Saturday, March 14, 2009

A real vagina workshop?

by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux

Two people sent me this article within 20 minutes of each other last night. And even the New York Times' tastefully vague description immediately intrigued me - the article, entitled "The Pleasure Principle," profiles "a coed live-in commune dedicated to the female orgasm" called One Taste. The founder, Nicole Daedone, sees herself as leading “the slow-sex movement, one that places a near-exclusive emphasis on women’s pleasure — in which love, romance and even flirtation are not required."

Can we please just read that sentence again? Women's pleasure doesn't just have to be about love and romance? I could have an orgasm without chocolate and flowers and candlelit dinners and Valentines' gifts and deep, meaningful conversations about our feelings, and still be a woman? In the wake of the NYT's last foray into the world of female orgasm, which talked about oxytocin and narcissism and desire in very loose terms but came to the general conclusion that we don't really know what gets women off, this article is borderline revolutionary. The image of "a dozen women, naked from the waist down, lying with eyes closed in a velvet-curtained room, while clothed men huddle over them, stroking them in a ritual known as orgasmic meditation — “OMing,” for short," may be a little absurd, but it's in many ways a radical shift. And I'm afraid that it's going to get lost, because of the way that we dismiss crunchy-granola San Franciscans who may seem self-righteous or simply crazy, but sometimes have the right idea. Right now, they have the right idea. Describing her philosophy, Daedone said, "In our culture, women have been conditioned to have closed sexuality and open feelings, and men to have open sexuality and closed feelings. There’s this whole area of resistance and shame.”

One of my friends, a member of my Vagina Monologues cast, jokingly compared the article to "The Vagina Workshop," one of Eve Ensler's more bizarre monologues. During the dress rehearsals, the cast would fall apart backstage as Liz, the actress performing the monologue, first talked about her character's uncertainty and shame about her sexuality (well, they didn't laugh at that) and then described her experience in a "vagina workshop," which sounds uncannily like One Taste. The character looks at her vagina with a hand mirror, locates her clitoris, and is instructed to "be it." Liz was understandably unsure of how to interpret that line - but presumably Ensler is a fan of "being" one's clitoris, because the monologue ends with an orgasm, as the actress gasps, "The quaking broke open into an ancient horizon of light and silence, which opened onto a plane of music and colors and innocence and longing, and I felt connection, calling connection as on my little blue mat." The cast always fell apart around "ancient horizon." By the time they got to the plane of music and colors, they were gone.

Writing this now, I'm struggling a little to reconcile my excitement about the article, and my skepticism about the monologue. Honestly, I've always thought that the monologue was insanely reductive - don't we want not to be associated only with our vaginas? My vagina isn't just me, and that's the point! The overall message of the monologue is important, but it gets lost in sections where Ensler gets too cute, or too mushy, or too crazy (saying the vagina has the "innocence and freshness of a proper English garden?" Who wouldn't laugh?). It seems too simple, but I wonder if the language is the problem. I got suspicious when the NYT started describing the workshops as "mindful sexuality," because it seemed too overblown, too touchy-feely. I don't have a good reason for this reaction, but I suspect it's one that many people would have. Daedone says, "In our culture, admitting our bodies matter is almost an admission of failure," and I completely agree. We need more orgasms. We need more positive talk about sex. We need more talk about sex, period - sex that isn't rape, or shameful. But how can we do that when people are so quick to dismiss it as another crunchy-granola San Francisco fad?

This is not to say that I think everyone needs to be packed off to a vagina workshop. But maybe some people should. Even on college campuses, where a lot of sex is happening, the talk about sex tends to be pretty negative - at Princeton, people push abstinence or caution, or talk about the "1 in 4" statistic - which are all valid reactions to a sexualized culture. But where are the people talking about how great an orgasm can be? Where are the people asking men and women to think about what they really want from sex, with the possibility that it might be more good sex? And why aren't we telling people to own their sexuality, without the implication that this means celibacy?

A member of One Taste said that the process has given her "deep physical access to the woman I am and the woman I want to be." Another compared it to getting a massage - "you don't take the masseuse out to dinner afterward." Could we have it both ways - an orgasm that's meaningful, but with no strings attached? And if we can't, why not? And if you say oxytocin, I will scream.

Thanks to Lydia and Aku for the tip!

Happy spring break!

