Friday, February 29, 2008

Choice, but for whom?

This post and the comments that follow it over at BAs blog got me thinking. Apparently a certain individual threw a tantrum at BA because she pointed out that Planned Parenthood has always had endemic racism in its policies, and that the problem continues to this day. Apparently she wasn’t supposed to point that out because loyalty to organizations that have historically done a lot of good for some women is more important than other women (you know, the ones it didn’t do so much good for) being able to point out problems that they have with the way said organization operates.

I call bullshit. And also lack of intellectual depth and the ability to comprehend complex issues.

See, here’s the thing. For middle class white women PP actually has done a lot of good. From the POV of that demographic (mine, BTW) PP looks like an unmitigated good.

If you’re a black woman it looks a whole lot different. PP has a long and ignoble history of imposing forced sterilization on black women. It also has a recent history of recommending methods of contraceptives to black women that it does not generally recommend to middle class white women. Depo-Provera? Problematic in all kinds of ways, likely to have long term effects on women’s fertility that they were not expecting. And that they also were not warned about, long after the fact that such problems might arise became clearly apparent. And then there’s Norplant. Ugh.

From any rational outsider’s POV it looks very much like part of the mission of PP is to make sure that poor black women have as few children as possible. And it looks like that because that is in fact part of the philosophy that underpins PPs approach. Google Margaret Sanger and eugenics if you don’t believe me.

So, when you look at PP what you have is an organization that has really helped some women and really hurt others. Which doesn’t mean that we should automatically want to nuke the whole organization – what it means is that we should be trying to change the organization so that it is responsive to the family planning needs of ALL women, not just some. The whole organization needs an overhaul from both a practical and a philosophical POV.

Why is it forbidden to point this out? Yes, I know that PP and all other family planning organizations are under threat from right wing wackos. That does mean that it would not be prudent to just shut the organization down completely. It most emphatically does NOT mean that the organization should be immune to criticism. Precisely because there are so few alternatives PP needs to be forced to change the way it approaches reproductive issues for WOC. And yes, I said forced, not asked gently and politely, because when did any large organization ever respond well to that?

So anyone who feels the need to shout down WOC when they offer pointed critiques of PP just because it offends them to have it pointed out that one of the organizations they admire is far from perfect and needs to be called on its shit? STFU. I’m not kidding. Your knee-jerk defense of a deeply flawed organization does not help anyone, least of all the women who depend on that organization’s services. So shut up and listen to what the woman has to say and you might learn something.

Go over to Black Amazon’s blog and read her posting and then follow the links. The blog she’s talking about seems to be allowing comments again, so have at it.



Edit - Also read Sylvia's follow-up post. Excellent question, isn't it? Also note that the certain individual who threw a tantrum at BA has now decided to delete the whole argument, which is basically the blog equivalent of taking your toys and going home. Rather telling, that.

67 comments:

Plain(s)feminist said...

Cassandra - great post.

Plain(s)feminist said...

Also - I know a lot of white women who were given Depo-Provera. NOT middle-class white women. Now - you'd think this could be a point of coming together, of getting it, of solidarity, wouldn't you?

belledame222 said...

Yes, I know that PP and all other family planning organizations are under threat from right wing wackos. That does mean that it would not be prudent to just shut the organization down completely. It most emphatically does NOT mean that the organization should be immune to criticism. Precisely because there are so few alternatives PP needs to be forced to change the way it approaches reproductive issues for WOC. And yes, I said forced, not asked gently and politely, because when did any large organization ever respond well to that?

Oh, there you go again with that silencing irrational anger of yours.

Cassandra Says said...

PF - I've known a few white women who were put on Depo too and yep, all working class. Which could indeed be a point of coming together. It's a start, you know? But it's not going to get anywhere until everyone admits how the dynamics of which clients get offered which contraceptives and why work. And admitting that involved admitting that Sanger was in favor of eugenics.

Cassandra Says said...

Belle - Yeah, someone needs to open a dictionary and find out what "silencing" actually means.

Laura said...

The blog you linked to over the "threw a tantrum". I'm not sure whats going on, but man, you know? Sometimes its hard for me to read "White people" this "white people" that.

Maybe I can't speak because I look white and am therefor disgraceful in some eyes but then again I'm part Russian-Jew and part German. (I don't know how the hell that one happened) and I've got a bit of Native American in me, and Portuguese...I think reverse racism can be a terrible thing too. I think I've worked just as hard if not suffered to some degree more than people of obvious color in my situation BECAUSE I can't get half the aid or services available because the people working in these offices take one look at me and assume I'm hiding rich supportive parents somewhere.

Not to say that there isn't suffering, or racism, or that I don't have advantages - but I also had no control over my genetics and I don't think its fair or wise to put people down in the same ways you don't want them putting you down via massive generalizations.

I don't know. I'm not really qualified to say much on this topic at all.

< / off topic rant>

Cassandra Says said...

See, I don't believe there is any such thing as "reverse racism". I think what you're trying to get at is that white does not equal upper class, and that's true, but it doesn't mean that people don't gain huge social advantages from being assumed to be white. I think that the whole idea of "reverse racism" is something that's promulgated by the upper class as a way to keep all the poor people so busy fighting against each other that they don't notice who's really screwing them over. Read "What's the matter with Kansas", it lays how this all works out pretty well.

Daisy said...

Cassandra, great post, and thanks for speaking up.

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