Last night, I attended a local performance of a new play, The Abortion Monologues.  The idea behind this play is fantastic: encourage women to talk about a very uncomfortable topic with the hope that with communication comes understanding.  In the spirit of The Vagina Monologues, it is all about getting the stories out there.  No judgment, no condemnation, no endorsement: just communication. Ostensibly, women who have had abortion experiences will feel a little safer and less like social outcasts if they understand that they're not alone, not by a long shot.

The play was well written (personally, I've never been a fan of the monologue style of theatre, so it was a bit of an adjustment for me), and well performed.  It detailed the stories of 23 women who've had abortions in varying circumstances.  Most of the stories were largely centered around the commonplace abortion story, with little discussion of the extreme cases (rape, incest) prompting abortive instances. I learned later that this was intentional by the author, who insisted that it shouldn't take extreme cases to allow for regular discourse in public*.  I heartily agree. 

There is a certain sense of apologetics and accommodation that gets involved whenever we try to encourage a dialogue using the fringe examples.  Why must we have to bring up the cases of when a drunk uncle rapes a teenager to discuss something that happens every day? This brings up some interesting issues when dealing with civil rights concerns.

After the curtain call, the director invited the audience to participate in an open discussion.  Most of the questions and comments shared were by women, voicing their approval with how the play was written and performed.  Some commenters discussed the stigma that abortion incurs, and others on the state of abortion access in Canada (in short, abortion has been legal in Canada since 1988, but women still have to jump through hoops to get them).  All in all, a constructive discussion.

Until...

One woman commented on how great it was that so many men were in attendance (I'd put it at about 33% men), and many women in the audience roared with applause and approval.  The director (but it might have been a cast member...hard to see from my vantage point) agreed and said something to the effect that it's great to see so many men, and that the men in this audience are an example to the rest of men.

Now, don't get me wrong, this was a well-meaning comment, and put forth with nothing but the best intentions and in the spirit of fellowship.  I understand and appreciate that. 

But...

This attitude is part of the problem.  As one of the men in attendance, I didn't really feel like I belonged there.  It felt like a girl's club (yes, I know the irony there, so don't bother pointing it out), and the men were simply welcome to come along.  There is a fundamental difference between being 'welcome' and 'belonging'.

By making this gesture to the men in the audience, the well-meaning, thoughtful women who applauded painted every man there as an 'other'.  This is unfortunate, because abortion is not just a women's issue.  Don't get me wrong, there is nothing more obnoxious than some guy standing up saying "WHAT ABOUT THE MENZ!?"  This is not what I am doing here. 

Abortion is not just a woman's issue.  It is also a men's issue.  It is also a children's issue, a cultural issue and a class issue.  By artificially making abortion a women's issue, it alienates many people who are also affected by abortion, even those of us who are supportive and pro-choice.  I felt welcome in that hall, but I did not feel as though this was an issue that had anything to do with me.

This is one of the logos I was able to find of the play, but not the one for the performance I attended in Kitchener, ON.  This logo, while certainly not exclusive, is definitely not inclusive either.

This might have been alleviated had there been one character in the play who was a man that had an abortion story.  If the writer wanted to show how commonplace and everyday this experience was, perhaps just one narrative from a male perspective would be beneficial.  After all, abortion is an issue that affects more than just one half of the population, but you'd hardly know it. Men may not be part of the discussion, but they are part of the equation. There may be something to be gained by some feminist women / groups seeking ownership of abortion issues for women, but it effectively leaves half the affected people out of the discussion.

Obviously, this is not intentional nor mean-spirited.  My point in writing this post is that maybe more men would feel sympathetic and be supportive on this issue if they felt a sense of belonging and ownership.  Abortion is a men's issue too, and I'd like to see more understanding of this by the well meaning pro-choice community.


* Ostensibly, it is to this point that explains the absence of any narratives involving LGBTQ experiences of abortion.  A conspicuous absence, I thought, for a progressive play that opened in 2009.


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Every year, March 17th rolls around, and people invariably ask me one version of the question, "Steve, you're pretty obnoxious with the way you wear your Irish heritage on your sleeve.  You must LOVE St. Patrick's Day and you you probably love to drink green beer and get drunk!"
These people are "Irish for a day".  Lovely.
That's like saying, "Hey, you're black!  you must LOVE to talk during a movie and dance 
around white people!" or "Hey!  You're Muslim!  You must LOVE to blow up buildings!"
Well, no I don't like St. Patrick's day.  I hate it. I can scarcely walk down a city street today without being called a leprechaun by some drunken (or sober) asshole (No, I'm not making this up).  For years I've found it to be the most nakedly racist "holiday" on the calender. Irish heritage celebration in North America is basically a neo-blackface routine.