We're going to go on a little vacation during Princeton's spring break. The editors and some of the bloggers will be posting, but our schedule won't be as regular until Monday, March 23rd. Have a wonderful break, and we'll see you in a week!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Girls Gone Missing

by Laura Smith-Gary

In 1990, Nobel Laureate Amaryta Sen came to an alarming conclusion: the world is missing over 100 million women and girls.

There are many places in the world, especially in Asia and South Asia, where female infants are seen as a liability: a dowry-draining expense, a child unable to provide for her parents in their old age as boys are expected to do, a threat to the family's honor, a "one-child policy" infant that will prohibit the family from having a cherished boy. And as long as there has been pervasive cultural misogyny, there has been the surreptitious elimination of undesirable baby girls: this can happen directly -- pre-Islamic Bedouin tribes would often bury female infants in the sand to preemptively eliminate the shame that would descend on their families if the girls strayed sexually and to save the resources it would take to raise them -- or indirectly through neglect, investing all available food, medical care, and attention on sons rather than daughters. With the advent of cheap, readily available ultrasounds, it became even easier to have sons instead of daughters: female fetuses are routinely aborted in countries like China and India. Even though India outlawed the practice of sex-selective abortion in 1994, it continues. Most of the articles I've read on the matter conclude that in India and China there are around 120 male children and infants for every 100 females of the same age. (See my important caveat below!)

The systematic elimination of female fetuses and infants leads to "bare branches" -- a ballooning, disproportionate population of young, single men in a number of countries, especially China and India. The gender imbalance means many men, especially those of low socioeconomic status, have no hope of finding wives or having families. Many journalists and academics have asserted that this makes countries ripe for any number of ills, including war, gang violence, prostitution and the spread of STIs, bride-stealing and rape, and religious radicalism. Some of these claims cast men as inherently dangerous and women in the role of "important insofar as they produce babies and provide an outlet for men's sexual urges thereby taming them", which makes me cringe -- I would argue that it is possible for an unattached man to have a stake in his society and not just start blowing things up out of sexual frustration. However, when a society is structured in a way that allows no respectable place for unattached men without resources, it is not surprising that men who can't obtain mates would resort to destructive behavior. Historical evidence, as well as contemporary observations, supports this idea -- think even of the Crusades, many of which consisted of European nobles bundling all the sons who wouldn't be inheriting property off to the Middle East to kill and be killed, instead of staying home unattached and causing trouble.

Unfortunately, I don't have any clear "here's what you can do to help!" steps -- the best I've heard so far, other than the too-general "change the patriarchal structure of society which is harming both women and men in horrible ways," is supporting labor mobility. But you're bright! Everybody, think of something.

And if you have a daughter, love her.

The caveat: it's hard to be sure about the numbers, particularly in light of a wide-reaching study by economist Emily Oster , who found evidence suggesting that some of the boy-girl imbalance could be accounted for because women infected with hepatitis B are more likely to give birth to boys. She suggests that this could account for up to 75% of the "missing" girls in China, though only 20% of India's infant gender imbalance (via the fabulous filter-blog 3quarksdaily.com). While her findings certainly don't mean that girls aren't being systematically eliminated from the population in some places, nor do they mitigate the possible negative consequences, they do indicate that the situation is more complicated than originally believed. Organic factors like disease may be making the situation more extreme than it would be if infanticide and sex-selective abortion were the only factors, and we can't assume that all "missing" girls were aborted, murdered as infants, or fatally neglected by their parents.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Like crack for women

by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux

It's always seemed a little bit loopy to me that the fashion industry continues to churn out four-figure dresses in the middle of a recession - and that any fashion designer would say something like "I do believe that in times like today...the role of fashion is changing and it's no longer just to make sure that we look right and professional and comfortable, but it's maybe about giving the dream and making people feel good again - making people think, Should I go to a psychiatrist or should I go to buy a Lanvin suit?"

I love clothes, but I would pick the psychiatrist any day. Still, Ariel Levy's recent New Yorker profile of Lanvin head designer Alber Elbaz (the speaker of the rather insane quote above) gave me some hope for the fashion industry, which I dismiss mostly as a manufacturer of low self-esteem, in the sense that I could never wear high fashion, even if I could afford it. The models always look supremely uncomfortable and very strange - I rarely look at photographs of fashion shows and see real beauty, because it is so clearly about the designer's ego, rather than the woman who is wearing the garment. But people love Alber Elbaz, precisely because his clothes are about the women he designs for. They are about comfort, timelessness, and most of all, intelligence. "The highest compliment a woman can receive is 'My God, she looks smart!'" Elbaz writes, "not that 'she's sexy'." Perhaps it is this aesthetic that made Barneys' creative director, Simon Doonan, refer to Elbaz's clothes as "crack for women" (because, of course, women don't use crack. I had to say it!).

Elbaz is not one of those glamorous designers, a person who is clearly a purveyor of sex appeal. He is anxious, overweight and boyish - Levy describes a breakfast with him at the Carlyle Hotel, when he looked over the menu and said, "Should we be good or bad today? Maybe we start good and get bad later." Levy writes, "He ordered the fruit salad. He wanted the pancakes." And he is deeply neurotic about how he appears in comparison to other designers - when ousted from Yves Saint Laurent by Tom Ford, a "toned and tan Texan," Elbaz was devastated. Ford is known for his flashy displays of female sexuality - one of his more famous ads for Gucci featured a woman pulling her underwear down to reveal a "G" shaved into her pubic hair.

Elbaz is a little more sedate, and much classier (although really, it doesn't take much to out-class that ad). And where Ford was hip and fast-paced, Elbaz is terrified of being "the designer of the moment" - because that moment will one day be over. And yet - he seems to have triumphed over Ford, who mostly disappeared from the fashion scene at the end of the 1990s. Tilda Swinton (that classiest of actresses) accepted her Oscar in a Lanvin design last year, a dress that she described as "sincerely comfortable, modest, superchic, profoundly modern." Somehow I don't think Gucci could have pulled that off.

Elbaz's designs, a mixture of the "soigne and the daffy," are where I think the true future of fashion lies. I don't object to fashion as an art form - after all, I can't afford lots of art, so the prices shouldn't bother me - but when it manipulates female sexuality to create something that isn't really beautiful, but is in fact profoundly uncomfortable, I think fashion has gone in the wrong direction. Like architecture, fashion is in a different category because it's something we have to live in. Levy writes, "very little is painless or undramatic for Elbaz." And perhaps that's why his designs fit his models so well. Any designer can make a woman look thin, or pretty, or hot. But making a woman look fascinating - that's something that requires more than ego, or even more than style. That's when fashion becomes art.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Photoshopping beauty

by Dhwani Shah

Remember the evolution advertisement from Dove's Campaign for real beauty? It depicted the evolution of a young woman from real beauty to billboard beauty. The video showed how the media manufactures and manipulates images to create impossibly high standards of attractiveness. Today, the New York Times had a great editorial video feature on the same topic, called "Sex, Lies, and Photoshop." Image editors are heavily involved in the production of advertisements and magazines. "Every picture has been worked on, some 20-30 rounds," said an editor in the video short, "They are perfected to death." Many European countries have taken a stand against the perpetuation of unhealthy or unreal body images, but to date, little has been done in the United States.

Now I'm not afraid to show off Susan B. Anthony and Sacajawea!

Because for some reason it's showing up teeny (yes, I am computer illiterate), here's a link to Jezebel. God, I love the Daily Show! Take a break from your midterms studying (it's almost over, folks!) and enjoy.

Princeton hot?

by Josh Franklin

The Daily Princetonian published an opinion today by Neha Goel, pointing out the sexism involved in the popular complaint that women at Princeton are, "just not that attractive." She examines the idea that 'attractive' girls on campus are labeled as 'Princeton hot'; that is, it's noted that they seem attractive only due to the generally low level of attractiveness among Princeton women. Goel considers the fact that the size of the school limits the population of 'hot girls', but then moves into more controversial territory. The really interesting material here, as Goel points out, is the possibility of an inverse relationship between being 'hot' and being 'smart'. Maybe women who, growing up, were labeled as very attractive don't have an incentive to apply themselves to realizing an academic potential. Or maybe Princeton women, overburdened with serious concerns like writing theses, don't have, "time to primp."

What should we make of this? I think that Goel does a great job of pointing out that, unsurprisingly, the campus culture of attractiveness seems overwhelmingly directed towards judging women. I'm not sure where she thinks we ought to go; it seems to me that the sexism and misunderstanding here starts with the unfortunately huge value our society places on a very narrow ideal of human beauty. I applaud her for asking men to imagine themselves compared to the ideal of male perfection in an effort to expose the harmful ways in which women are judged. However, I think that reading some of the commenters who wrote that they weren't even aware of this idea of 'Princeton hot' is enlightening. Maybe by arguing only in terms of ideals of beauty or the 'hot girl', we exclude those who don't view women this way, and conceal an important opportunity to change a negative culture.

