Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Mothering Mary

It is getting progressively colder (and darker) outside every week. Yesterday was particularly gloomy, and it rained during the later shift. It seemed to keep the protesters inside, anyway. There were only a few of them out, and only two of them wearing the bright yellow rain jackets we love so much.

It makes me sad to go so many weeks without seeing Crazy Legs. I miss her fun outfits and wacky antics. Earpiece Charlie wasn't out either; nor was Father Grim. I feel like I haven't seen the Anger Twins in months. What is going on, people?

But you know who is always reliable? Peter Ryan. What a great guy. He might not be out every week, and he never has a sign, but you always know he's there, just next door, thinking his thoughts and dreaming his dreams. Some weeks, if you're lucky, he will go out on to the front step and speak to his faithful protesters; sometimes even stoop to walk among them. What a hero.

This week, Peter Ryan wins the prize for best gimmick ever - that's right, even better than the miniature plastic "fetus" he pulls out of his trenchcoat pocket to show to patients. This week he had the waist-high Virgin Mary statue with which he prays by the clinic on non-clinic days, but he was carrying it in his arms like an infant, and it was wrapped in a baby blanket. !!!

When the other escorts and I first saw this visual treat, we couldn't stop laughing. After some discussion it was decided that there must be several strange issues at play in Peter Ryan's psyche to have decided that this was the best way to dissuade women from having abortions. The cold, hard statue of a grown woman doesn't elicit as much sympathy as a baby, after all; even a fake baby (like a cheap plastic baby doll from the Dollar Store) would have made more sense. Secondly, the identity of the statue raises all kinds of questions. Why would Mr. Ryan cradle the virgin mother as if she were his baby? That would make him very old. I feel like there's a weird Oedipal aspect to the whole thing.

I think the most interesting imagery is of the head protester holding a statue of a grown woman as if it were a baby. Maybe this is Peter Ryan's way of telling us what he thinks of women (and their decision-making skills). Mary, the most revered woman in the Catholic Church, had only one claim to fame: being Jesus's mom. Women should aspire to be virginal baby-makers (???) with the intellect of children. Come on gals, stop thinking so hard about your own bodies!

Am I reading too much into it? Maybe someone else had the baby doll that day.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Back in Blue

That's right, I was back outside this week! Much as I like working reception, I love love love escorting and it was good to have people to chat to during the slow periods. And of course I was thrilled to see my old protesting friends - Father Grim was out, and Mad Thad, and Earpiece Charlie, but sadly no Holy Ghost or Crazy Legs.

So it's probably worth mentioning that while I do volunteer at the clinic on Tuesday mornings, I also work there part-time during the week. On Monday I was there working and discovered (props to RS for pointing this out) that Peter Ryan and Mad Thad were outside praying. Obviously since the "women's care centre" is right next door to the clinic, they could really be out praying at us any time, but as far as I know this is a recent development. They were out on the ramp side of the clinic, clearly visible from SL's office window, with a waist-high Virgin Mary statue between them. They were just standing there, praying. Weeeeiiiiirrrrd. Perhaps they are praying for our souls. Or for all the aborted babiezz. Hard to say. Just another plateau of madness, I suppose.

Anyway, back to Tuesday. We had a pretty busy day, especially out back, but thankfully most of the patients were in good spirits. The protesters stayed mostly to themselves, although Mr. Mumbles had some prayers he felt the need to mumble aggressively. A woman getting out of her car in the parking garage called across to the protesters "thank you for protesting!". That made me a little sad; she might as well say "thank you for deciding for me what I can do with my body. I would never be able to make up my mind; I'm just a girl!". Luckily, shortly afterwards a different woman drove by blaring her horn and giving the protesters the finger. It all evens out.

I wish I had more to write about this week, but without the wonderful fashion statements/hijinks of Crazy Legs, it can get pretty slow. Hopefully she will be back in action next time.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

New Stuff

As you may have noticed, a few things have been added to my blog. That's because I started fiddling around with the settings and it turns out that I'm not as incompetent at this stuff as I thought I was. So, here are some new features I have added:

1. I learned to post pictures in my posts! This actually happened a couple weeks ago. It means you will be seeing more of the pretty sky we sometimes have, and the snowmen we sometimes build. It also means you will sometimes see some hilarious protester shots.

2. I added some links of blogs I read. Most of them are fun and not related to abortion in any way. They are all definitely worth a look.

3. Polls! I will try to put up a new poll every couple weeks. Please vote in it.
Polls are fun.

You might have also noticed some older page elements. I encourage everyone to take a look at some of the blogs on the blogroll I've added (the one of non-partisan Canadian bloggers), and I especially encourage people to check out the abortion information links if you are looking for more resources on the topic at hand.

So yeah, just thought I would point those things out. If you have an awesome blog you want me to read/link to, let me know about it in the comments section. Thanks.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A 40th Post Treat

I worked inside again today, on reception. Don't worry, next week I will be back on the front lines. It was actually a bit crazier today inside than out; I think the weather makes people a bit buggy. It certainly restricted some traffic from Saint John, because the numbers of protesters were way down. Hoorah!

So since I don't really have anything much to write about, I thought I would post a little reflection I was writing in my journal earlier. I was thinking about how I need to write more, but all I can ever think to write about is abortion. Is abortion all I think about?? I mean I know I work in (and volunteer at) a clinic, and also troll a lot of abortion blogs and Facebook message boards like a coke addict in the bathroom at boom!, but it's just weird that abortion takes up so much space in my brain. Especially since I've never had one. So here's what I came up with; enjoy.

