Thursday, September 04, 2008

The language of choice

At MyDD, Natasha Chart writes an eloquent post addressing the Repub's newfound feminism. (She also makes some nice comparisons between Repub positions and the many things Jesus had to say about compassion.)

Chart points to several examples of progressive language in the R's lines about Palin. I suspect she is partly kidding when she says this: "as irritating as the zealotry of the newly converted always is, I'm glad to see that they're starting to come around."

I want to take a closer look at one statement, because I think it's not just a matter of "coming around" (no matter how hypocritically). It's also a problem of linguistic alternatives:

"We're proud of Bristol's decision to have her baby ..."

As many have noted, the language of choice is on full display here. Feminists have fought for decades so women can freely choose parenthood *if and when we want it.* But how would this sentence work if the Palins' true ideology lay beneath it?

--"We're proud that Bristol was forced to stay pregnant and give birth at age 17."
--"We're proud that we have taught Bristol that there is never a choice when it comes to pregnancy."
--"We're proud that Bristol never had a choice in this matter."

Notice how unloving the parents now sound. It's impossible to be "proud" of a girl who has no autonomy, no choice. Bristol doesn't sound like a person here, but a prisoner, a mere receptacle for sperm and her parents' tyranny. Few parents could be proud of being that cruel, that dehumanizing. In fact there's no way to make this kind of statement in anti-choice terms and come off as anything other than monsters--who, at best, kept their daughter profoundly ignorant (hence the pregnancy in the first place), or, at worst, forced her into giving birth in order to save their own reputations.

The statement shows the Palins do love their daughter--because they gave her a choice.

No comments: