Quick thoughts from Alison

I have been informed by several parties that it's time for me to blog. My brother asked if the reason I've been absent is because of all the hubbub and vitriol about my "Choosing Us" essay (Hubbub and Vitriol should be the name of a band).

The answer is no. I firmly believe that if I'm not pissing people off, I'm not doing my job--and this essay has sure as hell pissed people off. To date half a dozen conservative blogs have picked it up and had posts about what a selfish, unChristian, unwomanly, soon-to-be-rotting-in-hell crackpot I am.

The selfish, unChristian, and unwomanly parts I agree with, by the way.

Hundreds of people have commented and said nasty things that don't bear repeating here. But rest assured, I am gathering this data. I'm collecting it all for some sort of writing project down the road. Here are some patterns I've noticed already:

  • They are obsessed with "Walter." They often call him "Walter," with his name in scare quotes, as if I made him up. Obviously he's either a figment of my twisted feminist imagination (in which case it was an immaculate conception, which makes the abortion oh-so-much worse), or he's some fully emasculated little feminist girly-man that I've created.
  • They seem very disturbed by the fact that the act that led to the conception was "a hushed fling on the bathroom floor." They quote that in their comments and their emails to me. I'm not sure what bothers them about this--the fact that a married couple has fun, secretive sex? The fact that it wasn't missionary-style, in a bed? The fact that I'm talking about sex at all?
  • They can't abide my selfishness. They call me selfish--this is the term that comes up most often--as if it's inherently obvious why this is bad. More than bad--it's an insult. I'm supposed to feel chastised because they've called me selfish. But of course I'm selfish! Contraception and abortion and having children are all selfish decisions--they are decisions we made and make because they affect the quality of our own lives, and the directions we want our lives to take. Getting an education is a selfish decision, driving a car--selfish, trying to pay as little tax as possible--selfish, having a blog in which we share all our inner thoughts--most assuredly selfish.
Okay, that's all I've got for now.


Quiche said...

Quiche's "Shameless Self-Promotion" - I guess I'm selfish too, damn it all to hell! Ha!

I suppose believing that one can make a positive difference and change in the world is selfish too.

For those of us who actually know Walt, the comments about him are uproariously hilarious and idiotically absurd! I would like their definition of a "real man". I'm curious.

I Googled "unwomanly", and page after page got: not womanly; "the logical clearness of her arguments...condemned her as eccentric and unwomanly"

-where do they get this crap and how is being logical and clear in one's statements have anything to do with gender? There's that either/or generalization again! Who IS completely "womanly" or "manly" by those terms?

I'm glad you are back to blogging. Welcome back (:

The Fudge Pie said...

Vitroil Hubbub will be playing at Snarky Sharky's surfside dive bar, home of the world's best "surf 'n turf 'n flat beer" platter Saturday Feb. 30th @ 10. They will open for Shapely Asscrack and Stickeinstien's revenege.

Wow, this looks like something out of Guitar Hero or Rock Band.

Kenneth said...

One striking thing is how disturbed many of your critics are that you acknowledged the abortion with a ritual. Part of the anti-choice rhetoric is that women who get abortions do so lightly, almost cavalierly, so your critics' minds are blown when you describe the ceremony at the river. You quite literally solemnized that very solemn decision. To abortion foes, this does not compute.

Caroline said...

Right on, professional feminist! I think that writing "Choosing Us" a.k.a. "Abortion: A Love Story" took incredible courage. Kudos to you, and thank you for baring such a personal experience to public scrutiny. I think that true, honest testimonies of women who have had abortions are crucial to the debate surrounding reproductive rights. Your essay and books like Choice: True Stories of Birth, Contraception, Infertility, Adoption, Single Parenthood, and Abortion (about which you blogged waaay before Feministing did), and Gretchen Voss's essay "My Late-Term Abortion" show that reproductive choices are way more complicated than the black-and-white "abortion is murder" rhetoric of the anti-choice movement. I think that when people hear about their friends, family, co-workers, and professors making real, complicated, and sometimes imperfect choices about reproductive issues, the abortion debate is humanized.

"My Late-Term Abortion"

"Choice on earth" (27 December 2007)

"Not Oprah's Book Club: Choice" (17 January 2008)

Syd said...

Alison, the judgmental attitude of the posts commenting on your essay isn't surprising. There are many people out there who can't accept that it's your business. I think that we all need to be selfish about an important decision that will change our lives forever. Mindlessly procreating isn't a solution for anything.

Ollie said...

Hi Alison, this is Melissa/Leo (from high school). "Olivia Drab" is one of my pseudonyms (along with my actual name). Paige H turned me on to your blog and I've been following along, but this one I felt personally.

I read your essay. And I read it a second time, fully digesting its words. It stirred up a heavy load of emotions. Being a pro-choice woman was always an easy decision for me. It makes sense to me, your body, your choice. I am still pro-choice, even after six years and nine miscarriages at the hands of a flunky reproductive system.

When Brad and I started trying to have a baby, babies were just a symbol, an ideal of what happened when sperm met egg and nine happy months ensued. After my first pregnancy failed at 6 weeks, "baby" was a word that caught in my throat with a sob. Then miscarriage 2 and 3 and 4.. and so on. my heart and soul shattered a little more each time. Through it all, I remained pro-choice, but it was very difficult to understand why anyone would want to purposely go through the agony I was going through every time the embryo died and my body flushed it out.

Reading your essay answered that question very clearly. It was certainly NOT an easy decision for you. It was clear that you did agonize over the choice. Even if you had not, it didn't matter. You did not wish to become a parent at that point (hence the birth control attempts), and likewise realized you didn't have the strength to carry to term for the sake of adoption. That is why it is so important to have that choice available.

I am glad to read such an essay. I think it needs to be out there, because I believe that most people imagine the person who aborts a pregnancy is a stereotype: single and young (ok, younger than US, anyhow) female, and she doesn't fully understand the ramifications of what she's doing. "She's KILLING a HUMAN BEING! We should try to save her soul. Quick! Show her a picture of a dead baby." The fact is that sometimes it is the decision of an older, educated person in a stable relationship. We shouldn't be forced into parenthood if we aren't ready for parenthood. I was 30 before I was ready. Prior to that, I would have freaked if I had become pregnant.

Also, hi Alison! It's good to find you after all these years. :)

Laura said...

I'm here from that article (didn't want to register there) and I want to thank you for sharing your beautiful story. Abortion is a nuanced experience, it's not an easy decision. I think it's wonderful that you talked about the ritual you and your husband did to mark this. To acknowledge it. To recognize the sacredness of this experience and of your relationship.

My best friend had an abortion two years ago and it was an incredible experience. We made it special, we marked it. Her partner and another friend came too and while it was one of the hardest and worst days of our lives, it was also one of the best. Knowing that this could happen safely. Knowing that she was going to be able to continue her break out of the cycle of poverty. Knowing we could be there to support her. That's not to say that we weren't sad, that we didn't cry. It's hard. It's so complex. But it is so necessary. I look at her life now and I think of what her life could be now. It was the right decision, just like for you.

Thank you. Thank you so, so much for sharing your story.

Sarah said...


I loved your "Choosing Us" piece and think you are a wonderfully brave woman for putting it out there. Thank you!

I think the ritual you and your husband did was beautiful, thank you for sharing that as well.