Why not...

My last of twenty-seven years in the secondary classroom, my baby just now in college, a government and economy looking like something out of Duck Soup, a pituitary tumor, chronic migraines... Hell, why not write a blog?

(My students are now gone. I'm now a civilian and really no longer a "lame duck." I hope the readers of Mama Duck will come to my new blog for some new writing and new directions. My new blog is at: Writing Isle to Isle.)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Welcome to Gilead: Now Spread Those Pretty Little Handmaid Legs for Your Transvaginal Ultrasound.

The problem at my age having read a shit load of both fiction and politics is sometimes I get the two worlds crossed. Take this week. I guess I thought I was living in 2012 America—quirky, polarized, crazy as hell in the South, sure--but still bound by the Supreme Court ruling in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey,, 505 U.S. 833 (1992). You remember, that pesky little no “undue burden standard” left us by Sandra Day O’Connor when she was the swing vote darling on the Supreme Court? What was undue burden? Well, it was O’Connor’s grand bargain, tenuously upholding a woman’s right to choose an abortion if need be, but it prevented states from placing any "substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability." I went to sleep last night thinking that decision was still in place and that birth control was a standard and accepted feature of women’s health. I slumbered in a blissfully ignorant state where the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause protects more than just corporate speech. It protects my daughter’s privacy.

But good gynecological gawd! I awoke this morning, not in America, but scared shitless in Gilead, Margaret Atwood’s cautionary theocratic and authoritarian hell for women. If you haven’t read that book, The Handmaid’s Tale, you’d recognize the setting—it’s a lot like Texas, Oklahoma, and now Virginia. These are the clever uber-patriarchal states that have passed “transvaginal ultrasound laws,” which require women to submit to having rods with cameras rammed up their vaginas for no medical purpose other than to shame the women and edify the Republican right. Seriously, this week’s news is so much like Atwood’s 1986 “scare-your-Victoria-Secrets-panties-off” world where fundamentalists are in power and female suffrage, contraception, abortion, hell even women’s literacy are verboten that I’m sporting a red robe tonight. The Gilead she portrayed put dissidents, non-Christians, and homosexuals to death. In this dick-led dystopia, pollutants damaged the nation’s inhabitants to the point of mass infertility. So those in the high echelons who were eggless or with sperm that preferred to hang out and pray rather than swim used “handmaids” for procreation. Those “lucky” women with a good crop of eggs were treasured brood sows for barren, upper crust Christian couples. Offred, named for Fred, the commander who owns her (Of Fred—get it?), must endure monthly couplings when Fred mounts her like a sweaty, panting missionary while she lies between his seething wife’s legs. Yuck. The image of Rick Santorum in this role is doing me a hell of a lot of emotional damage that might only be remedied by a full Saturday of George Clooney movies and a Costco pack of D cell batteries. Without such an intervention, I might become completely asexual.

But let’s explore these “transvaginal ultrasound laws.” Of course, they’re not called that. No, they’re dressed up in nice little Orwellian dresses like Virginia’s law, which claims it’s all part of “informed consent for abortion.” But when women “consent” to the abortion, those “Commanders of the Faithful”—that top tier crowd of men quite pious and planted in Virginia’s legislature-- have written the law so that women also “consent” to having their vaginas probed by a ultrasound wand. In other words, no camera up your vagina; no abortion. There’s no consent at all. 

This procedure, of course, is entirely unnecessary. In fact, according to the American College of Radiology and the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine, “for first-trimester ultrasound scanning, ACOG recommends trans-vaginal or trans-perineal scanning if the trans-abdominal exam is not definitive. ACOG offers a list of 12 “indications” for doing this type of scan, which include attempts to confirm a suspected ectopic pregnancy, to assess for fetal anomalies, to evaluate vaginal bleeding or pelvic pain, or to estimate gestational age.” (VA Ultrasound Bill at Odds with Medical Standards) Abortion simply didn’t make their list. So the only reason to write such a procedure into law is to humiliate and intimidate a woman seeking an abortion.

Virginia, of course, is not alone in passing these state in your woo hoo laws. And who's really surprised that Texas has one? I mean really. In Texas, the “OfRicks”, or women whose vaginas are now property of the state should they choose abortion are required to sign this “consent” form:


Talk about the progressive part of Gilead! At least in Texas, if you've been raped, a second penetration of your vagina may be waved with the above clause. Those boys are so thoughtful down there. Across the border in Oklahoma, that's where you'll find some tough fundamentalist sons-of-bitches though. By God, rape is no excuse there! No whining! No sympathy. Suck it up! Here comes the wand. The commanders are fully in charge in the "Sooner State."

