Monday, October 5, 2009

Penelope Trunk's Twitter post about miscarriage and abortion

Penelope Trunk said this on Twitter:

I'm in a board meeting. Having a miscarriage. Thank goodness, because there's a fucked-up 3-week hoop-jump to have an abortion in Wisconsin.
The mainstream media has swarmed around that three-sentence comment about what's going on in one woman's life. Penelope Trunk is one of the more successful bloggers, but she's hardly a household name — so why has this caused a national furor?

Ann Althouse (my mom) says the tweet sets back the cause of abortion rights by undermining the perception that pregnant women are on a "serious search for meaning."

Maybe the real-world net result of this tweet will be bad for abortion rights, but I wish it weren't. People should be allowed to post something to Twitter that doesn't include, within the maximum 140 characters, an obligatory qualification about how they realize that abortion is a very serious and somber thing.

And women should be allowed to write honestly about abortions and miscarriages.

Is the problem that she's glad she ended up having a miscarriage rather than doing what she had been planning to do and get an abortion? Well, if that's surprising to people, then that itself is a serious problem that her Twitter post might go some way toward rectifying. Many, many people would prefer a miscarriage to an abortion.

Maybe you think she should have somehow drenched her statement in emotion. And maybe that would have been more effective. But it can often be more subtly effective to take an issue that's usually considered too taboo or tragic to speak about honestingly and -- speak about it honestly. (And let's also remember that this is a Twitter post we're talking about; it shouldn't be held to the same standards as a magazine article.)

Being told just the plain facts can be a more powerful reading experience. It puts more responsibility on you as the reader to do some of the thinking and evaluating instead of having everything prejudged by the author. Even if this doesn't happen to be your favorite kind of writing, it's not immoral for someone to use that style when writing about miscarriages or abortions.

Trunk has also written a blunt blog post about getting two abortions, and another one about being sexually abused. Like the Twitter post, these blog posts don't broadcast their own emotional or moral significance.

But I'm glad I've had the chance to read stark descriptions of distinctly female experiences that I, as a man, haven't had to endure. We'd be a little worse off if people like Trunk felt the need to censor themselves.


Meade said...

Whether or not it sets back abortion rights, and, the promise of abortion entitlements, the important question is the one your mom asks last:

"But shouldn't we want to hear the truth?"