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The “Religious Freedom” Question of the Birth Control “Mandate” is Irrelevant.

There’s been a lot of recent to-do about the recent birth control “mandate” President Obama passed down a few weeks ago. Many of the logical points have been covered: This is not the Catholic States of America; women have a right to choose their own individual morality; no one is forcing anyone to be sterilized, take birth control or wear a condom; churches don’t have to pay for contraception; other denominations have to pay for all kinds of things that violate their conscience, but no one ever complains about Quakers having to pay for wars; and on and on and on… This will not be a long post.

The we-hate-women side has been adamant that “This isn’t about contraception; it’s about religious liberty.” That’s great, because if it were about contraception, they’d lose the eventual vote. The population of the United States, overall, loves contraception and a sixty+ percent majority believes it should be covered by insurance, even by religious organizations.

However, they’ve done us all the favor, if only people would remember their history. The Supreme Court already decided, waaaaay back in 1982, that religious organizations don’t get to choose what their employees believe. In this court case, United States vs. Lee, an Amish employer failed to withhold Social Security monies from his non-Amish employees because he disagreed with Social Security as an institution. The Supreme Court ruled, in plain, simple English that:

“If for example, a religious adherent believes war is a sin, and if a certain percentage of the federal budget can be identified as devoted to war-related activities, such individuals would have a similarly valid claim to be exempt from paying that percentage of the income tax. The tax system could not function if denominations were allowed to challenge the tax system because tax payments were spent in a manner that violates their religious belief … because the broad public interest in maintaining a sound tax system is of such a high order, religious belief in conflict with the payment of taxes affords no basis for resisting the tax.”

Not only does this claim that all of the complaining the Extreme Right does about funding abortion is unconstitutional, it also settles the matter of religious liberty as it relates to birth control. The “broad public interested” is clearly on the side of free contraception.

In case that doesn’t convince the nay-sayers and those turned off by the idea that women might be able to control their bodies, the Court also said that:

“‎When followers of a particular sect enter into commercial activity as a matter of choice, the limits they accept on their own conduct as a matter of conscience and faith are not to be superimpos­ed on the statutory schemes that are binding on others in that activity.”

So there we go. No person entering into a commercial activity (meaning “any business meant to turn a profit”) can play God to his or her employees. This shatters the Blunt Amendment (which states that any employer can deny coverage for any treatment for any reason) and also provides a decent precedent for telling the other non-church-but-religious organizations that are still protesting where to get off.

This was not meant to be a long post (and, compared to my typical diatribes, I think I did quite well on it). It was meant as a post that I hope many people read and a few pass on. In reality, it will be a post that is long forgotten as the War on Women rages on. No, I am not hyperbolizing. Yes, I do fear for my right to bodily autonomy. Call me a feminazi, call me an alarmist. I’m not sorry and I’m not wrong.

I only just yesterday saw Sucker Punch. Holy Shit, this movie is offensive. (Guest post by Felix Anderson)

In what world is it okay for a story about battered women to be marketed and delivered as badass T&A eye candy?

You all saw the trailers, right? The movie was marketed as a sexy fantasy action-fest. Swords swinging, bare thighs soaring trough the air. Let me start by saying that there’s nothing inherently wrong with this. Lots of movies exist for the purpose of action sexiness, and I’ll never say that that function shouldn’t exist.

But this movie is not that. Here’s the movie that was at the other end of all that tits and swordplay marketing:

A girl gets committed to a women’s mental institute after accidentally shooting her little sister while trying to defend her sister from her abusive stepfather.

In an expositional scene, Babydoll (we never hear another name), her father, and a man that I’ll call the Warden of the asylum walk into a room called the theater.

[Theater]
Warden >So the girls use this place to be social. Dr. Gorski, she uses it to help them deal with their issues. Polish therapy. Hmhmm (light chuckle). It’s really quite a show watching them act out who touched them or beat them or whatever. Dr. Gorski seems to think it helps them. I’m not so sure, but whether it does or doesn’t won’t matter much to you because once we take care of a little bit of business, there won’t be any of that or this one.
Father >Good
W >She’ll be in paradise, if you know what I mean. [It’s soon made clear that he’s referring to lobotomy.] And all of your troubles will be over. Right? Now, I know we said fourteen hundred, on the phone, *sigh* I’m taking a really big risk here. So it’s gonna have to be two grand even.
F >What the hell are you talking about? Don’t try and cheat me. We had a deal.
W >Listen. Father. I’m not gonna tell you what to do. Clearly you’re a man that can take care of himself. I don’t know what you did to this girl, and frankly I don’t wanna know. But what are you gonna tell the detectives when they come snooping around? I’m sure they’re gonna love to get her side of the story.
F >Yeah. [nods, hands money]
W >Okay.