Potentially exciting?

President Obama is expected to sign an executive order tomorrow to establish a White House Council on Women and Girls. The Council's mission is to "provide a coordinated federal response to the challenges confronted by women and girls to ensure that all Cabinet and Cabinet-level agencies consider how their policies and programs impact women and families."

The Washington Post politics blog, "The Fix," points out that in the 2008 election, 53 percent of the electorate was female and Obama carried that group 56 percent to 44 percent over Arizona Sen. John McCain. So if he wants to maintain that advantage in 2012, he has to pander to us ladyfolk. But seriously, I think this isn't just symbolic, and even though I'm reserving judgment until I see what this council actually does, I think I'm excited. The council will be run by Tina Tchen, currently the director of the White House Office of Public Liaison.

Thoughts?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Hooray for periods!

by Jordan Bubin

Periods are awesome. Now, maybe I think that because I never have to deal with them internally, along with related aches and cramps, but it’d be false to tell me I never have to deal with them. After all I’ve got five sisters—“Could you pick up blueberry-scented tampons?”—and as a heterosexual male, they pop up in life with, well, regularity.

People, I feel, usually dismiss periods as that gross, nasty time of the month—but I feel the redhead from Texas ought to get a little more love. A female friend of mine claims that she appreciates her period—not the cramps, but the period itself—as an affirmation of herself as a woman, as a feminine being. For my part, I vote periods as awesome because they’re like a high-five from the gods: “Guess who’s not a daddy this month?”

Through completely unscientific polling and anecdotes gathered through years of being interested in the fairer sex, it seems to me like the period is a time when, sex typically ceases, and if there’s any naked fun to be had, the guy’s the only beneficiary. This seems to me a tad unfair. After all, I know girls who are of the opinion that “It’s funky anyway,” but I feel it’s more often guys who get squeamish at the thought of a southern nosebleed.

If that’s true, it surprises me that, as it seems, women are pretty much okay with this. After all, I’m betting that sex drives don’t end when the flow begins. (Or at least, not for everyone.) Why should women have to give up sex a couple days a month, if they don’t want to? It’s not as if guys who are looking for someone to play with have a regular obstacle to rocking out on the weekend.

I know at least one of my friends who agrees with the point of the “Hair” vagina monologue—she’s against trimming, because “you can’t love a vagina if you don’t love hair.” Now, I beg to differ, and see that as a matter of common courtesy; perhaps you can’t demand your significant other bust out the razor, but it is a favor to whoever happens to wander into the region. (And seriously, I feel like it is a common joke that us guys can’t find the clit—do you really want to make it that much harder to find?) Regardless of your opinion there, though, I’m surprised that I never hear my female friends say that “You can’t appreciate a vagina if you can’t handle a little menstruation.” It seems similarly a matter of courtesy—perhaps, as a woman, you may not expect to get some head that week; yet if you engage in the courtesy of forewarning, I don’t see why it isn’t a slap in the face if the response to that warning is “no thanks.” If there are grounds for feminist irritation at the idea of men demanding women shave, it seems there are at least equal grounds at the fact that guys tend to be incapable of laying down a towel, if they’re so worried about messing the sheets.

So, I think the period ought to have a little more respect than it now gets—being ignored when it’s around, and being terrified of having it not come on time. Celebrate those things—and guys, be willing to hit the store and pick up some feminine products. Although, I have to admit—I do not know why there is a market for blueberry tampons. Who wants to smell like fresh-baked muffins?

The Vatican does it again...

by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux

I shouldn't be surprised at anything the Vatican's newspaper is printing, but on International Women's Day, they published an article in which they weighed in on the event or invention which has most liberated women (even though really, who asked them?): ""Some say the pill, some say abortion rights and some the right to work outside the home. Some, however, dare to go further: the washing machine."

