Wednesday, February 25, 2009

And You Thought She was Ridiculed for the Babies...

So Octomom is kinda a weird freakshowesque name, right? It makes Nadya Suleman, her babies, her body, and her life seem othered and creepy to the max. In trying to come up with a more palatable, yet media-clever name did Octopussy ever come to your mind? No? Only Vivid Entertainment? Well, kudos to you Vivid. When Us Weekly got all in my face with Octomom's 8 sexless years, I was thinking that the exploitation train had run its course, but then, choo! choo! Here I find out you, Vivid Entertainment, are all set to pay her a million bucks if she stars in a porno taking on 8 guys! You may be clever, but you'll still have to pay TMZ (Too Much Zomg-assholeness) for your even sweeter tagline: "Octomom is used to having multiple people inside of her at once."

If you're done gagging on your utter disgust let's move on to some finer points about this new chapter, eh? If you read the comments on TMZ (because why be satisfied with only boiling rage when you could totz escalate to white hot) many interneters are already calling for the state to come repo her kids 'cause being in porn makes you an "unfit" parent. Let's first ignore the fact that she has yet to even reply to Vivid, much less make a video. Also of note, the idea that being involved in sex work or porno makes you an unfit parent is, uh, not legally accurate, nor real fucking life accurate. (To aid in learning what child abuse actually is and how someone can for real get their kids taken from them, I'm including this link to DC's Child Protective Services page. And let me add that "exposure to" means making them watch/look at it, not family involvement.)

So people already hate Nadya Suleman for a variety of reasons (drain on society! crazy! bad mother! unnatural! poor! and the list goes on...). Most upsetting to me is the feminist backlash, seen most grotesquely over at Bitch, where many commenters were playing fast and loose with what reproductive choice meant to them:
I want to just scream it: just because you can have babies doesn't mean you should! It's a grave thing. There's a whole lot you can fuck up here. And yeah, poor women having children have been bullied by the media way too much and have been judged unfairly. So it's hard to come right out and say, Listen lady, what you are doing is asinine and irresponsible. But I can't support this kind of behavior. It's stupid.
That's right, pro-choice is all about choosing abortion, not the choice to decide the size of your family, psssh. So I'm thinking that if some feminists are willing to throw their values under a bus at the sight of 14 kids (!!!) and join all the other aforementioned haters the response to this will-she-won't-she porno debacle is going to be ugly. Keeping in mind of course, that unlike being pro-choice, being for or against the sex work industry divides us feminists like nothin' else. (Sweet how we do it to ourselves, huh? Who even needs republicans at this point?)

Personal opinions about how responsible she is aside, let's pop on our feminist lens and examine how she was persecuted for her choice to expand her family and think about how her choice to be in porno will be treated. Please note my astute use of italics for the word "choice," because I think this entire ordeal perfectly illustrates a major problem with how people view women's involvement in sex work and what kinds of choices women have for lucrative work. Let's assume that "Octopussy" is the only offer she has right now to make gobs of money. With everyone bitching left and right about her irresponsible broke-ass sucking money from the taxpayers (right from your hardworking Joe-the-Plumber pockets!) this million dollar venture would look like a great idea to get the bucks she needs to support her family for life and perhaps quiet the death threats for a bit. Nope! Everyone hates porn too, so now she's a huge child abusing whore, even though this was her best opportunity to make money like everyone wanted.

I think there are women who choose different kinds of sex work for their own pleasure or interest, but often it's a monetary fueled decision, a decision they technically chose, but from what list of options? I make about 35k a year and I've had my BA for years. I'm not entry level, but it's hard to make a lot more in non-profit work. If I was faced with 1 million dollars upfront for one sex video and 30k spread over a year...totally tempting even though I don't reeeaally want to do something like that. But with the stakes so high, it's no longer a balanced choice, especially if I'm in debt, or trying to get car repairs, or catch up on rent, and even less balanced if I had 14 babies. When the options are limited to little or no money and heaps and heaps of money, what options are there really?

Honestly, I don't think Ms. Suleman would take Vivid's offer anyways, the outcry would be deafening, and she's in a unique position to make some dough with other non-gangbang projects (though probably not millions, + health care, dental, etc). Though, I think it's important to pay attention to the angry mob that is being created. Tearing this woman down for her reproductive choice because it was deemed that she is too broke for kids, and now furthering the cry to arms by blaming her involvement in a porno that she doesn't technically have anything to do with as of yet - even though it would make her plenty of money to take care of her family and no longer be the dreaded "drain on the system." Seriously, what do we want from this woman?