So we’re informed here that virtually all of the inmates have been physically and/or sexually abused in their pasts, and that this trauma is exploited to the amusement of asylum staff. There are also multiple scenes in which one of the staff intends to rape an inmate (once by the cook, and once by the warden.) This place is an abusive hellhole.

In five days, the lobotomy doctor is going to arrive and lobotomize her.

For some reason, most of the movie takes place in a fantasy version of reality, which I’ll call metaphoric reality. In metaphoric reality, the mental institute is now a club for erotic dancing and prostitution (inmates are dancers/prostitutes), headed by the warden whose name is now Blue. In five days the High Roller (lobotomy doctor) will come and Babydoll’s virginity will be sold to him. Dr. Gorski is now dance instructor and caretaker Madame Gorski.

It’s soon revealed that Babydoll has a special ability of sorts, that consists of a super-erotic dance that mesmerizes its audience without fail. (By the way, this is metaphoric reality. It’s never shown what action this dance corresponds to in literal reality.) But the movie audience never sees the dance; instead, whenever she dances, it’s represented by the action sequences we saw in the trailers. In the first such scene, Babydoll receives vision-quest-like guidance for a mission to escape.

Guide >You will need five items for this journey. The first is a map. Then fire, a knife, and a key.
Babydoll >You said five things.
G >The fifth thing is a mystery. It is the reason. It is the goal. It will be a deep sacrifice and a perfect victory. Only you can find it. And if you do, it will set you free.

From there, Babydoll forms a plan to acquire these items by dancing for a man that has each of these respective things, and having one of the other girls pickpocket it from him. Every action segment is a symbolic stand in for Babydoll dancing.

It’s supposed to be empowering. These girls are fighting against their abusive, oppressive prison, and this is symbolized by fantasy badassery. But even in their empowered fantasy, they’re still just performing a sexy service for men! These are the scenes that got people into the theaters. They wear high heels (ridiculous for an action hero), one of them sucks on a lollipop, they all have plenty of breast and thigh showing. The girls’ fantasy relief from being sex slaves for Blue is to instead be sex objects for the movie audience.

This reminds me of a vital media archetype, the Empowerful Woman, articulated by feminist blogger Twisty:
She may only earn 3/4 of what a man earns, but she damn well has the empower to look sexy doing it in her cheapcrap push-up bra from Victoria’s Secret. She has the empower to demand pink products from manufacturers. She has the empower to cry out ‘I did it for me!’ when she gets her boob job; maybe she even has the empower to believe it. The empowerful woman is saucy, yet feminine. Clever, yet feminine. In her early thirties, yet feminine. Heterosexual, yet feminine. Stays in shape eating Lean Cuisine and sweating blue Gatorade while kickboxing in slow motion, yet feminine. Yes, the empowerful woman is many things. Too bad powerful isn’t one of them. That’s because feminine is all of them.
http://blog.iblamethepatriarchy.com/2006/08/26/sports-and-corsetry/

It gets worse.

Climax of the movie is nearing. Of the girls trying to escape, only Babydoll and Sweet Pea are still alive. They get to the outside of the compound, but there are people looking for them, and they’re going to be trapped. Remember the mysterious fifth thing?

The fifth thing is a mystery. It is the reason. It is the goal. It will be a deep sacrifice and a perfect victory. Only you can find it. And if you do, it will set you free.

Well, now Babydoll has the epiphany that the fifth thing is herself. She distracts the people searching for her, knowing that now she’ll have to face the High Roller, so that Sweet Pea can escape.
That’s right. Babydoll’s most mysterious, essential, potent resource is herself. But not in a you-can-rely-on-yourself way, but in a the-only-way-you-can-succeed-in-your-mission-is-to-sacrifice-your-body-to-rape kind of way.

Aaaaaand for the most offensive moment in the movie, this is a scene from the extended cut. The scene with the High Roller.

