This week’s highlights include lots of exposed bewbage. I mean lots. Also, rather unbelievably, a visit from an anti-abortion extremist by the name of Gordon Watson. I wonder who made that phone call… *cough* Roger? *cough*
I woke up this morning with a terrible feeling in my gut, bordering on terror. I am sincerely horrified from recent events, and shaken to my core from recent correspondence (including but not limited to my ten-day notice), telephone calls (including but not limited to the one from Mr. Charles, that I’m still hyper-creeped out by), and what seems can only be desperate attempts to pull the covers back over entire communities within local kink — a form of complacence that is truly manufactured through mass manipulation of an ignorant (if not also creepy) herd. I dare to wonder what the motivations behind these behaviours are, because I know it can’t simply be blatant ignorance and lack of respect across the board. Water seeks its own level, and these are all people I had been swimming in the same pools with for years until very recently. Needless to say, my stomach was in knots and my body was feeling shaky all day. That is to say nothing at all of where my head was at.
I stepped out there anyway, in my hyper-ridiculous “thought police” regalia. Support arrived within minutes, providing much-needed distraction and a sense of relief. And happily, despite initial doubts, we had plenty of support today. Especially from the abortion clinic — more on that momentarily. Today was a remarkably minimal-sexism day, and I mean with added emphasis on remarkably. It afforded me the opportunity to read some of the sandwich boards the small posse of misogynists pretending to be pro-lifers were actually walking around in. Last week, one of them said “If I’m [graphic: fetus] not a child, then you’re not pregnant!” I pointed at it and laughed, saying “But both of these things are true!” But this week, I noticed one of them said “Kill her [graphic: newborn infant], it’s murder; but kill her [graphic: fetus again], it’s abortion!” And again, I couldn’t help but laugh, because both of these statements are true. It’s not even closely resembling an argument. It’s just a farce with these people. And I laughed extra hard when a woman walked up to the one named Roger, and asked him if he’s ever been pregnant (he mumbled no). Then she asked him if he’s ever been raped (he said no a little louder this time). And she said “Well what do you have to do with any of this? Why are you here? Why don’t you just go home!” When I stopped laughing for a moment, I said in my “thought police” voice, “Woah, woah. Slow down there. Do you know how fast you were thinking?” And then I started cackling again, because who can keep a straight face around assholes like this?
The Abortion Clinic Staff
Today we were graced by visits from not one, but two of the abortion clinic staff, who came down to take more pictures and videos of us and chat a bit about their jobs. They are delighted to be a part of access to legal, safe abortion procedures for many women who need them. As grim as an experience as abortion often is (in large part due to stigma and the need for secrecy, as well as expectations of shame and grief), the staff genuinely enjoy being a part of making the procedure itself as painless and compassionate as possible, and the first couple of days after as easy as possible. Women are well cared for at this clinic, and that’s why the staff are committed to their jobs (happily so). It was really uplifting to hear this, because I had such a morbid experience working for both an eye surgeon and a family doctor (some of those experiences informing parts of my blog post on miscarriages and reproductive injustice), that it definitely helps me in my recovery process to hear about much more positive experiences from staff in a similar position in medical clinics. But what really warmed me up, to the point that I needed to hug them as much as possible (and I hope I get to do that again next week), is that they told us our presence is a morale booster for them — they are going to start a donation drive to help us get professionally printed signs.
Flash Mob, Or Pretty Close To What That Originally Meant
With clear blue skies and a major wave of heat, it got too hot to wear clothes even in the shade. Until today, I was the only one down to bottoms-only except for last week’s topless brawl and one other just-bra-on-top isolated incident. But despite the fact that some random guy told me it’s “disrespectful” to be down to duct tape pasties and a pair of underwear (disrespectful of what, exactly?), half a dozen of us went full-on topless for more than an hour. And the amazing thing was that just one guy said something entitled. He said “Next week everyone should show up in bikinis” with a shit-eating grin on his face. And I said “They should show up in whatever they want that day.” No threats of violence. No whistle-blowing to drown out sexist rants. He just walked away. Amazing. Also some random dude tried to photo-bomb us, so we made him hold up a sign. Because we’re bad-asses like that. Being awesome is clearly our collective superpower.
Well it seems the sexism that would normally have factored into my experiences yesterday were just being stored up and mass-dumped on me today. I couldn’t even get one block away from my apartment today before I could hear cat calls through the industrial music pumping out of my earphones. And on every block, there were cat calls, stares, and men acting entitled to my attention even though a) I was clearly moving purposefully on my own task; and b) none of this happens when I wear a tight sports bra under a loose t-shirt (to smoosh my tits down) with a pair of board shorts. To say I was annoyed is an understatement. It’s this pervasive attitude towards people who are XX-chromosomal that puts my feet in the street (with the rest of me attached, of course).
“You Don’t Have To Protest This. It’s Legal.”
