abortion clinics, and veto[ing] a bill that would have strengthened late term abortion law” – in other words, the fact that she managed to reduce the number of abortions while at the same respecting women’s autonomy and not shaming them into not getting a routine medical procedure that would greatly improve their quality of life, means that she is wholly reprehensible and unworthy of leading the country on health-related issues (file this under “being anti-choice has nothing to do with the babies!”, as well).

What is unfortunate is that Sebelius, despite demonstrating a firm respect for women’s reproductive rights during her tenure as governor, has now taken a step back and signed a law that will impact Kansans long after she has moved to Washington. It’s pretty shitty that that’s what someone has to do to be in the Cabinet of a pro-choice President – demonstrate at least a token resistance to allowing women to make their own medical decisions.

Of course, that it’s not the most notable news in the “compromising with misogynistic wingnuts” category this week is even more upsetting. Afghan president Hamid Karzai, who is up for reelection, signed into law earlier this month a bill that:

is believed to contain articles that rule women cannot leave the house without their husbands’ permission, that they can only seek work, education or visit the doctor with their husbands’ permission, and that they cannot refuse their husband sex. A briefing document prepared by the United Nations Development Fund for Women also warns that the law grants custody of children to fathers and grandfathers only.

This is, of course, the same Hamid Karzai that just a few short weeks ago, warmed the cockles of our hearts by making a speech on International Women’s Day, in which he “challenged Afghan religious leaders to denounce violence against women and reject traditional practices that treat women as property”. Why has his tune changed? Why indeed.

After seven years leading Afghanistan, Karzai is increasingly unpopular at home and abroad and the presidential election in August is expected to be extremely closely fought. A western diplomat said the law represented a “big tick in the box” for the powerful council of Shia clerics. Leaders of the Hazara minority, which is regarded as the most important bloc of swing voters in the election, also demanded the new law.

Ooooof course they did. Other depressing tidbits about this latest news? (Emphasis mine in all cases)

  • Some female politicians have taken a more pragmatic stance, saying their fight in parliament’s lower house succeeded in improving the law, including raising the original proposed marriage age of girls from nine to 16 and removing completely provisions for temporary marriages.”It’s not really 100% perfect, but compared to the earlier drafts it’s a huge improvement,” said Shukria Barakzai, an MP.
  • Senator Humaira Namati, a member of the upper house of the Afghan parliament, said the law was “worse than during the Taliban“. “Anyone who spoke out was accused of being against Islam,” she said.
  • Ustad Mohammad Akbari, an MP and the leader of a Hazara political party, said the president had supported the law in order to curry favour among the Hazaras. But he said the law actually protected women’s rights.”Men and women have equal rights under Islam but there are differences in the way men and women are created. Men are stronger and women are a little bit weaker; even in the West you do not see women working as firefighters.”
  • It is one of the worst bills passed by the parliament this century,” fumed Shinkai Karokhail, a woman MP who campaigned against the legislation. […] The provisions are reminiscent of the hardline Taliban regime, which banned women from leaving their homes without a male relative.
  • The international community has so far shied away from publicly questioning such a politically sensitive issue.”It is going to be tricky to change because it gets us into territory of being accused of not respecting Afghan culture, which is always difficult,” a western diplomat in Kabul admitted.Soraya Sobhrang, the head of women’s affairs at the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, said western silence had been “disastrous for women’s rights in Afghanistan“.”What the international community has done is really shameful. If they had got more involved in the process when it was discussed in parliament we could have stopped it. Because of the election I am not sure we can change it now. It’s too late for that.”
  • This one is the crowning glory – at the International Conference on Afghanistan at The Hague yesterday (March 31) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “The status of Afghanistan’s army, the lives of women and girls, the country’s education and health systems are far better today than they were in 2001. So if all of us represented here work with the government and people of Afghanistan, we will help not only to secure their future, but ours as well.” This is, of course, the same Secretary of State Clinton that “at her confirmation hearing,  tied discrimination against women to the Taliban insurgency, slicing through the relativistic position Karzai is embracing by saying misogyny ‘is not culture, this is not custom, this is criminal.’ “

And another thing! [enters rant mode] Media networks covering this bill have been notably reluctant to spell out what the bill does: legalize marital rape (among other egregious things); they’ve instead most often chosen to put scare quotes around “legalize”, or have as the headline: “The UN claims it legalizes rape”.  I realize that some of this hesitancy is coming from the fact that the actual bill hasn’t yet been made public, and this is couple dwith the ever-present journalistic desire to cover one’s ass and avoid libel, but COME ON. Is marital rape (like date rape or statutory rape) not “real” rape? Journalists’ utter inability to utter the word “rape” when it is more than appropriate needs to end, fullstop. Calling something that is legally and morally rape, rape, is not “minimizing” the true horror of rape. It’s recognizing the reality and the actual horror all rape victims undergo, regardless of how closely their assault adheres to the “scary man jumping out of the bushes at night” idea. The sooner media outlets can bite the bullet and practice accurate reporting, the sooner Phyllis Schlafly can just go away and stop going on about how “when you get married you have consented to sex. That’s what marriage is all about, I don’t know if maybe these girls missed sex ed.” [ends rant mode].

The long and short of it is – wouldn’t it be nice if women’s rights to control their bodies and lives in the same way that men are unquestioningly allowed to do weren’t sacrificed at the altar of “politics”, “compromise”, and “bipartisanship” – in other words, appeasement in a cheap suit? Here’s hoping that day someday comes.

More posts on why ultrasound requirements suck ass:

Shakesville: Horrifying New Law: Forced Ultrasounds Condition of Abortion

Feministe: Twelve States Attempt Ultrasound-Related Abortion Restrictions

RH Reality Check: Ultrasound Before Abortion: A Wasteful Bullying Tactic

Alternet: New Oklahoma Law: Women Seeking Abortions Must Have Ultrasounds Against Their Will

More posts on marital rape:

Womanist Musings: A Wedding Ring Doesn’t Mean That It Isn’t Rape

abyss2hope: What Happens to Men Who Think Like Date Rapists After They Marry?

The Moderate Left: 8 (though this one is mainly about Proposition 8)

Feministing: Saudi Women Fighting Marital Rape

In addition, this post mentions (in passing) several good posts on the Dennis Prager fiasco discussed in one of the above links


2 Responses to “On Appeasement”

  1. […] rights, politics, sexism/misogyny, video Okay, so Obama has actually made a public statement about that law that stripped away women’s rights in Afghanistan, publicly condemning it while at the G20 conference […]

  2. […] on “On Appeasement“: Submitted on 2009/05/14 at […]

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