All I require from you is a sliver of a moment. To have you not by force, but simply as man and a woman. To see in your eyes, that simple truth that you give yourself to me freely. Not because you have to, but… because you want to. Now, of course, for such a gem, I will give as well. I’m willing to give you freedom. Pure and total freedom. freedom from the drudgery or everyday life, freedom as abstract ideal, freedom from pain, freedom from responsibility, freedom from guilt, from regret, freedom from sadness, freedom from loss, freedom to be happy.
Don’t close your eyes. I want you to look at me.
Freedom to love.
Um… What about the fact that there’s nothing free whatsoever about the way she’s giving herself? Also, how is it that metaphoric Stockholm Syndrome-d rape is freedom? The message seems to be that you can experience perfect bliss and freedom, even in the face of abuse, if you just let go and accept your abuse.

In both the original version and extended cut, we snap back to the real world, where the doctor has just performed the lobotomy, and he comments that she had a strange look in her eyes, “like she wanted me to do it.”

The movie is supposed to be about empowered women fighting for their life while using fantasy to escape the harsh reality of their circumstances. But it ends up delivering the message that a woman’s greatest and only weapon is her body, whether it be by dancing seductively or by actually sacrificing herself to her enemies. And, as a cherry on the misogyny sundae, when she finally gets raped/lobotomized, “she wanted it.”

Response to “It is Unacceptable to Allow Government to Play Politics with the Lives of Women”

After reading this blog post, I felt compelled to leave a comment. I’m reposting it here.

“This was a very good post. Thank you for writing it.

My issue with all of this is summed up in your headline: It IS unacceptable for the government to play politics with the lives of women. Why? Because, simply put, no other medical procedure is treated as terribly as abortion (though others that involve the lives of women as it relates to sex are more regulated than others).

I think that breast augmentation is silly. Is it the right of women (or even men) to add to their bust if they want? Of course. Are there risks? Yes. Is it necessary? No. Shouldn’t they just suck it up and accept that they aren’t ‘jug’gernauts? Probably. But is it my right to tell them they can’t do it? No way. Would there be an uprising if the government tried to regulate this the way they set up road blocks for contraception, voluntary sterilization and abortion? You. Bet. Your. Life.

Breast augmentation (to continue this hypothetical) is riskier than abortion and far less natural, but it’s easier to get one than an abortion in almost every state in the U.S. When I told my doctor in my late teens that I wanted to look into tubal litigation as a very real option, I was told no. I would change my mind. I would regret it. I’d meet the right man. I couldn’t make up my own mind because I was just a dumb kid. I’m older now and I still face the same things: Just a dumb kid, can’t make up your own mind. It’s insulting to women to create any legislation whatsoever to stand in the way of them making their own choices about what happens to their bodies. On the off chance I had found someone willing to perform the procedure that I had researched and decided was right for me and I *had* ended up regretting it, it wouldn’t matter. Know why? There are hundreds of thousands of children who desperately want families. I’d still be able to be just as much of a “mommy” without my ovaries as I would be with.

This also shows a horrific double-standard as it relates to women’s right to bodily autonomy: No one else in any other stadium of life is ever expected by society (or told by the government!) to compromise themselves physically for the sake of another. That is, no person can use anyone’s organs without consent. Rape is illegal for this reason. Black market organ harvesting is illegal for this reason, too. Courts have sided time and time again with family members of sick people who refused to donate their organs (there was a court case in Ohio in the 1980s wherein a dying brother sued his healthy brother for denying him a transplant — even though the healthy brother did not need two kidneys to live, the courts found that the sick brother’s “right to life” did not extend to include unwilling use of the healthy brother’s body). The thought that a uterus would be treated any differently than any other organ is another indication that our society has built up women as, for lack of a better term, subhuman: if you have a uterus, you should not get to choose what happens to it. Even if a fetus were a human life, there is no justification (logically, emotionally and certainly not legally) for it to have rights greater than any other living being, man or woman.

Again, a great post and thank you.”

GOP votes 240-185 to defund all Family Planning.

This happened days ago. I meant to write something provocative and meaningful. I will.

 

But I’ve been weeping for the past several days.

 

I will write more when I can see straight.

 

Now is the time to contact your senator and implore that they acknowledge women’s status as humans.