Feminism is my curse. It prevents me from watching commercials without cringing, reading magazines without violently flipping through pages of perfumed advertisements, and watching movies without decrying the lack of a strong leading female who does not dress like a crack whore playing beach volleyball. It disrupts my daily life, and yet I love it, I cling to it with the hopeless embrace and vacant stare of an addict. I love you, feminism. You give me life.

Feminism informs my other views. It shapes my socialism, powers my empathy and inspires my quest for social justice. It even contributes, in the sweetest and smallest way, to my vegetarianism. Feminism is not just an “ism” to me. It is who I am.

There is nothing more dangerous than such passion focused on one tiny aspect of our culture. But there is one such aspect where the majority of my feminist energy goes; one area of our society that holds such a deep fascination for me that every time I get on the internet, I am drawn, as if by magic, towards more blogs and message boards whose focus it is. I love it, I am appalled by it and intrigued by it, it is the air I live and breathe. It is the abortion debate.

It is strange that I would hold such stakes in a topic that really should not concern me (except of course in my womanhood and my feminism). I have never had an abortion, nor have I ever been in the situation where I would have to consider it. Neither my mother nor my sister, as far as I know, has had one. None of my close friends have had one, although a few acquaintances have (not that we have ever talked about it). Anyone I know who is directly involved in the abortion debate is someone I met after becoming involved myself. What could attract me to such a divisive, and often explosive (sometimes literally!), debate?

I suppose it is the polar opposition that does it. Once you begin to consider the debate, it is impossible to be on the fence. Either you are for legalized abortion, or you oppose it. There is no middle ground.

How can a debate have no middle ground? How can there be no shades of grey, no room for compromise? Absurd! And yet…I know that some will argue that the two sides do have common goals, but really, in general – have you ever met somebody who was in between pro-choice and pro-life? What would that opinion look like?

And thus I am drawn to my sweet, elusive abortion debate like a vulture to carrion. I love the polarity of it. I love the vitriol that spews from either side, the way that none can convert the other. I love that it incorporates all our favourite vices: sex, religion, politics, death, control, and of course, feminism. I love Dr. Morgentaler; but equally I love the middle-aged men who protest outside our clinic. I love these sweet, ridiculous players in the ongoing play, the battle that will never be won. Because there will always be someone on the other side. We are never going away, and neither are they.

It is silly, this thing that, at first glance, seems so serious. There are so many terrible things going on in the world, and here we are, still struggling to retain this one thing that we thought we had won. Why won’t they let us be complacent? Why can’t we concentrate on more pressing feminist emergencies? Because we live in a silly, topsy-turvy world where the things that should be unimportant are the things that consume our lives. And so I am consumed by this debate, because I have to be. Now that I am directly involved, my feminism won’t let me escape. Damn you, abortion debate! You will never end, and I am stuck in you forever, doomed to reflect upon my own part in this absurdity until the end of time.

Seriously, people. Some days the blog is the only thing keeping me sane.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Et tu, Earpiece Charlie?

JB is still away, so I was on reception again this week. It didn't seem like there was too much going on outside, so it's nice to know I didn't miss much; although I do like to have something to blog about.

SL thinks we need a new name for Earpiece Charlie, something that reflects how mean he is. Because it turns out he's really mean. He's always staring in the windows, which is freakier than when Glare-y Mary does it because Charlie is scarier looking. Plus, he is quite obviously trying to glare the patients into feeling guilty. When they are in SL's office he stares meanly at them the whole time. Normally I sort of think of the protesters as lovable kooks, but this guy is a bad human being. So we need a new name for him that reflects that. Put your thinking caps on!

Father Grim is back - I know you were all worried. I guess he's recuperated from whatever was keeping him away from sweet, sweet judgement.

While the protesters were no more numerous than usual, they sort of seemed more nasty. For example, there was one patient who called from her car for directions, and she sounded fine. But then when she got to the clinic not five minutes later and came inside, she was visibly shaken and upset. The protesters were really givin' 'er (as we say around these parts). The right to life conference in Moncton must have recharged their batteries.

It's funny, when you do this (escorting that is) every week it starts to become normal, and you stop really processing what's going on. But this week when I was inside and watching the protesters, I started to reflect on how absolutely absurd it is for them to be out there. I mean they are encircling the property so that women cannot get into the clinic without passing them. That's more than just protesting. If they wanted to protest, they could do it anywhere. They could do it in front of their own building, or at City Hall. They are there on Tuesdays so that the staff and the patients know that they are being judged.

I think the protesters would argue that their purpose in being so visible to the patients is to offer "sidewalk counselling" and let them know that there are alternatives. But that's ridiculous. Women aren't stupid, they don't need someone coming up to them on the street to tell them there are options. They can see the sign for the CPC, they can look it up in the phone book (it's right there on the same page as our clinic, after all), they can use the internet. My thinking is that if you have to stand outside another business to lure their customers into your business, your business probably isn't that valid, and certainly not that urgently needed. It's the equivalent of a naturopath hanging around outside the hospital, trying to convince people to try holistic medicine instead. People can figure this stuff out on their own!

Anyway, that's my little rant for the day.