A couple weeks ago, @antitheistangie tweeted a response someone sent to her: “I hope you like the taste of fetus you murderer.” She responded: “Do people think women EAT the product of an abortion? What the hell.”
Those of us who delve into anti-choice websites know that, yes, some anti-choicers spread a meme that pro-choice women and/or doctors are actually secret cannibals who EAT FETUSES. It’s a fringe belief in the anti-choice movement, but the “eating fetuses” meme is not too far off from the belief that babies are delivered whole and alive in botched abortions and left in closets to die, a myth which spawned Congressional legislation — meaning actual elected officials took this idea seriously.
In a bit of a puckish mood, I baked up a batch of fetus-shaped sugar cookies, decorated them somewhat comically bad, including crossed out eyes and two heads, then posted the pictures on my twitter feed.
The cookies were meant as a bit of joke to my fellow pro-choice twitter followers. A gag, a prank, a bit of inside baseball for those “in the know.” I was trying to twist the distorted images antis have of us into something truly outsized and cartoonish. It was juvenile and perhaps the presentation could have made my point a bit more explicit. It also may crossed a line of good taste, even for ardent pro-choice activists.
But I also knew it would drive the anti-choice side a bit crazy.
Jill Stanek felt the need to write a whole post about the pics, and probed through my resume to figure out I’m in my 30s.
Afterwards some of my pro-choice friends who aren’t activists, chided me for the prank. They said I was adding fuel to the antis’ fire and making the pro-choice side look bad. I don’t want to blowup what ultimately was just a picture that went out on a Twitter feed, but I do feel that the pro-choice movement may need a few more stunts like this (just executed with more brilliance and strategy). In the world of pro-choice/anti-choice rhetoric that includes everything from discussions on cable news to protests on street corners sometimes it feels like the pro-choice side is playing tennis while the anti-choice side is playing contact football. (Or we are playing polite games with rules and they are playing back with guns, bombs and death threats).
I don’t think we need to delve into violence, but I was somewhat inspired by the ways that activists protest the presence of Fred Phelps and his family when they appear at events, by holding up signs that mock the concept of signage entirely.
When the other side is making an irrational argument, the best response may not be to make a rational argument. I know this can sound counter-intuitive, but consider the Birther movement. The belief that Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. is about as accurate as the myth that Plan B causes abortions or that the healthcare reform act funds abortions.
It wouldn’t matter if you had a stack of reports from blue ribbon panels that explained in thorough detail that any of those beliefs are inaccurate; politically expedient myths don’t die. But of those three beliefs I could find you a stack of recent news articles that treat the abortion myths as a “credible” belief to hold.
I don’t believe every organization in the pro-choice movement needs to act like a clown in order to get a point across. But a model of one group that I think balanced the line between “prank” and “point” was Billionaires for Bush. These “clowns” managed to get a reaction in a way a thousand Paul Krugman columns would never get.
I’d like to see a group like that in the pro-choice movement. I think by highlighting the absurdity of the anti-choice movement we can gain more supporters, not less.