Now, I can understand the Vatican's ideological opposition to the pill, even if I don't agree with it. But the washing machine? I admit that it did free women from washing clothes by hand, which made laundry into a grueling chore, but to suggest that the washing machine, rather than the right to work or the right to vote, or even, for God's sake, the tampon? Stances on abortion and contraceptive use aside, I think we can all agree that this article is pretty condescending and insulting - basically, it's saying that women were liberated once they could throw the clothes in the machine, shut the lid, and have a cappuccino with their friends...so just imagine what life was like after the dryer! That was really all that was keeping us from having careers - just that pesky laundry! Not discrimination, or anything. The Catholic Church doesn't know anything about that.

Monday, March 9, 2009

She provoked him?!

Newsweek has a good review of the myths about relationship violence that are reinforced in the press about Chris Brown's attacks on Rihanna. The article argues systematically against several prominent ways that observers have tried to blame Rihanna or apologize for Brown. I think that it's particularly disturbing/interesting to read the comments section, where there's a lot of sympathy for Brown.

Of course, we've already seen this story here on EW, but I don't think you can overstate how destructive misconceptions of relationship violence are. If you look at the comments that have been left on this article, it seems that because a relationship is an experience that many share, relationship violence can become a stand-in for gender relations in general. That is, we take our frustrations with gender out in an accusatory free-for-all, especially when it comes in the form of celebrity scandal, that is really unfair to survivors of relationship violence. I think that this article is a great way to reveal some of the ways that we don't speak correctly about relationship violence, and I think it's really important that we're talking about this.

Thanks to Aku for the tip!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Happy International Women's Day!

Today is International Women's Day! If you haven't been celebrating, start - we spend far too little time thinking about the "economic, social and political achievements of women." This year's global theme is "women and men united to end violence against women and girls." Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a press release earlier today, "celebrating untapped potential but lamenting how no nation in the world has yet achieved full equality for women."

"Ensuring the rights of women and girls is not only a matter of justice," Clinton wrote. "It is a matter of enhancing global peace, progress, and prosperity for generations to come."

Jezebel has some great images from events taking place worldwide today and yesterday. And Le Monde has a wonderful slideshow.

Got chainsaws?

by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux

I'm sure you will be relieved to learn that Combos (man's favorite cheese-filled snack, if you weren't aware) has decided to dedicate its resources to a timely, crucial study: which cities in the United States are the "manliest." Nashville is at the top and New York, sadly, is at the bottom. But this isn't just a service to humanity - it coincides with the launch of the Ultimate Man Zone Sweepstakes, "an opportunity for guys to improve their favorite hangouts and win prize packages to upgrade their tailgating, grilling, home theater or gaming "zones.""

New York was ranked low, presumably because of the lack of gaming "zones." It is also rife with what the conductors of the study referred to as "emasculating" characteristics, like home furnishing stores, high minivan sales, and subscriptions to beauty magazines. Also - horror of horrors - they don't drag race in New York! The locations of the cities are suspiciously skewed toward states in the South and Midwest - Philadelphia, ranked 30th, is the first city even close to the northeast. And you'd better forget about California. There are zero men there!

For your amusement, I've included a few helpful tips from the study about where to find the manliest men - and which cities failed to cut it. Just because you wanted another excuse to go to Oklahoma City.
  • "Nashville is the Mecca of manliness. With its high number of NASCAR enthusiasts, popularity of hunting and fishing and concentration of BBQ restaurants, the Music City stands alone atop the mountain of manliness.
  • Despite high ratings in the "bowling" category, New York City ranks 50th out of 50 in the study due to low scores in manly indicators such as "fishing," "home improvement" and "drag racing."
  • If you're in the Midwest and looking to enjoy a game with a cold beverage, look no farther than St. Louis, which has the highest concentration of sports bars in the country.
  • Grand Rapids, Mich. has more monster truck rallies, per capita, than any other U.S. city.
  • Philadelphia and Chicago, with low scores in the "hunting" category fail to crack the top 25 (ranked 30th and 46th respectively).
  • The men of Oklahoma City know how to snack with gusto. Their city owns the highest purchase rate of salty snacks, such as COMBOS®.
  • Got chainsaws? What about hammers and power drills? The men of New Orleans do. The "Big Easy" boasts more hardware stores per capita than any other U.S. city."
So as I sit here, considering whether I would like some salty junk food myself, I must remind myself that no, salt is for the manly men. I'd better go eat some celery. The designers of the study helpfully also remind us that "thanks to COMBOS, women now know where to find the manliest men around." So I'd better run to Nashville and find me a chain-saw-loving, drag-racing, home-improving, hunk of burning love.