And hell, I haven't even started talking about the "personhood laws." Laws that make birth control that prevents implantation after fertilization illegal, not to mention thirty other scenarios I can't even begin to write about. Blood pressure....eating binge...too many side effects for me at this point. (Deep breath and sigh.)

Clearly we’re all living in a scary land. Our daughters are nothing more than “two-legged wombs, that’s all: sacred vessels, ambulatory chalices.” (The Handmaid’s Tale)  Rick Santorum, about three hairs to the right of Pope Benedict XVI, says of contraception:  “It’s not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. They’re supposed to be within marriage, they are supposed to be for purposes that are, yes, conjugal, but also [inaudible], but also procreative.” Today Darrel Issa, “Chair-commander” of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, framed nicely an investigation on women’s health coverage entitled “Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State:  Has the Obama Administration trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?” That he didn’t allow women to testify made it clear what kind of rules we’re to operate under in Gilead.

As Offred tells us in The Handmaid’s Tale, “I would like to believe this is a story I’m telling. I need to believe it. I must believe it. Those who can believe that such stories are only stories have a better chance. If it’s a story I’m telling, then I have control over the ending. Then there will be an ending, to the story, and real life will come after it. I can pick up where I left off.” The sad, fucking truth is that this is real, and it’s up to us as women to stand up and get mad. So call your legislator, sign a petition, and get ready to march in comfortable shoes, cause ladies, we’ve got a hell of a lot of work to do!

So get busy. Here's a way to start.  
1. Send your senator an email:    Senate emails
2. Send your member of Congress an email:House email link
3. You might send a note to Representative Darrel Issa and let him know that women should be a part of any discussion of birth control: Representative Darrell Issa

4. A boycott of Virginia and letting Governor Bob McDonnell know why you won't be visiting might be a nice touch:Governor Bob McDonnell, Virginia 
Of course, that's just a start. There are other ways...but no need wasting a good snit. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Gay Marriage will Ruin My Marriage?