Most importantly, if everyone is going to get so damn mad, why don't we direct our anger at the fact that women can make 1 million bucks fucking for 88 minutes but have no other ways to make that much money that fast. We could even take it down a notch since a million is kind of a ridiculous sum, but what about a thousand? A friend of mine dances, and she makes almost a thousand dollars a night. At the end of the week she could pay off my credit card that I've been struggling to make minimum payments on forever. In no other profession can women make such large sums money as quickly. So get frustrated not at the women making their living, but at the society that allows this money monopoly to happen even as they condemn it.

And everything else aside, I just want to reiterate my sentiment from the first paragraph again. Vivid Entertainment, and TMZ you are disgusting fucking asshats.


Sarah said...

I agree with you on this one Luce'. Lately all I hear at work is some awful gossip about Nadya Suleman the "Octomom" and her eight premature babies. And, it's also true that this Vivid Entertainment Porno deal is going to make things much worse for this woman and she hasn't even accepted the offer.

Forget the liberal feminist for one second... no offense I love liberals and feminists and I happen to be both. For the most part we are an accepting group. I work with a group of people (Mostly RN's and LPN's) who proudly describe themselves as moderately conservative or very conservative. These people want to see Nadya Suleman get the death penalty. I'm being utterly serious here. I have heard more than one of these folks say, "This woman deserves the death penalty." If she were to accept a porn deal they would probably form an elite team and go on a mission to rescue the babies and kill her themselves.

I guess if there's anything moderate to conservative republican woman hate more than a poor lady wanting all eight of their new born children it's godlessness and pornography!

emrez said...

Luc... you are SO spot on. I've been wary reading so many of these (often feminist) blog posts about Suleman - and not even necessarily because the bloggers themselves are saying things I don't like, but rather because the commenters all of the sudden have left their feminism at the door.

And it's not even about "choice" (oh god, how i loathe "choice" feminism). It's about the fucking right to privacy. Sure, she probably agreed to do the initial stories - carrying around and then birthing 8 babies is nothing short of a damn miracle. And you know what, if she'd been married and white and relatively well-off, we wouldn't even remember her, or probably even know her fucking name. But instead, we've got sick-o's practically preying on her because hey, she could use the money and she'd make them lots of it. Besides, who doesn't like saying "Octopussy"?

So, like Sarah said, it frightens me to hear the violent-natured comments from conservatives, but I think I'm actually even more bothered by people who claim to believe in feminist ideals and respecting others (no, conservatives don't believe in respecting others), because they're supposed to be the ones effecting change! How the hell are we going to accomplish anything if we can't admit to the racist, classist, heterosexist thoughts and comments we're making?!?

daughter of wands said...

Interesting in that you seem to sense the archaic concept of pro-choice. These days it's appropriately transitioning into reproductive justice. I'd highly recommend a stop at Sistersong's Web site if you haven't heard...

In fact, those who lead the Pro-choice movement have shifted this conversation in recent weeks to the responsibility of medical providers because, indeed, planting 8 embryos is not natural and dangerous.

PS. I'm a pro-choice/reproductive justice feminist and I could care less if you choose abortion or babies or neither or both--I do, however, want you to make this decision authentically and of sound mind and body and I can't help but feel like you, yourself, are hating on some of the most compassionate mavens I know...

Lucé said...

daughter of wands, please do not misunderstand my annoyance with feminists hating on other women with my own personal opinion on Nadya Suleman.

I appreciate how her choice may not be the wisest and most responsible decision. I personally would never put my body or life through this process. I believe it is going to be a very difficult and near impossible task to care for each of those children equally, with great amounts of love/attention like they deserve.

I also think it is important to have an intelligent, thoughtful discussion/debate about reproductive choice, health, and ethics. Especially when it is thrust in the public eye the way this case is.

My argument and focus of this post is not really about the rightness or wrongness of Ms. Suleman's choices, however. Rather, it is about the very wrongness of self identifying feminists to skew the meaning of choice and publicly decry this woman. By calling her stupid and selfish (please note the direct quote in my post), feminists are letting their supposedly progressive voices blend with those of hate-filled conservatives.

Progressives, liberals, radicals, etc. should always speak out, question, and demand better answers. As feminists we should always be a the forefront of making sure women have access to safe, equal, affordable, and responsible health and reproductive care. I like Sister Song, I've existed for years within groups of close friends and family who work for abortion providers, however, this post isn't about any of that. It's simply about our responsibility as feminists, as women, to not attack, tear down, or degrade other women and their choices even when (especially when) they differ from our own choices/beliefs.

