Friday, October 21, 2005

Get some shrinks for these people

At some point, which we suppose is now, we had intended to note an odd typo as Andrew Sullivan does a de facto explication of the Republic of Ireland's abortion policies, and specifically the pro-life constitutional amendment that ended up, under certain circumstances, creating a right to an abortion:

I've never understood the moral argument about banning all abortion as the taking of life, while allowing it in cases of rape and incest. I fully understand the psychological and simply humane reasons for allowing someone to abort in those cases ... Equally, if your criterion is that abortion should be legal if it advances the mental health of the matter, I can see the point. But that's such a nebulous standard it could be and is used to justify any abortion, including the horrifying later-term cases, which are intuitively very hard to distinguish from infanticide.

Now of course he meant to say "mental health of the mother" but it's an unfortunate mistake given that there's a strain of pro-life thinking that in effect devalues the life of the mother, making her merely the delivery system for the next generation.

But by accusing le duc de Sully of having some weird subconscious feelings about motherhood, we do not want to be on the same boat as James Taranto at Opinion Journal, who takes his frequent references to Sully being excitable (=gay, geddit?) up a notch. The context is Sully's frequent harping on the details of specific US detainee abuse cases, and Taranto accuses Sully of an inordinate number of mentions of an incident where a detainee was made to believe he was being smeared in menstrual blood (it was ink):

Note how when Sullivan (or most anyone else) writes about this, it's always "fake menstrual blood," never just "fake blood." Lots of people are squeamish about blood, but the suggestion here is that there is something sordid about menstruation.

This is nonsense. A woman's reproductive cycle is natural and normal. Girls realize this within hours of hitting puberty, but it takes longer for boys to figure out. To a preteen male, the news that women have periods is unsettling. But boys eventually become men, and most of them have intimate relationships with women, which helps to demystify the female reproductive system. To a mature man, menstruation is not a horror.

There are, however, exceptions--adult men who remain strangers to the female body. Among them are homosexual men who identify as gay at a young age and thus do not have heterosexual experiences. Also among them are single men from sexually repressed cultures, such as fundamentalist Islamic ones, in which contact between the sexes is rigidly policed. Many of America's enemy prisoners fall into the latter category. If the mere idea of "fake menstrual blood" discombobulates Andrew Sullivan so, it stands to reason that its actual employment might be an excellent way to break the enemy's resistance.

Now Taranto is on such thin ice here, it's only the surface tension that's holding him up (or perhaps belief in George W. Bush). He and his Keyboard Kommando friends have managed to create for themselves a category of ""other," people not entitled to Magna Carta protections once they acquire the label "terrorist." And while Sully might indeed take an odd gynophobic approach, they don't like being reminded of the degree of alienation that they have managed to achieve. We await Sully's response.

UPDATE: Sully responds, and to be fair, he doesn't pursue the route that he could have -- exploring Taranto's own strange fixations. He explains how the fake menstrual blood tactic was clearly rooted in military documents, and asks:

So my own concern with religious abuse is dismissed as a function of my sexual orientation! I have to say that of all the sad attempts to dismiss or belittle abuse and torture of detainees, this has to be about the lowest and lamest yet ... Taranto's exclusion of gay men from the categories of adulthood and masculinity is also, shall we say, revealing. Has the pro-torture right really been reduced to this kind of irrelevant bigotry? Is this all they have left?


ANOTHER UPDATE: Like, just to spell out one of the problems here, if "normal" (i.e. non Muslim, non gay) society is so comfortable with menstruation, why is it impossible to tell the difference between a tampon ad and a Hallmark card? And Sullywatch details what Taranto either doesn't know, or, well, you don't want to hear the 'or.'

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