The happy couple in 1992
Big news from my state: our legislature passed gay marriage and the bill is on its way to Governor Christine Gregoire for her signature, which she promises to deliver Monday. Just in time for Valentines Day. Oooh, wee! Phew! Raise your mimosa, girlfriend! I’m trying to take it all in, because it’s evidently going to irrevocably change my life, or so says groups at CPAC and covens like Concerned Women for America. They tell us this week’s Ninth Circuit Court's ruling, which overturned California's Prop 8, and the upcoming extension of nuptials to Washington State’s gay and lesbian community are the end of marriage and ultimately the family. Or, as the girls at Concerned Women for America warn, “homosexual marriage will devalue your marriage. A license to marry is a legal document by which government will treat same-sex marriage as if it were equal to the real thing.” They go on to argue:
“If the Smithsonian Museum displays a hunk of polished blue glass next to the Hope Diamond with a sign that says, ‘These are of equal value,’ and treats them as if they were, the Hope Diamond is devalued in the public's eye. The government says it's just expensive blue glass. The history and mystery are lost too.”
Holy hardest known natural material! As a teacher who starts every year with a unit on logic and fallacies, those ladies have seduced me with their clear metaphorical reasoning! (That didn’t sound too gay did it?) Moreover, the idea that my polished blue glass marriage might get plunked down next to a Hope Diamond coupling...Oops. (Sorry, I have a hard time telling diamonds from cubic zirconia—they’re both lovely at ten paces.) That’s the other way around. Let’s fix that. The idea that my Hope Diamond marriage might get plunked down next to a piece of polished blue glass…well you can see that I’m bound as a blogger to detail out how much I’ll miss my marriage and my husband once this whole thing unravels as a result of some guys with good taste tying what will no doubt be a fabulous knot. And you can bet your evangelical tight asses when they do, the guys exchanging vows with a Northwest software industry backdrop won’t be wearing cubic zirconia!
         The Concerned girls for America are justifiably worried that history and mystery will be lost. It’s probably a good idea here to tell you a bit about the history and mystery of my marriage, just so you’ll see how much I’ll lose when these gays break up my twenty-year union.
         In terms of history, I met my husband after spending a summer researching frontier prostitution in Idaho’s Coeur d’Alene mining district. I came back to my teaching job that fall with boxes of nineteenth century police records, fire insurance maps and more research than any master’s thesis could ever use. I’d been on a research project of sorts for the right guy up to that age (30), and like beads on a rosary, I had collected the right guy (or so I thought before then) at the wrong time, nice guys most of the time, and then wrong guys too much of the time.
In a 1980 VW Rabbit with the backseat removed for his Samoyed, my teacher husband drove into my life. His big, white doggie buddy rarely rode in the back, though, simply because he preferred to ride shotgun and snack on Twizzlers with the boss. I was absolutely bedazzled. For this scene contrasted sharply to the previous guy I’d dated, a wealthy Seattle businessman who couldn’t date on Sundays, because that was the day he washed his expensive yuppie car. Guess which bead on the rosary he was.
Mr. 1980 VW Rabbit and I flirted for a few weeks, and then he got up the courage to leave a sticky note under my door asking me on a date. (I’ve still got that sticky note in my jewelry box.) That date all but cinched the deal for me, and within a month I was packing up my cozy little beach cottage and moving in with him and a dog with a penchant for Twizzlers.
That’s the beginning of our history. The mystery I suppose is marriage itself, that journey that puts you on roads you never dreamed you’d travel. I now ride shotgun, or to be more precise, he often does because I have a problem with chicken breaking. On our journey we’ve driven through a rough pregnancy and all the subsequent twists and turns and lovely country of raising our beautiful daughter. My husband travels with a high maintenance partner that he takes too often to emergent care for migraine rescues, where he sits quietly in dark rooms until the medicine kicks in and my vomiting stops. He travels with someone who’s had to stop the journey for surgery several times, including neurosurgery. On this journey we’ve remodeled houses and our original expectations of marriage. We’ve battled, unpacked our past baggage, and then figured out what baggage to continue to carry and what to leave behind. We’ve laughed and laughed and laughed. We’ve buried our family members and held each other in that grief. We’ve carefully red-penned road maps, and now we’re heading to a new direction together next year, a new life neither of us would have dreamed even five years ago would ever be possible. Regardless of what opportunities or travails await us around the next turn, I plan on remaining strapped in next to this best of all friends and men, because I love him madly. Yeah, I’ll sure miss him now that gay marriage is around. I’m damn sure all of our hard-earned bond will suddenly veer off this matrimonial road.
Now let’s rationally examine if a gay or lesbian coupling could match what we have, and if they can’t, then I suppose, like those bun-coiffed white breads at Concerned Women for America, I’ll just have to follow their diamond/blue glass logic. Let’s take a fictitious lesbian couple, for example. I can think more like a lesbian than a gay male for obvious reasons. Plus, I do have a promise to myself that should I ever cross that sexual Rubicon, I’m shooting for a three-way with Rachel Maddow and Stephanie Miller. But I digress…
Would a lesbian ever go through relationship after relationship in her twenties awaiting Ms. Right? And then, upon meeting her, immediately know it and rush headlong into the relationship? Check.
Would a lesbian get all smitten by a canine-toting smart girl in an old car? Oh hell yes. Or then stick with that smart girl, and that smart girl stick with her through childbirth, parenting, medical crises, grief, and all of life’s changing directions? Uh…yeah. Could those two love each other madly? Well, of course. Why is that hard to understand?
So which then is diamond and which is cubic zirconia? Nobody knows until they’ve been in marriage for a while. There are no guarantees. The only thing that makes a marriage a diamond is its hardness, its imperviousness to chipping and the hot pressures of the world. And that quite frankly is based in values, luck, timing, and a commitment to one another. The hard work of marriage isn’t packed between your legs. Marriage is a diamond if it helps two people travel through this big mean world; marriage is a diamond if it gives two people diamond strength.
But those smug klugs at Concerned Women for America counter with one more metaphor to support their diamond reasoning. And this one is as brilliant as they are:
“If government grants professional licenses to just anybody, every profession and qualified professional is devalued. The government says an uneducated panhandler can do brain surgery.”
Clearly those girls’ polyester pantsuits are chaffing in places they shouldn’t. This is what we call arguing through inappropriate metaphor in my government classes, and oh, what a beauty of an example. Makes me almost want to teach next year and not retire just so I can share this one in my opener unit. I said almost.