Nancy Keenan on Roe at 35

An exclusive interview with Nancy Keenan, the head of NARAL, discussing the impact of the Roe decision over its 35 year history on this week's Reality Cast. Also, Focus on Family is sexist, Fox News is sexist, and anti-choice crusaders have no perspective at all.

Links in this episode:
Dear Science
Issues 4 Life offends
Brownfemipower on Issues 4 Life
Why do women get abortions?
Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti
Women automatically sound like nags?



This week on Reality Cast, I'll be commenting on unsavory anti-choice demonstrations, looking at the marriage advice offered at Focus On Family, and interviewing the head of the National NARAL Nancy Keenan. Very exciting stuff indeed on this eve of the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

One of the listeners out there asked what other podcasts I listen to, and since I've been intended to do more shout-outs to other podcasts, I figured this would be a good time oblige. The sad truth is that I'm something of a nerd. I like listening to podcasts about sex, sure, but also about science and politics. One of my favorites is Dear Science for Seattle's paper The Stranger. Recently they had an episode that was a cross between talking about sex and talking about dry number crunching, so I was stoked.

*insert dr science*

I'm also addicted to Dan Savage's Savage Lovecast from The, but it's probably a bit riskier playing some of it here, since he likes to drop the F bomb every other word.


Of the many anti-choice demonstrations being put together to protest the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I think the one that disturbed me the most is the one being organized by Issues 4 Life, an anti-choice organization in the Berkley area. One of the participants in the protests will be Alveda King, a woman who gets attention for being Dr. Martin Luther King's niece, but mostly spends her time cozying up to social conservatives. Here's a sample of what she does.

*insert Alveda King*

The head of the organization that's putting this together is taking the notion that legal abortion is genocide against black people to an even more offensive level, by comparing it the actual genocide in Darfur. Brownfemipower said it better than I could on her blog:

I'm not sure what is more offensive-the comparing of abortion to actual systematic genocide of black human beings, or the idea that if abortion in the black communities is genocide, black women are consequently cast as those who are committing genocide against their own people.

Rev. Amos Brown, the president of the San Francisco branch of the NAACP denounced the protesters as demagogues, and accused them of losing perspective. The fact that black women who choose abortion are being demonized by leaders who claim to be speaking up for black people seems like as good a reason as any to bring up the most recent Guttmacher study on reasons why women get abortions. Surprisingly, "To commit genocide against my own people" didn't even rate on the list, much less in the top ten reasons.

Guess what one of the top reasons actually was? Turns out that concern for their children rated high for many of the women who filled out the survey. Children they already have or children they plan to have in the future. Controlling when you have children makes it much easier to provide for them properly, which should be an obvious point, but tends to get dismissed by a lot of anti-choicers.

I'll admit that studies showing that women who get abortions aren't baby-hating sluts like they're portrayed make me nervous. I never want to have kids, so I'm deeply interested in making sure my rights are not based on whether someone else finds me maternal enough. But surveys like this are important. Issues 4 Life is slandering black women who have abortions with this implication that they're killing off their own families for reasons of genocide. The reality is that most of them are looking out for their own families.


NARAL had a big event in Austin on January 17th to commemorate the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and to honor Sarah Weddington, the Austin-based lawyer who argued the famous case. Nancy Keenan came to town to make a speech and I caught up with her beforehand to get a Reality Cast first: A face-to-face interview.

*interest interview*


As part of my New Year's resolution to engage in more masochistic activities, I've taken to spending more time exploring the Focus on Family website. Naturally, as flies are drawn to cow leavings, I was drawn to a podcast interview of the authors of a book called "Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti". Unappealing and inept metaphors—just one of the many reasons I love uptight right wingers.

But no one ever went broke regurgitating tedious stereotypes about men and women, especially if they can package those stereotypes as romantic advice. To increase the profit margins, make sure that your stereotypes relieve men from as much responsibility for managing the relationship as possible. So how are men like waffles?

*insert waffles spaghetti 1*

The idea that men are simple-minded fools who can't be expected to engage in any task that requires complexity, like minding the children while also cooking dinner, or think complex thoughts about the state of their relationship, or consider another person's feelings is a popular stereotype. It seems very anti-male, and it is, but it's basically a way to get men out of having to do women's work or work on the relationship. Back in the days before feminists made everyone feel they at least had to pretend to be egalitarian, men were able to avoid that stuff without making excuses. Now it's all, "But I can't spend time wondering how the magic has gone out of our relationship! The game's on!"

So how are women like spaghetti? I sort of hope they'll say that women are wiggly and will slide right off your fork.

*insert waffles spaghetti 2*

According to the urban dictionary, a snow job is, "An effort to deceive, overwhelm, or persuade with insincere talk, especially flattery." Isn't it great that you women are on top of completely running the households while your simple-minded husbands can't string two entire thoughts together at once? If it's actually a gift to get someone to work her tail off for little or no pay, I think god can have that gift back.

And then we're treated from the husband half of the team to an impersonation of women, who are, as you will see, babbling bimbos who no one should really have to listen to.

*insert waffles spaghetti 3*

Naturally, the advice follows to just let women ramble on, though he demurs on whether or not you're obligated to listen.

Men aren't from Mars and women aren't from Venus, but listening to this podcast, I get the strong impression that everyone in the room for this discussion was from outer space.

*insert waffles spaghetti 4*

That's not a game. That's an obsessive-compulsive tic. In the days before internet, radio, TV, video games and widespread literacy, people would not have played that to entertain themselves. I know this much. They'd play horseshoes or something with a point to it. It's okay to be bad at a game that's not really a game.

Being a woman and all interconnected and stuff, I can say now that there's a point to this entire segment, which is this: Focus on Family is not just a twinkly and crazy marriage advice company. They're also a political organization, and one of the biggies in organizing people against reproductive justice. And podcasts like this drive home the larger philosophy mandating rigid gender roles that motivates them.


And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts. I've documented the alarming sexism towards Hillary Clinton in the mainstream media's election coverage, but the levels it's reached in the past few weeks surprise even me. It's hard to pick a favorite example, but I like that Fox News brought on Marc Rudov, a guy who traffics in sexism for a living, on as an expert to explain why Clinton lost in Iowa.

*insert nagging voice*

Rudov wrote a book called Under the Clitoral Hood: How to Crank Her Engine Without Cash, Booze, or Jumper Cables. I guess the answer was pages and pages telling you that women get aroused by having men hate them so much. Seems like the only answer he'd be open to accepting, anyway. Clinton then went on to pick up the majority of the vote in New Hampshire. I suspect Rudov's inability to make a decent prediction will not prevent him from being invited back on Fox News to make fun of women for existing.