Monday, August 29, 2011

Abortions are not the same as pensions

The Government is set to announce changes to abortion law next week, which will involve pregnant women being offered 'independent' counselling, rather than receiving counselling from the organisation which is due to perform the procedure.

The change is being put in place by Nadine Dorries and Frank Field, both MPs, and the anti-abortion sentiments behind it are undeniable in the face of Dorries having
"criticised the "financial incentive" of the counselling offered by abortion clinics, claiming 60,000 of the annual 200,000 terminations would not take place if women were offered the chance for counselling elsewhere" (Guardian).

Nadine Dorries also said, "The important thing is that the government have highlighted and agreed that counselling by organisations that are paid to conduct the procedures is not independent [...] That's very reassuring."

Similarly, Frank Field has said, "It is a general principle that advice and services should be separate," [...] I have no evidence of that [biased advice]. But we had no evidence of mis-selling of pensions until people investigated." (Guardian).

The thing is that abortions are not the same as pensions (I think that qualifies as a sentence I never thought I would need to write). Abortions are healthcare, and with healthcare, the advice and services are generally not separate, and nor should they be. If a surgeon is going to be operating on me, I want her to be the one who talks me through the procedure and warns me of any risks. If a dentist is going to be pulling out one of my teeth, I want him, not an independent organisation (who is probably against the pulling of teeth) to give me the 'facts' beforehand.

The surgeon that did my last operation gave me all the facts I needed. I respected her opinion, and she knew the details of my case. These details can make a big difference to the advice you are given - if someone has diabetes, or heart disease, they might be given different surgical advice than someone without. If someone is taking certain medications, they need specific advice that pertains to their situation in advance of surgery. What we don't need is to be directed to an organisation that is against the surgery ever taking place, who know nothing about our individual circumstances, who are thought to be in a better position to 'advise' because they will not be doing the procedure themselves.

In a healthcare context, learning from the misselling of pensions makes no sense at all. Many abortions are done in NHS hospitals - are they also thought to be profiting from women going ahead with a termination? Because if so, they also profit from people going ahead with verruca removal, chemotherapy and colonoscopies. Do we need independent organisations to advise us on those too?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Please update your feed subscription address for incurable hippie blog!

I have updated my feed address. It is now Please update your feed reader settings!

The 'subscribe to posts' link in the right sidebar should updated to the new address, so you can click on that to resubscribe if necessary.

Monday, August 15, 2011

When we are very wrong

If someone calls someone out on their privilege, it is time to listen. The very nature of privilege is that we are mostly unaware of the privilege we hold, in the areas we hold it in. So if a black person tells you, a white person, that you have been racist, it is almost certainly them, not you, who is right.

If you are told that language you just used, or attitudes you just showed, are oppressive, then take note. While your initial reaction may be to explain yourself, justify what you did, or dismiss the criticism, this is silencing and derailing. It is because we have privilege that we have been able to get through life without realising how hurtful or divisive it can be to say or do certain things, so just because someone's challenge may not make immediate sense to us, does not mean it is untrue.

We must always respect the lived experience of those we have privilege over, and take note when they take the time to tell us about it. So if a black woman challenges something racist said by a white woman, or a disabled woman challenges a disablist attitude, or a working class woman challenges middle class privilege, it is time to listen. Don't argue! If a bisexual woman tells a straight woman that she has shown her privilege, then the straight woman must listen. Take it in. Respect the experience of the other woman.

    This applies if:
  • a trans woman calls out cis privilege
  • a disabled woman calls out disablist privilege
  • a woman calls out male privilege
  • a black woman calls out race privilege
  • a working class woman calls out class privilege
  • a genderqueer person calls out cis privilege
  • a fat woman calls out thin privilege
  • a lesbian, bisexual or pansexual woman calls out straight privilege
  • an older woman calls out ageism
  • a woman of colour calls out white privilege
  • a woman calls out slut shaming
  • many, many other variations

    Things NOT to do if someone calls you out on your privilege:
  • Don't kick out. Be glad someone told you, and learn from the experience.
  • Don't try to justify what you did. We all know 'splaining when we see it, and this is what you would be doing.
  • Don't ever say, "But my gay / trans / disabled friend isn't offended when...". It's the same thing as "But some of my closest friends are black!". Members of oppressed groups are not homogeneous entities who think, feel and react in the same ways. And maybe your friend hates you doing it too.
  • Don't repeatedly apologise. Say sorry once, and learn.
  • Don't hate yourself. The way privilege works is that those of us who hold it don't always see that. Take responsibility for what you do next, don't endlessly beat yourself up for mistakes already made.
  • Don't demand to be educated by the person who challenged you. It is your responsibility, not theirs.

Being white, non-disabled, cis etc. does not mean that you have a perfect life. Most people have privilege in some areas of their life while experience oppression in others. Use the issues you know about (being a lesbian, for instance) to inform the more privileged parts of your life (being white, for instance). Relate the one oppression to other oppressions outside of yourself.

It's pretty unpleasant to be told you have just been anti-Semitic, or heterosexist, but it's even more unpleasant to be on the receiving end of prejudice. Be glad someone told you, and use the experience to make sure you never do it again.

[The image is s black and white photograph made up of lots of small square photographs of the faces of a diverse range of people. It is adapted from an image by Colemama, and is used under a Creative Commons License]

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Madness Gone Politically Correct

So, I have made my podcast debut. And as if that's not exciting enough, I am sharing the stage airwaves pod with Sir David Attenborough, one of my lifelong heroes. Very exciting! I talked about the language of disability and disablism, and you can hear me on the Pod Delusion here.

Then, to add to the excitement, Clare Horton at the Guardian liked it and quoted me. My head may eventually shrink back to its self-deprecatingly normal size, but I wouldn't bet on it.

So, head over there and have a listen. You'll notice the Schizobird story I blogged about last week