Tuesday ReadsPosted: September 28, 2021
A quick update: I think I’m beginning to recover from my pain flare-up. I’ve found a good book on dealing with chronic pain along with an chronic pain app that is helping me better understand what is happening in my body and brain. I’ve been working on slowing down my breathing and letting go of my fear of the pain. So I’m working on being proactive.
Here are some stories that have captured my interested this morning:
The ACLU has apologized for it’s offensive editing of a famous quote by Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The New York Times: A.C.L.U. Apologizes for Tweet That Altered Quote by Justice Ginsburg.
Anthony Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said Monday that he regretted that a tweet sent out recently by his organization altered the words of a well-known quote by the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The A.C.L.U. tweet, which was sent out Sept. 18, changed Justice Ginsburg’s words, replacing each of her references to women with “person,” “people” or a plural pronoun in brackets. Justice Ginsburg, who died last year, is a revered figure in liberal and feminist circles and directed the A.C.L.U.’s Women’s Rights Project from its founding in 1972 until she became a federal judge in 1980.
The tweet by the A.C.L.U. occasioned mockery and some anger on social media from feminists and others.
“We won’t be altering people’s quotes,” Mr. Romero said in an interview on Monday evening. “It was a mistake among the digital team. Changing quotes is not something we ever did.” Mr. Romero first noted his regrets in an interview with Michelle Goldberg, The New York Times columnist, who wrote a column that spoke to the danger of trying to “change the nature of reality through language alone.”
From Michelle Goldberg: The A.C.L.U. Errs on R.B.G.
Recently, on the anniversary of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, the American Civil Liberties Union set out to pay tribute to her pro-choice heroism, and ended up making the sort of self-parodic blunder the right salivates over.
One of R.B.G.’s iconic quotes came from her 1993 Senate confirmation hearings, when, instead of shying away from commenting on reproductive rights like most Supreme Court nominees, she made a forthright case for their indispensability to human flourishing.
“The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself. When government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices,” Ginsburg said.
In a ham-handed attempt to make the quote conform to current progressive norms around gender neutrality, the A.C.L.U. rendered it this way in a tweet: “The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a [person’s] life, to [their] well-being and dignity … When the government controls that decision for [people], [they are] being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for [their] own choices.”
This was a mistake for two reasons, one that’s easy to talk about, and one that’s hard.
The easy one is this: It’s somewhat Orwellian to rewrite historical utterances to conform to modern sensitivities. No one that I’m aware of used gender-neutral language to talk about pregnancy and abortion in 1993; it wasn’t until 2008 that Thomas Beatie became famous as what headlines sometimes called the “First Pregnant Man.” There’s a difference between substituting the phrase “pregnant people” for “pregnant women” now, and pretending that we have always spoken of “pregnant people.”
What’s more difficult to discuss is how making Ginsburg’s words gender-neutral alters their meaning. That requires coming to terms with a contentious shift in how progressives think and talk about sex and reproduction. Changing Ginsburg’s words treats what was once a core feminist insight — that women are oppressed on the basis of their reproductive capacity — as an embarrassing anachronism. The question then becomes: Is it? [….]
A gender-inclusive understanding of reproduction is in keeping with the goal of a society free of sex hierarchies. It is one thing to insist that women shouldn’t be relegated to second-class status because they can bear children. It’s perhaps more radical to define sex and gender so that childbearing is no longer women’s exclusive domain.
Yet I think there’s a difference between acknowledging that there are men who have children or need abortions — and expecting the health care system to treat these men with respect — and speaking as if the burden of reproduction does not overwhelmingly fall on women. You can’t change the nature of reality through language alone. Trying to do so can seem, to employ a horribly overused word, like a form of gaslighting.
“One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman,” Simone de Beauvoir wrote. You can interpret this to support the contemporary notion of sex and gender as largely matters of self-identification. Or you can interpret it as many older feminists have, as a statement about how the world molds you into a woman, of how certain biological experiences reveal your place in the social order, and how your identity develops in response to gender’s constraints.
Seen this way, a gender-neutral version of Ginsburg’s quote is unintelligible, because she was talking not about the right of all people to pursue their own reproductive destiny, but about how male control of women’s reproductive lives makes women part of a subordinate class. The erasure of gendered language can feel like an insult, because it takes away the terms generations of feminists used to articulate their predicament.
Read the whole thing at the NYT.
The Washington Post reports on a “revelation” from the new book by former Trump WH press secretary Stephanie Grisham: Trump played tough with Putin when cameras were around, while Putin toyed with his insecurities, a new book says.