Politics of satire
BY KURT HOCHENAUER
Although they’ve been maligned by at least one corporate media outlet for doing so, three state lawmakers are standing up for Oklahoma women’s rights by fighting absurdity with absurdity.
Democratic state Sens. Constance Johnson of Oklahoma City, Judy Eason McIntyre of Tulsa and Jim Wilson of Tahlequah are responding to the GOP assault on women’s reproductive rights here and elsewhere this year with satire and humor.
Their pointed barbs and actions have an obvious theme in common: Reproduction involves a man as much as a woman. Did it work? House Speaker Kris Steele announced recently that the Republican House Caucus decided not to hear the anti-abortion personhood bill that was the basis for the satire.
When the bill was under consideration in the Senate, where it won passage, Johnson had proposed an amendment that declared it illegal for men to ejaculate outside a woman’s vagina. The measure, Senate Bill 1433, sponsored by state Sen. Brian Crain, would give civil rights to a fertilized egg at the moment of conception. Obviously, under this definition each “wasted” male sperm, as Johnson argued, is an “action against an unborn child.”
Sperms are people, too, right?
Sperms are people, too, right? Johnson also proposed an amendment that would force any nonconsensual sperm donor in a pregnancy to undergo a vasectomy, be fined $25,000 and be held financially responsible for the offspring until age 21.
McIntyre also decided to take things into her own hands. Literally. At an anti-personhood rally at the Capitol in February, she held up a sign brought by protesters that proclaimed, “If I wanted the government in my womb I’d fuck a senator.” A crowd of around 1,000 cheered and laughed in approval as she waved the sign.
Wilson also tried to add an amendment to the personhood bill that would require a father of a fertilized egg to be held responsible for the mother’s financial welfare during her pregnancy. Why do only women have to bear the responsibility of reproduction?
Even The Daily Show with Jon Stewart got into the act with a hilarious segment about the Oklahoma bill and how Johnson’s amendment, if passed, would have made male masturbation illegal in the state.
An Oklahoman editorial labeled the local satire as “juvenile antics,” but the lawmakers conceded they were just making a point. The bill initially passed the state Senate in a 34-8 vote, and it seemed almost certain to pass the House, but Steele said a majority of Republican caucus members expressed concerns about the bill. An initiative petition drive to put the issue on the ballot is under way.
Meanwhile, Johnson, McIntyre and Wilson should be commended for these artistic and clever gestures that call attention to how much the national personhood movement is simply ridiculous in its main argument, represents blatant discrimination against women, and is likely unconstitutional.
If it takes humor to make this point, so be it. The real joke, although it’s a sick one, is the national personhood movement itself, which threatens certain types of female contraceptive and reproductive methods in its quest to end legal and safe abortions.
Hochenauer is an English professor at the University of Central Oklahoma.