Picture me, alone, in my skanky cop costume paired with clown socks and a clown wig. There are no pro-lifers around, and no pro-choicers around. I’m just standing there silently holding up my sign that says “No one is the body police!” on one side, and on the other, “Pro-lifers here sexually harass women, shame them, them blame them for it. Tell them to get lost!” This is the context in which a woman walked up to me and said “You don’t have to protest this. It’s legal.” I told her it’s decriminalized, not legal, but she was already walking away. And then I thought, but sexual harassment isn’t legal either. Somebody missed the point. And she wasn’t the only person to miss the point, either — a man approached us at the end of our demonstration to tell us that while he agrees with our message, we invite threat upon ourselves when we call attention to ourselves. I stepped in to tell him that the entire reason we are all there is because the pro-lifers in sandwich boards sexually harass women, and without even answering me, he looked right over to my male friend and started talking at him about something he had said. I said “Excuse me, but are you just talking to him because he doesn’t have tits? I just said pro-lifers here sexually harass women. Do you not get that that’s why we’re here?” My male friend walked away, and the man talked at me for a brief moment until he looked back at my friend, then promptly picked someone else more worthy of addressing. Un-fucking-believable.
Woman Walks Up, Starts A Yelling Match About Murder And Homophobia
It played out exactly like it sounds. We were out there, quietly smiling and nodding at passing drivers who honked at us, and a woman walked up to one of us (who is actually trying to get pregnant and is holding a sign that indicates her desire to be a mother) and just started snapping at her about how abortion is murder. She was answered multiple times with a respectful tone, until she just decided it was appropriate and acceptable to start yelling. As if saying it louder makes it more true. When I stepped in and blew my whistle — just once — she turned right around and started berating me, trying to call me a gay hippie clown before her yelling was drown out with my persistent whistle-blowing. While I was satisfied that she was walking across the street to leave us alone, the future mother among us wasn’t. While I don’t condone her actions, as she literally followed the woman all the way across the street, yelling at her all the way and for approximately ten minutes afterwards (even yelling at us to get away from her when we tried to approach to tell the woman it’s not ok to just walk up and badger people); I feel her anger, and am angry that more people aren’t just as angry about the injustices against women the pro-lifers we picket against are standing in favour of. Those who do nothing to resist or confront these ideas and the people who spout them in public are often simply complacent. You’d pretty well have to be complacent, to not be angry. A lot of people are, understandably, angry enough that they don’t think they could handle taking a stand like my friends and I do; but then these people cheer my friends and I on from a distance, or even walk up and thank us while we are there. And that counts for something. But I digress.
During the yelling match, the badgering woman said some pretty random homophobic shit in between insisting, at yelling volume with her finger in my friend’s face, that abortion is murder. I became legitimately concerned that someone is going to call the cops after just a couple minutes of this. It reminded me so much of the incident a couple months ago, when I was walking away from a man who was following me and yelling at me, until he finally said “Why don’t you just hit me?” I was also concerned for my friend’s safety (when the woman yelled at me, she sure looked like she was prepared to hit me — I believe the only reason she didn’t is because we were all around her and I wasn’t the only one making noise), and somewhere in my second thoughts was a concern about violating the “bubble zone” we are all subject to as demonstrators. Our friend took multiple precautions and made this decision carefully, but I still feel uncomfortable with this tactic even though I understand and respect where it is coming from. I can’t speak for others, but it seemed likely that I’m not alone in that feeling.
And Then Came Gordon Watson
When I say anti-abortion extremist, I literally mean that this man collects license plate numbers of vehicles that he spots outside abortion clinics, assaults abortion clinic staff and pro-choice protesters, and publishes hate letters online, inciting other extremists to murder abortion clinic doctors. Here’s part of one:
In case you are not aware, the people of British Columbia are gagging on the stench of death from babies killed by abortion. The blood of all these children calls out from the ground, and it does not cry out for mercy upon the killers: it cries out for vengeance. ‘Vengeance is mine,’ sayeth the Lord, ‘I will repay.’ God decrees, ‘You shall not suffer a murderer to live amongst you.’
‘Capital punishment for abortionists is an idea whose time has come.’
When this nation realizes what has gone on in abortuaries[sic], if the perpetrators of the child extermination policy are not then properly dealt with at a fair trial, the mob will surely lynch them…. If the ultimate sanction is not soon legally enforced, so as to deter violence against babies, the stage will be set for an enraged mob to rid our community of these serial child killers — abortionists — one way or another.
That was 1995, and in between now and then, Watson has made a reputation for himself for perpetrating violence towards anyone whose gender politics contradict his. This kind of shit is why I argue that misogyny is hate speech. Make no mistake, though. This man is as careful with how he expresses hatred towards women as some white supremacist groups are about expressing hatred towards people of colour: in the same way that a white supremacist group can say “white pride” but not a declaration of the will to commit homicide against people of colour, this man writes to demand criminalization of abortion instead of openly declaring the will to murder women by forcing them to resort to life-threatening and fatal abortion practices. He talks about law and the right to a fair trial, but the only people in the stands at those “fair” trials will be women. He also talked to us a lot today about free speech while taking our pictures without even asking for permission, even after many of us insisted that we don’t want our pictures taken, and had taken measures to block his camera. Well, since he’s going to plaster our photos all over a website he refused to share (even though he’s so interested in free speech), here’s one of his:
It seems he has a reputation for publicly stalking people outside of abortion clinics as well, and has fractured a man’s skull in the process of assaulting him. What a testament to his manhood that must have been. Just like how he wouldn’t let me get a word in edge-wise, repeatedly spoke over me to tell me to let him speak, and then pulled the age-therefore-wisdom card (a thinly veiled appeal to authority). Well, if that’s how it’s going to go, I’ll see you next week, Mr. Watson.