Roe v Wade and “worse than Gilead” – punishing women for having tasted freedom

Presumably (I am not an historian of the period) when an escaped slave was recaptured they were punished publicly in horrific ways, with the intention of sending a message to anyone else who was contemplating a dash for freedom. Because, you know, you want to break their spirits, their minds…

This comes to mind from the following two tweets

“In Gilead after a handmaid became pregnant by force, at least she was given housing, food, and medical care. Republicans are against that. The GOP thinks Gilead was too generous.”

and one reply

yes. moreover, the most recent batch of antiabortion laws go so much further than our own history with abortion, e.g., before 1972 ectopic pregnancy was always treated as the medical emergency it is, and not subject to abortion laws.

Five things here.

  1. The naked hatred of women, of their bodies, of their autonomy, seems pretty baked in, doesn’t it?
  2. The desire seems to be to punish women for daring to want to have control over their own damned lives, so they never forget what happens if you try to escape.
  3. The nutjobs and Stalinists – to use the correct terminology – who want to make abortion illegal are not gonna stop once they’ve tasted that victory. Contraception, “inter-racial” marriage, you name it is next. The Sky(god’s) the limit.
  4. This is intensely gendered and racialised. Rich white women will find work-arounds. Everyone else gets the pointy end of the stick.
  5. That they will come for you next/soon is the absolutely weakest argument in favour of solidarity.

Thanks to the hard work and courage of the Black Civil Rights Movement and its spin-offs (second wave feminism, anti-war, gay rights, environment), Western societies started, in the late 50s and early 60s, to become less obscene. It was a slow, uneven and always problematic process. It continued, on some issues at least, after the beginning of the anti-democratic roll-back from the mid-70s (neoliberalism is only a tool within that war).

The idea that poor people, women, people of colour “etc” have rights, have dignity, are members of civilisation who deserve equal treatment rather than the back of a hand, a cosh, a whip, tear gas or slow violence in its myriad forms, is an idea that is repugnant to some. They want an image of the 50s, with women in the kitchen, black people “in their place”, gays in the closet, and nature under the thumb. They will accept nothing less. It’s an illusion to think that they can be bargained with, reasoned with. They don’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear, and absolutely will not stop, ever, until the gains since the late 50s are dead and forgotten, ploughed under, and the earth salted..

4 thoughts on “Roe v Wade and “worse than Gilead” – punishing women for having tasted freedom

Add yours

  1. That’s it, in a nutshell! It seems that the Republicans hate anyone but themselves; and, it seems, the Tories, in the Uk are heading that way.

  2. Thanks Marc. And this is all true. As an Anglican, I loathe the hi-jacking of US Christianity by ‘Christian-ists” on the Right since the 1970s. Christianism = the belief that your violent nostalgia for the 1950s (or earlier) is the main or only qualification needed to call yourself a ‘Christian’.

    The amazing thing about the US liberal-left is the way that it is regularly shocked – shocked! – to discover that the US radical right has been organising ruthlessly and brilliantly for 40 years to overturn the gains since 1957 for democracy and equal rights, and that it has been entirely frank about its objectives for years. Democrats and fellow radicals have to learn at extreme speed how to counter-organise and counter-communicate – or from 2024 they might not ever be able to again in the USA.

    Best Ian

    Ian Christie ianchristie1498@gmail.com

    Senior Lecturer (Social Science and Ethics of Sustainable Development) Centre for Environment & Sustainability University of Surrey Guildford, Surrey, UK GU2 7XH

    Fellow, WWF-UK Associate, Green Alliance Trustee, New Economics Foundation and Perspectiva

    >

  3. Thanks Marc.

    One conclusion from the past few decades: – don’t let the party membership have the largest say in picking the next party leader or candidate for President.

    The old Tory ‘magic circle’ would have prevented the rise of Johnson. The pre-primaries system of US party conventions would have prevented the rise of Trump. No guarantee you would not get Alec Douglas-Home or GW Bush, and the risks of intra-elite lack of diversity etc are obvious. But the people thrown up by these systems look like titans of statecraft next to the Johnson Cabinet and the entirety of the GOP in Congress these days.

    So you can have too much democracy (see Robert Talisse, Overdoing Democracy.)

    But even with those above safeguards of intra-elite selection you still have the mimetic drive to flock to support apparent winners, often in the belief that you can ‘control them’, or that even if you can’t you can still rise yourself and maybe inherit some power. Hence the conservative elites’ more or less reluctant embrace of Hitler in early 30s; hence the horrible spectacle of GOP politicians who once opposed Trump bending to kiss his ring. The historic remedy for this seems to be some cataclysmic failure that utterly discredits the entire project. Can we afford to wait for that, or indeed to experience it?

    NB we’re about to enter a period of extreme danger for what passes for US federal climate policy. Supreme Court may well soon rule that it’s unconstitutional to regulate CO2. Biden may lose his ineffectual bare majority in the Senate, and maybe in the House too, in November. The next edition of the GOP in Congress will make Trump look like a moderate.

    Best ian

    Ian Christie ianchristie1498@gmail.com

    Senior Lecturer (Social Science and Ethics of Sustainable Development) Centre for Environment & Sustainability University of Surrey Guildford, Surrey, UK GU2 7XH

    Fellow, WWF-UK Associate, Green Alliance Trustee, New Economics Foundation and Perspectiva

    >

    1. yes to all that.
      Obama, in the Audacity of Hype – sorry , Hope – had some similar observations about intra-Beltway elites… they are kind of like control rods in a nuclear reactor. Take them out and the whole think can get very loud and radioactive…

      Sigh.

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