There is a large difference between the kinds of attacks running rampant in the feminist community about this case, and healthy smarty-pants discussion/debate. Here I am calling for less of the former and more of the latter.

Thank you for your comments and taking the time to read my blog.

Elisabeth said...

Science Blog: Multiple Choice

Lucé said...

I 100% agree with every point/aspect made in that article. Thank you so much for sharing, Beth! Did you post this b/c it is your feeling as well? I wholly believe that this needs to be discussed, yet oh so carefully as it is, as the author said, "a slippery slope." Again, it's about promoting thoughtful discussion and solutions, not arbitrary hatred or opinions.

emrez said...

daughter of wands, i'm not sure i get what you're saying. i'm with you on the movement from dialogues of "pro-choice" to "reproductive justice" but you kind of lose me in the p.s.

Could you maybe explain what you mean by "I can't help but feel like you, yourself, are hating on some of the most compassionate mavens I know..."? Or at least what was said that leads you to feel that way?

daughter of wands said...

sure emrez:

"Most upsetting to me is the feminist backlash, seen most grotesquely over at Bitch...
That's right, pro-choice is all about choosing abortion, not the choice to decide the size of your family, psssh.

Sweeping generalizations about both those who identify as pro-choice and feminist were made based on one blog posted on a pop-culture site...

emrez said...

Okay, so I can see where you'd read it that way. I read it as the author was using Bitch as just one example of where she's read these types of comments. I know I've seen/heard many similar things by self-proclaimed pro-choice feminists. I don't think any of us would go so far as to claim all feminists felt (or should feel) one way or another.

And as a bit of a side note, I don't want to be reading too much into your comment about Bitch being a "pop culture" site, but... so what that it's a pop culture site? Because the topics are based largely on popular culture doesn't mean (and shouldn't mean) that feminist theory and smart feminist discussions can't come out from there.

daughter of wands said...

Blog comments probably not best place to discuss as we'll keep reading between eachother's line, no?

While I may disagree with women who self-identify as Feminist or Pro-choice, I am careful not to disagree with Feminism or the Pro-choice movement when I wish to discuss misconceptions among the masses.

In regards to this particular case--I've heard alot of similar ignorant ranting coming from all kinds of people--why target feminists and why give attention to a poor and ignorant piece?

Luce, your aspirations with this blog are incredible and your voice is strong and engaging.

Best of luck and thank you for following the Abortioneers...I think we have alot to learn form eachother.

Lucé said...

daughter of wands, thank you for your kind words (and the challenging ones, too). I enjoyed what I read from your blog, and I look forward to reading it more in the future.

As one last remark, there are lots of jerks in general talking about this case in many worse ways then my given examples. But there are also plenty of people discussing those jerks, and but no one discussing the discussion, which is growing more interesting and important than the original case.

I self identify as a feminist and I believe that it is my personal responsibility as a feminist to build women and their experiences up, not tear them down. I do unto others as I would like done onto me. Thus, despite my personal belief system, I cannot condone calling a woman stupid even if she is anti-abortion/pro-life, or wacky in any other way. I picked one quote from a list of similar comments on that webpage, and I encountered similar sentiment on other pages before I decided to say something. Is this a handful of people from a handful of webpages? Absolutely. It is my small observation. Though, it is something that concerns me b/c I'm used to the regular jerkass trolls and sexists, but I am not used to hearing similar hostility from people who self-identify as part of a progressive movement, and I think these people should be called out.

placenta sandwich said...

DoW, I am glad you pointed me here. Luce', I really agree pretty much completely with what you're saying here. But it's true that one bristles sometimes at the shitting-on of the word "choice". Not because it's not a worthwhile point to make -- I still consider Catharine MacKinnon one of my feminist heroines -- but because it seems unfair to conflate that kind of false "choice" (as seen in the sex work tangles) with the reproductive "choice" aspired to in the phrase pro-choice. I mean, here you are saying that any reproductive choice is none of our finger-wagging business (and I agree), but also saying that you can't just call any [employment/survival] decision someone makes a "choice" like it was just their fancy. I believe that's the kernel of why it stings. Certainly I have a problem, as another commenter stated, with so-called "choice feminism" i.e. anything you do that you as a woman "chose" is therefore feminist. I guess it's that at this point one word has been diluted into many, oft-contradictory meanings... Thanks for letting me ramble.