Over at Feministing, there’s a vigorous discussion about the excerpt from my book The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power and the Future of the World that appears in the current issue of the Prospect. Many of those leaving comments seem to think that the piece is a rationalization or a justification for female circumcision, which it very much is not. “This is some of the most pathetic apologism I've ever seen,” wrote one person. “Culture can be bad. We have bad elements to our own culture, and Feministing spends plenty of time talking about them and how they can change.
A couple of weeks ago, while working on a story that never really went anywhere, I interviewed several Pakistani lawyers and women’s rights activists. I wanted to know whether there was anything they wanted to see the United States do to protect or help women in areas of the country falling under Taliban sway. There were a range of suggestions, but most of them said they wanted to see some kind of conditionality attached to our non-military aid to Pakistan that would ensure some of it flows to grass-roots groups – including women’s ones -- rather than government corruption.
In her new book, former ACLU board member Wendy Kaminer goes after the organization and its current director. But in mixing the personal with the political, does she miss the real challenges facing the group in the wake of the Bush administration?
Wendy Kaminer's new book, Worst Instincts: Cowardice, Conformity and the ACLU, is the latest chapter in the impassioned civil libertarian's long war with the organization she once loved. In it, Kaminer argues that Anthony Romero, who took over the American Civil Liberties Union from longtime leader Ira Glasser a week before September 11, has thoroughly corrupted the organization. It attributes the fact that most ACLU board members and supporters seem to disagree to, well, cowardice and conformity. It is, naturally, a boon to the right, which loathes the ACLU and relishes reports of left-wing perfidy from native informers. That, though, is not the reason that this febrile, furious volume is so unfortunate.
When news of the swine flu broke out, my first thought was that it would be a great time for a vacation in Tulum. During the brief panic over the bird flu in Hong Kong in the late 1990s, I took a fantastic, and fantastically discounted, trip there that I never could have afforded during non-epidemic times. I’m still considering a Mexican holiday, though I also realize that I could be making a huge error in not taking the threat of this pandemic more seriously.
One of the arguments of my new book, The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power and the Future of the World, is that American abortion politics have an even greater impact on the health of women worldwide than on women at home. To be sure, since Reagan, Republican presidents have worked to erode reproductive rights, especially in their court appointments. But with Roe v. Wade standing, there was a limit to how much they could do. Overseas is another story – around the world, the vicissitudes of U.S. politics has resulted in wild swings in family-planning availability and in diplomatic pressure on countries to either restrict or expand reproductive rights.