And I would also like someone to explain to me what exactly a "hearty pretzel and cracker snack made with real cheese" is. Maybe the makers of COMBOS should get on that before they tackle sweeping demographic studies.

Thanks to Phyllis for the tip!

More thoughts on Brazil, Catholicism, and abortion

by Molly Borowitz

I first read this article on Thursday when my boyfriend sent it to me in an email entitled “are you s***ing me?” (The content was a link to BBC.com and the sentence “This makes me so mad.”) Given the debate that Josh's earlier post has sparked, I do want to add my thoughts (and some reconsiderations) to the discussion, but I wanted to give y'all that background so you would know which side of the fence I’m on. I am Catholic. I don’t agree with abortion. I wouldn’t have one myself (a fact which startles most of my friends and my boyfriend, who got the shock of his life when he bravely asked, “If you got pregnant, what would you do?”). However, being a fundamentally more politicized than religious person, I believe we (being American citizens) don’t have the right to make that decision for other people. It’s her body, and just because I wouldn’t have one doesn’t give me the right to keep her from doing so.

Okay. Having thoroughly established my position, I’d like to revisit the original article. Let’s start with Brazil’s abortion laws, which are much more restrictive than those of the United States: abortion is legal if and only if the mother has either been raped or the pregnancy constitutes a fatal health risk. If, as Chloe points out in her comment, the mother is a “twenty-five year-old with a decent income who had consensual sex and is at no physical or psychological risk from bearing the child,” she is not legally eligible for an abortion in Brazil (although she would be in the United States). The penalty for performing an abortion on oneself, undergoing the procedure, or consenting to perform it on another person is one to three years in prison. The punishment increases if the procedure results in injury or death.

As we have established, the little girl herself was not excommunicated. BBC states very clearly that “the excommunication applies to the child’s mother and the doctors involved in the procedure,” and further, that the Church stated publicly that “the excommunication would not apply to the child because of her age.”

However—abortion is legal in Brazil under the conditions of rape and fatal health risk. This poor child met both conditions. Her pregnancy was the result of prolonged sexual abuse—about three years’ worth—at the hands of her stepfather (who attempted to flee Pernambuco after being accused of sexually abusing her 14-year-old sister, who is physically handicapped). If that’s not rape, I don’t know what is. Further, the girl is nine years old, and therefore not physically capable of surviving childbirth. BBC reports that “doctors at the hospital said they had to take account of the welfare of the girl, and that she was so small that her uterus did not have the ability to contain one child let alone two.” (In case this particular detail was overlooked, the girl was pregnant with twins.)

I understand—and agree—with Christina’s point that “procuring an abortion is not negligence. If she had been old enough to choose not to have an abortion, or if her mother had chosen not to have the abortion done, it would be horrifically negligent not to give her the best prenatal care possible.” However, I think that assertion is a bit idealistic, considering the cost of prenatal care in a country like Brazil, where state health care only covers very specific procedures and prescriptions. Could her mother, already caring for another, physically-handicapped child, afford to keep her in the hospital for months? Given her size, the girl would probably have needed an emergency C-section before the babies were full-term (since the doctors determined that her uterus would not be able to hold them), which would have meant incurring even greater expenses keeping the premature babies alive in newborn intensive care (perhaps for months) and treating a post-operative nine-year-old with huge scars in her abdomen and reproductive organs. Would the State have agreed to help cover these expenses if the girl was legally eligible for an abortion?

And my last point. We have no way of knowing what the girl herself wanted to do. We assume, because she is so young, that her mother and the doctors must have made the decision. However, it is possible that the girl had more say than we realize. BBC reports that “the fact that she was pregnant with twins was only discovered after she was taken to hospital in Pernambuco complaining of stomach pains.” Imagine you’re nine years old, and your stomach hurts badly. Your mom takes you to the hospital, and the doctor tells you that in a few months you’re going to have not one but two babies. And that having those babies might kill you. I don’t know what y'all would have done, but—despite being a very alert, precocious, and articulate nine-year-old—I would have burst into tears, hugged my mom, and begged her to make it stop. Now imagine you’re her mother. What would you do? Would you (potentially) sacrifice your child’s life when you were legally and medically capable of saving it?

I think it’s all too easy to argue for an abstract ideology when you have no conception of the practical experiences of the people involved. Whatever religion you profess, please keep this girl and her family in your thoughts. They have undergone an experience to which I hope none of us will ever be able to relate.