It....was a different time....

Since about 2005, I've been writing pretty much the same article for one media outlet or the other, and my opinions since last year's post  (and every other year I post this) haven't changed, so I'll just re-post it here (with a few updates):
St. Patrick's Day: Still Racist after all these Years: 
Every year we “celebrate” St. Patrick’s Day by drinking ourselves stupid, beginning in the middle of the afternoon, then maybe getting into a few fights. This is acceptable behavior because, we’re told, this is the one day of the year that everyone is Irish. Why is this flagrantly racist stereotype still so eagerly embraced? I believe it is because it is still widely acceptable to think the worst of the Irish, at levels unthinkable among other minority-groups.
I did a google image search for St. Patrick's Day, and this came up.  Seriously. 

People don’t pretend to be Mexican on Cinco De Mayo by standing in an unemployment line and selling oranges on the street-corners. On Yom Kippur people don’t wear shirts that say “kiss me, I’m Jewish” while wearing a cheap elongated nose while fake money falls out of their pockets. Black History month isn’t celebrated by enjoying an all-you-can-eat-fried-chicken buffet and starting a gang-war.  
And rightly so: these are all horrible racist stereotypes that reduce huge swaths of diverse peoples into the most negative imagery that is usually reserved for the old-racist-kook fraternity.

Why then, is it okay to celebrate ‘be an Irishman day’ (and lets be honest, March 17th has nothing whatsoever to do with the patron saint of Ireland) by getting slobberingly drunk, making complete asses of ourselves, and be loud, obnoxious pricks? Even to the point of calling in ‘sick’ the next day, and actually getting away with it?  I've worked at places where people would call in sick on March 18th, and the bosses chuckled, and left it at that.  Oh really?  Can I do that on Sept 3?  Or May 7 (the day after my birthday)?  No, of course not.  But I bet that if I did it the day after people pretend to be their racist ideas of what it means to be Irish, it'd be super-dee-dooper, lassie!
This friendly little guy is the emblem of Irish respect in North America. We all act like this. At least when we're not a)drinking b)fighting c)drunkenly beating our wives, or d) having too many children.

I hear the rebuttals, the same every year: 
1)“It’s just an excuse to get drunk!"
2)"It’s just an excuse to have fun with my friends”
Do you really need an excuse to have fun with your friends? Of course you don’t. If you do, maybe you're a bad friend.  Do you need an excuse to drink? Maybe…but is it necessary for the Irish-drunkard stereotype to serve your loathsome late-night frivolities of licentious lewdness and lunacy?

We like to pat ourselves on the back with how progressive we have become through the delusional artifice of pluralism: the colours of Benetton have become united at last! Yet we cannot look past our beer goggles when the clock points to an excuse to drink that, as it so happens, pokes fun at the Irish.  
Society has (rightly) shunned people who use words like nigger, wop, chink, and kraut. Yet  it's still okay to spend $10.00 on plastic leprechaun-wear, get drunk in the middle of the afternoon, and get kicked out of 4 bars in a night because, “Hey! On March 17th, we ALL get to be Irish for a day!” and then begin the drunken chorus of Danny Boy.

If you truly want to celebrate Irish heritage, that's fine.  If you want to celebrate for no real good reason, that's fine too.  Might I suggest a friendly conversation over a couple of pints and a couple of songs.  The Irish don't have a monopoly on that, but it's still fun, honest, and respectful to you and your friends.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to celebrate some else's Italian heritage by controlling a union and eating a spicy meat-a-ball.

Or by playing with these Italian  plumbers who stomp on "Goombas"


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Food that you don't make yourself is always at least two of three things:  affordable, fast, and good.  I think it's impossible to get all three.  Maybe a fourth bubble, "Reasonably healthy" (or perhaps "Not Solidified Battery Acid on a Bun" might suit better) needs to be added.



While this barely qualifies, I'm still counting this under my Infographics for Skeptics.  My blog, my bendable rules.

Of course, you could always go directly to the source and vote it up.


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Despite line at the bottom of the image, I did make this.  You can vote for it at the main page, and check back here for more Infographics for Skeptics.


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