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“A distraction”

So, this happened.

On my Facebook page, there’s a conversation about how female inmates in California prisons have been getting sterilized, without the proper approval process, and with the women being subjected to pressure and coercion.

A commenter on my page (remaining nameless here, as people have a somewhat higher expectation of privacy on Facebook than elsewhere on the Internet), had this to say:

There are worse things to be worrying about, like where people are actually dying or losing their freedoms.

When I pointed out to him that this was, in fact, a story about freedoms being lost, and asked if he wanted his Facebook readers to troll him every time he posted about something when they thought something else was more important, he replied:

Thorny topics like sterilization and the requirement of consent for it seems like a distraction from the things that can actually improve our quality of life in the here and now or in the future.

A distraction.

From the things that can actually improve our quality of life.

The requirement of consent for sterilization is, according to this person, a distraction from things that can actually improve our quality of life. Things like the right to basic bodily autonomy, or the right to decide for ourselves whether we are or are not to reproduce… apparently, these aren’t things that can actually improve anyone’s life.

Or maybe the issue here is that the “our” in “our quality of life” doesn’t include female prisoners?

And while we’re at it: A “thorny” topic? Sterilization and the requirement of consent for it is a “thorny” topic? It seems pretty freaking straightforward to me. You don’t sterilize people without their absolutely clear, completely informed, entirely non-pressured consent. Period. What, precisely, is “thorny” about that?

Sigh.

Comments

  1. says

    Assuming this person to be an atheist, I have to wonder:

    • What would his reaction be if it had been a story of a church forcibly/coercively sterilising female parishioners?
    • Further assuming that they would see this as a legitimate point to attack the church on, how is it not hypocritical as all hell to not be concerned about it, merely because it’s not a church doing it?

  2. says

    Considering the number of people I know that consider their children a large contribution to their happiness, how is preventing forced sterilization not one of those “things that can actually improve our quality of life in the here and now or in the future”?

  3. khms says

    As to the main topic, I’m … I’m … speechless. Stuff like this actually happens … in today’s USA? We’re not talking 1940′s Germany here? I’m well and truly boggled.

    As an aside, though,

    as people have a somewhat higher expectation of privacy on Facebook than elsewhere on the Internet

    … as they say, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?!

    I’d have exactly the opposite expectation. I’d expect to find the Facebook icon next to the dictionary article for “violation of privacy”.

  4. Dunc says

    In my experience, this sort of thing usually ends up meaning “Let’s ignore all the things we can change in favour of obsessing over those we can’t”. It’s a great way to get that buzz of moral outrage and righteous indignation without any risk of ever having to actually do anything.

    I’d like to know exactly what he (and I’ll bet money it’s a he) thinks we should be worrying about. Actually, no, maybe I wouldn’t…

  5. Nice Ogress says

    Let me get out my ‘Jerk-English’ dictionary, here. Thorny… thorny… Ah! Here we go.

    “Thorny topic: (n) 1: A topic for which no pat answer has been handed down from a TV personality or other point of authority, and thus cannot be bloviated opon. 2. A topic which pertains to a reprehensible action which does not personally affect me. syn: stupid, unimportant.

    See also: complex issue.

    Well there you go, that seems pretty cut and dried!

  6. says

    I’ve just made the mistake of reading the comments under the linked story—and now I need a shower.

  7. howard says

    In my own home state, the forced sterilization of poor Native American women started in 1933 and continued till the mid-60s.

    Several other states continued their forced sterilization programs into the 70s.

    No, we’re not talking about 1940s Germany. We’re talking about the sorts of things that America has done before, even in the ‘enlightened’ and ‘liberal’ states. We’re talking about part of our heritage, something loaded with misogyny, classism, and racism. (do note that this is only done to women, only done to poor women, and by and large done to women of color)

    Or maybe the issue here is that the “our” in “our quality of life” doesn’t include female prisoners?

    I’d go as far as to say probably this definition of “our” doesn’t have much room for women in general.

  8. CT Chimako.27 says

    I wanted to comment on that but I *literally* could not tell who was being sarcastic and who was being serious.

  9. jba55 says

    WTF is wrong with people? I suppose, if you want to get douchily pedantic about it, there are technically worse things to be worried about. Ongoing genocides, simmering global conflicts, etc. But one thing I’ve never understood about this kind of statement is why one thing should be ignored just because worse things are happening. “The wars in the Middle East are still ruining millions of lives, we can’t worry about our overcrowded prisons!” Makes no sense to me at all.

  10. Jackie, Ms. Paper if ya nasty says

    Jba, it’s privilege. The world as he knows it caters to him and that’s the way he thinks the world should work. He’s fully human, the rest of us are non-player characters. His privilege blinders are on so securely that he can tell a woman that talking about abuses of women’s rights is a distraction from what is really important aka, his needs. He can tell her that about her own Facebook page without feeling a twinge of irony.

  11. John Horstman says

    @3: Does and has been happening in USA for a long time, basically since colonization. Even in cases where doctors aren’t simply sterilizing women without telling them (more frequent than any of us would like to think – Google “secret sterilization”, “forced sterilization”, “uninformed sterilization” and similar terms), a lot of public assistance/welfare programs use withholding program support to coerce sterilization. Lots of people actively advocate these requirements. Biopolitics (we even have a word for the broad set of practices that constitutes governing people’s bodies!) is a violation of bodily autonomy and pretty much universally problematic, but this is an especially egregious example.

  12. John Horstman says

    @4:

    I’d like to know exactly what he (and I’ll bet money it’s a he) thinks we should be worrying about. Actually, no, maybe I wouldn’t…

    Harassment qua Freeze Peach on feminist blogs?

  13. M can help you with that. says

    I can’t help but suspect that a major motivation of this practice is to cover up evidence of sexual exploitation. Hell, anyone who’s paying any attention knows that the sexual lives of inmates are controlled and exploited by guards and other prison stakeholders (at all levels, notably including juvenile detention). Forced sterilization of female inmates is just one way to cover up one of the more blatantly obvious categories of evidence. Women’s bodily autonomy is, of course, less than a pressing concern for people who are already devoted to violating it.

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