Does It Matter If The Person Taking Your Reproductive Rights Away Listens To Lizzo?
Picture it: You live in Missouri, and you're about to lose your reproductive rights. How many fucks do you give about what is on the Spotify playlist of the state representative trying to force you to have a baby?
Missouri state Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman has her heart set on enacting a Texas style anti-abortion law in her own state, allowing busybodies to sue the hell out of anyone they suspect might have performed or helped someone get an abortion. She is also a woman who listens to pop music. A profile on Rep. Coleman published on Wednesday in the Washington Post's The Lily titled "The new face of the antiabortion movement is a young mom of 6 who listens to Lizzo" seeks to explore these incredible contradictions in the same way so many outlets in 2016 got all "But he went to an Ivy League school and dresses well! How can this be??" about Literal Nazi Richard Spencer.
It's not clear why anyone is still astounded by this kind of thing.
Via The Lily:
When state Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman stepped up to the microphone, her male colleagues stopped talking. Inside a crisis pregnancy center, Missouri’s secretary of state, three state representatives, a state senator and several support staff — all White men — settled into their folding chairs to listen to the woman one called the “female face of the pro-life movement.”
Oh gosh, a bunch of white men sat around listening to a woman talk about how women should have fewer rights concerning their own bodies? Well if that is not feminism, I don't know what is!
“I’m a mother of six,” Coleman, 39, said as she addressed the 20 people in the crowd. “My first son was born between my first and second years of law school. My second son was nursed as I was handed my law school degree.”
She’d brought everyone together on this afternoon in mid-December to announce her new antiabortion bill, an eight-week ban mimicking the law that has successfully eradicated almost all abortions in Texas since Sept. 1. Coleman chose to debut her legislation here, in a room with rhinestone-studded walls and a “believe in your selfie” station, because the pregnancy center’s guiding ethos aligns with her own: Faced with an unexpected pregnancy, Coleman says, women “will rise to the occasion.”
Well that is certainly a pretty grotesque thing to say. Good thing nothing offsets forcing people to give birth against their will like selfies, law degrees and rhinestones, even if the next five people to speak were all men. Including one man who was very happy to point to Coleman's participation as proof that he's totally not sexist for wanting to control women's bodies if a woman also wants to control other women's bodies.
At the crisis pregnancy center, state Rep. Doug Richey (R), who spoke after Coleman, said he’s been told to “sit down and shut up” because, as a man, he has “no right” to speak about abortion. Richey points his skeptics to women like Coleman, who he says understand the “challenges and difficulties” of motherhood.
“Anyone who would claim that the pro-life community is just a bunch of men who are trying to control the lives of women — they do not know what reality is,” Richey said.
It doesn't seem to me that the author of the piece, Caroline Kitchener, agrees with Coleman's stance, but rather just finds it to be at odds with her gender, education level and cultural interests.
Coleman gets a little thrill from defying people’s expectations. She is a Catholic attorney who buttons her cotton cardigans all the way to the top but blasts Lizzo and Beyoncé as she runs at 6 o’clock in the morning. After a long day, she and her husband will indulge in a cocktail from the book “Drinking With the Saints: The Sinner’s Guide to a Holy Happy Hour.” Then she turns on “The West Wing” — her favorite TV show, despite the Democratic president.
Absolutely none of that defies my expectations. Am I supposed to be surprised by a Catholic person drinking, like I've never seen that before? Am I supposed to be surprised that she listens to pop music? No. Again, I am half-Irish and half-Italian and my family is from the most Catholic state in the nation — I know a lot of Catholic people, exactly none of whom are sitting around listening to Ave Maria all day.
This is becoming a bit of a theme with WaPo. In November they published a tonally similar article about a woman in Texas who wanted to reinvent the Magdalene Laundries for unwed but hip mothers and also "defied expectations" in a similar capacity.
She was a 34-year-old mother of two who wore her long hair in a ponytail and baseball cap and did not meet all the expectations that could come with the label White evangelical Christian. She said she could not bring herself to vote for Donald Trump in 2016, for instance, though she voted for him in the 2020 election. She hardly ever watched cable news. She was not convinced that the Texas law known as the heartbeat law — which bans almost all abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy — or any law, was necessarily the best way to end abortion.
There have always been women who were anti-feminists. Women made up a large portion of the anti-suffrage movement. There have even been anti-feminist conservative women who have unexpected taste in music — Ann Coulter being a Deadhead, for instance. Assholes come in every gender and have every possible taste in music. That is a fact.
This is far from the first profile of this sort, though usually we are meant to be surprised that a man wearing horn-rimmed glasses who has a handlebar mustache and listens to Neutral Milk Hotel would totally prefer that we all be in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant, or that a neo-Nazi wears bespoke suits, that Paul Ryan listens to Rage Against the Machine, or that Dana Loesch used to be goth. I don't, however, know what it is we are supposed to do with this information. Is it like a "Terrible People Who Want To Make Your Life A Living Hell! They're just like us!" thing?
It's reasonable to discuss the ways in which the far-Right seeks to obtain legitimacy by adopting the cultural markers of the Left. It is, after all, a calculated move. The Right wants the youth vote and they want to be seen as "cool" despite their horrifically regressive politics. They tried, desperately, to co-opt punk rock in the beginning of the Trump era, like none of us had ever heard of Skrewdriver before.
They don't need any help with this marketing. They don't need any help normalizing extreme viewpoints — and, yes, "people should be forced to give birth against their will" is an extreme viewpoint. It doesn't matter what someone listens to, how they dress, what their hobbies are or what their hair is doing, as none of these things are actually indicative of their character or the dangerousness of their viewpoints. Terrible people can have great hair, can go to "good schools," can be "well-dressed" and "well-spoken" and have great taste in music, and expressing shock at this does us no favors.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse