Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Would-Be Sacraments"

This poem is from the March 2015 Creative Jam. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] alexseanchai. It also fills the "Wild Card: Mirror, mirror: Doppelgangers, clones and evil doubles" square in my 12-17-14 card for the [community profile] genprompt_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.

Warning: This poem contains frank discussions of reproduction and choice politics, along with examples of misogyny and hypocrisy.

"Would-Be Sacraments"

The first few pregnant men
passed unnoticed, preferring
to keep their superpowers private.

Sooner or later, of course,
someone was bound to need help,
and it turned out that the superpower
of Male Pregnancy sometimes came
with a birth canal and sometimes didn't,
which led to discussions of delivery options --
anal, pseudopenile, pseudovaginal, and medical.

People were shocked, but they had been
shocked by superpowers before,
and presently it died down.

It was the cloning that really shook things up.

Even though human cloning was
illegal or tightly restricted in most countries,
everyone knew that there were places
where things happened anyhow.

There were a few spectacular scandals about
cloned armies, organ donation schemes, and some
extremely ill-advised attempts to recreate lost leaders.

Then came a handful of cases, mostly featuring
movie stars, athletes, wealthy executives,
and other celebrities where someone
was cloned by an obsessed fan.

The issue came to a head with the discovery of
the first hyena -- a woman who could impregnate
even men who didn't have a Male Pregnancy
superpower of their own.

Suddenly men were confronted with the fact that
they could be forced to reproduce against their will, and
it might not involve something as obvious as rape.

It got people thinking not just about the past,
but about the future as well.

That provoked a flood of bills proposing
vigorous new protections for reproductive rights --
that the right of the current person to his or her own body
superceded the right of any potential person to coopt it,
thus proving once and for all that if men could get
pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.

It was Representative Dora Burroughs of Vermont
who gave voice to the collective outrage over that.
"Oh, so now that you could get pregnant, suddenly
it's a priority, and the rights of pregnant people
are important?" she stormed, stabbing a finger
at the her colleagues who sat in the House.
"You fucking misogynistic hypocrites!"

Within hours, a photo of the iconic pose had
leaked out, and appeared on t-shirts along with
the quote and the bottom caption, What she said.

The men in power hemmed and hawed
and insisted that it wasn't like that.

Women everywhere refused to believe them,
and eviscerated them in the polls,
so in that November's elections,
most female candidates won.

The pro-choice movement was not, however,
so stubborn as to let the opportunity slip away.

They simply insisted that all language
in the new bills be gender-neutral so that men
could not protect only their own reproductive rights,
but had to extend equal protection to everyone,
and began the tedious process of updating
all previous laws to the same standard.

The long ugly battle of lawsuits and proposals
eventually enshrined the legal premise that
a fundamental right of adulthood was
reproductive autonomy: to decide
whether, when, how, and with whom
to create life -- or not.

This invalidated a great many previous laws,
allowing those to be swept aside so that
politicians could move on to new arguments
about how to adapt rules designed for women
to cover the possibility of male mothers.

On the other hand, this recognition of parental will
also enabled laws aimed at protecting pregnant people
to proceed without objection, now that they could
no longer be used to bully people for having
an abortion or a miscarriage.

Likewise, more funding and protections were
approved for family planning clinics across America,
making it easier for people to access services.

The curriculum for health classes was updated
to include the tiny but verified chance of male pregnancy,
encouraging everyone to take responsible precautions.
More schools, hotels, and other public venues added
dispensers for free protection in the bathrooms,
a move cheered by public health advocates.

The past informed the future, improving
people's understanding of both.

The men never did quite regain
all the seats they had lost
in the power struggle.

Rep. Burroughs smirked at them
and announced her run for the Senate.

* * *


Representative Dora Burroughs -- She has fair skin, brown eyes, and straight shoulder-length brown hair. She comes from Vermont and is a state representative. She is a formidable proponent of gender equality, labor rights, and environmental safety. Her harsh personality makes some people uncomfortable with her, though, and that sometimes undermines what she can accomplish. She doesn't care if she pisses people off; her goals are always going to do that, so she doesn't see much point in sugarcoating things.
As a hobby she builds dioramas -- often of historic cultures, famous scenes, and visions of future society. It helps her relax and imagine a better world. She's a bit bemused that art galleries and museums have started asking for them. Dora also loves working out on the big private obstacle course reserved for politicians in Washington, D.C. More of the male staff than females use it, but she has made friends with several of the men and women veterans who do.
Qualities: Master (+6) Activist, Master (+6) Feminist, Master (+6) Smart, Expert (+4) Forthright, Expert (+4) Politician, Expert (+4) Women Friends, Good (+2) Diorama Builder, Good (+2) Obstacle Course Runner, Good (+2) Tough, Good (+2) Visionary
Poor (-2) Abrasive

* * *

There is an old saying about how "If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament." It still comes up in choice politics today.

Male pregnancy has scientific basis and occasionally happens, although not usually in the same ways as described in speculative fiction. It is nevertheless a popular trope.

Cloning, and especially human cloning, raises many ethical issues. This can have unexpected outcomes. Terramagne being a superpowered setting with advanced techology, some folks went out and tried all the classic cloning shenanigans. See the tropes for Our Clones Are Identical, Clone Army, Walking Transplant, You Cloned Hitler, and Clone Jesus. (How was this ever going to have been a good idea?) This has particular implications for the right to privacy and reproductive choices.

Hyenas are canids with really awkward reproductive features, rendered here in a cute cartoon. T-American slang uses "hyena" for a woman who can impregnate men, even those without the Male Pregnancy superpower.

Abortion rights factor into the human cloning debate too, with regard to termination of pre-viable or non-viable clones. The legalities explored in science fiction are complex and often ugly. Access to necessary services for women, such as abortion, has declined in recent decades. It's not as bad in T-America as here, because the men caught on and supported reproductive services more. But there is a lot of hypocrisy, and many anti-choice people have had abortions. Really the point comes down to body autonomy.

Fetal rights may be desirable in theory, but troublesome in practice. The stated intent was for such laudable goals as protecting pregnant women and their unborn offspring from workplace hazards and raising penalties for assault on a pregnant person. In reality, these laws are mainly used to hurt women, and that was probably a hidden agenda from the beginning. Purvi Patel's famous case of being jailed for a miscarriage is just one example of a disturbingly prevalent problem. The principles of "first, do no harm" and "informed consent" do not apply when women can be punished for making intimate decisions about their health that are displeasing to others. T-America has settled this issue by affirming that reproductive decisions are an inherent right of adulthood, thus causing the loss of a wanted pregnancy violates the parents' right to reproductive freedom and secondary to that causes the death of their child, thus justifying increased criminal charges and penalties. This matches the widespread premise in Terramagne that children and other noncombatants are to be protected.

Free condoms and other intimate health supplies have been offered free in some schools. This reduces the risk of unwanted pregnancy and disease transmission. Here's one sample list showing locations and supplies. In T-America this practice is more widespread and rapidly growing.

The United States Congress consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Becoming a Senator often begins with serving in another capacity, often in the House. Congress is overwhelmingly biased toward straight white rich Christian men. They then vote in their own favor, frequently oppressing others in the process.
Tags: activism, cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, gender studies, poem, poetry, politics, reading, safety, weblit, writing

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