As the initial reactions to George Tiller’s death taper off, I find it time to re-focus our feminist lenses and to remain well aware of what could be slipping by.
While rightist (pro-life) publications continue to denounce the actions of Scott Roeder (Tiller’s charged murderer) leftist (pro-choice) publications continue to develop and frame an argument more akin to a nationalist, heteropatriarchal agenda that appears supportive of violence, heterosexism, racism, and a general tightening on reproductive freedom.
In his article, “Slam Bill O’ Reilly for His Jihad Against Dr. George Tiller,” Isaac Fitzgerald proffers an argument that frames O’ Reilly (and by proxy Fox News and conservatives pro-lifers) as a terrorist. Fitzgerald’s strategic use of ‘jihad’ in his article’s title suggests his specific framing of O’ Reilly as a Muslim extremist/radical terrorist—who else has the power to demand jihad?! Fitzgerald further refers to Tiller’s murder as an “act of domestic terrorism,” which is merely a flag for 911 all over again. The tactics used by Fitzgerald (and by similar commentators) are bland at most and pathetic at the least.
First, articles like this bank on the same fear tactics that the Bush administration maniacally developed during the past 8 years. That said, using the same rhetoric as the previous administration shows precisely where this level of commentary resides. Further, by harking on terror-fear-tactics, anything can be said and done in the name of homeland protection (the passing of the (un)Patriot Act, Bush’s extension of executive power, etc.). Indeed, the naming of this incident as an act of domestic terrorism assumes that there resides a collective national homeland that has been invaded from within. Rabbi Brad Hirschfield illustrates the linking of Tiller’s death to a nationalist drive when he states that “Dr. Tiller’s murder is an attack on America” and that “we need to reframe this debate from one about abortion to one about democracy.”
As a queer feminist I find nationalism a scary idea that must be attended to and dismantled immediately. In the case of many of the seemingly pro-Tiller/pro-choice/leftist news stories out there, we must be cautious of nationalist agendas being unconsciously (or are they?) prompted during times of uncertainty and fear. As a queer feminist that is pro-choice, pro-abortion, pro-access, pro-life, pro-child, and pro-agency, I find nationalist agendas frighteningly heteropatriarchal and worthy (and in demand) of feminist deconstruction.
As most of us know, nationalism maintains reproduction as a foremost concern. It holds women as possessing but one job: walking womb/uterus with legs. It denies access to abortion, illegalizes abortion, silences women, and it heralds violence against women as necessary to ensuring national strength and unity. It heralds heterosexuality as the primary mode of being while demonizing (and destroying) queer life. It praises a single racial (national) entity (in this case white Christianity as Fitzgerald so eloquently demonized Muslims and other middle-eastern (brown) people as an example). And finally, it accomplishes all of these points with the use of violence and force. Rabbi Hirschfield’s suggestion that the abortion debate be reframed to be about democracy is one that effectively erases women’s lives as well as the effect that this debate has on real peoples lives that are not hegemonic, straight white males. In fact, as Rabbi Hirschfield fails to see is that to reframe the national abortion debate into one that focuses on democracy over abortion buttresses the very nation-state (America and all of its institutions including heteropatriarchy) that has systematically denied and oppressed women time and time again.
So, when we pro-choicers are reading articles about Tiller’s murder; When we are seeking solace and a place to direct our anger; Remain focused and do not allow the sly words of a nationalist agenda to guide your device. Do not be taken in by the simplistic thinking of fear tactics that support the death of Tiller’s murderer as an eye for an eye justification. This thinking is not feminist. Rather, it is hegemonic masculinist in action, it is nationalist in play and it is dangerous in thought.
Re-focus those feminist lenses and be aware of the larger picture.
For an alternative reading of Tiller’s murder, check out James Kirchick’s article on the Wall Street Journal.